[Editor’s note: This review may contain spoilers.]
Writers: Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque & Rafael Scavone
Artists: Rafael Albuquerque, Sebastian Fiumara
In the first story, Batman is pursuing Hush with Alfred assisting by driving the Batmobile. After capturing Hush, they discover he has impersonated Bruce Wayne to bid in an auction for a weapon called the Genesis Engine, as the sellers have forbidden Gotham City’s villains from bidding.
As the weapon’s sellers are expecting Bruce Wayne, Bruce takes Hush’s place. However, the sellers have figured out Hush’s impersonation, and believe that Bruce is an impostor.
Interspersed with this story is a flashback to what appears to be a pre-Batman Bruce in London, running from the police. However, the youth turns out to an old ally of Batman’s, not Bruce Wayne himself.
The second story starts with Alexy Nokaut, a member of the Russian Mafia in Gotham City. Having impressed his superiors in the Russian mob, he is offered an elite position in Russia.
However, as he sets out to leave Gotham, Batman captures him and takes his place, so he can infiltrate the Russian Mafia and stop a shipment of weapons being smuggled to Gotham.
Soon Bruce is in Russia, having to use his fighting skills to live up to Alexy’s nickname, Knockout.
I find it quite intriguing to focus on Alfred. Alfred has been a constant presence in Batman comics, but rarely comes to the forefront. The story arc is called “The First Ally,” and Alfred truly is Batman’s first ally. And we know so little about Alfred’s backstory, so it will be interesting to see what he was like as a young man before Bruce was even born.
One really poignant touch is when, in the narration, Alfred says of Bruce, “The world knows my son as a hero.” This shows that he sees Bruce as his child. This absolutely makes sense, considering that Alfred raised Bruce from the age of eight. It also implies that there might be some sadness in having to keep up the proper appearance of the master-servant relationship, when the bond goes much deeper.
I quite like the irony of Bruce impersonating Hush impersonating Bruce. And although Bruce is a superb actor and master of disguise, he is unable to convince the criminals that he is himself.
Well, I hesitate to call this a negative, but the backup story hasn’t quite hooked me yet. It is an intriguing idea to have Batman adopting another identity to infiltrate a foreign country’s underworld. Unfortunately, there was little room for more than setting up the storyline. As long as the writing holds up, it could prove to be an excellent story.
Actually, I found the main story to be much better than I expected from the solicitation description. I am eagerly anticipating the next issue to learn more about Alfred’s past. As for the backup, it shows promise, but I will hold judgement until I read more installments.