REVIEW: All-Star Batman #14

Few stories change the way we see a character in our minds, but Scott Snyder’s Batman books have done just that. Since the 80’s, Batman has been a significantly darker character than his Justice League counterparts, where the Adam West portrayal and lighter color palette of the Silver Age never caused him to stand out in this way. The second half of the character’s life on the page have solidified the character as a brooding loner whose intelligence allows him the escape as many situations as Superman could with his fists. There was even a joke in the Justice League cartoon, after being asked how he was able to accomplish a seemingly impossible feat, he answered “I’m Batman.”

Being the most prominent DC hero without any superhuman abilities, his superhuman deduction skills were how he compensated, but in time they have almost made him a Mary Sue, with no real weakness to exploit. If anything, Snyder’s stories have challenged this pseudo-power. Across both his previous series and the current All-Star Batman, Snyder has rarely looked back, and not for very long. Where many books featuring major heroes can get lost in nostalgia, Snyder’s emphasis on new villains, scenarios, and visual styles (pink was the most common color in his initial Batman series after black and grey) have offered a fresh take on a hero that has been too prominently featured to not be at the risk of growing stale.

In the current arc, Snyder turned to another mythos, one he has been slowly and subtly building for almost as long as he’s been writing Batman. The character of Alfred has always been a companion in a larger Gotham adventure, but the focus has shifted more and more on his time as a war hero, and the man he was before he was a caregiver. This has manifested in the introduction of Briar: the man who trained Alfred, and his son William, who he has trained to be everything Alfred refused to be once he went off to care for Bruce. It’s a change in perspective that may seem too different for some readers, but the breadcrumbs were there even before Snyder took the helm.

Certain themes from the arc are likely to have a lasting effect, and the whole final issue to the story might make you question where Batman ends and Alfred begins. The assassin son of Briar is revealed to be a clone of the latter. In the climax, the clone William refuses to kill Alfred, killing Briar instead. The cliché moment sets up a more subtle flip on an old trope that has become a part of the Batman mythos. Much of the modern Bat family has been created by means of cloning, and with Alfred taking a less docile role in this arc, it’s fitting that the Dark Knight’s faithful butler gets the first extended member of his own line. Whether William will take a more prominent role or be one of many characters that goes forgotten for decades remains to be seen. Big two books have taken an undeniable interest in their backlog of characters in recent years, and Snyder has been praised as one of the best storytellers of the current scene, so it’s likely this new addition to the Bat mythos will be seen again soon.

Written by; Scott Snyder
Art by; Rafael Albuquerque
Colors by; Jordie Bellaire
Published by; DC Comics

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