First, a thank you to Edelweiss and DC Comics for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I have read the issue in Dark Days: Road to Metal with Duke Thomas in, and had heard a lot about him from his episode on the Geek History Lesson podcast, but I hadn’t read a story starring him before this – not that I’d have had much choice.
It’s also worth mentioning that due to my limited previous reading in this genre if you think I’m being too harsh or too generous with my assessment of writing or art, it’s probably due to my limited frame of reference and there isn’t a lot I can do about that.
I really enjoyed this book. Duke is not a character I would ordinarily be interested by but he is an interesting lens through which to see the Bat Family – not mention he adds some much-needed diversity to the group.
Building on what Snyder started in his Batman series, Snyder & Patrick write a brilliant story in which they really showcase Duke and his unique set of skills. This book, whilst being called ‘Batman & the Signal’ (and featuring all the Bat-family members and some old favourites from We Are Robin) is really all Duke’s with Bruce playing much more of a supporting character role.
This story follows him as he helps to solve crimes with his mentor, whilst also trying to establish what sort of hero he is and what his place is within the larger group dynamic. This latter part is the central focus of the story and really endeared Duke to me as a character; his feelings of inadequacy and feeling the need to repeatedly prove his worth are ones many people can relate to and are showed brilliantly in his reflective style of narrative.
I especially like the art; the layout and design of the panels on every page alone is something to enjoy, but I also really enjoyed the black and yellow accented pieces and action scenes. I really like Duke’s costume design too, I think it fits perfectly with the corner of Gotham that he has carved out as his to protect.
Overall, I’d consider this a great jumping on point for anyone interesting in reading about Duke, the Bat-family or comics in general. That being said, though you don’t have to have read We Are Robin prior to reading this (I haven’t), I would recommend it as it will add a little more context.
Writing Quality – 7/10
Image/Illustration Quality – 8/10
Character Development – 9/10
Overall – 8/10
“The challenge with Duke was to find a role for him in Gotham that wasn’t taken. We didn’t just want to create another character and have him be a vigilante by night, and we also felt him taking the mantle of another character, like becoming Nightwing or something like that, felt limited. I talked to Geoff Johns two years ago when we were doing Rebirth, and he and I started talking about it, and the idea of him going out by day, and Gotham doesn’t have a daytime protector. It felt a good extension of his personality.
He’s never wanted Batman’s help or his sidekick; he’s just wanted to find out who he is. He didn’t even know if he wanted to be a superhero; he wanted to help in the way his parents have, but on a larger scale. When he was Robin, or a Robin, it was a life that he had, where he said Batman might need a Robin sometimes, but Robin can’t need Batman if Robin is ever going to matter. So Robin doesn’t need a Batman.
That was a new take on that character: It would be a movement rather than a singular character. It would be young hero’s banding together, or a young hero who may be inspired by Batman, but didn’t necessarily fight by his side. And the voice that Tony is bringing to the character, in that he works with kids in Brooklyn in an arts program, he was attracted to the Fox Center in many ways that Duke worked at in “Super Heavy” (Batman #41-45), which plays a part in here too, where his base is underneath the children’s center. All of that just felt organically right.”
Scott Snyder in a really great interview with co-writer Tony Patrick on SyFy Wire about Duke Thomas – you can read it here.