The last issue of Batman saw writer Tom King send the KGBeast with wrath to Gotham City (and leave Nightwing in critical condition at issue’s end).
Now it’s time for Batman to do what he does best (well, one of the many things he does best): vengeance.
Per the DC synopsis:
The Dark Knight’s looking to drop both the hammer and sickle on the KGBeast, whose rampage across Gotham City takes a toll on Nightwing when he’s injured in the fray. Blaming himself for his ward’s fate, Batman gets grimmer than usual–and vows to take the Russian assassin down like the Berlin Wall. Is even Gotham City ready for that much violence? The streets will run red like borscht if the Dark Knight gets his way against this Soviet scourge.
First, the intern who wrote that synopsis had a little too much fun with the analogies. Second, Batman #56 is about as diametrically opposed in tone from that synopsis as you can get; that is, this issue is no joke — it’s dark, dangerous and skillfully demonstrates the prowess of a doggedly driven Batman (the path writer Tom King carves for Batman’s pursuit of KGBeast is enjoyable as all hell, especially a scene where Batman must confront an assassin who may know the Beast’s whereabouts). And considering what KGBeast did to Nightwing last issue, there aren’t many situations that would result in a Batman more driven than we get to witness him here.
King gives the KGBeast equally impressive build-up. Besides the aforementioned lengths which Batman must go to find him bolstering KGBeast’s already renowned hyper-competence and mystique, we’re also given a glimpse into the Beast’s deranged family history; we learn about his sisters, his brothers, his mother and primarily his father — the latter whose behavior around his son quickly makes it very clear why the Beast turned out the way he did. Although it’s a side of the Beast we’ve never seen before, the issue ends with the Russian uber-assassin looking no less brutal or sadistic as a result.
My one small gripe — we don’t get much follow-up information regarding Nightwing condition after last issue’s shellshock of an ending and we still have little idea what motivated KGBeast. But those are both narrative elements that will most likely be addressed next issue in the finale.
The art by Tony S. Daniel (pencils), Danny Miki (inks) and Tomey Moreau (colors) once again galvanize King’s script. Daniel’s facial expressions never fail to impress, from the tense scenes between KGBeast and his father to a close-up of Batman’s steely gaze as he hunts down a fear-stricken guns dealer to the air of mustache-twirling, Renaissance-era pomposity during the scene with the mystery assassin. There’s also a scene where Batman trudges through a blustery, snow-blown landscape so vivid you can feel the icy cold.
Batman #56 is another absorbing chapter in King’s “Beasts of Burden” storyline and one which masterfully builds towards the big showdown next time around. Pick this one up with the quickness.