Written by: Tom Taylor
Art by: Otto Schmidt
Published by: DC Comics
Reviewed by Simon Moore
Touted by “DC Comics” as “an epic tale that promises to be one of the most Alfred stories ever told”, Tom Taylor’s narrative for this third Batman Annual certainly places “Bruce Wayne’s loyal and tireless butler” at the very center of the action, as the billionaire industrial’s aide-de-camp not only tirelessly continues to provide his friend with “whatever you need”, but also suffers “a mild concussion, some bruising, a nasty cut to his shoulder, [and] probably a fracture or two in his hand” when he is called upon to protect a severely injured Dark Knight from a couple of Gotham City’s low-life ne’er-do-wells; “All he’s done for this city. All he’s sacrificed. Gentlemen I suggest you change careers. Or your next deserved thrashing will come from a man who is far more punishing and far more proficient at it than I am.”
Mercifully however, such is the quality of the Number One New York Times bestselling comic book author’s penmanship for this publication that even the more sedentary scenes of Pennyworth simply lying in bed anxiously awaiting Master Bruce’s next radio transmission, methodically populating the vigilante’s back-up utility belt or slavishly checking the air pressure on the Batmobile’s tyres are almost as captivating as the ex-Special Operations Executive’s bout of pugilism. Especially as the laborious chore-filled sequences increasingly build-up a sentimental picture of the genuine love and caring which the Caped Crusader’s “moral anchor” repeatedly demonstrates he has for his crime-fighting ward. Indeed, this entire over-sized thirty-seven page periodical is clearly dedicated to depicting the fact that the “Batman’s most trusted ally and confidant” has set aside any semblance of a normal life just so he can better serve a masked man whose sin-riddled metropolis “demands so much of him.”
Impressively, such saccharin-sweet sentimentality could so easily have proved a sickeningly unstomachable read, particularly when it ends with the revelation that a battered Bruce, stoically recovering from a near fatal punctured abdomen, has tasked “Cassandra and Duke to patrol the city in my stead” so as to allow Alfred to have Father’s Day off. Yet on this occasion, both the Australian’s writing, as well as artist Otto Schmidt’s first rate pencilling, is so emotionally-charged and sincere, that the entire comic masterfully manages to come across as nothing more than an unpretentious, truly heartfelt tribute to the bottomless adoration Bill Finger’s co-creations clearly feel for one another.
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