In all the lead up to “City of Bane” Tom King crafted an epic Batman tale that started from the very first issue of Batman in DC Comics Rebirth Era. With how deep into “City of Bane” we are now King’s endgame event has gone from highly engaging to a story that is happy to move at a snails pace. Batman #82 was by far the greatest victim towards the changing narrative and narrative choices King has made with each passing issue of “City of Bane.” Now after the disappointing showdown between Batman and Bane can King recover with whatever plans Flashpoint Thomas Wayne has for his alternate universe son? Let’s find that out now with Batman #83.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Batman wakes up in the Wayne Mansion dinning room to the voice of Alfred Pennyworth reciting a poem that he heard Thomas Wayne read when Martha Wayne found out she was pregnant with Bruce.
Once Batman regains full consciousness he is in complete shock to see Alfred lifeless body sitting on the other end of the dinning table with his neck snapped (Bane killed Alfred back in Batman #77).
Batman goes to check Alfred and confirms he is dead. As he does that more of the final recorded message Alfred left to Bruce plays. Alfred talks about how he remembers how Bruce’s favorite game to play together was cops and robbers. Alfred talks about how neither he nor Bruce wanted to stop playing because they had so much fun each time they played the game.
As Batman lays his lifeless body on a nearby couch Alfred’s message goes on to speak on how the public and media did not know the real Bruce. He states that Bruce was happy and curious child at the Wayne Mansion, something only his parents and Alfred got to see.
Batman then takes off his cape and covers Alfred’s body with it.
Alfred’s message goes on to talk about how when Thomas and Martha died Alfred worried that Bruce would possibly take his own life due to the grief. Because of that Alfred made sure to keep a close eye on Bruce as he would not allow his demons to harm him. Then eventually, one night, he witnessed the young Bruce recite his vow in his parents room that would place him on the path to become Batman.
Alfred’s message goes on to talk about how that vow saved Bruce and Alfred did what he could to encourage Bruce to move forward with his mission. Alfred states while he knows he could never perfectly help Bruce he always did the best he could, even when they had their disagreements.
While walking around the dining room Batman punches a brick wall out of grief and anger. As he does that Alfred’s message goes on to state all he ever hoped for was to see Bruce smile again. Through this Alfred learned from Bruce how one person can sacrifice everything to represent true hope.
Hearing this, Batman grows angrier and starts tearing the dining room apart and breaking everything.
As that happens Alfred’s message reveals that Alfred finally got to see Bruce smile again while they waited for Selina Kyle to show up for their wedding. Seeing Bruce smile again showed Alfred that Bruce became the man he knew he would always become.
After tearing the dining room apart Batman collapses on his knees and sees the message “YOU ARE NOT BATMAN” written over a portrait of Alfred and a young Bruce hanging on a wall.
Alfred’s message then states that he knows that as of recording this message that he will die. Even understanding that Alfred says he knows who Bruce can become and he will not let anyone break in hopes of Bruce smiling again.
Alfred’s message then remembers Bruce asking Alfred, during a Batman mission, if he died then if his parents would be proud of his accomplishments. Alfred says that his parents and he are very proud of Bruce.
Alfred in his message then recites another poem. Once he finishes reading the poem Alfred says goodbye to Bruce and says he will forever be loved.
Bruce takes of his Batman cowl and breaks down in tears. After a short moment of this Bruce’s face goes from sorrow to determination.
At that moment a Psycho Pirate controlled Catwoman appears. She tells Bruce that Flashpoint Thomas Wayne says Bruce is now ready.
Bruce follows Catwoman into another hallway where Red Robin, Batgirl, Batwoman, Signal, Orphan and Robin are standing without moving. As he follows Catwoman into the room where Flashpoint Thomas Wayne is Bruce puts his Batman cowl back on.
In the room Flashpoint Thomas Wayne sits wearing business casual clothes with Psycho Pirate and the Ventriloquist standing next to him. Flashpoint Thomas Wayne asks Bruce if he is finally done with his Batman obsession after he took everything from him.
Batman clothes his eyes and stays silent for a moment. Batman then opens his eyess and says he will never be done. Batman says there is no progress or another year or day because Flashpoint Thomas Wayne won’t stop nor will he. Batman then tells Flashpoint Thomas Wayne “One more time, father. For Alfred.” End of issue.
The Good: Batman #83 is a summary of what has both made Tom King’s run special and the frustrations of the entire “City of Bane” storyline. On the special end of things, King was able to write a touching goodbye that was very much needed after one of the darkest moments in Batman’s history took place in Batman #77. Unfortunately, on the other end is the fact that Batman #83 impact is lessened by timing of when this issue takes place in relation to the progression of “City of Bane.”
As a standalone issue, Tom King, Mikel Janin and Jordie Bellaire work together to tell a wonderful tale that examines what has made Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth’s relationship special. Batman #83 emphasizes why Alfred is the most important person in Bruce’s life. Above Dick Grayson, Selina Kyle and everyone else in Bruce’s life, Alfred has been the one constant.
Alfred has literally been in Bruce’s life from the moment Martha revealed she was pregnant with him to the current events in “City of Bane.” Alfred has seen Bruce at his most joyous and darkest periods. Even when they had their disagreements Alfred has never been shaken in his resolve to continue helping Bruce. Whether it was as a child playing cops and robbers or his missions as Batman, Alfred was Bruce’s constant.
King uses all that history to give weight to what Alfred says in his final message to Bruce. As a long time fan throughout reading the message I was taken back to the countless Batman storylines I’ve read. The constant in all those memories was how Alfred was always by Bruce’s side helping to push him forward even when Batman faced some of the biggest threats the DC Universe has ever met. Having those memories come rushing back is credit to King’s writing of Alfred’s message.
