On the screen Batman more or less works alone – you might say that’s been the consistent downfall of his movies – but over decades of comic book history he’s pretty much always operated alongside a revolving door of sidekicks.
DC Comics’ Batman: Rebirth, from writer Tom King (Marvel’s excellent Vision series)continues that tradition by giving the Caped Crusader a new partner in justice — only this one’s superhero alias might take you by surprise.
In the first issue of King’s new Batman series, we’re reacquainted with Duke Thomas, who quickly steps into the role of Lark. On first impression Lark is not all that different from the many Robins, although happily he seems to have his own distinct personality and identity which should make the Batman: Rebirth series a joy to read in the coming months while promising some character development for Duke.
Ironically, Duke actually did the whole Robin thing once before, in the memorable worst-case-scenario Futures End arc, but given that everything that happened in New 52 has since been removed from the DC Universe , Duke’s future has essentially been reset, meaning it’s not that especially likely we’ll ever see him as Robin again.
Batman: Rebirth #1 does contain a fun little nod to the New 52, though, referencing the manic grin toxin force-fed to the Thomas family by the Joker in Batman: Endgame by depicting Duke’s parents looking quite freakishly overjoyed.
Duke’s new identity shouldn’t actually be a surprise to anyone who recalls this mysterious panel teasing an older, armless Batman fighting alongside a black sidekick known as Lark from Scott Snyder’s run with the Batman series…
There’s no messing around in the new issue — almost the moment Duke is introduced to his new costume, he’s pressed into action helping Bruce on a gorgeously illustrated underwater mission.
It’s a pretty thrilling sequence which works because King’s clever narrative device uses Calender Man’s villainy as a backdrop to tell the story across all four seasons, meaning we get to see what Duke’s capable of without too many dull training montages (there is one, admittedly, but it actually works well because the banter between Duke and Bruce is totally on-point).
Mikel Jenin does a pretty thrilling job with the artwork, the costumes popping right off the page, and King’s story has a strong rhythm, every panel moving the story forward – but it’s the reintroduction of Duke and his instant integration into the world of Batman that makes this issue such a winner, and an indication that DC have once again got it so right with their premier hero.
Whatever happens next, it seems likely that Lark will become a firm favorite. Batman: Rebirth #1 is on the shelves right now.
You are the Princess Shireen of the House Baratheon, and you are my daughter.