What happens when you take the world of Batman, transform Bruce, the Joker, and Selina into teenagers, and infuse it with the style and tone of CW dramas like Gossip Girl and Riverdale? The answer is Gotham High, a new DC Comics graphic novel written by Melissa de la Cruz with art by Thomas Pitilli. It's an ambitious approach to some of DC's most recognizable characters and, while the book makes some bold choices that won't appeal to every reader, the end result is a fascinating and fresh reimagining of one of comics' most iconic romances along with various origins.
First and foremost, Gotham High is clearly set in an alternate universe. The Bruce Wayne, Jack Napier, and Selina Kyle that inhabit the halls of Gotham High are not the same characters that populate the pages of some of DC's biggest series. Bruce Wayne is the Chinese-American son of the late Thomas and Martha Wayne, a woman who, before marrying Bruce's father, was born into the richest family in Hong Kong and used her money to found Wayne Enterprises. That's not the only change to Bruce's story, either. The details of his parents' deaths are different as is their relationship to Alfred. Jack Napier is from the wrong side of the tracks with abusive, neglectful parents who themselves are too disaffected up to pay any attention to their brilliant but troubled son. Selina, in the part of the narrator, is a once-wealthy girl next door dealing with her grandmother's refusal to offer financial assistance to assist with her father's devastating, early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Once you stick through these introductions, the story settles into that previously mentioned Riverdale-style-meets-Batman-story dynamic. There's plenty of intrigue as the story wastes little time jumping into a mystery meriting the attention of the future World's Greatest Detective, but there's also plenty of teen soap opera-style drama here, as well. Make no mistake: Gotham High is about teenagers and features the classic teen love triangle with the cunning and charismatic Selina serving as the primary point. In many respects, Gotham High is a very female-forward book, something that works well if you consider it primarily as an origin story for the future Catwoman.
What also works well is Pitilli's art, especially as paired with Miguel Muerto's colors. The book is full of images that both feel familiar but also reflect the different cultures the characters come from. The inclusion of Chinese elements helps to subtly reinforce Bruce's heritage without becoming a spectacle while the colors just pop right off the page and are a delight for the eyes. Gotham High is surely a pretty book.
That said, while the comic is a fun, youthful and visually appealing approach to the characters that make up the Batman universe, it's not without flaws. Bruce in particular is written a little unevenly while the would-be Joker Jack is presented as both full of potential and as being something of an overly romanticized stalker. There's also the matter of Selina's grand plan which comes together a little too easily. Compared to another alternative take on Gotham, Mariko Tamaki and Steve Pugh's polished and exquisite Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass, Gotham High seems messy and a little immature.
Even with its flaws, Gotham High is a solid read and, while the diverse, angsty, teen romance elements of this take on the world of Batman are going to be divisive, it offers something unlike anything else in superhero comics today. Gotham High is thought-provoking and interesting. It breathes new life into classic characters and reminds readers that things don't need to be perfect in order to be worthwhile.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Published by DC Comics
On April 7, 2020
Written by Melissa de la Cruz
Art by Thomas Pitilli0comments
Colors by Miguel Muerto
Letters by Troy Peteri