By Patrick Ehlers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
One of the driving philosophies of Batman and the Signal is the idea that light reveals the flaws in something. A story from the beginning of issue 2 targets Gotham City skyscrapers, partially constructed at night by crews of illegal laborers. Duke’s father was one of these nighttime construction men. He would bring his son to check out the fruits of his nocturnal labor in the cold light of day so Duke could clearly witness the cost of cutting corners. Fittingly, this metaphor falls apart the more closely you examine it. Can you see tiny imperfections in the craftsmanship that goes into building a skyscraper? Probably. Is that overlooking the fact that its a modern marvel of engineering that pierces the sky with steel, iron and glass? Absolutely. My experience writing about comics for Retcon Punch has shown me that we are more often rewarded for our intense scrutiny than we are disappointed by the trivial cracks in the handiwork.
Leave it to Batman and the Signal to demonstrate the opposite.
Most of the problem with this series is in how writer Tony Patrick characterizes his heroes and villains. Duke is impossibly arrogant throughout this issue. He berates his support team, he undermines Detective Alex Aisi’s investigation, and fucking accuses Batman of making a building that turns kids into meta-humans. It’s all crazy stuff, but the way he cuts in on Aisi’s autopsy / investigation is the most unnerving. He poses the inane challenge that she’s not “asking the right questions,” and then redirects her to questions she has already asked and already has the answers to. Duke is, to this point, just a fuck up.
Hell, after that story-time opening, the issue joins Duke mid-getting-the-shit-kicked-out-of-him by the meta-human kids. Keep in mind, one of these same meta-humans was kicking the shit out of him at the beginning of the previous issue. And then the only reason he gets out of it is because he’s assisted by Izzy and Riko back in the Signal Cave (or whatever it’s called) and by Aisi and her backup on the ground. Duke’s failures are both complete and habitual, and that make him hard to root for.
But then again, the villain is also drawn with a comedically broad brush. When it seems like the cops have his meta-human henchmen defeated, his solution is as follows:
If you can’t quite make that out, this figure — who is totally cloaked in shadow — is going to “dispose of their families […] as punishment.” You think this might be the bad guy?
I’d be interested to hear if any of y’all are enjoying this series more than I am. I know I’ve been struggling to get into (or even understand) Metal, so maybe I should just stop looking for delicious fruit on their mess of a tree. (Though, I maintain that Sideways 1 was fun.)
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?