“The First Ally” arc has been a good change of pace following the big globe trotting adventures Batman was having. The focus on an adventure with just Batman and Alfred has kept the story to have a much tighter focus. Seeing how Scott Snyder is adding his own touch by expanding Alfred’s personal history before working for the Wayne Family has given the story something unique. It’s not often we see Alfred’s backstory come into play in a Batman story. Now that it has one has to wonder how Batman will react to Alfred’s past coming back to haunt both of them. Is that something we are about to see? Let’s find out with All-Star Batman #12.
Writer: Scott Snyder (The First Ally); Rafael Albuquerque and Rafael Scavone (Killers-In-Law)
Artist: Rafael Albuquerque (The First Ally); Sebastian Fiumara (Killers-In-Law)
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire (The First Ally); Trish Mulvihill and Lee Loughridge (Killers-In-Law)
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Sometime in the past Alfred wakes up somewhere underground.
In the present Batman regains consciousness to find that the vessel he is on is sinking. Batman sees Tiger Shark bleeding out as he freaks out about seeing his own heart. Batman is able to save Tiger Shark from bleeding out and is able to get information on where the tow cables on the vessel they are on are.
Batman calls Alfred, who is flying over the sea in the batplane, to find the vessel. Batman gets to the missiles in the vessel and manually fires them so Alfred can spot the vessel’s exact location and take it to safety.
Unfortunately the missile launch knocks Batman and thrown into the sea. He is somehow saved by some mermaids.
Back in the past Alfred finds Briar and demands to know where he is. Briar reveals that they are in Traitor’s Gate, a dungeon located underneath the Tower of London. Briar then explains how there was a time that the kingdom employed a special “Dark Knight” that everyone hated but secretly worked for the kingdom.
Alfred wants no part of what Briar is talking about and starts to walk away. Briar reveals that he knows Alfred’s mark is a shattered clock because of his father’s past work as c clock winder. He goes on to say he has trained others, including his own son, to believe in a greater purpose and wants Alfred to join in helping create something bigger than themselves. Alfred agrees to help Briar.
Back in the present, Alfred does his best to patch Bruce up in the Wayne Hotel. As he does so he remembers how Bruce has a permanent scar on his shoulder from when his first injury as a child.
Bruce wakes up and gives Alfred the Genesis Engine he stole from the knight he fought. Alfred says with the Genesis Engine that they should go home. Bruce wants to stick around to take down the knight that is running around hurting people.
Alfred says they must go home and reveals that the knight Bruce fought was from the Nemesis Program that he was a part of. Alfred goes on to say that he and Briar created a training program for the ancient organization in order to build the perfect fighter.
Bruce still wants to stick around as it is his mission to protect others and puts his Batman cowl back on.
As Batman and Alfred go back and forth Penguin and Black Mask show up outside their hotel room in a helicopter. Penguin and Black Mask shoot up the hotel, injuring Alfred in the process.
Hush wakes up and reveals this was all part of his plan. He then steals the Genesis Engine and takes Batman’s utility belt, throwing it out the building.
Hush gets in the helicopter with Penguin and Black Mask. They then use a construction to knock down the hotel Batman and Alfred are still in. End of main story.
The Good: The further Scott Snyder delves into Alfred Pennyworth’s pre-Wayne Family history the more intriguing character he becomes. That is best shown with All-Star Batman #12 as both the past and present day story begins to align itself with Alfred being forced to reveal his history in the Nemesis Program. In doing so Snyder expand on an important part of the Batman mythology that is hardly ever touched on.
Before “The First Ally” Alfred was going through hell as his standing with Bruce has been on shaky grounds, especially lately, during Scott Snyder’s run. With this arc we are getting a clearer picture into why Snyder has been writing Alfred in a fashion where we are seeing a divide between him and Bruce. And with All-Star Batman #12 that fear Alfred has been having lately is shown to have a much deeper meaning.
The scene towards the end with Alfred thinking about Bruce’s first injury and the pirate story he would read to young Bruce showed us how this is paternal feeling. The fear Bruce is going to end up killing himself as he continues to be Batman is really getting to Alfred after recent events in Snyder’s run. That isn’t to hard to believe given how dark things have gotten with Bruce cheating death multiple times.
This fear Alfred had gave further weight to his history with Briar as he knows much better than Bruce what they are up to. And knowing what they are in store for makes Briar a bigger threat in Alfred’s eyes than even the normal Batman ally, whether that is the case or not. The history we are shown between Alfred and Briar also helped to build anticipation for when Batman clashes with this knight from the Nemesis Program. That anticipation is furthered by the fact we don’t see Briar or the knight in this issue, allowing the flashback to build on the aura of these characters even more.
Snyder using these flashback scenes to expand on the definition of the “Dark Knight” nickname Batman has was interesting. This is something that as a fan I don’t think about as “Dark Knight” has always felt like a fitting nickname for Batman. By defining what the nickname means Snyder gave greater importance to the title in a way that goes beyond the cape and cowl.
With this back and forth between Bruce and Alfred going on it was a nice surprise to see that everything Batman has done up to this point to get the Genesis Engine was part of Hush’s plan. Discovering that Batman ended up falling for Hush’s plan and did everything the villain wanted was a great way to build up a previously stale character. This move instantly puts a greater light in what makes Hush such a dangerous villain. Involving Penguin and Black Mask’s in the plan to get the Genesis Engine and take out Batman was also a good way to continue how these villains have become a big part of Snyder’s All-Star Batman run.
All of this helps to drive home who Batman is. Even though he was able to get the Genesis Engine back he made it clear his mission isn’t over. To Batman his mission is to protect others and even with the fear Alfred showed it will not stop him from saving others. Snyder emphasizing this in the discussion between Bruce and Alfred shines a good spotlight on how he can push through the most difficult situations, like the vessel that was sinking at the beginning of the issue.
The back-up story, “Killer-In-Law,” continues to be a good compliment to the main story. Whereas Snyder’s main story has a big event feel to it, Rafael Albuquerque and Rafael Scavone are able to deliver a more intimate Batman story for fans looking for that. The smaller scale works in the “Killer-In-Law” favor as we get to see Batman working in the shadows to overcome the plans the Myasniks have for Gotham City.
Albuquerque was once again excellent. Albuquerque is able to get across how desperate of a situation Batman was in as we begin All-Star Batman #12 with a vessel filled with people sinking. The visual of Batman risking his own life to launch missiles to get Alfred’s attention was fantastic in showing how far the character will push himself to save people. That help set the tone for the rest of the issue with Albuquerque enhancing Snyder’s dialogue with how he drew each character expression.
Sebastian Fiumara also did a good job of carrying on the tone Albuquerque set even though they are telling separate stories. Both art styles have a similar look that helps give a better transition between stories. Fiumara particularly excels when drawing Batman working in the shadows to get the information he is looking for.
The Bad: The only weak point of All-Star Batman #12 was Tiger Shark, who has quickly turned into a joke of a villain. When the character was initially introduced he was this threatening pirate-themed villain. Now just about every appearance he makes seems to be just to elevate another villain. All-Star Batman #12 was another case of that. Combining that with his appearance in Nightwing, the credibility of Tiger Shark is down the drain.
Overall: All-Star Batman #12 was a strong continuation of “The First Ally” arc as Alfred’s history catches up to Batman’s current mission. Scott Snyder did an excellent job building up Briar and the knight as credible threats even though they weren’t shown in the present day. Snyder further stacks the deck against Batman by the big swerve Hush and his allies surprise the Dark Knight with. This all leads to build further anticipation for how Batman will be able to overcome the odds and successfully retrieve the Genesis Engine.