In the latest Batman, the imaginary Alfred can’t take Bruce Wayne’s pity party and slaps him just like the Dark Knight’s hilarious Internet meme
Warning! Spoilers to Batman #98 by James Tynion, Jorge Jimenez, Tomeu Morey, and Clayton Cowles, out in stores now!
One can only imagine what the creators of World’s Finest #153 (1965) would think if they were told that one of their panels would make Internet history. Since 2008, the image of Batman slapping Robin has been re-imagined, repurposed, and rewritten countless times to poke fun at any range of subjects from pop culture to current events. With this Internet phenomenon showing no sign of slowing down, the latest Batman issue puts their own spin on it by having Batman getting slapped by none other than Alfred Pennyworth, his deceased confidant and butler.
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Suffering from potent hallucinations as a result of Punchline’s Joker toxin, Batman was rescued and given a special tea by Harley Quinn which should help cure the diseased Dark Knight. Falling unconscious yet again, Bruce Wayne encounters Alfred, who died during the ‘City of Bane’ story-line, whose voice he has also been imagining in his head helping to talk him through the Joker’s dark and insidious plans for him and Gotham City. Stating that they need to talk, Alfred psychoanalyzes Batman, his current situation, and the Joker while making his usual cup of tea, peppering the conversation with his usual mix of dry wit and unrestrained truth meant to encourage the guilty and depressed Master Bruce to rise up and take back his city.
However, Alfred’s truth only seems to depress Bruce further, making him realize that in the wake of Alfred’s death he assigned blame and pushed away other members of the Bat-Family and that his promise of remaking Gotham in Alfred’s memory only enabled Joker and his forces to take control of him and his resources. But when Bruce declares himself a failure, Alfred decides enough is enough and tries a different method. Frustrated at Bruce’s willingness to give up, Alfred slaps Bruce in the face, telling him ” No dammit, the story isn’t over yet.”
Never afraid to resort to physical force when necessary, an angry Alfred reminds him that he is Batman and that he has to let go of the losses he couldn’t control, such as his parents or Alfred himself, and that by taking control of the situation he can save the lives of those he cares about and thus accomplish true victory against Joker. When Bruce tells him he’s afraid to do it alone, Alfred reminds him that he never was, encourages him to assemble his allies, and that he’s already begun to do it without him. As he disappears in a cinematic golden light, Alfred says goodbye and to remind Gotham and those who align themselves with the Joker who he really is.
As Batman wakes up to Harley and Punchline trading verbal and physical blows, his mind is centered and clear thanks to the drugs but also help from an old friend. Although technically one could argue the whole situation happened in Bruce’s mind, meaning that Bruce Wayne simply psyched and slapped himself back into focus, Tynion and Jimenez don’t let that logic stop the hero from finding his way again. As Batman returns to take down Punchline and locate the Bat-Family, we’re not sure what was more amusing, Alfred slapping Batman or the idea that the Dark Knight mentally slapped himself. Overlooking the amount of therapy Bruce Wayne is going to need after ‘Joker War’, we’re sure Robin wouldn’t mind getting a break from being slapped nor having Batman on the receiving end for once.
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