Pardon my French, but Alfred Pennyworth is an utter badass!  You would be forgiven for forgetting this fact as we are accustomed to seeing him do nothing more than make sandwiches and throw out witty banter, but this gentleman is more accomplished than most people give him credit for.  Since Alfred has such an extensive history, I would be hard pressed to do it justice without reiterating it in its entirety.  With as rich a tapestry of past events to draw from, it truly surprises me that we haven’t been given a six issue mini-series devoted solely to the life and times of Alfred: you wouldn’t have to twist my arm to read it!  If DC really wanted to have a spy themed book (Grayson), why didn’t they just go with Alfred’s past?  He actually was a member of the British Secret Intelligence Service in some of his origins!  While such a series isn’t any kind of reality at the moment, this issue does show us a brief glimpse into the kind of competent individual a younger Alfred may very well have been.  If you’re anything like me and enjoy seeing stories where older, yet more experienced, individuals take charge of situations….then you’re going to have a blast!

James Tynion IV does a superb job at bringing the characters to life and plays a fine line between saying too much and not enough, just to keep you guessing.  There is also a subtle element that runs throughout the story that is helped by both Fabok’s art and the specific use of dialogue by Tynion.  Without both of them working in conjunction, I think some of the less blunt moments might have slipped past, but fortunately this team is like a well-oiled machine and all the beats needed for you to make the connections are there.  If you don’t catch them the first time through, it is definitely worth another read, as I found there were many enjoyable layers placed into this story.  Pertaining to specific characters, Falcone had some wonderful arrogance worked into his portrayal, and Alfred gets my award for best performance of the issue.  I’m sure you’ll have noticed that I haven’t mentioned any specifics about the Alfred stuff.   Suffice it to say that it is great and that I’m not about to ruin it for you.  You’ll be happy I didn’t.

The return of Jason Fabok is a delight.  I have always loved the way Fabok draws Batman, he has a knack for shadowing him that I quite like.  While Batman is drawn beautifully, as always, he doesn’t have much panel time in this particular issue and only half his scenes are at night, so not too much of that all encompassing goodness.  I enjoy how sometimes Fabok has Batman squint so much that you can’t make out the white of his eyes in the shadows that engulf his sockets.  I also appreciate how varied the facial structures of the characters are.  There is never any guessing needed as to who you are looking at, even when you don’t have context to help you figure it out, and all of the emotional cues that he was trying to hit were dead on.  This issue had some subtle things going on, and despite the fact that it may have been easy to miss such things in the hands of a less accomplished artist, I feel Fabok delivered the performances with the necessary nuances to get the message across.  In regards to the action, Fabok’s use of motion lines added some needed flair to the fights.  Action wasn’t too plentiful in this issue so it was nice to have things visually upped a bit when action did occur to make up for its’ absence.  There is also a nice effect in one panel, where the background is there, but not in focus.

The only thing that I didn’t like art wise was a scene where Batman hooks someone by the loop of their pants and hoists them up to interrogate them.  I don’t have issue with the scene itself, as it is a very Batman thing to do.  I merely found it odd that a belt loop was used to lift him up: I can’t imagine it would have the tensile strength not to rip.  Then, when the guy is hanging upside down in the air, there is no give in the waist line; he must have his pants cinched super tight for them not to give at all!  I’m not saying I wanted to see butt crack but the weight of an adult male suspended by the waist of his pants would realistically have some kind of give.

Editorial!…the credits show Dustin Nguyen as cover artist…Dustin is doing a great Alex Garner impersonation there.

