Stillanerd Reviews: All-Star Batman #10 review


Batman’s faithful butler, Alfred, is our humble narrator of this newest mystery involving Miami, baseball, Hush, pirates, murder, and secrets from the past.

All-Star Batman #10

“The First Ally, Part 1”

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Writer: Scott Synder

Artist: Rafael Albuquerque

Colorist: Jordie Bellaire

Letterer: Steve Wands

“Killers-In-Law, Part 1: Brotherhood”

Writers: Rafael Albuquerque and Rafael Scavone

Artist: Sebastián Fiumára

Colorist: Trish Mulvihill

Letterer: Steve Wands

Covers: Rafael Albuquerque and Sebastián Fiumára

Ask almost anyone about Batman and who Alfred is, and the likely answer you’ll get is, “He’s Batman’s butler.” Or perhaps Michael Caine, Jeremy Irons, or Sean Pertwee if they’re being cute; maybe Alan Naiper or Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. if they really feel like showing off. Doubtful, however, they’d mention that Alfred was also a former SAS medic, a Shakespearean actor, has a daughter, that his surname was originally Beagle instead of Pennyworth, or that he once died and came back as a super villain.

What they’d all agree on is that, out of all Batman’s allies, Alfred is the most dependable and loyal. So it’s strange there’s been so little Batman stories about him. Although we know some details depending on the continuity, Alfred’s past is even more enigmatic than Bruce Wayne’s. Thus by writer Scott Synder choosing Alfred as the narrator for his newest story—“The First Ally”—this already makes All-Star Batman #10 all the more refreshing.

Credit: Rafael Albuquerque and Jordie Bellaire (DC Entertainment); from All-Star Batman #10

[Alfred] makes for an effective Doctor Watson to Batman’s Sherlock Holmes…Not just for his role as a narrator, but also as an aide in fighting crime.

Re-teaming with his American Vampire co-creator, Rafael Albuquerque, Synder’s opening chapter begins like a typical case for the Dark Knight. Both Bruce and Alfred are in Miami in pursuit of Tommy Elliot, a.k.a. Hush.  Hush, who altered his face to look like Bruce, has impersonated him to order to bid on a coveted weapon being smuggled into the country by the descendants of history’s most notorious pirates.  But once Bruce captures Hush and infiltrates the smuggler’s stronghold, things lead to a rather gruesome twist.

Interspersed throughout the story are series of flashbacks of police pursing a masked thief over London rooftops. I won’t spoil how these flashbacks are significant. Let’s just say Alfred’s could be correct when describing this as a “different” kind of Batman story.

Synder’s previous depictions of the Caped Crusader’s unflappable attendant have been met with controversy. This includes, among others, Alfred shooting down the Batplane to prevent Two-Face exposing their secrets online in All-Star Batman #1. Snyder’s justification, as told in various interviews, is that he sees Alfred as Bruce’s adoptive father who only wants to protect his son, even if this means wishing Bruce would one day hang up the cape and cowl for his own good.

Credit: Rafael Albuquerque and Jordie Bellaire (DC Entertainment); from All-Star Batman #10

That interpretation is definitely present, and more explicit, with this story, as well. But so, too, is Alfred’s loyalty and confidence. Despite his concerns and objections, this is still an Alfred who will never abandon Bruce or his cause. Nowhere does Snyder make this clearer than when Alfred acknowledges that he loves Bruce for being “an absurd human being.” Or when he also states that, if requested, he’ll “happily cross lines” where Batman won’t.

He also makes for an effective Doctor Watson to Batman’s Sherlock Holmes (though Synder’s Batman shares more in common with Philip Marlowe than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous sleuth). Not just for his role as a narrator, but also as an aide in fighting crime. This comic even has Alfred drive the Batmobile. He also takes part during Batman’s interrogation of Hush that’s one of the most original instances of Bruce using psychological manipulation that I’ve ever seen. Who needs Robin or Nightwing when “Penny-One” has your back?

