So Alfred was really alive in Batman vs. Robin #3 ... sort of

Batman vs. Robin #3 art
Batman vs. Robin #3 art (Image credit: DC)

Batman vs. Robin forces Bruce Wayne to face off against a newly-evil version of his son, Damian Wayne, whose demonic, maternal lineage traces back to the Devil Nezha himself. It puts the Dark Knight in a particularly hard place because he struggles to do his best by all of his "kids," AKA the young people he takes on as sidekicks and trains as superheroes in their own right.

And in Batman vs. Robin #3, the halfway point in the five-issue limited series written by Mark Waid, illustrated by Mahmud Asrar, colored by Jordie Bellaire, and lettered by Steve Wands, Bruce has to actually fight several of those "kids" - and it causes him to have a pretty serious moral crisis.

(Image credit: DC)

As an extension of his plan to kill Batman, Damian Wayne - who's now wearing a much more dramatic version of his father's classic costume - gives four other Robins unique magical items and sends them out to take Bruce down. Tim Drake gets the Cloak of Cagliostro; Jason Todd gets the Trident of Poseidon; Stephanie Brown gets the Coup-Stick of Black Bison; and Dick Grayson gets the Sword of Sin.

The Cloak of Cagliostro belongs to the Fadeaway Man, who first appeared in 1978's Detective Comics #479. It allows the wearer to become invisible or intangible, and also grants them the ability to teleport. The Trident of Poseidon is an unbreakable, three-pronged weapon belonging to the god himself. 

The Coup-Stick of Black Bison belongs to the supervillain known as Black Bison, and it works in tandem with his other mystical item, a talisman, to animate material objects and command them to do his bidding. It can also be used to control the weather. 

And the Sword of Sin, as explained by Batman himself as he and Dick fight in Batman vs. Robin #3, once belonged to Azrael. It recognizes and weaponizes the opponent's guilts and doubts to weaken them during battle.

(Image credit: DC)

These magical items and their owners have likely been corrupted since Damian freed the Devil Nezha from his prison on Lazarus Island. In Batman vs. Robin #1, we learned that magic itself has been tainted, with magic users who refuse to cooperate with Damian, Mother Soul, and the Devil Nezha suffering slow, horrible deaths. 

And now, some of these items are being used against Batman himself to try and take him down. However, Bruce manages to win all four fights against Tim, Jason, Stephanie, and Dick - with each one forcing him to reconcile his dreams for these young heroes versus his treatment of them when they were under his wing.

During the last fight with Dick, Bruce notes that much of his mental anguish in these battles has been because of the Sword of Sin - but Batman frequently feels guilt for the danger he puts his adopted "kids" in, even in the current Batman ongoing series.

Facing four of them in rapid succession as he struggles to reach Damian presents Bruce with a pretty serious moral crisis - has he done more harm to these individuals than good?

(Image credit: DC)

His self-torment comes to a head when Alfred shows up, and Batman uses his body as a shield against Dick and the Sword of Sin. It's another horrible death for Batman's beloved butler and pseudo-father figure, who was previously killed by Bane in 2019. 

Alfred's apparent return in Batman vs. Robin #1 felt like a brief moment of respite in an otherwise hellish situation for Bruce, but he has since been revealed as an agent of the Devil Nezha

And Bruce has known Alfred wasn't himself from the jump, which he reveals in Batman vs. Robin #3. Apparently, all the questions Bruce asked of the newly-resurrected Alfred were answered incorrectly, and Batman has been biding his time with the spy ever since.

Batman vs. Robin #3

(Image credit: DC)

But once the Sword of Sin goes through Alfred's chest, the real man returns for just a moment - long enough to cement Bruce's struggle with how many of his loved ones he's put in danger or even directly harmed. Alfred tells Bruce to let go of his guilt, because there was nothing he could have done to save Alfred from Bane, and then he's gone once more. 

The scene is somewhat similar to Peter Parker/Spider-Man's recent short emotional reunion with Gwen Stacy from Marvel's Amazing Spider-Man #10, during a storyline in which a Celestial haunted Peter in the guise of Gwen before gifting him with a brief moment with the real thing. 

Alfred may return again someday - possibly even as his full self - because permanent deaths in comics are so rare, but this storyline may delay his potential return for some time.

After Alfred's second tragic death, Bruce sits alone in the forest, head down, for what seems like a long moment. Then he gets up, puts his cowl on, binds the wound on his arm, and continues his journey to find and rescue Damian from the Devil Nezha and Mother Soul.

It's a brutal issue for Batman as he's forced to wrestle with his inner demons, especially en route to save his flesh-and-blood son from the corruption of his mother's family. 

And in the penultimate issue of Batman vs. Robin, which hits shelves in December, we'll see what Lazarus Island - the place where Batman and Superman once imprisoned the Devil Nezha - explode, launching the Lazarus Planet event. The fight between Bruce and Damian Wayne affects the entire DC Universe, not just the Bat family... for better or for worse.

Batman vs. Robin #3 is available now.

This issue features fights between Batman and several of the best Robins of all time.

Samantha Puc
Editor, Newsarama

Samantha Puc (she/they) is an editor at Newsarama and an avid comics fan. Their writing has been featured on Refinery29, Bitch Media, them., The Beat, The Mary Sue, and elsewhere. She is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction at The New School.