“The First Ally” arc has so far delivered a strong story that has fleshed out Alfred Pennyworth’s modern history. The Alfred flashback scenes has been as good as what is going on in the present. The present day scenes have helped enhance the flashback’s by using them to enhance the current relationship with Bruce and Alfred. That dynamic has helped make Batman’s latest clash with Hush and other villains different. Will that momentum continue in the latest issue of All-Star Batman? Let’s find out with All-Star Batman #13.
Writer: Scott Snyder (The First Ally); Rafael Albuquerque and Rafael Scavone (Killers-In-Law)
Artists: Rafael Albuquerque (The First Ally); Sebastian Fiumara (Killers-In-Law)
Colorists: Cris Peter (The First Ally)
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Batman is backed up into a corner by Commissioner Gordon and the GCPD. As he contacts Penny-One the cops shoot Batman.
An older Alfred wakes up in his apartment in Santa Clara, Cuba his dream.
In the present Batman is able to catch Alfred as they both jumped out of the Wayne Hotel before it completely collapsed. Some of the hotel debris goes through Batman’s cape, causing him to lose control in the air.
As they continue to fall Batman is able to grab a banner to slow down their descent.
In the past Alfred is caught in a sandstorm during a mission in Marrakech, Morocco while trying to escape the KGB and MI5. Briar gives Alfred orders of where to go.
As jumps from building to building Alfred is finally able to make it to the meeting point with Briar. Briar congratulates Alfred on getting the virus he requested.
Briar takes Alfred through the building. As they do so Alfred reflects on all the training he has been through to become Nemesis. Alfred tells Briar that the virus is starting to really affect him. Briar tells Alfred that he will be fine.
As they get to their escape car Briar takes a sample of the virus in Alfred’s system that he plans on using against their enemies. Briar then gives Alfred the antidote before they leave in the car.
Back in the present Batman and Alfred survive the hotel collapse. They watch as Hush and his crew escape. Batman takes a local’s bike so he can go get the Genesis Engine from Hush.
In the past Alfred wakes up to some noise outside his room. When he goes to check it out what the noise was and finds Briar staring at a Nemesis helmet. Briar tells Alfred he was reflecting on everyone that came through the Nemesis Program he has trained, including his son, who died in service while being unable to tell their families what they did.
Briar mentions that his son was killed because he saved took a bullet for Briar in Qatar. Alfred tries to console Briar but he is having none of it. Briar tells Alfred that he expect Alfred to be the best to graduate from the Nemesis Program. Briar then says he will be going away for several days and when he returns Alfred will have his final test.
Batman chases Hush’s helicopter to a local airfield that was once the Elliot Family’s private airstrip. Batman opens the helicopter door and finds Hush, Black Mask and Penguin severely beaten and bloody.
Briar shows up and tells Batman to call his mentor. Before Batman can react, Nemesis shows up and slices his chest.
With Batman knocked out Briar gets his communicator to tell Alfred that he wants Alfred to find them so he can make Alfred suffer for what he did. Alfred says he will as long as Batman isn’t hurt.
Back in the past Alfred finds Briar’s private office. While looking through Briar’s files he finds his dad, J. Pennyworth, amongst them and figures out Briar killed his dad.
In the present as Hatch’s crew are burying their leader Alfred breaks in and tells them that they are coming with him. End of issue.
The Good: Each of the stories in “The First Ally” story arc began to align with All-Star Batman #13. In doing so Scott Snyder is able to elevate both the importance of Batman’s mission to retrieve the Genesis Engine and Alfred Pennyworth’s past coming back to haunt him.
The twist of Briar being responsible for Alfred’s father’s death was not all that surprising. That is something that was a predictable outcome given how Snyder has placed a focus on Alfred’s upbringing. What made this a strong reveal is how Snyder went about executing the reveal for Alfred.
At this point in the timeline we got to see how Alfred’s relationship with Briar was the fatherly one Alfred was looking for. Having the moment where Briar spoke about how he lost his own son during the Nemesis Program training helped drive that point home. It made the shock in Alfred’s face when he saw his father’s file in Briar’s office much more palpable
These flashback sequence also helped to elevate Briar as the antagonist of the story. With Briar’s presence being only in the flashback sequences until All-Star Batman #13 Snyder was able to properly develop the character. Throughout Alfred’s flashbacks we got to get a look at how Briar thinks about the world and why he sees the Nemesis Program as an important thing to make successful. That drive helped make the moment Briar shows up in the present a much bigger moment as all the plans he has been developing over the years are coming to fruition.
Though Alfred and Briar are taking more of a center stage in this story arc Snyder never forgets that this is a Batman story. Batman’s part in “The First Ally” arc has actually been a refreshing change of pace for the character. Unlike the first two arcs of this series we are seeing Batman in a situation where he is not prepared for anything. Snyder has been able to create a rare story where we see Batman have to improvise more since he lacks the knowledge of who he really is fighting. This in turn makes his actions in this story much more unpredictable as he tries to get the Genesis Engine back.
Similarly, the “Killers-In-Law” back-up story continues to be equally refreshing. The chapter in All-Star Batman #13 was surprising in the fact that we saw Princess Vik get close to killing Batman. Seeing Batman actually be dominated elevated how dangerous Vik is with how unhinged she is. At the same time, that unhinge nature showed how Batman always has a plan in mind as he allowed Vik’s own nature get the best of her so she didn’t know what his actual goal was. Where Rafael Albuquerque and Rafael Scavone go from here makes the developments of the back-up story as strong as the main story of this issue.
Rafael Albuquerque’s artwork for All-Star Batman #13 was once again a highlight for this story arc. Albuquerque does a great job giving the entire issue a sense of motion as we go from panel to panel. It makes each character’s actions and reactions to developments in the story stronger. That is best shown in the opening sequence with Batman doing his best to save himself and Alfred. The adjustment Batman has to make on the fly as his cape gets holes in it from the debris was well executed.
Similarly, Sebastian Fiumara is able to match the noir-style story that Albuquerque and Scavone are telling with the back-up story. Even with a limited page count Fiumara is able to make the most of the action sequence he gets to draw. He does a very good job balancing out how Vik got the advantage of Batman while also playing into the Dark Knight’s plans.
The Bad: One thing that All-Star Batman #13 brings up is the question of Alfred’s age. Both in the artwork and writing, it is starting to feel like there isn’t a big passage of time between Alfred training with Briar and the present day scenes. Though we don’t need to see the old man version of Alfred, a better sense of there being a long period of time between the two timelines would be great. Even a little thing like having a different hairstyle or hair color for Alfred would be helpful to show this.
Overall: All-Star Batman #13 was another strong entry in “The First Ally” story arc. Scott Snyder has done a great job developing Alfred Pennyworth’s backstory and reestablishing his relationship with Batman. Rafael Albuquerque and Rafael Scavone’s back-up continues to be a great compliment to the main story. Now that both stories are reaching their conclusion there is a lot to look forward to with what come next in this series.