Gotham Academy #12

"Gotham Academy" #12 wraps up a years' worth of issues for the series, and it's a pleasure to see it continue to move from one strength to the next. Even as Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl, Msassyk and Serge LaPointe wrap up one storyline, they're moving another one firmly to the front and with even more dangerous consequences connected to it.

What's nice about "Gotham Academy" #12's story is how so much of Cloonan and Fletcher's plots have come together. From the big stories -- like Hugo Strange's plans or Kyle's kidnapping -- to the little moments like Maps's roommate Katherine, everything clicks firmly into place. It's not always an easy victory for characters, either. If anything, the cast is so consumed and focused on rescuing Kyle they miss what's going on with Olive; the one victory shrouds what could be, in many ways, a hideous defeat depending on where Olive's life moves forward from here.

It's easy to appreciate the characterization going on in "Gotham Academy" #12. From Maps' continued exuberance (and tricks up her sleeve) to Colton's sly comment about licenses, there's a lot that's been built up around these characters, to the point they seem to almost write themselves. When Maps notes that Pom's tendency is to shoot first and ask questions later, you instantly understand Maps isn't talking about physical harm being done and -- more importantly -- completely agree with the assessment. Similarly, as much as Olive cares about her friends, the lure that keeps her from helping Kyle (and deciding the others can save him) is believably strong because it's a goal that's driven her through these first twelve issues. The nature of Calamity is wonderfully intriguing here, too; every time it seems we've gotten the entire story, another little piece of the puzzle is doled out to readers. It feels like Calamity has shifted quite firmly to center stage for the second year of the series, and I'm quite eager to see what Cloonan and Fletcher will show us on that front.

Kerschl, Msassyk and LaPointe continue to wow on the art for "Gotham Academy." It bears repeating that "Gotham Academy" looks almost like a series of animation cels reprinted on the page. The difference, though, is how Kerschl keeps the images from ever looking stiff or artificially posed. This is partially because of the progression from one image to the next. When Olive enters Calamity's room, look how we get just a little bit of movement as Olive first holds the cloth to her face and then inhales deeply in the next panel. You can almost see her moving the cloth. Similarly, when her eye widens upon hearing Hugo Strange, the transition keeps us moving with the action. It doesn't hurt that Kerschl's figures are stars in and of themselves; how you can look away from those clean designs as they move around the page is a minor mystery. At the same time, it's hard to keep from staring at all the little details: the way the car's headlights shine in the fog, the yellow and green tones in the sky as the crew pull up to Arkham Asylum, the deep blues that give the impression of darkness without hiding all of the details. LaPointe and Msassyk do a great job with the colors here, and it's an integral part of what makes the series look so good.

"Gotham Academy" #12 is another critical success for the book. With next week's issue crossing over with "Robin War," hopefully it will shine some additional attention on this title, which just keeps hitting the mark month after month. This is the sort of title that all superhero publishers should be giving us; it's smart, it uses the mythology of the company and it goes in new places while engaging new characters. This is, again, a winner.

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