After last month's one-off story guest-starring Damian Wayne, "Gotham Academy" #8, Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl get back down to business, with lead protagonist Olive Silverlock returning to school. However, not everything is rosy, and Cloonan, Fletcher and Kerschl remind us why "Gotham Academy" has quickly become required reading.
What's great about "Gotham Academy" #8 is that, right off the bat, Cloonan and Fletcher remind us that -- while Olive is in many ways the lead character of the title -- she's not the only one that readers have come to care about. The loss of a member of Olive's family hangs heavily over this issue, but it's Kyle and Maps whom we see for the majority of their story. It's a smart decision on multiple counts. First, it helps bring across Olive's pulling away from everyone around her as she grieves; instead of focusing on her for most of the issue, we see her only tangentially through Kyle's and Maps' perspectives.
Along those lines, the tension between Kyle and Tristan heats up as Kyle and Maps discover Tristan's big secret, even as Cloonan and Fletcher hint at it being just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. That's exactly the kind of reveal that the book needs to keep the readers' attention: give us some answers even as you ask more questions. The reactions from Kyle and Maps also go a long way; Kyle's jealousy/fear/anger towards Tristan is perfectly balanced by Maps' excitement and glee as she practically vibrates with the revelation. It's part of what works so well about this book, with each of the characters being their own individual person who reacts differently and appropriately to each new situation. Add in a nice mix of humor (Maps' discovery in Tristan's dresser drawer that it's all black t-shirts had me literally laugh out loud) and it's a robust and appealing script; these characters are fun to read about because they come across so real.
Kerschl's been an unsung art hero for some time, so it's great to see him finally getting the attention he deserves on "Gotham Academy." His art -- along with beautiful colors from Serge LaPointe and Michele Assarasakorn -- reminds me so much of a series of animation cels, each panel having a beautiful soft edge for his characters and deep and expressive colors to boot. All of his characters are incredibly realistic looking, which then makes moments like the transformation from Tristan into a Man-Bat that much more dramatic, because he's changing into something so very not-normal. Kerschl also has inventive and fun page layouts when appropriate; my favorite in this issue is how an entire page is at a 30 degree angle because Kyle and Maps are hiding inside the secret passage and pressed up to the wall, listening. It's a clever moment, and it's also something that fits perfectly with the way that the characters are feeling as they crouch and spy on the guidance counselor.
"Gotham Academy" #8 is a strong issue in a typically strong series; Cloonan, Fletcher and Kerschl should be proud of what they've created here. There's a lot going on here, and it's the kind of comic that deserves a huge audience. This book is so much fun, I want to read it for years to come. You will want to as well as soon as you pick up an issue, too. Check it out.