All Star Batman #11 continues the latest Scott Snyder Bat-story with the interesting notion that is rarely explored in depth in Batman's history: the history of life-long put-upon butler and ally Alfred Pennyworth.
What we know about Alfred has often been put across in small vignettes or descriptions or the odd line. He's worked in theatre, he's been a member of the SAS and has both combat and medical experience as a result. But in this second part of the latest All Star Batman arc, we actually get to see some of this history of Bruce Wayne's oldest ally, friend and, let's face it, father-figure – and it also adds some interesting new ideas.
This story in an interesting way also feels like a nice dry run for Snyder and Greg Capullo's Metal, in the use of bombastic ideas. We have a Batman story filled with the usual action but also pirates. Yup, pirates, and secret underwater casinos and secret military enemies. It's all big, crazy, hardcore action ideas in the modern day portion of the story.
There's a nice little touch as well with 'the Black and Whites' i.e. Penguin, Black Mask and Great White, who all turn up and come to think of it have been a bit of a running theme in a lot of All Star Batman. They're interesting villains in Batman as they largely represent villains that are harder to fit into the idea of Batman villains as examples of mental illness or psychopathy. With the possible exception of Black Mask representing extreme sadism at times, they're all just general organised crime lords. Sure, with a theme and an elaborate look, this is still comics, but generally they can be used for a more straight-forward crime story.
Of course, this is All Star Batman, so it will be anything but straight-forward.
After all, the main thrust of this story is both Alfred Pennyworth's fleshed out history, and adding more wrinkles to Pennyworth's feelings as a father to Batman. Because this is what is interesting in this story – it kind of sets up Pennyworth as not just the father of Bruce, but also the father of the Bat.
We learn that Alfred's history also is tied up with the loss of parents, both through death and through an absentee parent. Alfred's history is also one of finding a mission in life, more than just a purpose, an actual mission. And we see that this is something he shares with Bruce. All of a sudden, his understanding and begrudging acceptance of Bruce's mission makes a little more sense – as does the times when Alfred has begged him to leave it behind.
We also have tentative ties to the villain of the arc, and a few more threads up in the air that will keep the pace in the upcoming instalments.
All of these is wonderfully illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque, who's art not only feels really fitting in this arc, but really does add an air of exotic locale with the story taking place outside of Gotham.
Albuquerque also continues his short story, co-written by Rafael Scavone and with art by Sebastian Fiumara and Trish Mulvihill, which keeps to a more standard Bat-story but keeps with the theme of taking the Bat outside of Gotham. It's an intriguing undercover story, and shows a fallibility in Batman which is always interesting to see how he is going to react.
Overall, All Star Batman continues to try things different with Batman and give us stories that feel different but also add interesting new wrinkles to the mythos of the Dark Knight.