The “Robin War” comes to school in GOTHAM ACADEMY #13. How will the detective club deal with the GCPD hunting down anyone who dons the colors of Batman’s sidekick outside the school’s gates and an undead creature inside?

GOTHAM ACADEMY #13 by Brenden Fletcher and Adam Archer

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Showing it’s crossover DNA right from the start, GOTHAM ACADEMY #13 stars a previously unknown GA student who happens to be a Robin chasing down another student who’s stolen a box of charitable donations. The two fight their way into the school’s greenhouse but are attacked by a creature that seems to be a zombie.

The scene shifts to a school-wide assembly, where Headmaster Hammer announces that the two students have been expelled and that anyone else found to be associated with the Robins shall be kicked out as well. Before wrapping up, he asks to see Olive in his office afterward, prompting her friends to wonder if she has any involvement in with the Robins. However, it turns out that Hammer wants her to board a new student named Riko and show her around the school temporarily. As is par for the course, Maps is bitten by the jealousy bug and fears that Riko will take her spot as Olive’s new roommate and best friend. After Olive assures her that’s not the case, Maps calms down and instead begins planning how the detective club will take down the “zombie.”

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The next night the club puts their plan, which primarily involves luring the creature to the window under Dr. Langstrom’s lab and catching it in a big net, into action. However, as they’re waiting, Olive and Maps see Riko in a Robin costume leaving Olive’s room. Maps calls out to her, leaving her no choice but to join them on the roof. As one would expect, Maps is delighted to meet a Robin and regales her with tales of the detective club’s adventures. As one would also expect, given her prejudice against anything and anyone involved with Batman, Olive isn’t nearly as enthused and warns Maps to keep her distance because being a Robin is currently illegal in Gotham. In the midst of this, the “zombie” takes the bait and arrives, but escapes before being captured.

READ: Feeling behind? Catch up with our review of GOTHAM ACADEMY #12 here!

Alerted by the commotion outside his window, Langstrom joins the kids as they go to see if the monster returned to the greenhouse. Security halts their investigation and escorts them back to the main building. Unbeknownst to any of them, the security guard is a member of the Court of Owls. The next day, the club and Rico are back in Langstrom’s Lab, as he believes they’ll be able to summon the creature using electricity. The theory proves to be a success, and the creature proves to be docile. Langstrom announces that he’ll keep it in his lab until they can figure out who or what it truly is.

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All is not well, however, as the cops have been alerted to Riko’s presence and are on campus to arrest her. Maps deduces that Olive was the one who ratted out Riko, to which Olive only says she was looking out for Maps’ best interest at heart. Devastated, Maps runs off to attempt to help only to be stopped by Robin himself, Damian Wayne. Robin tells her that he’s a friend (referencing their adventure in Gotham Academy #7) and that Riko will be safer in jail. He also informs her that he’s left deposits of equipment around campus for her, and he’ll contact her about when to use them. The issue ends with Maps dejectedly heading back to her friends instead of intervening on Riko behalf.

GOTHAM ACADEMY #13 is only written by Brenden Fletcher, as regular co-writer Becky Cloonan has the issue off. Outside of a glaringly out of character moment (see below), Fletcher does a good job of injecting some heart into what is clearly a story that exists solely as a “Robin War” tie-in. The “zombie” plot feels like a typical GA story, as does the elaborate plan Maps comes up with to capture the creature. Unfortunately, the Riko character doesn’t work. It’s painfully obvious from the first page she appears on how her story will play out, and since we don’t know anything about her, it’s hard to feel any sympathy towards what happened to her at the end of the issue.

READ: Need more ROBIN WAR in your life? Catch up on all our coverage of “Robin War” tie-ins and ROBIN WAR here!

As mentioned above, I had a major issue with a moment of characterization (Which I should note, I’m sure can’t be put entirely at Fletcher’s feet. While Cloonan isn’t credited as a writer on the issue, I’m sure she was aware of the plot judging by what the two have said in the past about how they collaborate) in this story, namely Olive’s actions. While it’s perfectly in-character for Olive to be distrustful and downright hostile towards anyone or anything associated with Batman, I found it incredibly out of character for Olive to be the one who calls the cops on Riko.  After all of the quasi-legal and morally questionable things Olive has done, and the others have done for her, I just don’t believe the story turn. Kyle, turning her in, as a big brother looking out for his little sister Maps, would have made much more sense. Speaking of Maps, she was the characterization highlight this issue. I loved how she instantly became jealous of Riko, only to immediately let it go as soon as Olive told her they would still be roommates.  I also liked the conversation between her and Damian, and how it harkened back to the spectacular adventure they had in issue 7.

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Artistically, this issue marked the beginning of a new era for the series as co-creator and principal artist for the book’s first year Karl Kerschl departed after issue twelve. Taking over the reins, for this issue, at least, was penciler Adam Archer. Aided by inks from Sandra Hope, Archer does an admirable job. His character designs are on point, and I enjoy the cartooney touches he brought to the book, such as Maps literally shooting daggers out of her eyes the first time she sees Olive with Riko. However, I must say the book just doesn’t have the same feel without Kerschl’s pencils, and his absence will take a lot of getting used to. 

GOTHAM ACADEMY #13 is still an interesting issue, but the “Robin War” crossover elements read as forced, bringing my overall opinion of the issue down a bit.

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