By Molly Jane Kremer. DC Comics has been sending forth quite the deluge of new titles our way, and orchestrating major re-hauls of a few others also worthy of our attention. Gotham Academy #2 is, as you can guess, one of the former, and as a second issue of the critically – and reader – acclaimed new comic, it has no right to still be this charming and fun. Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, and Karl Kerschl have successfully avoided any sort of sophomore slump by deepening both the characterization and the world in which Gotham Academy takes place, all without the need of a cameo from one particular billionaire playboy philanthropist.

This issue opens with Olive Silverlock, our main character, reading from The Diary of Millie Jane Cobblepot, already referenced multiple times in the last issue, and the book seems to have a significant part to play in this series. Its very gothic prose (“… the darkness is my only true shelter…”) is perfect for our uber-emo protagonist, not to mention very apt for the series.

Sadly utilizing less of the great yin and yang dynamic that is Olive and Maps in this issue, the first four pages mainly consist of mopey angst from Olive and the oozing vitriol of Pomeline Fritch. We get to see a bit more of Pomeline in this issue, and she remains both unlikable and mysteriously compelling in equal measure. Olive and Pomeline are (unwillingly) teamed up for a good portion of the comic, and their interactions are written with such snark and anger from Pomeline that sympathizing with Olive is unavoidable. (Her plethora of angst is at least well-earned.)

It’s a relief when bubbly Maps pops back in. Whereas in the last issue her vivaciousness was almost too much, with her being seen a bit less, she’s a welcome respite from Olive’s moping and Pomeline’s malice. Her boundless energy and enthusiasm is much more enjoyable in smaller doses like this, especially when she contrasts so perfectly against Olive’s grace-filled sadness.

We are still being coyly teased about what exactly happened to Olive over summer break, a mystery that may continue to vex us throughout this opening storyarc (one so mysterious that it appears even Olive doesn’t know what happened). She continues to personify the teenage ideal of adolescent agony: the panels that depict Olive alone amid everyone else’s bubbly conversations communicates her self-imposed isolation well, and illustrates beautifully how out of place she feels compared to her fellow students.

Karl Kerschl and Romain Guichet (aka Geyser) continue to outdo themselves on Gotham Academy’s visuals. The architecture continues to be beyond gorgeous, and the realistic interiors give further depth to the school itself, and in doing so, to the story as well. The attention paid in giving each and every student (even random kids in class or the lunchroom) their own visible personality helps further weave together this tapestry. Kerschl draws Pomeline Fritch as the most sour-faced little thing imaginable: her brows are constantly furrowed in a scowl, and rarely do we see her without a lip-curling sneer twisting her face. And, adorably, dreamboat Kyle Mizoguchi is never drawn not wearing his tennis visor, even inside during school hours.

We’re introduced to more of the school’s faculty, and get further acquainted with some we already know: Olive has a quick heart-to-heart with her History of Gotham teacher, Prof. MacPherson, who we find out has an awesome dog, a smoking habit, and (apparently) a delightfully Scottish accent. We also meet the library’s Mr. Scarlett (none other than the villain Bookworm from the Batman ‘66 TV show), who gives Olive and Pomeline the location of a book (another copy of The Diary of Millie Jane Cobblepot, natch) that has handwritten notes and a map inside it. This tome may have something to do with students’ claims of ghosts in the dorms, the cloaked and masked figures Olive sees outside her windows, or the strange goings-on in the old cemetery after dark.

Within its pages, Gotham Academy has become a world-inside-a-world, fully realized and captivating. Successfully dark (and a little spooky!) without losing its all-ages appeal and readability, it shows real promise as an entertaining and engrossing prep-school drama, seamlessly (and unexpectedly) existing within the canon of the world’s oldest superhero universe.

DC Comics/$2.99

Written by Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher.

Art by Karl Kerschl.

Colored by Romain Guichet, with Dave McCaig and John Rauch.

9 out of 10