All-Star Batman #14 Review
By John Saavedra
Scott Snyder’s short-lived All-Star Batman comes to a close with a stellar issue #14 that’s high on adrenaline and emotion. It’s a bitter ending, of course. With All-Star, Snyder set out to create smaller stories that could stand alone from the larger Batman continuity. We only got three stories — all well told and with a dream team of rotating artists, such as John Romita Jr., Jock, Francesco Francavilla, Tula Lotay, Declan Shalvey — which feel too few and as if something were left hanging.
That’s not to say Snyder is done with Batman. He’s currently in the middle of the Batman-centric Dark Nights: Metal event and will return to the character for at least one more story with Sean Gordon Murphy, who was originally slated to draw one of the stories in All-Star. Still, I’ve very much enjoyed watching the talented Snyder, guardian of the Bat for almost a decade at this point, tell these smaller stories about different aspects of the character.
In “The First Ally,” he tells his most interesting story yet. Many writers have deconstructed the Dark Knight over the years. Frank Miller is at the top of that mountain, of course, and Grant Morrison’s psychedelic run and Snyder’s hopeful one continued that tradition. But out of these three, only Snyder has paid so much attention to Bruce’s surrogate father, the kind butler Alfred Pennyworth.
It’s so fitting that All-Star’s final arc would take things back to the beginning of things, to the adventures that shaped Alfred into the support he’d one day have to be for a young, reckless, and angry Bruce. “The First Ally” seems to say that, while the anger may have subsided a little in Batman after years of fighting crime, thanks to Alfred’s tremendous love and guidance, it’s also made the hero feel invincible.
Snyder shows an increasingly reckless Batman, encouraged by Alfred’s company on a mission to Miami to stop the black market trading of something called the Genesis Engine. Bruce jumps into alligator infested waters during a daring escape, tries to pilot a sinking submarine, and at one point launches himself out of the Batmobile and straight into a helicopter hundreds of feet in the air, all in pursuit of the story’s McGuffin, another day in the life situation for Bruce and Alfred. All along, Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque, who’s never been better on pencils and inks, have been chasing a bigger story: the meaning of this father and son duo and how they were destined to be together.
Ultimately, Batman is a supporting character in “The First Ally.” The final issue is told completely from Alfred’s perspective, as he faces off with the conniving Briar in both past and present. I’ve loved the past and present threads of the story so much, and Snyder delivers a satisfying culmination for both. Like he did with “Court of Owls,” “Death of the Family,” and “Superheavy,” during his Batman days, Snyder makes a definite statement about the character: when stripped down to its core, Batman’s mission is held up by the grace of two men and their pact to care for each other unconditionally, be there for each other, and put their lives on the line for each other. Like father and son.
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Rafael Albuquerque
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Steve Wands
Cover: Rafael Alburquerque
Variant: Sebastian Fiumara
Publisher: DC Comics