Spoiler warning: Spoilers ahead for the latest issues of Batman.
One of most tragic deaths in DC (there are many, so this is saying a lot) is the death of Alfred Pennyworth, Batman's butler, mentor, and father figure. While his death hasn't translated to the big screen yet, Alfred is very much dead in the DC Universe. However, his death is complicated since he comes back ... as a villain.
Alfred is revived by a maniac scientist named Brandon Crawford and brought back as Outsider. Dr. Crawford used radiation on Alfred's body, and it seemed to unleash a dark side he'd never before shown. Outsider's powers include telekinesis, and having a nearly impenetrable stone body. He has none of Alfred's memories or personality, and his singular goal is to destroy Batman and Robin.
But before all that happens, you might be wondering how Alfred died in the first place.
How did Alfred Pennyworth die?
In Batman #77, Alfred Pennyworth is killed by Bane and Thomas Wayne (the Flashpoint Batman) — specifically though, Bane snaps his neck. Bane and Thomas take Alfred hostage and warn the Batman Family (Batman, Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, and all other allies) that if Batman steps foot in Gotham (which has been taken over), Alfred dies. Alfred essentially sacrifices himself, as he knows he's Batman's only vulnerability.
"I am again putting my ideal above my current need. I choose not to be an instrument of your downfall, but to be a cause of your salvation. I will die here. I choose to die here," Alfred writes to Batman before his death.
He also writes:
"Which brings us to today. To Thomas holding our city. You with the brilliant plan to take it back. The only obstacle between yourself and victory and peace... being me. I've just signaled to you that I have run. That I am safe, that you might execute your plan. You believed me. I am, if not much else, a talented actor. And soon you will come.
But I am not safe. I, unfortunately, could not find a way to run. I expect now that Thomas will kill me. And so you must ask, why the lie?"
The portion about him not being safe is because in Batman #79, it seems as though Alfred may have been saved (he signaled to Batman that he was safe — but he basically tricks Bruce) and escaped death. In Batman #81, it's 100 percent confirmed that Alfred is dead when Batman wakes up at the Wayne Manor and sees a very dead Alfred across from him.
It's unclear whether or not Alfred's death will be a major plot point in the new Batman movie with Robert Pattinson (The Batman), but we should expect a more "emotional connection" between Bruce and Alfred — something Any Serkis, who will be playing Alfred, has shared.
One thing is for sure: Alfred is gone in the DC Universe, and that's not only a lot for fans to accept, but it's a lot for Bruce Wayne to accept.