Friday, July 03, 2015

Booknote: Gotham Academy, Volume 1

Becky Cloonan,, Gotham Academy, Volume 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy. New York: DC Comics, 2015. ISBN: 9781401254728.

Genre: graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: mystery, superheroes, teen fiction
Format: e-book galley
Source: Provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

From the book's description:

"Gotham City's most prestigious prep school is a very weird place. It's got a spooky campus, oddball teachers, and rich benefactors always dropping that weirdo Bruce Wayne. But nothing is as strange as the students!

Like, what's up with Olive Silverlock? Is she crazy or what? Where did she go last summer? And what's the deal with her creepy mom? And how come that Freshman Maps is always following her around? And is she still going out with Kyle? P.S. Did you hear the rumor about the ghost in the North Hall?!

Collects Gotham Academy #1-6"

Gotham Academy is the most prestigious private school in Gotham. Apparently, given the courses we see the students taking for the most part, it is also all Gotham City, all the time. I am guessing the rest of national history is not really a priority here. Anyhow, that is just a minor detail I noticed as I read along. There is a hint also of paranormal elements, but the story is vague enough to leave room for speculation: is there really something paranormal, or is it just another case that "those kids" (to invoke Scooby-Doo) will be able to solve in the end. There are a lot of questions, but we do not always get the answers. For instance, what did happen to Olive's mom; we get bits and pieces of it, and that includes indication Batman may have been involved. Perhaps this will be answered in later installments.

This series is a teen drama, so it is not the usual story. It is one of those "Batman without Batman" stories. Batman makes a brief appearance, but overall, he is not central to the story. Olive is the central character, and she is quite insecure. Part of it I am sure is because of the baggage she brings including the trauma about her mother. But at times her insecurity can get a little irritating. I know teens and insecurity go hand in hand, so one would think Olive is someone they can relate to, but there are moments when the insecurity is a bit much. Grow a spine already. As for Maps, the geeky friend, she is a pure tabletop gamer stereotype including the encyclopedic knowledge of tabletop tropes and the social awkwardness.

In terms of pace, this book is a bit slow to get going. It takes a while building up the setting and the dynamics of the academy before we get to something actually happening. However, if you look close, and you are in the know, there are small details that can be rewarding. For instance, the librarian who helps Olive find books is reminiscent of a certain book loving villain in the 1960s Batman series. I am not sure if that was intentional or not, but it was a nice thing to see.

Overall, this was just OK for me. The mystery elements are a bit drowned by the teen angst and drama. Teen readers might like it better than I did. I would consider this an optional purchase for libraries with graphic novel collections. I would guess public libraries that already collect a good amount of Batman comics may want this for their youth readers; I am suggesting it as an optional title, not a must-have. For academic libraries with graphic novel collections, this is one to skip as it is not likely to be as popular with college students. I am willing to admit I could be wrong, but given my experience in academia, I do not see it. I also foresee this title may be geared a bit more to female readers. Not that it is a bad thing, just an observation.

In the end, I am giving it 2 out of 5 stars. Seeking the next volume in the series would be low priority for me given all other choices out there.

This book qualifies for the following 2015 Reading Challenges:

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