Review: Detective Comics Annual #3
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Art: Sumit Kumar & Eduardo Risso
Colors: Romulo Fajardo, Jr. & Eduardo Risso
Letters: Tom Napolitano
Reviewed by: Matthew B. Lloyd
Detective Comics Annual #3 features two stories centering on Alfred Pennyworth. “Who Dares, Wins” looks back at Alfred’s life in MI-6 resulting in an old friend visiting Bruce for help. And, “The Week” examines Bruce’s first week trying to be the Batman, but from Alfred’s point of view.
Both these stories succeed because they are heavy on character. Not only does Tomasi reveal a great deal about Alfred in these tales, but he explores just as much about Bruce. It’s not only the big things either, in some cases it’s the littlest detail that makes the biggest impact.
One of the details that Tomasi uses is a note from Damian reminding Bruce that he should buy more food. It’s one of the ways that Tomasi indicates that Bruce has sort of let himself go. He’s not keeping up with the regular household routine, shopping, wash, keeping things picked up. And, wonderfully, this adventure with retired MI-6 agent Marigold ends up with Bruce realizing that to honor Alfred, he can’t forget about the day to day aspects of life. Bruce realizes he has to do what Alfred would want him to do.
The end of this story is really nice and very different for Batman. Marigold breaks out old photographs and sits down to share that part of Alfred’s life with Bruce. While it ends at the beginning of her recounting of Alfred’s adventures, Tomasi makes a strong statement with it. Tomasi finds the emotion in Bruce’s feelings of loss, but he also finds Bruce’s love for Alfred as he is excited to learn more about this side of Alfred.
The art and colors by Kumar and Fajardo, Jr respectively combine for a beautiful painterly quality. While not strictly painted like an Alex Ross cover, there is a lush quality to the colors and depth and texture that seems equally credited to both Kumar and Fajardo. The story is told well with great pacing and scene framing. Kumar also finds little details in figural details that communicate with a subtlety very significant thoughts and emotions.
“The Week” is insightful in its own right. It’s one of those stories that cleverly utilizes a dichotomy between words and pictures. Alfred is writing Marigold a letter about his work in Gotham taking care of the recently-returned-from-Europe Bruce Wayne. It’s Bruce’s first week going out at night, and Alfred has to couch everything in the nomenclature of an idle rich playboy. There are moments that are humorous, as the visuals depict the worlds in the letter in interesting ways. However, it’s really the body language between Alfred and Bruce that is communicated so wonderfully by Eduardo Risso.
Sometimes it’s Risso’s facial expressions, sometimes it’s the body poses themselves, but in the end it’s Alfred’s comforting and reassuring hand on Bruce’s shoulder as words and pictures come together. “…I have been blessed to find an employer who has need of me…which is a reward all its own.” (sniff, sniff)
The only negative is that Tomasi keeps making me spend more money…. Where’s that Wayne fortune when you need it?
Alfred’s death is a huge moment. Huge. While I don’t LIKE that he’s dead, Peter J. Tomasi is using the moment to tells some great stories. The things that stand out in Detective Comics Annual #3 are the elements that make the loss feel real for Bruce and family. One never knows when something sudden and shocking will strike and take someone from us. While I didn’t know him, I feel like I knew him….
Rush drummer Neil Peart passed away at the beginning of the month. For drummers and music fans around the world it was a world stopping moment. It’s hard to let go. It’s been hard to process. I didn’t know him, but I feel like I knew him….
Tomasi is bringing this real emotion to his Batman tales in a way that strikes me much the same. Alfred’s a fictitious character, he’s not real. But, the way Tomasi makes the reader feel is unparalleled. And, he does it in a subtle and nuanced way that doesn’t take things over the top, instead keeping it intimate.
In the fullness of time
A Garden to nurture and protect.”