This article contains major spoilers for "Gotham Academy Annual" #1, on sale now.
Annuals can be a bit of a mixed bag, often taking place in continuity outside of the monthly narrative of the ongoing series. That couldn't be further from the truth for "Gotham Academy Annual" #1, however. The issue, arriving just ahead of new series, subtitled "Second Semester," does not mess around. The story sets itself up as a conflict between Pomeline and Colton, who have wild theories about what's causing a mysterious illness plaguing the school. By the end of the issue, though, "Gotham Academy" has managed to root itself deeply within the mythology of another Gotham-based hero: Batman Beyond.
Writers Brendan Fletcher and Becky Cloonan and artists Adam Archer, Msassyk, Michael Dialynas, and Chris Wildgoose's story opens with Olive awakening from a nightmare to discover the school's bell tower aflame and a mysterious figure streaking away through the night, carrying a large rectangular object. She, Maps, and the rest of the Detective Club investigate, but Olive quickly falls ill -- along with many other of the school's pupils and teachers. Pom says it's all caused by vampires, while Colton suspects new science teacher Professor Powers. As it turns out, both are onto something; bloodsucker Gustav Decobra (last seen in 1976's "Detective Comics" #455!) is wreaking havoc to reclaim the grandfather clock that contains his heart (yeah), while Powers is in fact the villain Blight, who has traveled to the present-day in that same clock (yeah…) to murder future Batman Terry McGinnis's father, currently a scrawny underclassman at the Academy.
Who is Blight?
The core villain of the future-based "Batman Beyond," Blight is Terry McGinnis' arch-nemesis. Businessman Derek Powers heads up the organization that was once Wayne Enterprises, now Wayne-Powers, and he has none of Bruce's qualms about producing deadly weapons. An employee, Warren McGinnis, discovers plans for a lethal nerve gas, and Powers has him killed, an action that sets Warren's son Terry on the path to becoming Batman.
In their first battle, Powers is himself exposed to the gas; the future being what it is, he's successfully saved by a dose of heavy radiation, but from then on glows with radiation. He blames Batman for his condition, and hopes with his "Gotham Academy" scheme to prevent his mutation by murdering Terry's father (again) before the future Batman can be born.
The character's appearance in "Gotham Academy" suggests an unexpectedly close connection with the forthcoming "Batman Beyond" series launching in the "Rebirth" continuity; the current "Batman Beyond" series, which has primarily starred a time-tossed Tim Drake, concludes next week, while the "Rebirth" issue hits September 28, returning Terry McGinnis to the title role.
Both "Gotham Academy" and "Batman Beyond" occupy unique corners of the Batman universe, largely untouched by the sort of interconnected arcs that weave together series like "Batman," "Detective," "Nightwing," and so forth. Although Blight is returned to own time by the end of the issue, several important developments appear to tie these books inextricably together: First, the Warren McGinnis introduced in "Gotham Academy" #5 is now confirmed as Terry's father. Second, he's now been at least partially initiated into the Detective Club; third, Maps knows this, because; fourth and finally, Maps has been to the future.
Yes, the excitable and adventuresome Mia Mizoguchi now knows that one of her classmates will one day be Batman's dad. It's also clear that she learned a lot more during her brief journey into the "Batman Beyond" era, but we don't know the nature of what she saw as, in her own words, "that is a story for another day." But given the character's tendency to journal her most thrilling capers, she may even write history before it happens.
Will Terry McGinnis himself make an appearance on campus, or will the students, professors, or even spirits and monsters of the Academy find their way into the world of Beyond, whether by the long route or the short? Only time will tell.