Alfred Pennyworth is getting a lot of attention in the Bat-books since the beginning of DC's "Rebirth," but while some of it has elevated the character or reinforced his fan-favorite status, not all of it has been positive.
Even All-Star Batman writer Scott Snyder knows his version of Alfred has some explaining to do.
"Everyone thinks we have it in for Alfred," the writer told Newsarama, "but Alfred is my favorite Bat-character outside of Bruce."
The "everyone" Snyder mentions is fans who've noticed the writer not only showed Alfred's hand being cut off in his "Endgame" storyline, but in Snyder's current All-Star Batman storyline with artist John Romita Jr., Alfred betrayed Batman by shooting down his Batwing, allegedly to protect his own secret from being exposed.
But Snyder has hinted that there's more to the story of Alfred's betrayal. "It's not a 'Hail Hydra,'" Snyder said, referring to the Marvel storyline that had Captain America turning villain. "It's not like Alfred has been secretly working for the Joker the whole time. I think people will, hopefully, be happy with why Alfred did what he did."
"Also, there are a lot of twists coming," he said.
To be fair, All-Star Batman hasn't had a chance to show Alfred in a good light since, because the main storyline hasn't been taking place in Gotham City. And although the back-ups have given Alfred credit for coming up with the "wheel" that Batman uses to train his allies - "Alfred is really instrumental in thinking of this program as something that's sort of designed around certain aspects of psychology," Snyder explained - those stories have been focused on young Bat-ally Duke Thomas.
Meanwhile, Batman writer Tom King has been positively showcasing the relationship between Batman and Alfred. In Batman #1, Batman asked Alfred whether his parents would be proud. And in Batman #6, Batman asks for Alfred's advice in dealing with a young person's grief, since Alfred raised Bruce after the death of his parents.
However, the most arguably the most beloved "Rebirth" moment for Alfred fans has been seeing the butler wearing the Bat-cowl in King's Batman #5. Drawn by David Finch, the scene showed how Batman couldn't get to Gotham City quickly enough to save it, so he had to ask Alfred to fill in.
What resulted was a scene that was hailed in several reviews as one of the greatest Batman moments of all time - or at least one of the funniest, as Alfred complained under the cowl in a sarcasm-laced way that only Batman's British butler can.
"I love Alfred," King said of the scene. "I love the dynamic between those two characters. I think Batman's such a self-serious character that you need someone to take the stuffing out of him a little bit. Traditionally, that's been Robin, but that dynamic doesn't work for me as much as having Alfred do it - just somebody who's going to always call Bruce on his crap. I think it's great."
"And it makes me laugh. It makes me laugh every time," King said. "Yeah, my favorite parts of Batman are writing the Alfred scenes, and I think that's coming through."
But the two series are switching roles a bit, as Batman is taking the Caped Crusader out of Batman right now, fighting against Bane with his hand-picked Suicide Squad, while All-Star Batman will reunite Bruce with Alfred. In fact, Snyder has insinuated to Newsarama that the end of All-Star Batman #5, which comes out in December, will have some sort of resolution for Alfred's betrayal.
"I just finished #5," Snyder told Newsarama, "and I'm really, really happy with where it goes in terms of Alfred's argument to Bruce at the very end."
Snyder has also emphasized that he feels a unique bond to Alfred because they're both fathers of a sort. "He's the dad that has the son that does something that he respects tremendously, but also hates because it puts his son in danger," Snyder explained.
"I can relate to that so deeply," he said. "So Alfred has a special place in my heart. I'm never going to, you know, kill Alfred or do something horrific to him. But he's a big part of the mystery here and everybody's fallible in their own way."