Turn Back the Pages is a feature where I spotlight a comic that is not fresh and new. It may have come out a few months ago or even a few years ago. Maybe it was hyped and popular, or maybe it was an underappreciated gem. Whatever the case, it’ll be a great comic that’s well worth a read.
I love gothic mysteries. I love Batman. I really should have read Gotham Academy sooner.
This book is full of gothic tropes. Gotham Academy is old, mysterious, and has a dark history. One building is even boarded up and abandoned for secret reasons. The girls’ dorm is possibly haunted. A group dressed in cloaks and masks conducts arcane rituals on campus in the dead of night. There’s even a vampire! (Okay, so he’s a bat-mutant made by science, but he looks super vampiry.) It’s seriously the best.
The main character is Olive Silverlock. Something terrible happened to her over the summer, but we only get glimpses and hints of the event, and Olive herself has amnesia. She’s clearly traumatized from it, though, and her relationships suffer as she comes back to school depressed, withdrawn, and pushing people away.
I’d say her character arc over the first volume is about learning to let people in and accept help from her friends. And who doesn’t love a good “the power of friendship” theme?
Of the supporting cast, Maps Mizoguchi is the definite standout. Perky and sweet, she is 110% down for investigating the various mysteries at the academy. She’s also just so friendly and cute that even the aloof Olive can’t bear to hurt her feelings by pushing her away, and she’s full of funny gamer references.
Another minor character is this weird billionaire alumni name Bruce Wayne. What’s his deal, and why’s he interested in Olive? Who knows?!
I like that Batman is just lurking menacingly on the outskirts of this book and never takes center stage. (From Olive’s point of view, he’s an antagonist!) It’s a credit to what a rich and complex setting the city of Gotham has become over the years that it can support a book like this and doesn’t need to be focused on Batman.
And really, what city is a more perfect setting for a gothic mystery than Gotham? The disturbed criminals. The gargoyles on the crumbling, once grand skyscrapers. The creepy old asylum. It doesn’t get much more macabre than that.
If you’re looking for a comic that’s a little different but still superhero-related, give Gotham Academy a try. Creepy mysteries and ominous bat-people have never been so much fun.