After the convulsions of the last few issues, Batman confronts Bane for the fate of the Psycho Pirate, Gotham Girl and especially Catwoman in “Batman” #13 by Tom King and Mikel Janin. But as the Dark Knight and the remnants of his personal Suicide Squad fight for their lives in Santa Prisca, the former prison that has become Bane’s fortified headquarters, a more intriguing confrontation unfolds back in Gotham. Amanda Waller, the manipulative head of Task Force X, waltzes into the Batcave and calmly tells Alfred she intends to walk out with certain of Batman’s data files.
“Excuse me, Mr. Pennyworth?”
Strolling up to Wayne Manor like you own the place is an extraordinary move, even for a woman as formidable as the Wall. She knows Batman won’t be home, noting that “he’s in Santa Prisca, dying, on a mission I planned.” Waller further suggests she’s been behind every event in King’s “Batman” series since “Rebirth,” taking responsibility for Hugo Strange and the Psycho Pirate’s actions in a manner that leaves no doubt she was pulling their strings, specifically to get Bruce Wayne out of the house so she could retrieve these files. Files she needs for something that’ll play out in the “Justice League/Suicide Squad” crossover, which starts next week.
Hold up, though: the Bat’s away, but the Butler has shown himself more than capable of minding the store. Why doesn’t he resist?
What is Alfred’s deal?
The most straightforward reading is that Amanda Waller is just that imposing. She’s skilled, she commands an elite task force of superpowered killers, and has access to a million other ways to ruin a person’s life. But Alfred has stared down the Joker. He’s trained in the British special forces. He would go to any lengths to protect Bruce, even in the face of overwhelming odds.
And yet, he doesn’t.
While the two events are likely unrelated, Alfred is also having a crisis of faith over in Scott Snyder and John Romita, Jr.’s “All Star Batman.” In the very first issue, the butler who has been defined by his fierce loyalty appears to join in on Two-Face’s open bounty on Batman, shooting the Batplane out of the sky.
Snyder and King are both auteurs building longform stories, so while they no doubt each know what the other is doing, Alfred’s heel turn in “All Star” does not necessarily inform his turning a blind eye to Waller’s theft in “Batman.” Each writer is almost certainly using a single decision on Alfred’s part as one piece of his own series’ story arc. But it’s an unusual coincidence, if it is a coincidence. And when Batman returns from his missions — Santa Prisca in “Batman,” road trip adventure in “All Star” — Alfred might want to start looking for new employment.
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