Batman Annual #4 Brings All The Feels
by Tony Thornley
Bruce Wayne’s life is nothing more than a series of rough days. As the Batman, it’s inevitable, and that’s exactly what Batman Annual #4 shows us. However, that’s not all the story tells…
Tom King, Jorge Fornes, Mike Norton, Dave Stewart, and Clayton Cowles give us a glimpse into the diaries of Alfred Pennyworth.
Alfred writes about the adventures of the Batman, telling stories of his victories that no one else may ever see. He stops a gang of steeplechasing bank robbers. He breaks an ancient magical curse while slaying dragons. He defeats the world’s greatest prizefighter, who is also a monstrous serial abuser. And so on and so on, each and every day…
On the surface, this story is one thing- an issue full of fun Batman story ideas and a perfect example of the “competence porn” trope that often defines the character. And it is that, don’t get me wrong. It’s a trope that gets trotted out much too often in Batman stories, but there’s a reason why it does. It works for the character.
However, looking past that, King does something incredibly smart here. Several issues ago, Alfred Pennyworth was murdered. The narration we see here may be the last we hear from Alfred until he’s inevitably one day resurrected. It turns the narration into a love letter to Alfred, showing the love, admiration and pride that he has for Bruce and what he’s grown to. It’s subtle, but it’s a lovely, powerful message that I hope Bruce gets to read on-page soon.
Fornes has quickly and quietly transformed into one of the best pencillers in comics. This issue shows his range. He starts with a chase scene- and not just any chase scene but a chase ON HORSES- that he keeps exciting and tense, then shifts into fantasy adventure, and then a brutal hand to hand fight. Each is vastly different, and each is done perfectly. Norton steps in for the last 8 pages, and adapts his style to mimic Fornes without copying him, with equally great work.
Alfred may be gone, but thanks to King, Fornes, and team in this issue we won’t forget him.
Batman Annual #4 is available now from DC Comics.