All-Star Batman #11
All Star-Batman #11
- Fascinating look into Alfred's past
- Penguin in a Hawaiian shirt
- One of the funniest scenes in Batman comics ever
- Scott Snyder wrote it
- Beautiful art by Rafael Albuquerque
- The slow moving backup story was a bit of a chore to get through
"The First Ally" - Part Two
You know, I’m sure a lot of reviewers have said this already, but I did not realize how much I was interested in hearing about Alfred’s time in MI-5 until Scott Snyder starting writing about. Indeed, it never really occurred to me that Alfred is the Batman ally most shrouded in secrecy when it comes to his past.
With this in mind, we come to the second part of The First Ally. Batman is on the trail of a mysterious device which was being sought by Hush called the “Genesis Engine”. Apparently, it allows you to rewrite genetic code. The search has taken Batman to Miami, where he has made his way into an auction for the device, which was being held by a descendant of Blackbeard. Unfortunately, Bruce discovers that the man has been killed.
Bruce begins this issue locked in the man’s office, with his other “guests” about to blow open the door to get to him. Alfred is monitoring all this from a boat in the harbor. Inside the office, Bruce finds the hole in the ceiling and climbs onto the roof. He realizes that the hole was cut with a high powered laser. Diving off the top, Bruce lands in the water, which is, of course, infested with crocodiles.
Watching from another vantage is the mysterious murderer, who is talking to his employer. His employer asks to see the man in the boat, and recognizes Alfred. Alfred, meanwhile, is being prevented by the thugs on the roof from rescuing Bruce, to his horror and frustration.
Bruce is rescued nonetheless, however, I don’t think even he could have predicted the ability of his would-be rescuers.
Alfred’s frustration leads him to reminisce about his father, who was also never there. Here’s where things get interesting. As a young man, it turns out Alfred was deeply resentful of his father’s position as the Butler at Wayne Manor. This resentment led Alfred to become a brooding, angry young man, making a strange parallel with the boy he would be charged with caring for.
Bruce finally meets his saviors, and to his shock the are Penguin, Black Mask, and Great White Shark! In a further shocking development, they address him as Batman, saying his Bruce Wayne impression needs work. They tell him he doesn’t have the jawline right. They proceed to talk about the Genesis Engine and they give Batman the current whereabouts of the device, saying that they want to see it destroyed.
Back in the past, Alfred is now describing his time with the S.A.S., as he says he is searching for for his purpose. After a hostage rescue mission in Lebanon goes wrong, Alfred returns to his room to find some one waiting for him.
The man introduces himself as Briar, and he has a proposition for him.
In the present, Batman has followed the coordinates given to him as Alfred monitors from the hotel. Alfred is also charged with guarding Hush, who is being sought by the Black and the Whites. Hush gloats that Alfred knows who is behind all of this, and Alfred knocks him out before going after Batman.
The co-ordinates lead underwater to a state-of-the-art “casino submarine.” As Batman arrives on board, he finds that he is too late and the sub’s owner, Tiger Shark, has already been killed. Batman confronts the killer,who has the Genesis Engine, but is bested by his sophisticated weaponry and left to die on the sub, which is about to explode.
Finishing the flashback, we see the mysterious Briar offer Alfred a chance to join MI5, but before Alfred can answer, Briar pulls a gun and points it at Alfred’s head.
In the present, Alfred has followed Batman, but doesn’t see him. Seeing the killer get into a boat, he zooms in only to see, to his shock, Briar!
As the story ends, Briar’s gun goes off in the past as the sub explodes in the present.
In the second part of the backup story, “Killers-In-Law”, Batman continues his infiltration of the Myasnik crime family. He is breaking into a rival family’s house with the heiress of the family, Princess Vik. She is here to steal a gift for her father’s birthday. Batman, posing as Alexey “Knockout” Nokaut, is assisting her. When she kills one of the guards, he sends her to get the gift so he can subdue them without killing, which infuriates Princess Vik.
Batman is able to talk her into escaping with the gift, an antique Matryoshka doll. Hours later, Batman is introduced to “Papa” Myasnik. He reprimands “Alexey” for his hesitance to kill. After an off handed comment about Matryoshka, like people, having many layers, he leaves to dance with Vik.
Batman takes the opportunity to slip away and into more familiar attire. He finds the Martyoshka room and locates the one they stole from the rival family. Working his way through the layers, he finds the last one contains o set of GPS coordinates leading to an area on the outskirts of Russia. The light Batman is using in the darkened room attracts the attention of Princess Vik, who finds and empty room and an open window when she arrives.
Again in this issue, Scott Snyder proves himself master of Batman’s domain. And, I think it’s clear now that one of the lasting legacies of this title will be that Snyder has managed to craft engaging, exciting Batman stories that extend the mythos without many of the familiar trappings of the character. That is, none of the stories have taken place in Gotham itself, and most of them have not involved the Batmobile or the Batcave in any way. These stories have been character driven, with most of them involving a fair amount of philosophical debate. They have also been incredible showcases for villains who would normally be considered “second string”, such as Mad Hatter and Mr. Freeze. It has also been awesome to see the development of Duke throughout the backup stories in prior issues. It is this kind of “fleshing out” of Batman’s world that has been Snyder’s hallmark and I hope it continues to be so in whatever Batman project comes after this title.
Which brings me to the main story of this issue. I never before wondered about Alfred’s past in the S.A.S. and, later, in MI5, but now that Snyder is presenting this “hidden” chapter of Alfred’s life, I am eating it up. I can’t wait to learn more, and I am eager for the inevitable showdown between Alfred and his former mentor. Some other highlights from the story for me include Batman being saved by Penguin, Black Mask and Great White Shark, who tell him he has a lousy Bruce Wayne disguise, a casino on a submarine and Alfred knocking out Hush. This is a fantastic multilayered story and I can’t wait to read the next part.
On the art side of the main story, Rafael Albuquerque provides a lush visual accompaniment to the fantastic story, with wonderful colors and motion, in addition to realistic, expressive faces. Side note: Penguin in a Hawaiian shirt may be one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in a Batman comic.
However, as amazing as the main story is, I have to say that the first two parts of the backup really haven’t captured my interest. All of the action consisted of Batman having to beat up two large Russians and this part hardly had any action at all. I hope that the next few parts ramp up the action and that the narrative comes together. I have faith in Scott Snyder and he hasn’t let me down yet, so, fingers crossed.
IN THE END: This title’s final arc continues it’s mission to expand the Batman Universe and tell the stories that no one knew needed to be told. This look into Alfred’s hidden past is fascinating, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. The countdown to the next issue begins. The backup story is “take or leave” right now, but I am sure it will pick up speed soon. But, the main story is more than worth the price of admission