This review is late. I recognize that, but normally when I do reviews I don’t include spoilers. With Batman #83 it’s pretty much impossible for me to do that, so here we are. For months Tom King has teased that he was going to change Batman forever. If you’re like me, you probably assumed he meant that Bruce and Selina would eventually be getting married, or maybe Thomas Wayne was going to successfully resurrect his wife Martha. I’m honestly mad at myself for not guessing that what he was talking about was killing Alfred Pennyworth. Alfred is dead. The reader has known that for about three months now, but in Batman #83 we see Bruce discover this for the first time.
The result is powerful, emotional, and devastating. I’ve always been a sucker for emotional father and son moments. I’m the guy whose wife will discover me crying during some random TV show due to a father/child interaction (Most recently it was Arrow). Now that you’re aware of that fact, I’m sure you wouldn’t be surprised when I tell you that I cried very real tears while reading this. This should speak volumes about what Tom King, Mikel Janin, Jordie Bellaire, and Clayton Cowles have accomplished here. Most of this issue’s dialogue is a recording Alfred made for Bruce. This is playing while we see Bruce finding his father dead. Yes, Alfred is his father in as much a way as one person can be. King has always been a fan of including poetry into his work and this issue is no different. The first dialogue we see has Alfred reciting “The Children’s Hour” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. This is a great choice, because it speaks about a father who between night and day gets a nice moment with his children.
This perfectly represents Alfred being there to greet Bruce and the Bat family as they return from that night’s patrol. After this poem Bruce is awake and we see him see Alfred slumped in a chair dead. Mikel Janin is on a whole other level is this issue. He perfectly show’s us the horror, pain, sadness, and anger on Bruce’s face. There’s a moment from Janin in this issue that broke me. We see Bruce covering Alfred with his cape. Saying goodbye to his father, mentor, and best friend. This moment is really driven home by the recording of Alfred playing while this is happening. As Bruce lays his cape over Alfred’s face we read Alfred describing Bruce as a child. Talking about how he remembers the way Bruce smiles and how proud he is of his boy. This is his goodbye to Bruce and King does excellent job of pulling at the heart strings. The really hard thing about this issue is that Alfred has made peace with this decision. He couldn’t escape Thomas and knows that he may die because of this. He told Bruce he was safe, because above all else he wanted to protect him. He knows that Bruce’s masterplan will work and refuses to derail it with him being a hostage. His recording ends with him telling Bruce he has a good life and that though he won’t get to see it, Bruce will smile again. Tom King is at his best when he’s handling heavy subject matter. The happiness of Alfred’s recording being played over the devastation of Bruce holding him in his arms is something to see. While I don’t love that Alfred is dead, I do understand why it happened.
This issue just works from start to finish. The art is flawless and emotional, the dialogue is phenomenal and the two of them together make something wonderfully tragic. This whole series started with King and Janin and it’s incredibly fitting that they work together on this issue. The issue ends setting the stage for the final faceoff between the two Batmen. My money is on Bruce.