BATMAN AND THE SIGNAL #2 by Scott Snyder, Tony Patrick, Cully Hammer, and Laura Martin
While not perfect, BATMAN AND THE SIGNAL #2 continues the trend of well-written stories coming from DARK NIGHTS: METAL. With an interesting lead hero and a fast-paced plot balancing tight and interesting artwork, this is definitely an issue to pick up.
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Duke Thomas has seen a lot in his short life. While relatively new to the BATMAN canon, Duke has seen his mother corrupted by the Joker, watched a mountain crash through the center of Gotham City, and most recently developed superpowers. All-in-all, his tenure as the Batman’s newest protégé has been eventful. BATMAN AND THE SIGNAL #1 saw Duke taking to the daylit streets of Gotham to protect the city when Bruce Wayne cannot. Now, as BATMAN AND THE SIGNAL #2 hits shelves, Duke finds himself drowning in a sea of metahuman crime. The Narrows may have a new hero, but it also boasts a new collection of supervillains.

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Trapped beneath the Arkham Juvenile Detention Center, Duke must defend himself from a group of newly powered inmates. Despite taking the upper hand, a final attack from the villainous Null nearly ends the fight. The Signal’s last hope comes in the form of Detective Alex Aisi’s GCPD squad. However, as Aisi and Signal team-up and discover a mysterious connection between the boom of superpowered teens and Nth Metal, a mysterious new foe takes responsibility for the crime spree. Can Batman and the Signal find Gnomon before his army grows too large to handle?

The Power of the Sun

BATMAN AND THE SIGNAL #2 page 2. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

BATMAN AND THE SIGNAL #2 is an enjoyable read. The plot flows relatively quickly through major events, but writers Scott Snyder and Tony Patrick manage to make the story feel cohesive. While I hesitate to enjoy the quirky instances of comic book science (Gnomon using sunlight to grant people superpowers), I did really enjoy the realistic edge to this story. The plot continues to keep me interested, especially as the focus begins to shift toward Duke’s relationship with Bruce and with the former Robins. Duke is an incredibly interesting character, and his powers only add to this intrigue.

What draws me into BATMAN AND THE SIGNAL #2 most, though, are the connections to the DARK NIGHTS: METAL event. In my review of the first issue, I criticized the fact that, despite a DNM tie-in marker, there were no connecting strands. However, BATMAN AND THE SIGNAL #2 delivers several details that tie the two together. Call-backs to Snyder’s New 52 run on BATMAN, Duke’s origins, and the ties to Nth Metal fit this story into the grander worldview. As a fan of the current event, these connections only liven the experience. The proceedings feel far more fulfilling with the nagging questions out of the way.

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Into the Shadows

BATMAN AND THE SIGNAL #2 pages 3 & 4. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

BATMAN AND THE SIGNAL #1 seemed notable mostly for the characterization of Duke Thomas. Despite consistent appearances in the Rebirth BATMAN titles, I never felt like I had the opportunity to learn more about him. Thankfully, this wonderful characterization continues in BATMAN AND THE SIGNAL #2. Duke’s perspectives and thoughts continue to expand on this character. While the opening flashback to Duke’s dad doesn’t add much to the present day proceedings, the sequence gives us a deeper perspective into who Duke is. The only character decision that I felt a bit uncertain about came near the end of the story. Duke immediately jumps to some pretty steep conclusions with very little prompting, which felt like a departure from the character we’ve met.

I did feel like characterization fell to the backburner a bit. While Duke gets a heaping helping of page time, Detective Aisi, Null, and many of the other characters receive almost no focus outside of the plot. I liked Detective Aisi in the first issue, and I thought that the focus would fall more on her here. Certain tidbits about her history are mentioned, but nothing concrete. For a story so deeply affected by personal vendettas and introspection, the lack of characterization feels a bit concerning.

Fingerpainting Supervillains

BATMAN AND THE SIGNAL #2 page 5. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Taking the artistic reins of BATMAN AND THE SIGNAL #2 are Cully Hamner on pencils and Laura Martin on colors. Looking at the pencils, I found myself consistently wowed by Hamner’s style. While somewhat simplistic in portrayal, the overall aesthetic fits a distinct superhero mold with its bold inks and incredible anatomy. My only complaint comes from Hamner’s portrayal of Duke Thomas and Batman in costume. Something feels off with both of these characters when they don their uniforms. I think this has to do less with Hamner’s artistic skills and more to do with the costume designs. The simplicity of his style does well for average, everyday characters. However, complex suits of armor like Duke’s don’t necessarily make the transition well.

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Laura Martin’s work on the colors in BATMAN AND THE SIGNAL #2 truly kicks this issue up a notch. The color effects she provides make each page pop. I love the opening fight scene. Duke’s bright yellow costume contrasts with the flashing reds and blue color effects of his opponents. Not only that but the visual effects when Duke’s powers activate require a lot of detailed color work. Thankfully, Martin soars.

Final Thoughts: BATMAN AND THE SIGNAL #2

BATMAN AND THE SIGNAL #2 isn’t the best “BATMAN” book out there, but it’s definitely an enjoyable read. Despite a lack of characterization for the supporting cast, Duke Thomas takes well to his role in the spotlight. Couple that with a plot that’s both fast-paced and comprehensive, and you have a recipe for success. More importantly, this story is well-balanced with an artistic team that consistently provides top-notch illustrations.

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