All-Star Batman Vol. 3: The First Ally Review
Written by: Scott Snyder (main story), Rafael Albuquerque & Rafael Scavone (backup story)
Art by: Rafael Albuquerque (main story), Sebastian Fiumara (backup story)
Colors by: Jordie Bellaire & Cris Peter (main story), Trish Mulvihill & Lee Loughridge (backup story)
Letters by: Steve Wands (main story), Dezi Sienty (backup story)
Cover Art by: Rafael Albuquerque
Review by Cory Webber
All-Star Batman Vol. 3: The First Ally is the final volume of Scott Snyder’s All-Star series. When the Dark Knight is taken down by a new enemy whose attacks he cannot counter, Batman uncovers a plot spanning generations…whose mastermind might be one of his closest allies! But who is the First Ally? And as painful secrets from the past are revealed, Batman must face down a nemesis unlike any he’s seen before—or risk the horrific consequences of the Genesis Engine falling into the wrong hands!
All-Star Batman Vol. 3: The First Ally reunites Snyder & Albuquerque, the Eisner Award-winning creative team of American Vampire. They work some of that same magic here. Snyder delves deep into Alfred’s past, the impact of which is felt in the present day proceedings. I really enjoyed the relationship between Alfred and Bruce. The way Alfred sees him as his son, and the way his background influences this, is a beautiful thing. We get a glimpse of the relationship between Alfred and his father, who was also a butler for the Waynes.
Alfred narrates the story, which allows us to get a deeper sense of who he is, and what he is to Bruce. We also get a healthy dose of his wit and sense of humor; he even includes a great riff on the whole “Be the best you can be, unless you can be Batman” adage.
The action and set pieces are phenomenal, especially Fort Dexter, a secret bunker just off the coast that used to be used by pirates to store their booty. The action flows well, and the switching between Alfred’s past and the present is seamless. If you’ve always wanted to know why Snyder’s New 52 version of Alfred was such a badass, then this book is for you.
I also really enjoyed the theme of pirates, and pirate stories, that Alfred refers to throughout the story, highlighted by a splash page where he says, “Yo $%^& Ho!”
Albuquerque, also known for his great work on Huck, does some great things here. His kinetic, almost frantic style, works great for this story. It really shines though in any panels that contain movement or action. His heavy, streaky brush strokes lend a great sense of depth and ambiance.
While Albuquerque’s art is wonderful here, it is beautifully enhanced by color extraordinaire Jordie Bellaire’s brilliant colors. Her choice of colors, especially her backgrounds, tie certain scenes together. And her selections for some of the sunsets are just downright mesmerizing. I caught myself staring at pages for longer than I’m willing to admit.
The finishing touch is Wand’s lettering. The font, spacing and balloon breaks are perfectly suited for this story. His lettering really adds a solid flow from panel to panel, and page to page. This book reads like a cool summer’s breeze (let’s all just assume you know what I mean here).
Albuquerque was on writing duties for the backup story, which involves Batman infiltrating a Russian mob to prevent the shipment of deadly weapons to Gotham. As far as backup stories go, this one was pretty solid. Albuquerque’s pacing was good. I enjoyed the aspect of Bruce going undercover in Russia.
The art by Fiumara was dark and gritty. It really excelled when he got to play with a lot of shadows. The fact that the majority of this story takes place at night was a huge bonus. Lots of dark, gritty ambiance. I particularly liked a sequence where Batman is perched in a tree at night while eavesdropping on the criminal family he has infiltrated.
The ending of this story really ties into the main story. In fact, I suggest reading the backup story first. It’s all collected as one story in the back, naturally.
Buy it. All-Star Batman Vol. 3: The First Ally is a great look into Alfred’s past and how it shaped the kind of person he is today. You do not need to read the first two volumes to understand what is going on here. The art is fun to look at and it keeps you engaged throughout.