In many ways, it’s a pity that “DC Comics” didn’t decide to cancel “All-Star Batman” before Scott Snyder finished writing the script to “The First Ally” and it was serialised into this short-lived ongoing title’s final story-arc. For whilst the narrative’s fourth instalment makes for a pulse-pounding, rather entertaining read, it does imply that a concatenation of dedicated tales focusing upon Alfred’s fifty-two missions “all over the world” as “the wayward Black Knight” would have made for a far more captivating experience than the seemingly rushed, brusquely written adventure which the supposed “best-selling writer” presents within this twenty-two page periodical.
Indeed, rather disconcertingly the persistent glimpses of the modern-day titular character alongside the New York-born writer’s enthralling ‘yesteryear’ plot actually frustrate the flashback’s telling, especially when things turn decidedly dour for the young Pennyworth following the moustached secret agent’s mission in Marrakech, Morocco, and the book’s focus rudely returns to the present day as the Caped Crusader appropriates a West Motor Club rider’s motorbike in order to race after the Black and Whites. Such repeated interruptions must have increasingly annoyed some of this title’s 56,990 readers, particularly this scene which frustratingly clips the conclusion to Briar’s extraction of a disease from Alfred’s veins whilst simultaneously providing his “son” with the cure; “See, the terrible thing about it is it makes you euphoric as your insides blacken. This is the antidote. It feels awful.”
Dishearteningly, such engagement with its audience is equally as unsuccessful when it comes to Batman’s confrontation with his manservant’s cigar-chomping ‘father-figure’ and his latest in a string of defeats to the Nemesis Programme’s unknown assassin. In fact, the armour-wearing Teutonic-looking killer dispatches the apparently formidable Dark Knight so effortlessly within the space of a single panel, as to make the apparently legendary crime-fighter appear utterly impotent, and hardly the sort of super-hero who these days is widely viewed by the public as “an American cultural icon.”
Unnervingly, Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego in this publication’s secondary story, “Killers-In-Law” doesn’t prove any more capable in close combat either, with writers Rafael Albuquerque and Rafael Scavone having the so-called martial arts expert get well and truly thumped by a young woman armed with nothing more than a curved blade. Admittedly, the Caped Crusader had been shot in the arm the night before and hasn’t slept since arriving in Russia, but even so it’s hard to reconcile this ineffectual costumed “clown” with someone who has previously outfought the Green Lantern, Guy Gardner.