Updated: Aug 12, 2019
When it comes to the Batman mythos, Alfred Pennyworth is undoubtedly one of its most recognizable and significant figures. Since his initial comic book appearance in 1943, the character has been featured in comics, television, and films for generations. Though, it is safe to say that a lot of the tasks Alfred conducts as Batman's most loyal ally go under the radar. Thus, when a story like Batman Annual #3 comes along, one should pay attention.
Another Day at the Office
Batman Annual #3 was released in December of 2018 with writer Tom Taylor at the helm. The installment surprisingly strayed from focusing on iconic super villains, mysterious arcs, and lengthy action sequences. Rather, the issue focused on a day-in-the-life of Alfred Pennyworth himself.
The first few panels centralize on a sleeping Alfred. Though he appears to be at rest, his posture exemplifies his relentlessly attentive nature as if he is always waiting for summons.
Now, these first few panels revisit the last night Alfred truly experienced rest as a fateful phone call disrupts his slumber. It is the call that changed his life forever, the call that informed him of the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne.
Forging a New Path
As the issue proceeds, Alfred continues his retrospection on that night. He ponders the thoughts he had, realizing that he could no longer prioritize himself nor his career goals. Ultimately, another life had taken precedence, that of Bruce Wayne.
Flash forward a few years and Bruce Wayne is operating as The Dark Knight, fighting for Gotham City each and every night.
Batman Annual #3 explores one of these nights, detailing a moment in which Batman calls Alfred for some assistance on a mission. He asks Alfred if he was awake to which Alfred responds, "It's 3 a.m. Master Bruce, why would I be asleep?".
It is safe to say that a life as Batman was not the life Alfred expected nor desired for the young Bruce Wayne that fell under his care. Though, it is the life Bruce has chosen. Therefore, Alfred must either support Bruce or leave him behind. Of course, Alfred is not one to abandon a loved one.
Though, Alfred does perceive that Bruce could not facilitate his life as Batman on his own. In fact, Taylor depicts the juxtaposition between the two's lives while showcasing a conventional night in Gotham City. As Batman jumps across rooftops and dodges explosions, Alfred repairs batsuits and readies the many bat-vehicles. Alfred states that Batman needs someone to take care of the little things so that he does not push himself too far.
Beyond the Limits
Of course, the key words there are "too far" as one can assume that Batman has already pushed himself to his limits. Alfred is aware of that reality as well. That reality is the very reason why Alfred has never rested since that one, fateful night.
He states that every evening, he waits for a phone call. Of course, Alfred always hopes for that call to come from Batman himself, informing his loyal butler of his return home for the evening. Though, Alfred always contemplates the alternative phone call, the one informing him of Bruce's demise.
Alfred acknowledges the reality of Bruce Wayne's life choices. He acknowledges the likelihood of Bruce meeting his fate in the streets of Gotham, fighting off criminals. He also acknowledges that he is incapable of changing Bruce's mind. Alfred understands that Bruce's sense of duty and commitment to Gotham City overpowers any other force of the universe.
Thus, Alfred does the best he can to ensure Bruce's safety and security through subtle actions. Alfred always inquires as to whether Bruce gains enough sleep in between missions and eats enough food to sustain himself.
These simple inquiries may seem trivial, but, just as Alfred states in this issue, Bruce needs someone to look out for him when he is too occupied to look out for himself, particularly in a city that may not always care for the wellbeing of the man beneath the cowl.
Oftentimes, Alfred is unsuccessful in his attempts to ensure Bruce's security, but he tries nonetheless. Additionally, Alfred never hesitates to respond to Bruce's needs.
In the climax of Batman Annual #3, Batman comes face-to-face with a villain he had been hunting down named The Drone. In this confrontation, the two battle it out, with Batman overcoming his new foe.
Despite winning the battle though, Batman finds himself seriously injured and calls Alfred for help.
Without hesitation, Alfred races to The Caped Crusader's location, only to discover a group of thugs attempting to mug an unconscious Batman. Alfred looks upon the thugs in disgust, stating, "All he's done for this city, all he's sacrificed".
As aforementioned, Alfred expresses a certain disfavor towards Bruce's life as Batman. He believes it poses a great risk to Bruce's health, both physically and mentally. Also, Alfred believes that the city will never give Batman the respect nor the loyalty he deserves. There will always be those in the city who perceive Batman as an enemy or a criminal, wishing him dead.
Therefore, when Alfred proceeds to fight the thugs, he fights them, not only to protect Bruce, but to express his own disappointment in many of Gotham City's citizens.
The Long Haul
Following this fight, and after obtaining a few bruises and knocks to the head, Alfred takes Batman to Dr. Leslie Thompkins.
She manages to stabilize Bruce's condition but proceeds to address Alfred's own injuries. Leslie calls out Alfred's sleep deprivation and overarching inability to rest due to his vigilance of Bruce.
Alfred responds to Leslie in an unsurprisingly stoic manner, stating that he only sleeps when he knows Bruce is safe. For Alfred, there is no other option. Some time later, Leslie proceeds to inform Bruce of Alfred's exhaustion, suggesting that the two take a day off for once.
So, Bruce takes Leslie up on that suggestions. The next day, he informs Alfred that he is taking the day off from Batman duties as it is a special day...Father's Day.
The Bat and the Butler
Batman Annual #3 is undoubtedly a bittersweet tale. The conclusion provides a heartwarming resolution, and the issue as a whole highlights the wholesome relationship Alfred and Bruce maintain.
However, it is worth noting that the life of Batman reaches far beyond Bruce himself and fosters a difficult cycle, and Alfred is right there in the thick of it with him. Of course, it is positive to recognize that Bruce's life as Batman is not one he has to endure alone.
It is certainly a life that Alfred wishes would change for Bruce's sake. Though, Alfred also cannot help but wonder what Gotham City would be like without Batman.
He recognizes the risk Bruce faces every night, but he also accepts the fact that the symbol of Batman will never subside. Though there are those who detest the symbol of the bat there are a multitude of men, women, and children who reside in Gotham City who look up to Batman for a sense of hope, one that Bruce Wayne provides with the help of his loyal butler.