Writer: Tom King
Artists: Jorge Fornes & Mike Norton
Color Artist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
“From The Diary of Alfred Pennyworth – A Batman Tale Like No Other” is the caption on the cover art of the latest Batman release. Whilst this may not strictly be the case, it’s certainly true that, as is the norm with annuals, this comic takes a break from the current story arc to shine a light of the never ending nature of Batman’s war on crime, and all the various facets that it involves. Boy, does it ever highlight variety!
From common street hoods and dinosaurs, to MMA fighting and mystical dragons. Inter-dimensional travel, helping old ladies across the street, scuffles with Kalibak, car chases, meeting old flames and locating missing children. Literally every problem that our favourite caped crusader could encounter is highlighted in Tom King’s love letter to the demands placed on Gotham City’s protector. From street level to high concept fantasy, this issue is jam-packed full of different scenarios. All told from the point of view of Alfred, written as diary entries, the fact that each event takes place the day after the previous one showcases that the fight never ends, and that there’s no such thing as a day off.
Over the 7 week time period depicted in the pages of this annual, Alfred’s admiration, affection and concern for his surrogate son is plain to see. King’s deftness of touch puts the human side of the character front and centre, as Alfred’s commentary hearkens back to Bruce’s youth, his unwavering moral compass and almost pathological need to do the right thing. I think a particular line from Alfred perfectly sums up the man behind the mask and what makes him tick.
What makes him Batman, what stems from both his childhood and genetics is his ability to overcome this terror. To never let that terror dictate his actions. Or stand in the way of helping those in need.
The art in this issue is a feast for the eyes. Fornes and Norton treat the most intimate and fantastical of situations with equal reverence, all framed by their taciturn and stoic Batman. With a costume that’s something of a throwback, their art has a timeless quality to it. It feels new and contemporary, but with a vintage air sat underneath. They truly do justice to King’s text and the result is a perfect storm when Dave Stewart’s colour work is added to the mix. Repeated readings of this issue will reward fans with details they may have missed first time around, as there is a lot of detail to sink your teeth into.
A issue that feels lavish yet sparse, intimate yet epic, this is a welcome addition to King’s canon. This allows the reader to gain respite from the hard hitting main arc, reset themselves by getting a better understanding of the titular character and press on again to the forthcoming issue 82. If you have been along for the ride up to this point, then this is the perfect companion piece.