It’s Valentine’s Week and DC is celebrating by releasing a whole bunch of books. As such, to keep this brief, I will only be long-form reviewing the Book of the Week, while doing shorter paragraph reviews of the other titles. This Week’s Book of the week is a touching tribute to a beloved character we recently lost. So, let’s get started this week with Batman: Pennyworth R.I.P.
BOOK OF THE WEEK
Batman: Pennyworth R.I.P. #1 – Writers: James Tynion IV & Peter J. Tomasi, Artists: Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, Chris Burnham, Marcio Takara, Digenes Neves, David LaFuente and Sunit Kumar
No event in recent memory has affected the entire Bat-family the way the death of Alfred Pennyworth has. The issues of both Batman and Detective Comics that have followed his death have truly served to showcase “one man’s worth.” Alfred was the glue that kept the Bat-Family together, and in this issue, we see what happens when that glue isn’t there.
Bruce decides to honor Alfred publicly, with the dedication of a new hospital in his name as part of the Gotham rebuild. The “family”, however, is going to have their own private memorial. Now, of course, this is going to take place at a seedy bar that has been rented for the night and swept for listening devices. Barbara, Ric (Dick) Grayson and Jason Todd get into a mini-argument when Bruce walks in. It turns out everyone has their own feelings about the events, and the different emotional responses are all across the board.
Damian, seen in here really for the first time since he had to watch Alfred die, still blames himself. He tells a story of his first days as Robin, where he was grounded by Batman and went out on patrol anyway. Alfred went out after him, dressed as Batman, and agreed to keep the whole thing a secret. After he finishes, Damian admits that they are right to blame him. He leaves, saying he should have been more. Barbara is furious when a despondent Bruce doesn’t go after him.
Tim goes next, telling a story about how he left some of his gear behind after fighting Firefly, and how Alfred heard about it, broke into the GCPD Evidence Room and reclaimed it. After his story, he offers to move back in to the Manor and help Bruce in the Batcave. He tells Bruce that he is getting the way he was when he lost Jason and first met Tim. Bruce refuses his offer. He tells Bruce that with Alfred gone, he is the one who has to put the Family back together this time. Tim says that Bruce is lost, and he leaves.
Jason goes next, telling the story of how, after he became Red Hood, Alfred stopped by with some groceries and telling him that his guns will fail him in the end. The story continues with Alfred saving him in the Batmobile when he was outnumbered. Jason in this only one who won’t crucify Bruce. He tells Bruce that he needs to see how angry everyone else is and then figure out how to fix it. After that, Jason leaves.
Barbara is up next, and she is the maddest at Bruce. Barbara summarizes all of the events that happened recently, from City of Bane, to the Batman Who Laughs corrupting her Father, to Alfred’s Death. She also provides the perspective of a Gotham citizen, detailing their fear and uncertainty. She says that the Family need Batman right now, so they can heal. When Bruce doesn’t react, she throws her glass in a rage. Then, she tells her story. She tells of a surprise trip Alfred planned for the two of them, but he would not give her any clues as to where. He made her wear a blindfold the whole trip. When they finally arrive, Barbara is startled to discover that they are at Mount Kane, and even more astonished to discover that they are there to climb it. When they reach the summit, Alfred offer Barbara a cupcake to celebrate the Anniversary of her leaving the spine rehab center.He calls her his hero and they blow out the candle together. Barbara leaves after she finishes her story.
The only one left now with Bruce is Ric. Since he has no memory of his time as Dick Grayson, he has no story of Alfred to tell. So, he asks Bruce to tell the story he would tell if he were Dick. Bruce knows exactly which one to tell, and proceeds to relate a tale involving Alfred making his own pilgrimage, once a year, to the spot where Bruce’s parents were killed, but on a different day. Nightwing followed him one night, and, over chocolate milkshakes, Alfred revealed that he was celebrating their Wedding Anniversary, but also that he felt guilty because he allowed Thomas to drive into the city that night, at his insistence. He also regrets not speaking the words to Bruce about his parents that he wanted to. A couple of years later, when Bruce was mourning Damien (Editor’s Note: Damien was killed at the hands of the Heretic in Batman Inc. #8. He is resurrected by Batman in Batman and Robin #37), Nightwing relays the words Alfred wanted Batman to hear. After the story Ric tells brice that he can’t keep things together the way Dick Grayson would have. He tacks a picture on the wall as he leaves. When Bruce takes teh picture off the wall, he discovers it is of himself, Damian, Tim, Barbara and Dick all surrounding a seated ALfred in hte Batcave.
