Review: Gotham Academy: Second Semester Vol. 2: The Ballad of Olive Silverlock trade paperback (DC Comics)


It bears mentioning, here at the end of Gotham Academy’s first-ish tenure with Gotham Academy: Second Semester Vol. 2: The Ballad of Olive Silverlock, just how well artist Adam Archer has done stepping in for original series artist Karl Kerschl from Gotham Academy Vol. 3: Yearbook through to the end.

In an albeit rudimentary comparison, I really couldn’t see marked differences between Archer and Kerschl, and for a series with as distinct an animated look as Gotham Academy, that’s both important and impressive. There’s a section in the back of this volume that I found particularly interesting, showing the layering of Archer and inker Sandra Hope’s figures with the backgrounds by MSSASYK, which reminded me of ye olde animation cels; I thought that seemed on point for Gotham Academy’s overall aesthetic.

[Review contains spoilers]

Ballad is a fine conclusion for Gotham Academy. If it wraps things up a bit too neatly and happily, that’s perhaps better than leaving things on a cliffhanger. If the next best thing might be Gotham Academy not ending at all — and really, do comics usually benefit by just going on and on? — riding off into the sunset might be a good compromise.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

Only because it seems that Maps Mizoguchi is the Gotham Academy character who’s shown up most since the series ended (without my having yet, admittedly, read those subsequent appearances), I had a suspicion Olive might not make it out of this one, and that added some extra suspense for me to the final scenes. It would be too macabre for this title for Olive to have indeed killed herself to halt the ghost that had possessed her, though for a moment I thought it was possible, or that Olive might vanish, ghost in tow, to become one of the selfsame specters haunting the Academy. Again, the happy ending is probably the right idea, though I wonder in Maps' future appearances if we’ll hear that Olive is back at the Academy, off and away to find herself, or whether Olive will be mentioned at all.

I’m speculating on future stories here without much information, but indeed even that the recent Gotham Academy special is called “Maps of Mystery” suggests Maps taking the spotlight subsequent to Academy after Olive holding it for so long. As I mentioned in my review of Gotham Academy: Second Semester Vol. 1: Welcome Back, this series has really emphasized Olive to the detriment of building up the other characters more than window dressing; it’s a nice moment when Kyle has seemingly abandoned his friends but instead gone to save Olive, but we’ve really no idea why because we barely know Kyle, and his claim that he knows Olive “better than anyone” rings awful hollow. The narrative itself seems to know this, as when Maps quips mid-mystery, “Everything’s about Olive …”

With Ballad’s conclusion, I did find myself having to page back a bit, even unto Welcome Back, to understand what writers Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, and Kerschl had set up here. Not that I mind some complication, but with Ballad now there’s not one but two past timelines we’re following, both that in which Amity Arkham was killed and that in which Absolon Lydecker moved Amity’s bones to help Millie Jane Cobblepot fake her death.

Forgive me perhaps for not paying enough attention (or not being a good enough student of history) but it took me a little while to understand that Amity and Millie Jane were not contemporaries, letting alone that I think Gotham Academy’s first series lead us to reasonably think Millie Jane might be Olive’s ancestor, and so it wasn’t wholly clear some things didn’t happen in tandem. I would like to see DC publish a comprehensive Gotham Academy: Second Semester volume as they did for Gotham Academy proper, and in one volume it might all be clearer.

As I mentioned with this series' first volume, the thing that surprised me most about Gotham Academy overall was the Colton storyline. Of all the characters besides Olive, Colton was the only one to have a real internal life, and that consisted of being in love with Kyle, who was unlikely to reciprocate. Though the end of this volume does suggest Colton finds a boyfriend, earlier in this book we still see Colton trying to catch Kyle’s eye even as he knows Kyle’s not interested. Maybe 2017 is a ways from 2023, where we recognize that continuing to flirt with someone without reciprocation is creepy and that to suggest a gay teenager will continue to make advances at a straight classmate borders on stereotyping, but I was surprised that the writers of a book as nontraditional as Gotham Academy didn’t handle this more sensitively.



Perhaps about the only thing missing in Gotham Academy: Second Semester Vol. 2: The Ballad of Olive Silverlock, the conclusion of the whole Gotham Academy saga, was Batman. We sure did get a lot of Damian, and Batman in flashback trying to save Sybil Silverlock, Olive’s mother, but no final reconciliation of the animosity Olive has for Batman. That’s OK, Batman could probably do with someone to take him down a peg (and to balance out Maps' fandom), but it was my only indication of an ending perhaps a couple pages fewer than the creative team might have liked.

A great series, a fine accomplishment for DC; glad Gotham Academy is getting a second life here and there, and I’m eager for the next time DC comes around to storytelling as out of the main as this.

[Includes original covers, character sketches, page progressions]

Comments ( 2 )

  1. In the vein of the recent phone book collection of Gotham Academy, I wonder if DC will re-collect "Second Semester," maybe with the recent Maps stories or even the New 52 Endgame one-shot.

    1. My recollection's a little spotty but the Endgame special gets mentioned somewhere — possibly a vague mention within the Robin War crossover — and I was newly disappointed they didn't include it in the first new Gotham Academy "phone book" collection.


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