Duke Thomas must find his place in the Batfamily as The Signal, but his newfound powers expose a growing threat in Gotham that requires something new. A daytime protector!
Batman and The Signal #1
Writer: Scott Snyder & Tony Patrick
Artist: Cully Hamner
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Publisher: DC Comics
What You Need to Know:
Once a promising student in Gotham, Duke Thomas has experienced threats and tragedies that have changed his life forever. From his childhood attempts at solving the Riddler’s puzzle during “Zero Year” to watching his parents succumb to the Joker’s toxin in “Endgame”, Duke has always found the resolve to become a hero regardless of the past or even Batman. Though the two have met previously, after Bruce Wayne returned from death and took up the mantle of Batman once more, he offered to train Duke Thomas properly as a member of the Batfamily. Through this training, Duke Thomas discovered that he has powers, unlike anything he could have imagined. He can see light differently than others, sometimes where it was in the past, and sometimes where it will be in the future. After a confrontation with the Joker channels these powers allowing Batman to pursue his search for knowledge regarding the Nth metal, Duke Thomas is ready to become Gotham’s daytime protector. The Signal!
What You’ll Find Out:
The Batfamily is all together at Wayne Manor for the weekly breakfast. Eight members including Robin, Red Hood, and Batwoman all surround Duke Thomas, who sits at the head of a long table filled with an elegant dinner. Duke struggles with the idea of finding his place in such a crowded family of talented people, as well as being the only one with real biological powers. He gives being The Signal less than a week…
In Gotham Narrows at seven in the morning, we find Signal being hurled into a bus filled with innocent civilians by an unknown meta claiming to be called “The Null”. He recognizes Duke’s powers and asks him if he is “on the dial like him” while he pushes his hands into the bus and activates his powers. Using his abilities, he generates and a negative space, or void, inside the bus and causes it to explode, sending two halves flying in opposite directions. Using a quick hit to the face to distract The Null, Signal attempts to close the distance when a single touch sends him into an unknown realm of negative space. Suddenly, Signal snaps out of it and the light shows him a path forward. Several weak points on The Null’s body become visible, showing where he pulls in the solar light to utilize his power. Then, just like Batman says, “It’s all about finding the hidden pattern…and punching it in the face.” After using these weak points to make quick work of The Null, Signal is quickly interrupted by citizens who are infuriated that the bad guys are attacking during the day. They say everything is changing now…
At Gotham Proper, a Wayne Industries Funded Housing Development for Civic Employees that is still under construction, we find Detective Alex Aisi in her apartment when Commissioner Jim Gordon shows up at the door. He brings with him information about two teenagers who snuck out of their homes and after a night of partying suddenly manifested metahuman powers. Although, within minutes these powers overwhelmed their bodies and violently killed them. That makes nearly two dozen children now that have been reported as developing abilities in just the last few months alone, causing them to turn the Solarium into a juvenile version of Arkham. Aisi agrees to look it.
Later that morning at Census Heights, Duke and a couple previous members of the We are Robin movement are at his cousin’s house where he lives now attempting to learn more about the meta he faced earlier. The discover his cells reacted to Duke’s presence, making The Null stronger when he was nearby, and this immediately causes Duke to consider the entire issue started with him.
As he contemplates the implications of his discovery, he receives a text from Bruce Wayne with directions guiding him to the Fox Center and down a secret passageway. Inside he finds Batman, who welcomes him to “The Hatch”, Signal’s very own version of the Batcave with modified armor that will help him become a different hero for the Batfamily. A daytime protector.
As Duke Thomas and his friends consider the impacts of turning the Solarium into a holding cell for meta’s who could potentially react to Duke’s biology, Detective Aisi finds her search leading her directly to the new juvenile Arkham detention center. Though she is refused entry without a warrant, Signal arrives just three minutes later to use his powers and witness for himself what happened. He sees the detective leave angrily, and the person from the desk make a phone call before entering an elevator. Using his powers once again to essentially replay the previous few minutes, Signal is able to decipher the combination that leads the elevator down.
He arrives at a facility that is lined with rows of empty prison cells, and a voice overhead questioning whether this is all a trap or not. Following the voice deeper into the facility, Signal is struck in the back of the head and confronted with a group of meta-humans including The Null who are prepared to kill him right there.
What Just Happened?
Duke Thomas finally gets his own book in Batman and The Signal #1, which is just the first entry in a three issue mini-series. The creative team including Scott Snyder are finally able to give this rising star the attention he deserves, and they deliver an extremely entertaining first issue. Although the constraints of the mini-series are felt as the story attempts to quickly lay the groundwork for the arc, writer’s Scott Snyder and Patrick Henry balance this with establishing the status quo for the Batfamily’s newest member perfectly. With only subtle nods to Duke’s past, especially as a member of the We are Robin movement, those who have followed him since first seeing him in “Zero Year” and newcomers alike will be treated with a truly great story.
Duke Thomas represents a significant change for not just the Batfamily, but superheroes in general. A Bat-vigilante by day is unknown territory, and it is only fitting for a character such as Signal to venture into this area of crimefighting. He has always worked independent of outside influences for the greater good overall, and being a daytime protector will showcase his greatest qualities for not just those around him, but readers as well.
The Signal has maintained a distinctive aesthetic as a character that is featured beautifully in Batman and The Signal #1. From his duel with The Null to his first time entering The Hatch, the creative team delivers incredibly beautiful panels that accentuate the defining moments of this issue. Though the quality falls short of expectations during the few mundane moments, there is potential for greatness.
Hopefully, DC Comics has plans that go beyond this three issue mini-series, because Duke Thomas is a character that deserves more. The Signal is an original superhero that is relatable and a worthy member of the Batfamily, and the start of his first mini-series demonstrates the potential for the character going forward.
Final Thoughts: Although the restraints of the mini-series on the story are quickly felt, Batman and The Signal #1 establishes the newest member of the Batfamily as Gotham’s daytime protector exceptionally well. As the creative team treads into unknown territory exploring Batman’s attempt at trying something new, readers are treated with beautiful art and an intriguing story that already has me asking if DC has more planned for the Signal in the future!
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