The variant cover to the upcoming Detective Comics Annual #3 shows Batman grieving over a character many had hoped was still alive.
Artist Steve Rude tweeted the image of the cover art Sunday, showing a grief-stricken Bruce Wayne with vignettes of his longtime friend Alfred Pennyworth in the background. The image strongly implies Alfred is in fact gone, despite hopes that his apparent death was merely subterfuge.
Detective Comics Annual #3 Alternate Cover by Steve Rude pic.twitter.com/SqNK7J0d3I— Steve Rude (@steverudeart) October 20, 2019
In Batman #77, Alfred was shown to have suffered a horrifying death at the hands of Bane. Bane murdered Alfred in retaliation for Damian Wayne's attack during the ongoing "City of Bane" storyline.
Batman #79 gave some hope, however, that Alfred was somehow still alive, when Batman stated that Alfred had signaled he was safe. The revelation was the first indication that Alfred's demise was staged, albeit by unknown methods.
Batman #81 gave further hope still, when Batman revealed he had secretly employed the shapeshifting Clayface, in an attempt to prevent Bane's worst atrocities. While not directly mentioned, readers could infer that Clayface had assumed Alfred's place, and faked his death.
Recent solicitations, though, have seemingly dashed that possibility. The solicitation for Detective Comics Annual #3 in particular specifically references Alfred's death, which Rude's cover all but confirms.
Detective Comics Annual #3, by Peter J. Tomasi, Sumit Kumar and Eduardo Risso, goes on sale January 29, 2020.