SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Batman #71 by Tom King, Mikel Janín, Jorge Forbes, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
The Bat-signal, brightly shining Batman's unmistakable symbol across the skies of Gotham, has become as iconic as the character himself, and it's been around for almost as long. Throughout that time, the signal has occasionally been modified by others in various storylines, for a variety of reasons, and now we have the latest change.
In Tom King, Mikel Janín and Jorge Forbes' Batman #71, however, it's the Dark Knight himself who finds it necessary to modify Commissioner Jim Gordon’s traditional distress call. And Batman's reasons for the modification are somewhat unusual.
Burning Brightly in the Night
Batman and Gordon have been on the outs since The Dark Knight’s assault on Bane – and subsequent assault on Gordon himself – in issue #59. So when Batman shows up uninvited on the roof of the GCPD, Gordon is none too pleased. The Commissioner orders Batman to leave, which he eventually does, but not before he makes a rare and surprising move. Batman himself – not Gordon – activates the signal, making the Bat-symbol appear above Gotham’s nighttime skies. A bright red Bat-symbol.
But why is the signal a different color, and just who is Batman summoning?
As Gordon later reveals to his daughter Barbara, Batman himself changed out the bulb in the signal. Barbara takes notice of this little piece of information and, as Batgirl, proceeds to summon other central members of the Bat-family. The intent of this modified signal isn’t for Gordon's use at all, but instead for Batman himself to send a distress call of his own to his closest allies.
After breaking free of Bane’s capture inside Arkham Asylum last issue, Batman vowed to return the next day – with his “army.” Batman assembles his army – the Bat-family – this issue with the aid of the modified signal. The signal’s altered color hints at an emergency-type situation, and Batman’s drive towards taking down Bane would certainly justify a Code Red kind of alert, at least to him.
Why Would The Batman Even Need to Use a Bat-Signal?
Commissioner Gordon might need a signal to contact Batman – it’s not like Gordon has a direct hotline to the Batcave, at least in this continuity. But, why would Batman need something similar, to contact his own people? Can’t he just buzz them directly on their Bat-cellphones, or something?
He could, but the Bat-signal has always had another intent. Gordon has long used the signal not just to summon Batman, but to summon him publicly. To let the criminals of Gotham know that Batman is always out there, somewhere -- and to let them know that the Dark Knight is being sent after them.
Batman isn’t seeking to make a covert strike against Bane – he wants the villain to know he’s coming. He told Two-Face last issue to tell him as much. And he’s not afraid who else knows, either. Most of Gotham’s supervillains are in Bane’s employ already – but those who aren’t in Arkham are also being served a reminder via the signal that Batman is coming after their boss.
And, keeping Gotham guessing as to what a red Bat-signal means only heightens his already-existing air of mystery.
Are any other color variations in store for this long-tenured device? Anything’s possible, but first Batman has to address the reason he called his allies together for. Batman #72 goes on sale June 5.