While Batman is off on a mission, Robin comes across Alfred behaving suspiciously. The clues all lead to only one possibility – murder! Red Robin and Katana humor Damian's ridiculous theory, with theories of their own. Eventually they start believing their own theories, aided by Red Hood's own version of what Alfred is up to. But it is all a trap and the three youngsters are roped into helping Alfred organize the mansion's holiday decorations, allowing Red Hood, Nightwing, and Oracle off the hook for the first time in years.
I've yet to come across a bad issue of Batman Li'l Gotham, but I have to admit this is on of the weaker chapters. While I do enjoy the interaction between the characters in a way that I haven't enjoyed in the New-52 books, I do think that if there was a chapter worth skipping, this might be it. I'm not advocating you not read it, but if I were forced at gun point to say which chapter I wouldn't read again it would most likely be this one.
This may seem harsh, but the entire setup has a major flaw. Namely the three characters actually believing that Alfred could be a murderer. I could almost believe that Damian might think it, but even then it would take some major suspension of disbelief. But for Katana and Red Robin to even consider the possibility is even ludicrous. Those two should know Alfred well enough, and have known him for long enough to know that there is no way Alfred could ever be a killer. I could believe them humoring Damian, which they do at first, but then seeing them actually start to believe their silly stories just didn't work for me.
Because I as a reader know there is no way that Alfred could possibly be a murderer the twist ending isn't actually surprising. Granted, this is coming from the point of view of an adult who has read far more than any child has. And if it were a child reading this, someone that hasn't spent years consuming Batman media, then the twist might just work. It's a setup that can work, but only granted the audience does not know much about Alfred or his history. And even though it could work under that specific setting the fact that there are so many ways that the story could fall flat for readers means that it isn't necessarily the best story around.
I enjoyed it well enough, the theories Damian and the others came up with were entertaining enough. And even if I was pulled out of the story a bit I think that anyone less critical than I would be able to enjoy the chapter. It's still worth your time, but if you have to make a choice there's no harm in passing this chapter up.
Batman: Li'l Gotham Chapter #20:
Reviewed by Derek Bown