A Quiet, Touching Pay-Off in All-Star Batman 14

by Mark Mitchell

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

All-Star Batman has been an interesting coda to Scott Snyder’s prolific run on Batman. While never reaching the sustained highs of Batman in its best years, All-Star has allowed Snyder to experiment with the type of Batman stories he tells. Not every arc has been a knockout — I don’t know how into Alfred-Pennyworth-as-ninja I am, really — but there is something inherently interesting in watching an artist stretch himself.

As the finale to both Snyder’s All-Star Batman run and “The First Ally” arc, All-Star Batman 14 quietly delivers. Like Robert Venditti in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 29, Snyder is interested in the relationship between fathers and sons. And, again, the periphery characters end up feeling superfluous. Briar never pops off the page as anything other than the generic villain he is, and there’s no time to properly deal with the business of his “son” being a clone of Alfred. It’s a surprise revelation, sure, but one with so few consequences that I’m not sure what’s gained thematically that wouldn’t be accomplished by making William his literal son. Still, the first 3/4ths of the issue deliver on the framing device’s swashbuckling promise, beautifully rendered by Rafael Albuquerque.

But, ultimately, as action-packed and vibrantly rendered as the big set pieces are, the real pay off of the issue — and arguably the series — is the quiet moment at the end between Alfred and Bruce. Snyder and Albuquerque briefly show us their first meeting when Bruce was a child, quickly followed by a final embrace between the two grown men. If this were the last time we were ever to see Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth it would be a fitting end. Batman’s story began with the death of his parents, and ends with a hug from his surrogate father. Batman has family, he has love. It’s the happiest ending we could ever dare to hope for the Caped Crusader.

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