Alfred’s message was enhanced by the artwork from Mikel Janin and Jordie Bellaire. The range of emotion Bruce goes through as he is stricken by anger, grief and sorrow was visually striking. Janin and Bellaire got over how impactful it was the moment Bruce opened his eyes and just saw Alfred’s lifeless body sitting on the other end of the dining table. From that moment they carried the raw emotion Bruce felt during this entire scene. This helped to elevate the final moment where Bruce as Batman got ready to throw down with Flashpoint Thomas Wayne.
The Bad: For everything that Tom King does well in examining the special relationship that Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth share the timing of Batman #83 comes at the worst time. Not only does Batman #83 suffer from the same pacing problems as many of the chapters in “City of Bane” were hindered by there is also very little actual progression made. That leaves a lot of work for the final two issues in the “City of Bane” epic that King built his entire run around to wrap up. And it is hard to be confident that things will be wrapped up given how slowly things have moved lately.
The lack of urgency this close to the ending of “City of Bane” continues to be the most concerning aspect of the recent Batman issues. With how the entire city of Gotham City was taken over by Bane and his gang of villains you would think there would be greater concern by all involved. This is afterall a fight not just between the Batman Family and a major group of villains. “City of Bane” is a war for the soul of Gotham City as even the government have decided to leave the city to fend for itself.
Now it is completely understandable that King would want to dedicate part of “City of Bane” story to Bruce’s reaction to Alfred’s death, as he does in Batman #83. That is something that King was not able to do in the aftermath of Dick Grayson getting shot in the head at the conclusion of Batman #55. The problem with dedicating an entire issue to Alfred’s final recorded message is that it comes to late into the game.
By this point we have seen way to many issues with characters from Bruce Wayne to Selina Kyle to Flashpoint Thomas Wayne getting long monologues. We are only one issue removed from King having Bruce give a long monologue about his entire plan that revealed he knew how everything would go down with Bane and Flashpoint Thomas Wayne. King has relied on this narrative choice far too often in “City of Bane.” Because of that King limited how special an issue Batman #83 takes away what would make this a standout issue.
The other problem with Batman #83 being dedicated to Bruce’s reaction to Alfred’s death is that it comes way too late into the game. At this point we are six issues removed from the moment when Bane snapped Alfred’s neck. In the course of those three months since Batman #77 took place we have had more than enough time to process Alfred’s death.
The fact that we had to wait until Batman #83 to address Alfred’s death highlights one of the biggest weaknesses in “City of Bane.” King waits way to long to address big moments or why we should care about certain things that are going on. That happened with the retroactive way King introduced the Super-Venom after Batman and Catwoman already stopped Magpie’s shipment of the drug two issues earlier.
Also, in dedicating an entire issue to Alfred’s final message King ensured that there would be very little progress made in Batman #83. The only things we see happen is Bruce learn of Alfred’s death and Bruce facing Flashpoint Thomas Wayne. That is not the type of progression we should see this late in the game. Especially with how Gotham City is being left in complete chaos while Bruce and Flashpoint Thomas Wayne are dealing with family drama. A sense of urgency is needed in these type of storylines but it is unfortunately non-existent in Batman #83.
Not helping matters is that King forgets how there are so many other important sub-plots that have been forgotten at this point. One of those is the current state of Gotham Girl. Ever since Flashpoint Thomas Wayne put Gotham Girl to bed in a near-death state in Batman #80 she has been non-existent. You would be forgiven if you forgot that Gotham Girl is one of the fueling factors for what is going on in “City of Bane.” Because King sure has deemphasized her importance to this story. Which is such a shame because the race to save Gotham Girl from suffering the same fate as her brother could add the sense of urgency “City of Bane” is missing lately.
More problematic is how Batman #83 once again throws Bane completely to the side as nothing more than a pawn. For the character that King built the majority of his run to be this master manipulator Bane has become a complete afterthought. With how King has shifted focus to Flashpoint Thomas Wayne as the end boss for “City of Bane” there is a sense that this was unearned. We invested so much time in an epic showdown between Batman and Bane. But that promise showdown just turned out to be a throwaway fight that Batman #83 doesn’t even bother with referencing.
All of this does nothing to build credibility for Flashpoint Thomas Wayne. Especially considering Flashpoint Thomas Wayne wasn’t the one who killed Alfred in Batman #77. Everything in that issue pointed to Bane being the one who masterminded Alfred’s death. All Flashpoint Thomas Wayne has done is be an opportunist. Even the way he took down the Batman Family came across as a cheap way to build him up. It all just comes across as unearned this late in the game.
Having that feeling of being unearned made Flashpoint Thomas Wayne look even weaker when he is yelling at Bruce to stop being Batman. At this point it should be clear that Bruce can overcome everything Flashpoint Thomas Wayne can throw at his alternate universe son. Seeing this, Flashpoint Thomas Wayne should use that as fuel to just burn everything down. Especially considering this isn’t his universe or son to begin with. Continuing that narrative just makes the character look weak as we head into the big final battle of “City of Bane.”
Overall: When it comes to tackling the impact of Alfred Pennyworth’s death Batman #83 makes clear contact. Tom King, Mikel Janin and Jordie Bellaire do a great job spotlighted how importance Alfred has had in Bruce Wayne’s life for his death to hit him as hard as it does. Unfortunately King waited far too long to tackle Alfred’s death. He gave readers more than enough time to process Alfred’s death that Batman #83 misses being the home run it should be. In making that choice King placed an even bigger spotlight as to how slow these last several issues have progressed the actual “City of Bane” storyline and how the villain this event was named after has become a complete afterthought.
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