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Character Spotlight: Duke Thomas (Batman and the Signal Review)


Writers: Scott Snyder & Tony Patrick

Artists: Cully Hamner, Declan Shalvey, Francesco Francavilla, Minkyu Jung & Klaus Janson

Colorists: Laura Martin, Jordie Bellaire & Pete Pantazis

Letterers: Deron Bennett, Steve Wands & Dezi Sienty

Publisher: DC

Rating: 7.5/10 Fiery Balls of Light In the Sky

Batman can have the night. I prefer Gotham in the daylight anyway, especially when it’s protected by the Signal. For those not fully aware of Duke Thomas, aka the Signal, Duke is one of the newest additions to the Bat-Family and honestly one of my favorites. He showed up way back in 2013 in Snyder’s New 52 run of Batman, where we saw him as a young boy looking to outsmart the Riddler in Zero Year. From there Snyder featured him throughout his time on Batman by having Duke face the loss of his parents (mentally) at the hands of the Joker, as well as join a legion of Robins in Batman’s absence. He eventually earned a place in the family to be trained by Bruce, to become “something different.” With his training seemingly complete, Duke steps out on his own in Batman and the Signal from Scott Snyder and Tony Patrick. Warning. Here is your signal for spoilers.

Batman and the Signal is a very short read, being that the story is only three issues after DC delayed this story for months (I was worried it would be canceled altogether), but thankfully, the trade also includes segments from Synder’s All-Star Batman run that launched in Rebirth. In these issues, a small portion would follow the story of Duke’s training and what kind of hero he would be. While in search of Zsasz, the cutting criminal, and facing off against the Riddler’s explosive puzzles, this little arc featured within All-Star Batman showcases one of Duke’s most important qualities that set him apart from the rest, his detective skills. Throughout the issues, we get a character who is piecing together clues on par with Batman and even coming to the conclusion first at times, all skills he picked up since his days as a small boy trying to outthink the Riddler. If only Duke could see how talented he is. Speaking of seeing….

With the end of All-Star Batman and early on in Dark Nights: Metal, it’s revealed that Duke is a metahuman with the power to see light differently in a number of ways that further enhance his detective skills. Snyder's and Patrick's story picks up sometime after the events of Metal and finds Duke being offered the role of being Gotham’s protector during the day, a concept I thoroughly enjoyed. I am so used to seeing Gotham at night and the baddies out then, but who keeps it safe when the sun’s out? Duke does, and he barely has his name tag on when teen metahumans start to terrorize the city. Duke finds himself facing off against an unknown enemy who is creating meta teens as well as self-doubt as he tries to prove whether or not he is worthy to be the hero he has worked so hard to become.

Among the different art styles featured within this collection, I found Cully Hamner’s very fitting for the main portion of this read. As I said, Gotham in the daytime seems like a cool concept and Hamner showed us a whole new perspective of Gotham with his panels of cityscapes as well as just having some really great action scenes play out across the panels. With Martin’s colors to compliment the art, this definitely felt like a city I’ve never been to before even though I have found myself there so many times in different stories. The design alone for the Signal costume is just incredible too!

The long build-up to Duke taking the name of the Signal, and becoming Gotham’s protector in the day, seemed like that “something different” which was alluded to within Synder’s runs with the character. This was a cool idea that starts off extremely strong in the first issue but begins to show signs of condensing a story in the next two as Snyder and Patrick try to wrap things up while also providing an opportunity (hopefully) to explore our villain’s connection with Duke in the future. I feel like Snyder gave Duke’s character a good amount of time since his introduction back in 2013 to build him up over the years to earn a spot as a hero rather than just throwing a new character in right away. It’s a shame they cut this story short because it was definitely fun and brought a lot of cool new changes to Gotham in terms of setting and challenges to be faced with a meta hero looking after its citizens. While it may not be the entire story that was planned for Duke, I would say this read is still one to consider reading if you are just learning about the character in Batman and the Outsiders or wherever the Signal may pop up in comics next.

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