It’s a rather hectic time for DC Comics’ Batman. Not only is he dealing with being the puppet of an interdimensional monster in Dark Nights: Metal, the costumed crusader is also busy dealing with a PR nightmare and imposter in Justice League, his team is threatening to come apart in Detective Comics, and he’s planning his impending marriage to Catwoman in his solo book.
But despite all of that, he’s still got the time to help his most recent disciple kick off their superhero career, which is what we get with Batman & the Signal by Scott Snyder, Tony Patrick, and Cully Hamner. The Signal (real name Duke Thomas) is a young man who first arrived in the DC Universe in 2013 via co-creators Snyder and Greg Capullo. Now, his short miniseries is digging into what’ll set him apart from the other costumed heroes kicking around and in close proximity to Gotham City. It turns out, the solution to making him work is to give Duke seemingly simple changes that are much bigger than you’d think.
But first, some backstory. Originally, Duke appeared as a kid who met Batman after his family rescued him during the Riddler’s terrorist attack in Zero Year. The Riddler promised to restore the city’s power in exchange for a riddle he would be unable to answer, so young Duke started training so he could accept the challenge. Years later, as a teenager, Duke wound up as a Robin in the We Are…Robin series, which focused on a group of teens inspired by the exploits of Gotham City’s various Boy Wonders. Despite being the greenest of the leads in that comic, he was something of their leader by the end of it, and even unofficially became for them what Dick Grayson was to the actual Robins that Batman has worked with over the years.
Thanks to DC Rebirth, Duke was taken in as Batman’s newest partner, though he and Bruce decided that he wouldn’t be just another Robin. He would be “something else,” and that’s where things get interesting.
In Dark Days: The Casting, Duke comes face to face with the Joker (well, one of the three Jokers), who previously drove Duke’s parents to insane thanks to Joker gas. Here, the Clown Prince of Crime reveals something Batman never told the nascent hero, the reason both men took such a vested interest in the young boy to begin with. Duke is a metahuman, one with the ability to take light in through his eyes, and see what others can’t.
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