[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Scott Snyder and Tony Patrick
Artist: Cully Hamner
Batman may own the night, but with new villains emerging during the day, he needs an ally to defend the city when he can’t. Only one teen is up to the challenge; Duke Thomas. After months of training, he’s ready to step out of the shadow of the Bat to become his own kind of hero. Meet Gotham City’s newest protector: the Signal! Spinning out of adventures in ALL-STAR BATMAN and WE ARE ROBIN, comics superstar Scott Snyder and newcomer Tony Patrick take our young hero to new heights in this exciting miniseries with artwork by Cully Hamner.
Snyder and Patrick take things to a place that Gotham has not gone since the days of the 60s era of Batman: Into the daylight. The majority of bat-books take place in the evening, which rules out a majority of the Bat-family coming out to play when the sun comes up. Bruce’s decision to assign Duke to the day shift makes the most sense given that unfortunate reality. There’s only so much that Batman can do before dawn, so that’s where The Signal comes in. The redesign of Duke’s costume – allowing for the helmet to become a hard cowl, revealing his jaw – also makes an ethnic statement; DC now has a younger, black version of Batman, much as how Miles Morales represents a mixed race demographic for Spider-Man in the Marvel books.
Hamner’s artwork is easy to follow and is fluid with minimal surface detail and hatching. The mood differs greatly than other bat-books given the lack of shadows. The aesthetic distinction of this miniseries is matched by that of the writing. Batman is not as dark or gritty as he is written in his regular books, as he is taking a different tone with Duke. I see his interaction with Duke as a parallel to how he supported Tim Drake during his Robin days in pre-Flashpoint DC books. Duke is a new hero that has a lot to learn about the business as well as his metahuman abilities. This is rookie year for him and he has just chosen his codename, the nature of which I like.
The only drawback to the book is how quickly the writing seems at times. While the plot takes the time to introduce the cornerstones of Duke’s life – his inexperience as a crimefighter, his current family situation, and his affiliation with Batman – there are moments where the pace shifts and goes faster. There is also a bit of Terry McGinnis in Duke’s characterization, which isn’t a bad thing but still makes you feel like you’ve read something like this before. Detective Aisi feels like she’s shoehorned in to this plot somehow, only there representing how a woman can still be a cop despite a disability. The character of The Null and the concept of “The Dial” also seems sketchy. Null feels like a D-list villain as well as his motley crew, but that may change as the plot unfolds.
Hamner’s figures are great, but there should be more fluidity in action sequences. The characterization of Batman is off slightly; why the hell would Bruce give Duke a facility of his own when he’s only starting out as a hero? Yes he’s trained with him and earned his trust but the extent of support Bruce ever showed his kids were new vehicles and uniforms. Damian may have gotten Titans Tower out of the old man, but he’s his biological son and a heavily trained assassin. The providing of a supporting cast for Duke also seems forced: a girlfriend and an adult guardian who just happens to be a former soldier? Time will tell if this cast will last beyond the miniseries.
It’s not bad, but not perfect either. At best we’re either going to see the foundation of a soon-to-be sellout hero, or a flash in the pan. That depends on the quality of the writing.