WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Batman and The Signal #1
The time has finally come for Batman to hand Gotham City over to Duke Thomas - DC's newest superhuman, The Signal. It's not a responsibility Bruce Wayne would leave to just anyone, but in the modern age of DC Comics, Duke Thomas has proven he's not like the other sidekicks (and sons) that Batman has trained in the past. And that's the biggest point driven home in Batman and The Signal, the new comic series that sees Bruce Wayne entrust Gotham's safety to Duke... once the sun comes up.
There's no shortage of Bat-Family members to protect Gotham around the clock, but the first issue of this limited comic series shows why Duke-- sorry, Signal (that's going to take some getting used to) is finally ready to stand on his own. And with that promotion comes a new tone, a new cast of characters, and of course, an evil plot that only Duke is equipped to fight. Assuming he can find his way out of his first issue's cliffhanger, that is.
Batman and The Signal #1 also has a new creative team to thank in writer Tony Patrick and artist Cully Hamner, following a long line of twists and turns making Duke more and more integral to Batman's Rebirth narrative. Scott Snyder introduced the young vigilante in his New 52 Batman run, promoting him to Batman's new partner for his All-Star Batman series, and when handing the main Batman comic off to Tom King. It was all a lead up to Snyder's massive METAL event, when The Joker revealed the truth about Duke's meta human genes - and his powers over light made it clear he was no longer Batman's "student."
Snyder has helped craft the story of BaTS - that one just occurred to us - but the personality is as distinct as Duke's new power. Power he's putting to use when Bruce Wayne finally falls asleep, as the shining light for Gotham to follow. At least... that was the idea.
To his credit, Batman sets Duke up with as sweet a deal as any comic fan could dream of. He's got his own secret headquarters hidden in the Lucius Fox Center, nicknamed "The Hatch." he's got his own custom motorcycle and gadgets. He's even got an updated suit, with Bruce swapping out the black Bat symbol on Duke's chest for a reflective one, tailored to his light-related abilities (which are still taking shape, with this first issue relying on Duke's ability to interpret light reflections to effectively see into the past).
The storytellers making the comic do just as much world building, bringing Duke's allies from his We Are Robin days along for the journey, including his new guardian, his ex-military cousin Jay. Duke also seems destined to find a police liaison closer to his own speed: Detective Alex Aisi who has switched to Gotham's Day shift in hopes of pursuing a new batch of metahuman incidents. Incidents targeting a younger demographic, leading to the creation of a Juvenile Hall version of Arkham Asylum. The direction for Duke's own comic career is evident, and Batman is on hand to pass the baton to Duke when the moon sets (as Jim Gordon arrives to do the same for Aisi).
As we alluded to earlier, establishing Duke as being up to the job of The Signal is easy enough. But convincing everyday Gotham citizens to accept a new superhuman battling metas on their way to work is a harder sell. As one commuter mentions in this first issue, Gotham is supposed to be dangerous at night, not around the clock. On an unrelated note, the same scene illustrates why Bruce might prefer the shadows, attacking criminals and escaping so he won't need to hear the complaints of a city gone mad. But in Duke's case, he might be a bit more responsible for the sudden influx of metahuman crime than even he knows.
We won't spoil the first issue before the next two can add to the mystery, and the creative team can show why The Signal has potential beyond Batman's passenger seat.
Batman and The Signal #1 is available now.