By Tony Patrick, Scott Snyder, Cully Hamner, Laura Martin, Deron Bennett
In comics, there is a constant war between the old and the new. How much of a comic should revolve around the traditional versus the next generation? Even in its logo and title, Batman and the Signal weighs between the two. But within its pages the new class is immediately apparent, delivering a strong first issue with a fresh voice and compelling characters that makes you wonder why this is even a mini-series to begin with.
Duke Thomas has been an interesting character to follow. Making appearances across Scott Snyder’s Batman titles as well as a part of the much overlooked series We Are Robin, he’s been in a holding pattern for a while now. Batman and the Signal decides to give him his time in the sun, literally, as he’s become Gotham’s protector during the day against a rising metahuman threat. From the first page, Duke’s voice feels new and is a welcome change from the rest of the Bat-Family. Tony Patrick writes an extremely endearing and relatable character, with room to prove himself but still capable of handling what comes his way.
Speaking of room, it’s pretty amazing how well the plot is paced; The story flows nicely from Duke’s initial assignment to meeting his supporting cast composed of his former teammates, even throwing in an explanation of his powers and a daytime detective from Gotham’s police force. There’s a lot to digest in this issue, but it never feels as if it’s too compressed. Patrick and Snyder’s collaboration pays off by delivering so much information in such a compact, skillful way. It’s just a little strange that this wasn’t made into at least a longer mini-series. The central mystery of Duke’s role so far as well as the amount of heart in the delivery seem to deserve more than a quick 3 issues.
Cully Hamner’s art maintains the kinetic action that’s come to be known from the brawling styles of superheroes in Gotham. It also gives the city a new soul in the sunlight. Laura Martin’s colors follow through with this idea, exposing a brighter and more welcoming side to a setting that’s always been dominated by shadows. Everything feels much more up-front in this issue, exposing a more hopeful world. With a hero dressed in lighter colors, it fits with the tone and the overall approach to Duke’s character. The way Duke’s powers are depicted is also visually interesting, giving off an interesting luminescent quality that contrasts well with the norm.
At the end of this first issue, it feels as if a lot was accomplished. Duke is established as an interesting down-to-earth character with a great cast surrounding him. This series has already told much more about Duke as a person than most of his other appearances. How this mini-series wraps up in the very limited space it has does inspire some worry of it being rushed. But if the rest are like this premiere with quickly-paced storytelling and solid artwork, Batman and the Signal will easily be a strong introduction for a well deserved future ongoing series.