Batman Annual #3 – Tom Taylor, Writer; Otto Schmidt, Artist
Ray – 10/10
Ray: I’ve stated my opinion before that Alfred Pennyworth is the best supporting character in all of comics, but too often he’s written as overly stoic and flat. Tom Taylor, who just gave us one of the best Lois Lane stories in years in the final Injustice 2 annual, does it again with this brilliantly personal character study of the man who raised Batman. Picking up from the moment Alfred gets that fateful call that the Waynes have been shot and immediately springs into action as Bruce’s new father figure, it then flashes forward to the present day as Alfred tries to keep a flu-riddled Batman from getting himself killed. Taylor’s Alfred has a lot in common with the classic Dini/Timm version from the animated series – unfailingly devoted, but also ruthlessly sarcastic. The dialogue here is excellent and this is one of the most human takes on the two characters I’ve seen. But Taylor isn’t done – he also gives us an original and compelling Bat-rogue to threaten the city when Batman’s at his weakest.
That would be The Drone, a former drone operator for the US military. When he found out he was used to bomb a market and kill civilians, he snapped and stole a fleet of drones that he’s using to terrorize weapons manufacturers around Gotham. He makes for a good villain in that you can see a glimmer of humanity and a point in his motivations, but it’s lost under the mania of his actions. He works as a villain, but he’s really there to service Alfred’s big hero turn in the last act, as he puts on the Bat-cowl to briefly save the day. This isn’t played for laughs like the brief scene early in Tom King’s run was – it’s one of the most heroic acts I’ve seen in a comic book in a while, and the series’ emotional arc builds until a brilliant scene with Leslie Thompkins where Alfred explains why he’s so willing to sacrifice for Bruce, and a final interaction with Alfred and Bruce that delivers a final emotional punch combined with the reveal of the title of the story – “Father’s Day”. It’s easily one of the best Batman stories I’ve read in years.
Corrina: You know those stories you love so much that you want to just shove them in someone’s hands and order them to read it because explaining it will never convey how good it is?
This is one of those stories.
Ray covered the story, so I want to mention Schmidt’s art. I was familiar with his excellent work already from Green Arrow, where he drew the best versions of Green Arrow and Black Canary in a long time. Here, he gives us a heartbreaking panel of young Bruce standing in the rain, in a coat far too big for him, on that night.
That night already has iconic images that accompany it. This will likely join them.
From there, Schmidt tackles everything that Gotham is from every angle, from rooftops to the bridge, to the streets, and draws several types of Bat-transportation, Wayne Manor, and even Leslie’s free clinic. (Wow! A Leslie Thompkins appearance too. Awesome.)
The art and the story work together beautifully and this creative team has produced an instant classic Batman story.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.