Spoiler

  • I knew Hush was going to pop into Eternal at some point, ever since the last page of issue 10 had that shadowy figure, but I didn’t expect him already.  That was an actually surprise!
  • Yes, I know Crane isn’t in this issue, but for those who haven’t read it yet, I wanted to include him in the interesting facts to keep up the appearance that he was.  DC went to the trouble of tricking us with the solicitations, so the actual villain would be a surprise for a change, and I wasn’t about to ruin their effort.  Hence, no Hush stuff in the facts this time, maybe next time.  Was anybody else fooled and expecting Crane as well or did you see through DC’s rouse?
  • Right from Bard’s very first line, “Who do you think I am, Vicki?”, I knew something was up.  If we hadn’t seen Hush talking to Bard on the last page I would have almost bet that Bard was Hush, after undergoing plastic surgery, and the bandages were now to hide the fact.  I thought that the subtle tension that existed in all of Bard’s scenes was evident and yet also left you wondering what was going on.  I like how the issue spent a lot of time reminding you of all the people he is screwing over so that when it is revealed that he is a turn coat it is fresh in your mind.  You aren’t just shocked by his betrayal, but outraged at all the people he is stabbing in the back.  I was especially thrown for a loop when I thought he was going to get Gordon out and then just passes him up without a second glance.  What did you guys think of this turn of events?
  • So…Vicki…Bard…what did we miss between issues?
  • If this comic had only been 15 pages long, I still would have been completely satisfied.  It’s not about quantity but quality.  I usually complain when pages go missing for whatever reason but give me something this awesome and I could care less.
  • I hope they leave the 2003 Hush storyline intact: no need to retell it.  I figure most everyone has read that one.  The way Alfred recognizes him would imply that he isn’t being treated as a new character and that some encounter with him from the past has occurred.
  • I was sad to see Gordon looking all dejected in his cell.
  • Aww….all that work Batgirl, Batwoman, and Red Hood did just got thrown right out the window.
  • The button inside the Shakespeare bust (a nod to the ’66 Batman show)….how much more awesomeness can possibly be crammed into this issue?

Interesting Facts:

  • Dr. Jonathan Crane (Scarecrow) made his first appearance in World’s Finest Comics #3 (1941).  However, his first appearance in Batman came decades later in Batman #189 (1967).  As a young child Crane enjoyed frightening birds and reveled in the feeling of power that it brought him.  Once grown, Crane became a Professor of Psychology specializing in Phobias, during a class demonstration, he discharged a firearm.  At the time, this action wasn’t even that centric to his creation but years later in the retooling of his origin, it was revised that this incident lost him his job and got him started on his career of crime.
  • Alfred Pennyworth has had so many origins (and names) it is hard to keep track of just who this man is.  Alfred first appeared in Batman #16 (1943).  Alfred was originally called Alfred Beagle but that was later changed to the Pennyworth we all know and love.  Another story mentions that Alfred’s real name is Thaddeus Crane and that he changed it to Pennyworth when he was in MI-5.  In that sense, there is no need to call him Penny-One, Pennyworth is already his code name.  Other origins place him in the career path of amateur detective, S.A.S., actor, field medic, and general all around badass.  Depending on which origin you look at, he either was with the Waynes from before Bruce’s birth, showed up before the death of Thomas and Martha, or showed up after Bruce Adopted Richard.  In the ones where he wasn’t with the Waynes from the very beginning, it was his father Jarvis who was the family butler before Alfred’s employment.  Like I said, hard to keep track of.  The present Alfred is a kind of amalgamation of all his previous incarnations.
  • This story is entitled Ten Forty-Eight.  That is the time that Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered and the time that needs to be inputted on the Grandfather clock in order for the cave entrance to be revealed.  Like anything in the comic world, things get updated and changed all the time.  The last official time and date were June 26th at 10:47 pm.  Not sure why they decided to add 1 minute.
  • Everybody go read Batman: Gates of Gotham.  Trust me.  We’ll talk about it next time.
  • Look for more Dr. Crane and Alfred facts next review!

Recommended if…

  • You love Alfred Pennyworth!
  • You want to read something with layers…and surprises!
  • You’ve been waiting for the return of artist Jason Fabok.  He’s here!
  • You like your issues filled to the brim with awesomeness!
  • …Do I really have to mention those Alex Garner covers every time?
  • You love when the plot jumps forward, leaps and bounds forward!
  • You want to read something that has me so excited that I am over using the exclamation point!

Overall:

This one is so good that I think people who haven’t even been following Eternal would probably get a kick out of it anyway.  Tynion IV crafts a story with many layers, great characterizations, and a few surprises.  Fabok returns and kills it on art duties.  This one is in my top three best Eternal issues I have read thus far!

SCORE: 9.5