It's time for another edition of Gotham Gazette! Your one stop monthly shop for all the ins and outs of the Bat-Family…and this, the final Gazette of the year, is a real doozy. Our favorite Bats are really ending 2018 with a bang, as if we could have expected anything less. So, without further ado, let's get right into it.

First and foremost, I'd like to kick things off with a little love letter to Alfred Pennyworth, which you'll absolutely understand if you've read BATMAN ANNUAL #3 by Tom Taylor and Otto Schmidt. It's an Alfred story, but hopefully the sort you aren't expecting when you pick it up, which somehow just makes it all the more poignant. I'll be the first to admit, I'm a sucker for stories about the fatherly bond Alfred shares with Bruce, so I was absolutely delighted the moment I cracked this one open, but by the end, I had tears in my eyes. If you've read it, you'll absolutely know why and if you haven't, well, get on that. It's a standalone story, so don't worry about being caught up anywhere else, you can just jump right in.

And if Alfred stories are as much your thing as they are mine, I've got some recommendations for you. There's the recent Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque story, "The First Ally," which focuses on some of the lesser celebrated aspects of everyone's favorite butler as part of the phenomenal, artist driven ALL-STAR BATMAN series. If you're interested in going a bit farther back, the “Knightquest” storyline (part of the KNIGHTFALL epic—you know, the one with Bane and the back breaking?) features some amazing Alfred moments, including him "quitting" as the Wayne family butler. Don't worry, he comes back, but that happens in a Nightwing story called, rather unsurprisingly, "Alfred's Return." It’s also worth a read.

Meanwhile, the main Batman book has gotten even more intense as the Penguin story wraps up and the mystery revolving around Bane's domination of Arkham gets more and more complicated. The Flashpoint universe’s Thomas Wayne has officially entered the fray, which is still something I can't quite wrap my head around. Is he a puppet here or is he the one trying to pull Bane's strings? How did he even get back to this particular Earth? What does Bane have on him? Are they sharing a goal, and if they are, why?

Wheels within wheels doesn't even begin to describe this plot, but it's the best I can do. This is a Batman mystery with absolutely epic proportions, and for as baffled as I constantly am, reading it in real time is somehow more satisfying than being able to just blow right through to the end. I'm usually a pretty major proponent of trade-waiting, but if you've been holding off on this one, I'd have to say give issue-by-issue a shot here. And no, I’m not just suggesting that so that you can help me figure out what’s going on. But, um…if you have any theories, do let me know.

Thankfully, the rest of the Family doesn't seem to be quite as embroiled in hard-hitting detective work as Bruce is right now. Dick is still struggling with his memory loss. He’s still going by Ric and trying to navigate a Blüdhaven full of Nightwing imposters—several of whom are police officers who took it upon themselves to take up the mantle. There's a sort of brutal symmetry here, considering Dick's pre-New 52 gig as a Blüdhaven cop himself (check out the old original NIGHTWING ongoing for that particular story), but I have to say, I'm pretty eager for Dick to come back to himself here. I miss him, even though he's not really gone.

Outside of Gotham proper, Jason Todd has teamed up with Kate Kane in what might be the coolest family reunion of all time. The two of them have worked together before, sort of, but not like this. And, man, let me just say, it really works. The two (literal and proverbial) red-headed stepchildren of the Bat-Family are two great tastes that go great together, and if there's one person who is capable of putting Jason in his place right now, especially after he's let himself spiral into his whole "outlaw" persona a little too hard, it's Kate. I'm not sure how long the two of them—to say nothing about Renee Montoya, who joined them at the last moment—are going to stay together, but I hope this lasts for a bit. It all sort of harkens back to the start of Rebirth's DETECTIVE COMICS, where the team was made up of characters who hadn't spent a ton of time with one another over the past few years. If you missed out on those stories, check them out. Not only do they set up some major moments for the Rebirth-era, they're just plain good.

Even further outside of Gotham, Selina is wrapping up her solo series' first arc, which has brought her face to face with some surprising truths about herself and her family. CATWOMAN #6 is on its way on December 19, so don't miss the conclusion of her first post-Wedding storyline, and the kick-off to her next adventure. I don't know about you guys, but my little BatCat shipping heart still hasn't given up, so I'm hanging on every moment of this book for more.

And if you're feeling a little less romantic, don't forget to pick up THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS #1 this month (and read Rosie Knight’s breakdown of it here on Monday) for a big ol' dose of good old fashioned horror, Bat-Family style. It's terrifying, trust me, but oh so worth it.

Meg Downey covers movies, TV and comics for, and writes about Batman each month in her column, "Gotham Gazette." She's also a regular contributor to the Couch Club, our weekly television column. Follow her on Twitter at @rustypolished.