Batman #57, by Tom King, Tony S. Daniel, Mark Buckingham, Andrew Pepoy, Tom Morey and Clayton Cowles is brutal, shocking and violent, yet elegantly told.
“Beasts of Burden”: Conclusion
Written by: Tom King
Art by: Tony S. Daniel
Colors by: Tom Morey
Folktale Art by: Marck Buckingham & Andrew Pepoy
Letters by: Clayton Cowles
Batman confronts the Russian assassin KGBeast, seeking to bring justice to the man who put a bullet in the head of Nightwing. But will the anger prove to be too personal? Is it about justice or is is now about brutal revenge?
It’s hard to top last issue’s ‘holy shit’ moment of Nightwing getting a headshot courtesy of Anatoli Kenyazev, the KGBeast but writer Tom King does something almost as daring with this conclusion. After a brutal, almost wordless (unless you count grunts and moans) fistfight…SPOILERS FOLKS… Batman snaps KGBeast’s neck and leaves him paralyzed, lying in the snow, miles away from anyone or anything that can help him. It’s an act that seems almost out of character for the Caped Crusader. But this is fucking Batman we are talking about, so a certain level of planning and expectation has to always be considered. He knows what he is doing and not necessarily leaving the man to die. King has shown a deep understanding of Bruce’s psychology and what seems out of place is always shown to have been something lurking beneath the surface (like the much talked about ‘Batrimony’ and proposal).
Whatever your feelings on the final act of this fight, you have to admit that King has written one hell of a fight scene that showcases a master’s understanding of panel pacing and suspense building. The fight unfolds almost in real time. It’s fast and brutal.
But it’s not all fisticuffs as the issue is anchored by a couple of tender scenes that show both Bruce and Anatoli being read the same folktale, The Animals and The Pit, by their respective fathers. The moments of tenderness help to humanize these two brutal men and give us a glimpse at what drove each of them to violence. The prose here is also elegant; a nice yin to the yang of the guttural sounds of the fight.
The art in this issue is phenomenal. Tony S. Daniel is a master of drawing Batman, but his linework craft here is on another level. The fight ‘choreography’ is amazing, you can almost see these two pissed off men actually hurling fists and kicks at each other. The attention to detail is great too, as elements like the falling snow, texture on surfaces and facial expression play a huge part in making the issue work.
The folktale parts, by Buckingham and Pepoy, feel like genuine storybook illustrations. They are beautiful, delicate and suddenly brutal (like all great fairytales/folktales).
Accolades must be given to both colorist Tom Morey and letterer Clayton Cowles, whose work add the finishing touches that complete the package.
Batman #57 is the kind of comic that will get people talking, which has been a huge element of King’s long run so far. King, along with his round-robin style of collaborators, is creating a true medium defining classic run that has changed and will change Batman. A mark is being left on a character over 80 years old, and that is no easy feat. This is a book to keep reading until the end.