By Brenden Fletcher, Adam Archer, Katie Cook, Dustin Nguyan, Hope Larson, Kris Nukai
It’s the end of the semester at Gotham Academy, the perfect time for long-time friends to reconnect and reminisce about the past.
This issue could generally be considered as “A Clip Show” type of story, in which a TV sitcom just shows old clips for 20-25 minutes. While it is usually said in a derogatory term, shows like Community put a fun spin on the concept by showing clips of things that had never been seen or even mentioned before. Here though, the actual execution tries to be the latter and instead is more like the former. New events or “clips” are shown but overall just doesn’t satisfy as previous issues have done.
This is not a knock against the art, which the three artists (Archer, Cook, Nguyan) actually knock out of the park. Archer handles the main part of the story, keeping the Manga aesthetic but feeling decidedly his own with a darker color pallet and somewhat less expressive approach to the characters. Nguyan uses a wonderful watercolor/sketch style for his segment that feels appropriate and makes me beg for more of his art. Cook uses a Chibi style for her segment, continuing the Manga theme that is a staple of the series. The third and final story written by Larson and drawn by Nukai has a Indie Webcomic feel to it and was the strongest plot-wise. All of the three side segments are beautiful in their own way visually speaking, but underpin the main problem with this issue: It is too disjointed.
Cook, Nukai, and Nguyan all wrote their own segments but that’s not the source of the problem. The first 13 issues were straight stories featuring a cast of 4-5 affable preteens solving mysteries. Separating the cast and making two characters the focus doesn’t allow for the interaction that makes the series so enjoyable. That said, the final story about a Academy’s teacher’s own school days was pretty great by just focusing on 3-4 characters that were completely new. Every installment was about friendship in a different way and I give it points for that. The issue isn’t bad, but it’s a big departure from what the book has been about till this point. There isn’t even a mystery for the cast to solve or uncover. Perhaps it would’ve been better just using one of these stories as backmatter in a regular issue or using them in an annual with a longer main story to bookend them. As it stands, Gotham Academy #14 seeks to be a fun diversion and its strongest aspect is its art.
Rating: Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Excellent