The only thing I thought surprisingly lacking in Synder’s depiction of Alfred was his tendency towards British humor. That dry wit has defined his relationship with Bruce, and it would’ve been nice to have more of instances of it here. In fact, it’s Bruce who seems the more snarky of the two in this story.

Some might also not warm up towards Albuquerque’s rough, sketchy penciling—literally so in some panels—but it’s a style which fits perfect with Synder’s script. It’s rough, hurried, but never muddled, with each panel showing only what’s pertinent for the story. Combined with Jordie Bellaire’s colors, All-Star Batman #10 is a comic with vivid, memorable images, be it Batman’s ejection from the Batmobile to him, a surprising use for a painting, or the first sight of a grizzly murder scene.

Credit: Rafael Albuquerque and Jordie Bellaire (DC Entertainment); from All-Star Batman #10

The exploration Batman-as-the-detective, one told with a different perspective other than Bruce’s, makes for a nice change of pace….

It’s also perfect in showing how art can tell us as much about a character as words. Another reason for why the Hush interrogation scene is so effective is because Alburquere and Bellaire’s placement of light and shadow defines each person in that room along with setting the mood. The shadows over Bruce’s face are solid, always arranged so it looks like he still wears his mask, whereas Hush, who has Bruce’s face, is almost featureless under the room’s spotlight. Alfred, meanwhile, just stays cool, just like his color palate.

Albuquerque also tries his hand at writing, too. His and Rafael Scavone’s “Killers-In-Law” also involves Bruce infiltrating smugglers, this time with ties to the Russian mafia. It’s a standard enough undercover story, though it depends upon how well you believe someone as famous as Bruce Wayne can pass himself off as a Russian gangster without much of a disguise. Sebastián Fiumára’s art is also good, though not as arresting when compared with the main story.

But, so far, both stories in All-Star Batman #10 are off to excellent starts. The exploration of Batman-as-the-detective (one told with a different perspective other than Bruce’s) makes for a nice change of pace after Synder’s previous tales in the series. It may also prove a good Alfred Pennyworth mystery as much as a Batman mystery too.

Stillanerd’s Score: 4.5 out of 5

Next: Stillanerd Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man vol. 4 #27 review

Credit: Rafael Albuquerque and Jordie Bellaire (DC Entertainment); from All-Star Batman #10

Stillanerd’s Nerdy Nitpicks (possible spoilers)

  • Geez, Bats! If you’re this much of a back-seat driver when it comes to your previous Batmobile, why you’d even let Alfred take the steering controls?
  • Hey there, comic! Don’t you go upsetting our friends at Marlin Maniac by bagging on their team.
  • Hold on? There’s no “Bob” with “Bill” and “Jerry” in the broadcaster’s booth?
  • “Slumps happen. [Miami] will recover.” Guess Bruce knows this from reading an advanced copy of this New York Times story and didn’t tell Alfred.
  • So under a “T” rating, you can’t show someone flipping the bird, but you can still show a murder victim’s open chest wound? And someone using drugs?
  • Okay, I don’t care how tough you are. No way can you survive getting beaned in the head by a traffic light while standing on top of a moving bus.
  • Yes, in case you’re wondering, Edward Thatch (a.k.a. Blackbeard), Black Caesar, John Rackham (misspelled as Rackum in the comic), and Diabolito were all historically real pirates. Whether they had an offspring is up for debate.
  • Fort Dexter, however, does not exist. Though a certain TV series with the same namesake did take place in Miami.
  • Not sure about the accuracy of Blackbeard’s ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, being “famously” outfitted with “iron-ribbed broadsides,” either.
  • “Spacebo!” I think the correct pronunciation is “spacibo,” Bruce. Better watch it, or you just might blow your cover.
  • “And she’s a knockout.” As if you needed more proof that bad girls are Batman’s kryptonite.