Comic Book Review: Batman & the Signal #1
This is actually a book that I have been looking forward to since it was first announced last year. There’s one thing that I will always admit, and that is my love for the Bat Family. Not Batman himself, but everyone in his orbit who show that there is more than one way to fight crime. Duke Thomas is that member who now has taken the boldest step forward to fight crime during the day. Which makes a lot more sense as well when understanding that Duke is actually a metahuman.
Truthfully I’m just glad that coming to an understanding of Duke’s powers in turn made sense of why he chose the name he did. Before then you would still be scratching your head wondering why his hero name is so contrasting from the others. The worst case scenario would have been that this was a decision for the sake of being different. Fortunately not the case.
Being a bold move, I enjoyed that this wasn’t something easy for Duke to jump into. They picked the right spot for our story with the Signal to begin. Not too far into him working as the Signal, but not too early as this is him seeing if fighting day crime is even a possibility. He’s had training, he’s worked with the best, though its anything goes when in the heat of the moment. The smart move was to also create this first encounter with a metahuman as well. When you’ve made that a selling point, you want to change-up the villains you would normally run into in Gotham. During the day you wouldn’t expect too many of them to be your average psychopath or murderer. They said that new villains are emerging during the day, and this first one was a solid example of what new dangers can lurk around the corners. The others? That felt as if they were opening Pandora’s Box.
As for Luke himself, it was easy to get back into his story and how he lives his life day-to-day. Being a teen who still has school means that Duke has to maintain two identities, more than the others. Establishing who he lives with and who he calls his support system was out of necessity as well. To take things a step further was addressing the strength of Duke’s relationship to Bruce. That was a good change to me since this seems to be capturing the side of Bruce that is less cold and distant. Exactly what someone like Duke needs in his life right now.
Exploration of Gotham during the day was a good focus point for this first issue too. Gotham is a place in the DC Universe where majority of the time something is going on at night. That is the time where everyone is on their toe, where the boogeymen come out, when things generally happen. It makes a big difference to have that grounded perspective on what people think about the state of this city when nothing usually happens during the day, and suddenly now they have to deal with this mess with consistency. That aside, it felt like stepping into a new world during the day when so much is developing in this city that isn’t as straightforward as it used to be. Structural developments, metahuman developments, and much more that you wouldn’t have thought were a thing till now. Well mostly if you haven’t been too intune with the Batman world in recent times.
Cully Hamner and Laura Martin make a solid art team for a book like this. It really must have been a treat to be able to work on a story visually to create Gotham during the day. There are so many places and things that you really wouldn’t have the time to soak in during the night. They took of the opportunity to capture heroism that isn’t taking place on every other rooftop or alleyway. Duke was out in the open and interacting with the world around him. There’s much more to appreciate about Duke’s costume a well once you’ve seen it in action. Nothing externally so to speak, but the internal effects are cool since this was clearly designed to work in unison with his powers. Being another member of the Bat Family who has an armored suit, it was nice to have an artist who is willing to make it convincing as metal or more on the bulky side. With that said, the approach towards Duke’s powers were intriguing for the effects they chose to represent his processing of light. The focus is on what he sees through the light and that they handled well enough to match what he is trying to do in that moment. Beyond that, there’s simply the excitement in how creative this art team was able to get with these new metahumans. They don’t look all-powerful, but they don’t look like what you are used to running into in Gotham either. One of the best times to have a colorist who knows how to liven things up when again this is a daytime story.
Batman & the Signal #1 is a great start to this new miniseries that challenges what it means to be a hero in Gotham. Duke’s perspective on the world is refreshing. His engagement with the citizens, the challenge he faces with the rise of metahumans, and just always having that room for growth. Everyone else seems so set on how the world works to them, and here you have Duke with much to learn and offer being driven by motivations that don’t simply stem from tragedy.