This book made me cry. This is second time in a year that Batman comics have made me cry. so that’s quite enough of that. Seriously though, I challenge anyone who knows the story and characters to read this book and not have an emotional reaction. This is just another shining example of the incredible writing talent currently residing in Gotham City. It almost feels like their showing off, expertly tailoring the reactions of each character to suit their individual personalities. I also love that each of the stories told, while brand new, feel like they fit right into each character’s established run. This book is beautiful and elegant and a perfect celebration fo Alfred’s life. It is also a testament to how much work it took for Alfred to keep the family together, and how much work Brice will have to do to make things right.
Here are some rapid fire reviews of the rest of this week’s books
Batman & the Outsiders #10 – A League of Their Own Part 3 – Writer: Bryan Hill, Artist: Dexter Soy
The fallout continues from the team’s meeting with Ra’s Al Ghul. Batman confronts Sofia. Bruce finds out that Ra’s has a doomsday weapon. Black Lightning and Shiva hunt Ra’s, but are being hunted themselves. They seem to be out numbered until Cassandra, Duke and Katana even the score.
Batman vs. Ra’s Al Ghul #4 – Writer and Artist: Neal Adams
This very, VERY, weird series continues, as a connection is made between Deadman and Batman’s captor, Chiaroscuro. Meanwhile, back in our dimension, we learn of the Batman Olympics, thanks to an appearance by an Australian Batman! Back in the other dimensions, answers about Deadman’s brother come from Etrigan! Excuse me, I need an aspirin before I have an aneurysm.
Catwoman #20 – No Guts No Glory – Writer: Joelle Jones, Artist: Fernando Blanco
After the events of the last issue, Catwoman is hiding with her sister when she gets some new motivation from an unusual source. Re-emboldened, and in her old costume, Catwomwan heads to the Creel Mansion, where a zombie party has broken out, courtesy of Raina Creel, the Lazarus Water and a drug called Narssistrine. As she fights off the horde, she tells Raina she’s ready to finish this.
Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy #6 – The Fall – Writer: Jody Houser, Aritst: Adriana Melo
It’s the end of the road for Harley and Ivy’ latest limited series. And, after the end of this issue, which sees the return of the real Poison Ivy, and the revelation that the Ivy that has been accompanying Harley was only a cutting from the real Ivy, it may be the end of the Harley/Ivy relationship permanently. As they both go their seperate ways after a tense confrontation, Ivy is made whole again and Harley is determined to be a hero.
Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey #1 – No Sleep Till Gotham – Writers: Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti, Artist: Amanda Conner
Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti return to the world of Harley Quinn that they created in their celebrated run on the character. This four issue miniseries picks up where the series left off, with Harley planning revenge on the people who torched her hotel and beat up her associate, Tony. To get this revenge, she has to travel to, where else?, Gotham. She is accompanied by Huntress and Cassandra Cain. Of course, since she’s going to Gotham, Joker’s been notified. AS she gets off the train, after an enormously bloody gun battle of course, she finds Renee Montoya waiting for her. This Black Label series is everything you could hope for from Conner and Palmiotti. It is violent. It is profane. It is hilarious. And it is absolutely fabulous.
Hawkman #21 – Death’s Doorway Part Two: The Key – Writer: Robert Venditti, Artist: Fernando Pasarin
Adam Strange, Hawkwoman and the Atom manage to recapture Sky Tyrant and gain possession of the key he was looking for, but not before the Paladin falls.
Superman: Heroes – Writers: Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction and Greg Rucka, Arists: Kevin Maguire, Mike Perkins, Steve Lieber, Mike Norton and Scott Godlewski
This is a set of stories dealing with the immediate aftermath of Clark Kent revealing to the world that he is Superman. It shows you the mindset of some of the most important supporting cast members and offers a tantalizing tease for the future in the epilogue. The most surprising thing in it though, is the reaction of Batman, who is actually jealous that Clark is able to do this, and he can’t. This is some beautiful character writing.
Superman #20 – Superman’s Truth Part Three – Writer: Brain Michael Bendis, Aritsts: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Oclair Albert
This issue has two different story beats. The main one sees Superman duking out with Mongul as the nascent United Planets looks on. The second takes place back on Earth as the other media in Metropolis try to find a tabloid angle on Superman so they can compete with the Daily Planet.
The Flash #88 – Flash Age Prelude “Paradox” – Writer: Joshua Williamson, Artist: Howard Porter
The origin of the Flash’s newest villain, Paradox, is told as he makes his debut.
Wonder Woman #751 – On the Horizon – Writer: Steve Orlando, Artist: Jan Duursema
Wonder Woman sets up shop in Boston, but Diana has a Police Office shadowing her to determine if it should be allowed. As the day progresses, a huge storm rolls in and she meets up with longtime associate Etta Candy. In the end, the storm was caused by the Dark Fates, who have now made Diana’s acquaintance.
That does it for this week, next week, Batman gets crazier as Harley Quinn joins the party.