[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writers: Scott Snyder and Tony Patrick
Art: Cully Hamner
As the sun sets, chaos erupts and the Bat-Family jumps into action to help the Signal (a.k.a. Duke Thomas) against the mysterious Gnomon and his minions. While his allies keep the battle going on the streets, Duke must go above and beyond to track down the malicious man who has single-handedly caused the dangerous boom in meta-activity in the Narrows. Little does he know, Gnomon holds the key to his past and the future of heroes in Gotham City!
This feels like a great tie-off and sendoff to a potentially great addition to the Bat-Family. Snyder lays the groundwork for a possible solo series for Signal and an interesting dynamic reminiscent of Batman and Gordon. What works is that Batman and company has a significant role, and yet doesn’t overtake the protagonist. If anything, they are as Bruce described the situation in the first issue: They’re the night shift. Sun is going down, so therefore Signal gets the reinforcements he needs. The unresolved plots, such as Duke’s real parentage, is left up in the air in the right way where the reader is curious as to whether Gnomon was honest during that fight. And there’s no way he can verify these claims with his parents in their present condition. That can potentially be an ongoing journey for the first arc of a solo series if Scott has one in mind.
The only complaint I have is that the story seems too easily summed up. Maybe it’s the artwork. I’m not a big fan of how slightly blockish and heavily inked Hamner’s figures are. While I like the homage to the Tumbler design for the Batmobile from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, I wish I had seen more of it. The metahumans could have had more thought in their design and at times it felt really confining. The art had barely any room; whether that was deliberate to get across the idea of the Solar Needle, I’m not sure. I just feel that Snyder should have been assigned a better artist than Cully because his designs don’t measure up to the likes of David Finch or the current Batman artist. The colors were great but they don’t work when the forms they are rendering don’t let them do their job.
While Duke Thomas has a potentially great run ahead of him as The Signal, I just feel the art failed him in this series. While it did give him a good start to a semi-solo career – his own corner of town, his own secret facility, decent support base, and an archenemy – the final arc seemed a little anticlimactic in some points.