Gotham Academy #4: The Walls Are Listening

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Issue #4. Gotham Academy. Written Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher. Art by Karl Kerschl. Colouring by MSASSYK and Serge Lapointe. DC Comics. January 2014.Gotham Academy #4

Becky Cloonan & Brenden Fletcher (W), Karl Kerschl (A), Karl Kerschl (cover)
DC Comics
January 28, 2015
Spoilers Ahead!

In the fourth issue of Gotham Academy, we meet Olive and Pomeline during gym class discussing the Thing that grabbed for Olive’s arm at the end of the last issue. The North Hall is now closed off after the faculty discovered it was broken into, which prompts Olive to visit the Headmaster’s office halfway through class on his request.

I really enjoyed these three pages — and for three reasons. The first being that it’s great and refreshing to see characters drawn differently, the way Olive and Pomeline are in their gym clothes and hair tied up. If you look at the first two panels of the issue, it visually signals a change in the relationship between Olive and Pomeline which started out as antagonistic.

Issue #4. Gotham Academy. Written Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher. Art by Karl Kerschl. Colouring by MSASSYK and Serge Lapointe. DC Comics. January 2014.

The second is this new information we’re getting that implies a romantic relationship (or an almost relationship) between Professor MacPherson and Bruce Wayne. This is big because it’s through the Wayne Foundation scholarship that Olive is able to attend Gotham Academy, and MacPherson has been depicted so far as someone that cares about Olive and who Olive trusts. This leads me to believe that these two people will act as a makeshift parental unit for Olive as the series progresses (I could be horribly wrong, of course).

The third reason has to do with the overarching plot of North Hall which has me thinking it involves the faculty and definitely Headmaster Hammer. In the third issue, Olive and Pomeline overhear Milo (the science teacher) and Headmaster Hammer discussing the North Hall as though they and the rest of the faculty know exactly what happened there. This is reinforced by the Headmaster telling Olive to “be careful near that window. The keystone above it is loose.” The keystone has the same mark that Maps saw in the North Hall (it was also in Millie Jane’s diary and in the staircase at the girls dorm) and the one that we’re later told by Eric moves when it’s pressed. Mmmmm…

What’s great about a comic like this is the moments like the one below where we mean one thing but say another. In the case of Olive, she wants to be able to tell an authority figure like Professor MacPherson or Headmaster Hammer what’s going on but feels she’ll lose more if she says something compared to saying nothing.

Issue #4. Gotham Academy. Written Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher. Art by Karl Kerschl. Colouring by MSASSYK and Serge Lapointe. DC Comics. January 2014.

The next two pages are so wonderfully young adult. While thinking of her next move, Olive literally falls into the arms of the blonde stranger we’ve been seeing throughout the series so far. This meeting has told us that 1) he knows who Olive is despite the fact that Olive has no clue who he is, and  2) he knows something about The Summer. We find out later on that Mr. Mysterious is actually Tristan Grey (an unfortunate name given Fifty Shades of Grey’s popularity) and he’s an exchange student. However, more pressing matters are in order:

Issue #4. Gotham Academy. Written Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher. Art by Karl Kerschl. Colouring by MSASSYK and Serge Lapointe. DC Comics. January 2014.    Issue #4. Gotham Academy. Written Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher. Art by Karl Kerschl. Colouring by MSASSYK and Serge Lapointe. DC Comics. January 2014.

Kyle is wearing a blazer over his tennis gear. I love this so much. It can easily be running joke where Team Gotham Academy never acknowledges this and tries different scenarios like getting Kyle to wear a tux jacket and a bow tie with his tennis gear at prom or something. *nudges Karl Kerschl*

After all that, Olive finds Maps to discuss the symbol (and attempts to discuss her relationship status with Kyle) which leads them to Eric who had it drawn in his sketch book. He tells the girls that the symbols are all over the school including their dorm room which prompts them prepare for some exploring. It’s during this prep session that they encounter the ghost of Millie Jane which ends up being a hoax concocted by Heathcliff to make Pomeline happy. I can’t help but think how sweet that is. Oh, Heathcliff. In spite of your name which has baggage of its own, you know how to woo a girl (like me, and not Pomeline who would murder him for this). These particular pages are stunning thanks to the colouring, so a shout out to MSASSYK and Serge Lapointe!

Issue #4. Gotham Academy. Written Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher. Art by Karl Kerschl. Colouring by MSASSYK and Serge Lapointe. DC Comics. January 2014.

There’s another instance of colouring being the standout star later on in the issue but we’ll get to that. Gotham Academy does some wonderful stuff with panels and I personally have a weakness for a great staircase panel structure as we’ve seen in issue one and again here.

Issue #4. Gotham Academy. Written Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher. Art by Karl Kerschl. Colouring by MSASSYK and Serge Lapointe. DC Comics. January 2014.

As opposed to the first issue which had Olive and Maps going up the stairs, we have Olive going down. The four panels below the stairs are making use of the descent by pushing the narrative forward. Our eyes are being guided by the stairs and the story makes use of that. Leaving Heathcliff behind, Olive finds the symbol Eric mentioned in the girls dorm staircase and when she pushes it, finds that it leads her to the other side of the wall of the dorm rooms. Creepy! What’s even creepier? Finding out that Killer Croc escaped from Arkham Asylum and has been hiding out on the other side of your room. I guess Olive wasn’t scared because she’s a Gotham kid and stuff like that is normal. I’m in love with that last page because the colouring is da bomb, and the silent panels go against what I expected, which was some form of action or Olive freaking out. This moment to moment effect is hammered home when Olive quietly promises to keep his secret and then demanding information on her mother.

This issue is about change, or at least the start of change. Olive’s relationships evolve and she is dealing with things (and people) head on. I hope the next issue starts to offer more substantial answers and pushes Olive to face her trauma or get a lot closer to dealing with it. I really enjoyed it and can’t wait for the next one!

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About Author

Former senior editor for WWAC. Part-time contributor. BA in criminals (a minor in daydreams). Batman seeks her advice constantly. Bylines at Book Riot, Teen Vogue, Slate, Quill & Quire and Hyperallergic.

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