Batman Annual #3 review

This title of this book is a bit of spoiler, but I think most of us could see it coming once the themes in Tom Taylor’s “Father’s Day” become apparent. If ever there was a love letter to Batman and especially to the relationship between Batman and Alfred, this is it. Taylor has explored similar themes before in Injustice, with great sensitivity and heart, but to see this story in a canon-verse title makes it all the more special.

Everything about this book is deceptively simple. It begins with yet another recounting of the Wayne murders, this time from Alfred’s point of view. He gets the call about the killings and comes to pick up Bruce at the scene of the crime. We then cut to another night and another call, this time from Batman. Taylor then sets up what seems to be a pretty routine night in Gotham: Batman leaping from one crisis to the next as he does his rounds of the city and tries to put down a drone assault.

We also follow Alfred through what must be perfectly commonplace to him: getting up, getting dressed, descending into the Batcave to prepare for Batman’s return. It’s always nice to see this quiet, controlled domestic side of the Batlife: Alfred is steady, calm, and utterly reliable in the midst of all the chaos Bruce has to deal with every night.

So what makes this night so special?

If this image gets you excited, that’s all you really need to know!

Our villain in this issue isn’t it. He’s nothing too special at all. Peter Harris is a disgruntled tech employee who’s turned terrorist. Pretty run-of-the-mill bad guy in Gotham and his cyber-scare tactics are something we’ve seen in Batman comics time and again over the last decade or so as tech-crime and tech-terrorism has been on the rise. None of that is what makes this villain interesting. What makes him interesting is that he’s playing a long game of wear-and-tear. He’s orchestrating chaos, but he’s really after Batman. And no matter how much tech Batman has, no matter how clever he is, no matter how strong, Batman is still mortal and subject to biological imperatives like eating and sleeping.

Alfred appreciates this fact, Batman does not.

And ultimately Alfred foresees the crash-and-burn coming well in advance of his ward, which leads to some tense moments when Alfred knows all is not well with Batman, and he must do some heroics at 3 a.m. of his own. What follows is a wonderful role-reversal that, while it may strain credulity a bit (let’s all suspend our disbelief and just enjoy this), it demonstrates what an amazing dynamic duo these two characters really are.

All the while, too, Taylor strings in some leitmotifs that are just great little touches: the chicken soup, the mint on the pillow, the echo of getting that early a.m. phone call that makes your blood run cold: how parents must always feel when their children are out on the town and there is potential danger all around them.

Alfred: fussy, but always right

Otto Schmidt isn’t my favorite artist to ever draw the Dark Knight, but I love his consistency and the resultant ability to ping-pong from Batman’s acrobatics to Alfred’s stiff propriety without the book ever feeling schizophrenic or losing energy between the two states. In fact, the high contrast in the physicality of the two characters actually builds to a delightful counterpoint once Alfred has to step into the Dark Knight’s cowl.

The denouement in this book is, for me, the best thing about it. The big action is done pretty quick, but the heart of the story is Alfred and Bruce, not Harris and the drones. While Taylor and Schmidt satisfy the desire for lots of glossy fighting and some great conflagratory moments, the human drama that happens once Alfred takes the wheel is where some of the most riveting action of all takes place.

This is also the second book this week to feature Leslie Thompkins, which is a joy. Seeing her and Alfred in action, and their interaction together, adds yet another layer of depth. Schmidt sensitively portrays the intimacy between the two (and their shared concern for Bruce), with simple gestures and expressions that evoke all the feeling that Taylor’s lightly-handled script suggests. There’s no heavy-handedness here, no need for lengthy expository speeches, and no weighted narrative hanging like a pall over the whole shebang: the dialogue and pictures carry the story in the way that truly effective comic book writing should.

And what a sweet, sweet ending. If that doesn’t tug at your heartstrings, you might want to ask someone to check your pulse; there’s a good chance you might be dead.

Lastly just a shout out to Bryan Hitch and Alex Sinclair for just a classy and classic cover. The whole DC Batline has been aces on covers for months now; so much beautiful artwork!

Recommended If…

  • Remember how much you love Batman? Feel all those feels again!
  • Alfred: he doesn’t just dust the furniture, you know.
  • Tom Taylor reminds us why comic books are wonderful.


Last week’s DC offerings felt really bleak and really dated, but this week Tom Taylor gives us shot of pure adrenaline right into our collective comic-book-loving hearts and reminds us why many of us starting reading Batman in the first place: because as a character he’s totally awesome and he’s also totally human.

SCORE: 10/10

Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.