Bruce Wayne’s life in and out of his Batman costume has gotten rougher and rougher. Things got worse after Nightwing was shot in the head right in front of Batman and Commissioner Gordon. This major event has had a major impact on Batman, who was already dealing with a lot that was taking him down a darker path. Having his closest ally and family member be shot right in front of him was the last thing he needed. This has caused him to take a “stop at nothing” attitude to find Nightwing’s attacker, who is a much deadlier and efficient KGBeast. Now the question is what will happen when Batman finds KGBeast? Let’s find out by checking out Batman #57.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Tony S. Daniel (Main Story); Mark Buckingham and Andrew Pepoy (Folktale Story)
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Sometime in the past Anatoli Vasilavitch Knyazev’s (KGBeast) father reads him a folklore story, The Animals and the Pit, about a group of animals that decide to walk to St Petersburg together to pray to God.
In the present when Batman arrives outside the house Anatoli has been in KGBeast quickly fires his gun. Batman dodges most of the bullets but is hit in the arm by one of them.
Back in the folklore story the animals all end up falling into a deep pit without anything to eat.
Back in the present KGBeast blocks the batarang that Batman throws at him. Spotting Batman through his now broken window KGBeast decides to charge at Batman.
In the folklore story just as the animals start signing the fox, wolf and pig turn rabid and start eating the other animals.
Back outside Anatoli’s house Batman and KGBeast fight back and forth in the snow. Neither one ends up getting the advantage as they trade blows.
In the folklore tale the fox and pig end up turning on the wolf. With only the two of them left the fox ends up eating the pig, leaving the fox the last one alive.
Back to the fight, KGBeast ends up knocking Batman to the ground. When KGBeast is about to finish things off Batman pulls out his grapple gun and fires it at close range, hitting KGBeast right below his chin.
The folklore story closes with it left unknown if the fox ever gets out of the pit.
Back in the snowy fields KGBeast states that his neck is broken. KGBeast offers to tell Batman who hired him to kill Nightwing if Batman helps him. Batman states that he has a bullet in his arm and 186 miles to walk in the snow and ice. He goes on to say he is the world’s greatest detective so he’ll find out who hired KGBeast alone. Batman walks off after telling KGBeast to get his own help.
Sometime in the past Thomas Wayne finish telling a young Bruce the folklore story, The Animals and the Pit. Bruce asks his father to stay with him in his room tonight. Thomas sits down and says he can stay for a little bit as Bruce falls asleep. End of issue.
The Good: Tom King puts a definitive end to the clash with KGBeast that creates more questions about the direction of this series as Batman #57 concludes. Those questions create greater intrigue for where King is planning on taking the Batman franchise. Though Batman #57 suffers from a specific story choice that hurt the pacing and impact of the story that was told.
With how big of a deal it is that KGBeast shot Nightwing in the head there was no other way that the fight with Batman could’ve gone down than it being absolutely brutal. King delivers on that as Batman and KGBeast fight like neither one of them had anything else to lose. That position from both combatants made the fight between the two even more intense than their previous fight.
What added to the intensity in Batman #57’s big fight was King’s decision to keep the dialogue to a minimum. Not having any inner monologue from either Batman and KGBeast got over how this was not a normal fight. Both Batman and KGBeast had a personal stake in defeating the other. Leaving what they were thinking as they traded blows to the reader’s imagination made reading their facial reactions an effective storytelling device.
Making the fight between Batman and KGBeast better was how King built up to the final hit with the grapple gun. As the fight progressed King made both fighters more desperate to end the fight as they knew they were fighting on equal terms. Adding in the element of desperation made Batman’s choice to use his grapple gun on KGBeast an impactful ending.
Batman deciding to leave KGBeast to possibly die after getting his neck broken is something that will have fans talking for a while. This choice by Batman speaks to the state of mind he currently is in. Not only was he physically beaten up but when he nailed the final blow Batman was clearly emotionally tired. The fight clearly gave Bruce a way to released some of the anger that was building up inside him. Once it was over all he was left was with how he is now left to deal with the fallout of Nightwing being shot in the head on top of all the other emotional scars that has been building up for him.
KGBeast desperately asking Batman for help was a good way to show that he is willing to sell anyone out for a price. In this case the price was his life for information on who hired him to kill Nightwing. This tease of the person hired KGBeast feed into the greater narrative King is working on as it is heavily implied to be Bane. How this ends up working into how Bane is breaking Batman in every way possible will be interesting to see continue to build to whatever the endgame is.
With the majority of Batman #57 focused on an extended fight sequence Tony Daniel stepped up big to deliver some great artwork to accompany King’s story. Daniel made every blow feel like they mattered. He accomplished that by showing the growing battle damage in Batman’s costume and KGBeast’s face. It all built to the final moments of this issue with how Batman decided to end the fight and then leaving KGBeast to die in the snow.
The artwork from Mark Buckingham and Andrew Pepoy fit in well with the children’s folklore tale that King worked into Batman #57. Buckingham and Pepoy hit the right notes in how a children’s story should look. The design of the folklore tale made the dark twist in the story a surprising thing to see happen.
The Bad: While the intentions were positive the folklore tale that King told over the course of Batman #57 fell flat. The entire folklore tale felt came off as a last minute inclusion to fit the page count of this issue. The way we kept going back and forth between the folklore tale and fight hurt the overall pacing of the issue. There was never a proper transition between the two, creating a greater sense of the folklore tale being completely random.
It did not help that King tried to relate Batman and KGBeast to this story that they were both told by their fathers as children. This was a very heavy handed way to show that the two characters have some similarities. It would’ve been much more effective if King left it to the way they fought to show this. And given that Daniel’s did a great job in doing that through his artwork it made this connection less needed.
Given all the emotional weight of this story it would’ve been much more effective to use this page count to show Nightwing on death’s door. Even though we already know Nightwing survived it would’ve added to the story if we saw how doctors were trying to save his life. Seeing that status update would’ve also provide fans who don’t read the Nightwing series a way to get into what is going on with Dick Grayson’s status quo moving forward. Not doing that made Nightwing look like just a tool to propel the story forward rather than a meaningful character.
Overall: Batman #57 delivered an effective end to the “Beast of Burden” story arc. Tom King did a great job making the fight between Batman and KGBeast absolutely brutal. How the fight ended created a lot of intrigue around the direction King plans to take Batman. If it wasn’t for a questionable story decision Batman #57 would’ve been an even better issue than it turned out to be.