Written by Tom Taylor
Art by Otto Schmidt & Troy Peteri
Edited by Dave Wielgosz, Jamie S. Rich
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: December 12, 2018

His responsibility. His failure.

We get to see a day in the life of Alfred, beginning from the day that changed both his and Bruce’s life. Alfred constantly worries, hoping that the call he always gets is the one that says that Bruce is okay. Battling the flu and eventually a nasty puncture wound, Bruce winds up saving the day, only to fall prey to his physical state. With the help of Dr. Tompkins, both men end up facing the reality that they both extend themselves farther than they should, but only because they have someone to protect.

I’m not quite sure why this issue leaves me nearly speechless. This story holds a nigh wordless essence that conveys significant feelings which underlie the long relationship between Bruce and Alfred. We see Alfred as a sudden guardian, a caretaker, a butler, and essentially a father. Just as Bruce wants to take care of Gotham, to the point that he fights the flu in more ways than one, so does Alfred want to take care of him.

Tom Taylor’s dive into Alfred’s mind and experiences made me realize how rarely stories address his perspective. Through the sarcasm and wit, we get to see how much he truly cares for Bruce. One of my favorite parts of this issue is Taylor creating the parallel between Alfred and Bruce regarding their sense of duty to others. By the end of the story, we see that Alfred pushes himself in a similar fashion to Bruce, overextending his body and mind to make sure that the once grief-stricken child is able to get what he needs.

Taylor also pulled off something spectacular within these pages. Leslie points out that Bruce’s demeanor may have come from Alfred’s own disposition. Now, continuity is particularly muddled for the Bat, but there is some evidence that Bruce would have turned out vastly different if he hadn’t lost Thomas and Martha. In fact, when considering developmental theory, Bruce’s trajectory toward being Batman has to do in some part with how he was raised and the fact that his parents put him on a path toward heroism. Alfred being his guardian leading to Bruce’s characteristic stoicism is a perspective I never considered, but Taylor introduces this element and creates new questions about why the Bat is who he is.

Otto Schmidt brings a fluidity and softness to Gotham. Even in panels with action and explosions, each image feels ethereal. I like this effect because it works in tandem with the emotional vein that runs through the story. Schmidt’s art effectively reminds us that we aren’t reading a typical Bat adventure, even if some typical things happen. Making the story gentle was a wise choice, in that we are exposed to every emotion, particularly with Bruce and Alfred’s exchange at the end. Through movement, color scheme, and tone, Schmidt produces a poignancy fitting for this issue.

Batman Annual #3 is something special. While the story seems relatively straightforward, there is so much that lies underneath the surface. Bruce and Alfred’s relationship is one of the cornerstones of Batman’s existence, and though much of it is demonstrated through dry and pointed humor, it is one that is imbued with love. This issue was a wonderful exploration of the parallels, similarities, and contrasts between the two, and somewhat revelatory about what their connection means for Batman’s presence and Bruce’s personality. With an endearing ending and a slightly fraught build-up, this comic is a vital glimpse into one of comic’s oldest dynamics.

The Verdict: 10/10


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