All-Star Batman #11 Review
By John Saavedra
Things ramp up in the second part of Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque’s “The First Ally,” which is turning out to be as much an arc about Alfred as it is Bruce’s. In a way, this story has been a long time coming. Alfred has spent most of his time in the background of Snyder’s run, always the guiding light for Bruce, a loyal ally, and the person who suffers Batman the most. in All-Star Batman #11, Alfred’s regrets come rushing into view in full force, as he watches an increasingly reckless Bruce try to recover the Genesis Engine, which can rewrite cells and create life.
“My son doesn’t believe in death,” Alfred says in his opening monologue. That’s a bit of foreshadowing. The opening panels tease Bruce’s plan to clone himself so that Batman’s legacy can live on forever. We know from Snyder’s short story in Detective Comics Vol. 2 #27 that Bruce is eventually able to build a machine that gives birth to a new Batman every 27 years. The Genesis Engine may be the key component for that machine.
But in his quest to become immortal, Bruce seems more suicidal than ever. Last issue, he launched himself at a helicopter during a high-speed chase through a baseball stadium. This week, he dives into crocodile-infested waters without the protection of his Batsuit. It’s only through the help of some very unlikely allies that Bruce escapes at all.
The issue is pretty action-heavy, too. In fact, the arc as a whole has been much louder than the relatively quiet “Ends of the Earth.” The over-the-top set pieces Snyder has created for these two issues seriously benefit from frequent collaborator Albuquerque. He draws Batman like he was born to work on the character. All-Star has already featured stunning art by John Romita Jr., Declan Shalvey, Francesco Francavilla, Jock, Tula Lotay, and many more – a serious embarrassment of riches – but I think Alburquerque really shines the most. Albuquerque’s lines are incredibly detailed. His Batman looks bulkier and more imposing, and it’s hard not to see the Frank Miller influence in these pages, as Batman endures through gritted teeth and scowls.
What to say about Jordie Bellaire’s color work that hasn’t already been said? Bellaire deals a lot in solid colors in this issue. Her insane washes of blue are gorgeous, especially in a few panels where Batman’s underwater. As has been the case with every issue of the series, #11 looks great.
It’s not clear at first how Alfred’s past directly ties into Batman’s mission in this issue, but Snyder does a great job of slowly revealing the similarities between the characters and what it’s all leading to. Bruce, like a young Alfred, is prone to leaps of faith, hoping that his next move won’t be his last. But there’s something underneath his suicidal antics, “an act of anger, of defiance,” as Alfred puts it. “Unfocused, a way of daring the world to kill you.”
In the past few years, Batman’s has had to face his own mortality several times. In “Endgame,” he seemingly died in a final fight against the Joker. In Tom King’s “I am Gotham,” he almost died trying to save an airplane. It feels like what Snyder is getting at with “The First Ally” is that Bruce is trying to cope with his inability to die. Is the machine he’s building a way to allow himself to move on from his mission the same way Alfred moved on when it was his turn to take care of little Bruce?
Snyder’s has only dished out the bigger story in bits and pieces so far, so it’s hard to really pin down how this is all going to tie up with the rest of All-Star, King’s Batman, and the upcoming Dark Nights: Metal event series, but there’s definitely this sense that Bruce is looking towards the future and considering retirement. Luckily for us, he still has quite a bit of fighting to do until then.
All-Star Batman #11