by Matt Puddy
It’s fair to say that Scott Snyder’s Endgame certainly threw a spanner in the works when it comes to Gotham City and the whole Bat family. With a rather large, Bruce-shaped hole left behind, it was inevitable someone would try to fill the void.
It is only minutes after being shipped into another foster home when we see Duke sneak out and hit the streets on a quest for justice. This time he bites off more than he can chew by plunging himself into the middle of an underground cult, leaving himself exposed to a horde set on beating him. Thankfully the mysterious group trailing him have other ideas, and spring into action with five extra bodies thrust into the fray. As the level of petty crime raises the requirement for the common man to step up, we meet Duke Thomas. Admittedly his first foray is with some rather well-armed school bullies, but it’s enough to get the attention of outsiders. It seems that he’s already a well known individual through his interactions in Year Zero and Endgame with the Dark Knight. Unfortunately, he’s also no stranger to the police and the foster care system.
Even more interesting is the short epilogue following the group's introduction. A mysterious figure with obvious means has been watching not only him, but everyone. Surveillance, accommodation, outfitting and tailored weaponry all point in the direction of a financially well endowed individual looking to help protect the city. Is this individual cut from the same cloth as Bruce? We shall see, along with the identity of the mystery man.
Artist turned writer Lee Bermejo is the lead on this new title and has a history with Batman after writing Batman: Noel back in 2011. He also worked with Brian Azzarello on Before Watchmen: Rorschach, so is still fairly new on the story front. Artistically he has a long bibliography, predominantly driven by DC titles such as Global Frequency and Hellblazer.
My initial apprehension to such a new writer was easily put aside by this story. It flowed very well and conveyed a number of different levels of intelligence and emotion. There is a cloud of teenage angst surrounding Duke, tempered by the authority of his social worker and battled against by the detestable foster home mum. Many differing views are surrounded by the calm demeanour of Duke's watcher. With so many new characters on the horizon, you can already see distinct personalities showing within the team, even just through texts.
The artwork is provided by Jorge Corona, a name I don't know from experience. It has a touch more of a comic style than realistic artwork, but that’s not a bad thing. One thing that did strike me is that many of the poses were reminiscent of Spider-Man and some of Ryan Stegman’s work as well.
This is a fun new title, and I enjoyed reading it. It takes the nasty low levels of Gotham's grime and keeps it under foot with a new young team. It will be interesting to see if it is a filler until the Bat Family returns, a feeder to create new Bat family members, or simply potential for a new team on the horizon. This is one to watch for progression.