When Former Batman writer Tom King killed Alfred Pennyworth last August (Batman #77) everyone knew that the repercussions would ripple though the threads of of the Bat-Family. Now, about six months after publication, we all get to grieve. Writers Peter Tomasi and James Tynion IV team up with artists Eddy Barrows, Chris Burnham, Sumit Kumar, David Lafuente, Diogenes Neves, Marcio Takeral, and Eber Ferreira for DC’s sendoff to the butler.
The story itself opens at a public grieving event for Alfred, setting the tone for reader as one that’s going to be a roller coaster of emotions. Throughout the opening sequence, we begin to see just how fractured the “family” has become. Panel by panel, it becomes apparent that Alfred was the glue that held the family together. One might begin to wonder: “So then what now?”
Soon after, Barbara, Jason, Tim, Damian, and Dick (Ric) are meeting up in a bar rented out for them to mourn privately. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for everyone to start turning on each other. Pointing fingers and accusations are halted once Bruce enters the bar, stating “This isn’t what Alfred would have wanted.” Through and through, there seems to be a common trend of guilt for their actions not because they recognize their own faults, but when reminded what Alfred would think of it.
Throughout the story each family member recalls their fondest memories with Alfred. This is done through the progression of the resentment between everyone in the family being intercut with respective flashbacks of times Alfred was there to help them. Each story features another example of how Alfred’s empathy, sincerity, and thoughtfulness made him the architect of the bat-family. Moreover, the familial theme of this issue is never lost on the reader through both the past strength it once had and the fractured dysfunction that it’s become.
Unfortunately, each person’s tipping point seems to come soon after, as they file out one by one. As the issue nears its end, only Bruce and Dick (Ric) remain in the abandoned pub. That’s when things get gut-wrenching. Because Ric can’t remember a memory with Alfred, Bruce depicts one for us. Afterward, just as Ric is walking out, he leaves Bruce with a resonating parting thought for Bruce. “You have a lot of hard work to do to fix everything that man built for you. To honor him right.”
Overall, Batman: Pennyworth R.I. P. relies on the reader’s personal connection to either Alfred or at least one of the primary Bat-Family characters. However, there are a few glaring flaws within the issue. Primarily, each character is written as their New-52 self, contradicting previous writing showcasing a blend of their past and current forms. Also, the negation of Selina Kyle, Kate Kate, Cassandra Cain, and Duke Thomas as members of the family worthy of attending their private assembly seems inconsistent with recent writing for these characters.
Final Thoughts: Each artist helps bring to life their respective segments within the story while the writing attempts to pull the same emotional weight. However, the issue’s utilization of flashbacks is its true strength. Through each memory, it becomes more and more evident just how fractured everyone has become without Alfred to unite each other. It also poses the question: “What now?”