Batman relentlessly hunts down KGBeast after the latter shot Nightwing in the brain at the end of the last issue. The trail leads him deep into the frozen heart of Siberia, to the home of his quarry’s brutally abusive, long-estranged father — a man known as The Beast — who is the only person in the world that KGBeast has allowed himself to love. KGBeast reveals that he has taken Batman's son, in revenge for Batman robbing him of an arm, and the old man informs him that it would have been better to leave the son and relieve Bruce of an arm. KGBeast agrees that, yes, arms are more important than sons. Then he shoots his father in the head and waits for Batman to make his long-delayed entrance into the shack.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: KGBeast’s lost arm is an excuse. It’s the explanation that he gives himself for seeking vengeance. It’s got nothing to do with the real rage behind his quest to rob Batman of Nightwing. The true cause of the wrath that Anatoli feels is given when he tells his father what he took as punishment for the loss of his arm. And his father’s response tells you everything you need to know about why Anatoli chose Batman as a target.
This is a story about fathers and sons. The hero is a father, whose son has been taken from him. The villain is a son, whose father has taken everything from him. The hero loves his child. Importantly, his child is adopted, and (to his shame) it is the child that he loves more than the product of his blood. He chose, intentionally, to be a father to this child because (as the last issue established) he sees himself in Dick. The villain recognizes this and is taking vengeance for being denied that love from his own parent, who spawned him but then brutalized and rejected him. He gave everything he had to (intentionally) becoming a mirror-twin of his father — even to the point of adopting a variation of his name. And it was never enough. It could never be enough. His father was nothing, a swirling void of self-destruction armed with a pair of brutal fists.
The lost arm was absolutely incidental.
Because Anatoli recognizes that he cannot hurt his own father (the old man doesn’t care) he targets a man who represents everything that he longed for (and which was totally denied) when he was a child. KGBeast’s own father is absolutely incapable of self-reflection, and that capacity is necessary in order to understand a punishment. Without it, you might as well be kicking an alligator. You might hurt it, but you’ll definitely get bitten.
There is a definite edge of self-destruction to this incarnation of KGBeast. He knows what Batman is. He knows what he has done, and he knows that Batman is probably hurt and angry enough to cross the barricades of his morality and kill him. But Tom King is a good enough writer (who has read enough Jung) to know that suicide is probably the point.
The theme of self-destruction (and how we deal with the urge) has been a consistent field of exploration in the series. Some people are born to force a moment to its crisis. Some people dare to disturb the universe. Certainly, KGBeast has reduced himself to a gun and a single ragged claw, waiting for vengeance to stalk in across the dead, white snow — and break him.
A deeply psychological story told with nuance, depth, and badass flair.
Batman #56 Fathers and Sons
Writing - 9/109/10
Storyline - 9/109/10
Art - 8.5/108.5/10
Color - 8.5/108.5/10
Cover Art - 7.5/107.5/10
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