“Gotham Academy” #11 is all about family, but perhaps not in the way you might expect. Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl, Msassyk and Mingjue Helen Chen take the kids on a road trip to Gotham City to try and learn more about Olive’s mother and the Silverlock family in general. While they’re investigating what happened to her, we see more of an entirely different family as well.
It’s nice to see the kids head to Gotham; not only does it emphasize the distance between the city itself and the academy outside of it, but it also gives a nice change of pace and plunges them from the relative safety of their school to something much bigger. Fletcher and Cloonan do a nice job of also showing that — outside of that comfort — the kids really stick together. They’ve formed their own familiar unit (even if they don’t necessarily call it as such), all coming together to help one of their own.
Cloonan and Fletcher also let Maps meet Red Robin, which is a strange moment that feels like it’s not quite landing as planned. Red Robin’s sudden, “Guess that makes you one of us!” at the sight of Damian’s batarang feels a little odd and like we’re missing a more natural transition. Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad we don’t have pages of “two heroes fight before becoming friends,” but it’s a little disorienting. Fortunately, the comic makes up for it with the revelation of the Silverlocks’ family history. It’s both creepy and sad, and it’s a nasty specter hanging over Olive, one that could be as much a real curse as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Wherever it goes, I’ll be curious to see how it works out.
The art in “Gotham Academy” #11 is interesting. Kerschl’s art feels even more like animation cels than ever, to the point there are several images where it looks almost like the characters are being pasted onto animation backgrounds. The appearance of Calamity in particular looks straight out of a Don Bluth animated film, but the other characters fall into that realm as well, with very distinctive and smooth features and lines. Chen tackles a flashback (as well as, presumably, the opening glimpse of Gotham) and her painted style does a good job of setting the past apart from the present while still giving us a smooth look. I especially appreciate how Chen makes the Dick Grayson Robin look different than Red Robin; they may both have been a sidekick to Batman, but the trap of making them look near identical is easily sidestepped.
“Gotham Academy” #11 is another fun issue in a solid series. With the cliffhanger setting up next month’s issue, it looks like we’re going to see even more of this family-by-choice drawing in to protect one another. That’s a big plus, and one of the strengths of “Gotham Academy.” All in all, an enjoyable read that makes you want to come back for more.