Sunday, 11 February 2018

All-Star Batman, Volume 3: The First Ally Review (Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque)

Scott Snyder’s All-Star Batman continues to be an ironically-named series with yet another sub-par entry in The First Ally. Alfred’s old mentor shows up to do something while Bruce is doing something else with a trio of his rogues - yeah, it’s not a great story. 

And I say that as a big fan of Alfred - I’d totally read a spinoff series starring the butler, whether it’s his adventures now or old war stories from when he was a younger man in the SAS - but what Snyder does with him here is just stupid. I liked the twist at the end of the first issue where the kid you think is Bruce turns out to be Alfred but everything after that was unconvincing with Snyder really forcing the Batman parallels into this contrived, crap origin. 

I’m fine with Alfred as the Special Ops guy he’s been for years now but his mentor, Briar, showing up and turning him into a ninja assassin felt way too much like Batman’s past. Alfred isn’t Batman - the effect is like trying to force a square peg into a round hole and it just doesn’t work. Let him be an elite soldier rather than some lesser Batman! And speaking of pale imitations, I really didn’t like the unimaginatively-named Nemesis either who’s basically a Talon from Snyder’s Court of Owls storyline. Ah, remember when Scott Snyder was good? 

The whole book is a muddled affair. I wasn’t totally sure what Penguin, Black Mask and Hush wanted with the Genesis Engine (or even cared about what exactly it did) and Batman was just reacting to them like he usually does. There’s a failed pirate theme, there’s a lot about fathers and sons (Alfred and his father, Alfred and Bruce, Alfred and Briar, Briar and his son, Briar and Nemesis) though it amounts to a hill o’beans. 

It was also weirdly off-putting how Alfred kept referring to Bruce as his “son”. I know that that’s their relationship but I don’t think I’ve ever heard Alfred overtly state it quite like that and it didn’t feel right. Some things are best left unsaid, particularly stuff that’s so self-evident to everyone involved who matter. 

Snyder’s American Vampire artist Rafael Albuquerque draws a badass Batmobile and some of his pages stood out - like the splash page of an unconscious underwater Batman being surrounded by “mermaids” - but for the most part the art wasn’t that amazing. And, while I wasn’t taken with Snyder’s writing, I did enjoy some scenes with Alfred who gets up to some cool James Bond-type shenanigans. 

Albuquerque and Rafael Scavone write the instantly forgettable backup where Batman’s trying to stop Russian mobsters, gun-running, Gotham, blah blah blah - it’s so boring. 

For those few Batman fans out there waiting for a great Alfred book, The First Ally unfortunately ain’t it. The very dull All-Star Batman, Volume 3 only highlights again how much Scott Snyder has overstayed his time on this character.

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