Alfred… (Batman #83 Comic Review)
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
It has been a while since Alfred was killed at the hands of Bane. There were many questions readers rightfully had like; Why did Batman allow Damian to breach Gotham city? Why hasn’t Batman addressed that he has lost his father figure and friend? Why is the Alfred thread mostly ignored overall? These questions are valid and a lot of well reasoned critique has come up on Tom King’s handling of this major story beat (especially one that seems to have major ramifications for the title, and franchise, as a whole). This comic answers all these questions, and more.
Batman spends most of this book in a locked room with a dead Alfred. As he tries to escape, and come to grips with what has happened, Alfred’s voice is playing over a recording. It is here the reader learns why Damian thought it was safe to enter Gotham, and what exactly led to his death. Mixed in with the surface level questions, Alfred narrates his feelings on how he sees Batman/Bruce Wayne as a person. It is a typical Tom King setup of an overarching thematic narration with the action playing out with very little dialogue. By the end of the issue a few more questions are answered and leads into the new climax of the entire “Batman” run, after the false climax with Bane vs Batman.
This issue stands alone, and really doesn’t move things forward. However, unlike other issues where this happens (Bat and Cat on a tropical boring vacation) there is reason to take a break. Alfred’s death needed to be addressed. At least one issue of Batman learning and mourning about Alfred dying, is needed. There are also some strange inconsistencies from City of Bane that are filled in here. I was personally a little confused that Damian would come into Gotham knowing it could have lead to Alfred’s death, and I am happy with the explanation in this comic. Alfred’s sacrifice is understandable and finally is earned, no longer is it a cheap gimmick. Batman trying to break out of the locked room is a nice backdrop to Alfred’s tape. King compares Batman’s inability to escape with the finality of Alfred’s death. There have been a lot of crazy things villains have done to Batman over the years, but nothing is as messed up as this. King shows he really understands the Bruce Wayne and Alfred, and is able to give a final note on the entire relationship between the two. This is one hell of a heartbreaking issue. Even though I called the last issue the “climax” it is clear that it was false, and the real turning point will come in issue #84. Keeping everything unexpected as been a strength of the series, and I am glad it will keep it going until Tom King leaves the title.
Mikel Janin pulls together another stellar issue. 90% of this book takes place in one room (the last pages in a different room). Even with the constrained space Janin is able to make it look dynamic and exciting. The range of emotions on display here as Batman tries to break out, while listening to Alfred’s last recording, is only enhanced in the layout and illustration work here. Even without a single word you could fully understand the book cover to cover. Not a single panel is wasted and everything has meaning. I have loved Janin’s work in the past and I am happy that, yet again, he is not sharing the book with anyone else.