Welcome back, Gothamites! Now that the dust from the City of Bane event has settled, Gotham is returning to normal, with a few exceptions. If you haven’t been keeping up, Alfred Pennyworth was killed in Batman #77. At the time, I was expecting a last-minute fake-out. Maybe the corpse was really Clayface in disguise, or Alfred’s broken neck was some sort of hoax. I’ve spoken about my relationship with denial in other articles I’ve written, and it looks like I was experiencing it again. The storyline is over and Alfred Pennyworth is indeed dead.
Now we’re experiencing a Gotham without Alfred, and our hearts are breaking. The Batcave feels a little empty, and I’m not sure that void can ever be filled. James Tynion IV has taken the reins of Batman starting with Batman #86, which contained one of the most heartbreaking scenes in Gotham history. After an intense sparring match with Deathstroke, Batman radioed Lucius Fox requesting a police car to pick up the mercenary. Batman called Lucius “Alfred” out of habit, momentarily forgetting that his oldest ally was gone.
For a few seconds, Batman forgot that he was living in a world without Alfred, until Lucius snapped him back to reality. If you’ve ever lost a loved one you can probably relate to that moment. How many times have you taken out your phone to text or call a departed loved one, only to remember that they are no longer there?
Consider this, in this version of continuity, Alfred has known Bruce since he was born. Thomas and Martha Wayne were his parents for eight years, but Alfred was his surrogate father for decades. Bruce Wayne has never lived in a world without Alfred, and now he must. The loss is hitting Bruce hard, and he’s trying to honor Alfred’s memory by remaking Gotham using his Wayne Enterprise’s resources.
However, Batman isn’t the only member of the Bat-Family who is coping with Alfred’s loss. Dick Grayson wasn’t present for the final battle in City of Bane, so he didn’t immediately learn about Alfred’s death. The former Boy Wonder is currently putting his life back together in the pages of Nightwing.
Ever since he was shot by the KGBeast in Batman #55, Dick has been suffering from amnesia. He has no memory of his time as Robin or Nightwing and has decided to make a new life for himself as a cabbie named Ric. 2019’s Nightwing Annual #2 revealed that the Court of Owls had manipulated Dick’s recovery to prolong his amnesia. Everything recently came to a head in Nightwing #68 as Ric regained his memories and took down one of the Court’s deadly Talons.
I won’t lie, I got pretty giddy when I saw Dick back to his old self. There’s an awesome page where Dick picks up discarded pieces of armor and uses them like Escrima sticks. It feels just like old times. Where does Dick go from here, though? There are still some unanswered questions about the next phase of his life as he struggles to reconcile his life as Ric with his memories as Dick. Here’s what breaks my heart: now he’ll remember how much Alfred meant to him, only to discover that his old friend is gone. The last time Dick saw Alfred, he didn’t remember him and that’s going to haunt him for the rest of his life.
The Batman: Pennyworth R.I.P. one-shot shows that Dick did learn about Alfred’s death, but it was during the time he still had his amnesia. As the Bat-Family gathered to share their memories of the butler, Dick stated that he had no real memories of the man. How can you not feel bad for Dick? Not only is Alfred gone, but his amnesia robbed him of the chance to properly grieve for his friend.
I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but maybe Dick and Bruce should be taking their grief advice from Jason Todd. I see you all raising your eyebrows at me, but hear me out. In Red Hood: Outlaw #42, Jason shows depths of emotional maturity that might surprise you. We all know that Red Hood and Arsenal were buddies, having starred in the Red Hood and the Outlaws series together. After Wally West accidentally killed Roy Harper in Heroes in Crisis, Jason’s feelings towards the speedster have been a bit complicated. If this had happened ten years ago, Red Hood would’ve equipped himself with a pair of double guns and hunted Wally down.
Jason has grown since then. He explains to Artemis that Roy’s death was an accident, and he actually feels bad for Wally. Loss is hard, and we all have our own ways of dealing with it. Jason has learned to forgive, Bruce is trying to build a new beginning and Dick is still figuring out his path. What are your thoughts on the world of Gotham without Alfred? What do you think the Bat-Family should do now? Tweet your thoughts my way, and keep checking out the Bat-Books as we head into this brave new world together.
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com and DCUniverse.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, "Gotham Gazette." Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.