Alfred Pennyworth, faithful butler and advisor to Bruce Wayne, has seen many interpretations and adaptations. He’s been comic relief to collateral. Sometimes he bumbles, barely dodging death, other times he’s a former Royal marine badass. But the role that has always struck a chord and that has so rarely been explored in depth is that of the father figure.
All-Star Batman #10 kicks off Rafael Albuquerque and Scott Snyder’s first arc together. Part one of “The First Ally,” truly explores Alfred’s paternal side but offers a spin on it as well. Opening with a pre-mustachioed and punk-rock, balaclava wearing Alfred on the lamb from the police and then a fast forward chase between Batman and Hush, our beloved butler can’t help but look back and ponder the life of Wayne and “the distance between the boy he was then and the man he is today.”
Plunged yet again in a harrowing Miami Vice-like adventure with Master Wayne, only this time the answer to the mystery may be from Alfred’s own youth. Snyder draws a clear parallel between teenaged Alfred and Bruce Wayne, both angry young men who foolishly, arrogantly take on the dangers of a world much bigger than themselves, and perhaps they just can. Even though Alfred may not be the one wearing the mask these days he can’t help but see much of his younger self in The Dark Knight’s cowl. Snyder’s newest arc is as much of an exploration on how sons shape their fathers as fathers shaping their sons.
Albuquerque’s pencils and Jordie Bellaire’s colors bring a kinetic energy that greatly accentuates Snyder’s father/son parallel, especially the beginning chase sequence. As readers follow a crass, delinquent Alfred across the rooftops of London, running away from the law, right into panels of Alfred now chasing down crime in the Batmobile, you can’t help but feel Alfred is either running from his past, or running it down.
The ladder short story at the end of the arc, “Killers-In-Law,” penned by Sebastián Fiumára and still penciled by Albuquerque doesn’t seemingly supplement “The First Ally” right away much like the Duke Thomas shorts that have been capping off the end of each issue. However Snyder circles back to KGBeast, and his involvement with the Genesis Engine, the McGuffin of “The First Ally,” while Fiumára’s arc follows Wayne in deep cover with the Russian Mob. It is very likely that these parallel arcs may cross each other at some point.
Between the two arcs, All Star Batman #10 makes full use of the anthology nature of the series. Snyder fleshes out another intriguing Batman mystery, just through the eyes and thoughts of his most trusted ally. Alfred’s narration and introspection is heartfelt and sincere, and readers get a deep appreciation for the years of his servitude and mentorship to Wayne. It’s a great jumping on point to the series, and offers a new lens and dynamic in the world of the Batman.