Batman has hunted KGBeast across miles of tundra, and found him holed up in the shack the killer’s piggish father went to ground in. Bullets fly, blood flows, a tale is told, and someone's spine delicately snaps...
Tom King and Tony S. Daniel’s current run of Batman is everything that anyone could want from a superhero comic. Art and words are equally balanced: both lend nuance, action, and psychological depth to a story which delivers as much thrilling escapism as it does fodder for academic analysis.
The issue is symmetrically structured, opening in Russia (in the childhood home of KGBeast) where a (predatory) father is reading a well-loved story to his hungry son. Pages of the final fight between Batman and his foe are interspersed with excerpts from the story (as dark and nihilistic as any fable, despite the candy-colored tones of the illustrations) and it closes in Wayne Manor, in the bedroom of young Bruce, whose father denies him the pleasure of another telling of the same old story but who agrees, willingly, to sit with his son in the gathering dark.
This symmetry does more than highlight the similarities and differences between hero and villain (both of them loved father’s who could not, for various reasons involving violence and death, love them back) it also serves to frame the whole story, firmly, as a work of fiction, and that’s important. Let me explain. I’m not saying that we need to be reminded that Batman isn’t real. It’s about a grown-ass man who dresses up in spandex underoos and leaps from rooftop to rooftop fighting crime. If a person tried that in real life, they would be (at best) a meme. But fiction has one major advantage over reality, beyond the satisfactory thrill of a ten-minute escape from ordinary life. Fiction states plainly the truths our dreams (literal or cultural) slip to us buried beneath a thick disguise.
There’s a reason that both KGBeast and Batman we’re drawn to that macabre story. It’s the same reason that children are always drawn to fairy tales: it tells them something important about who they are.
Framing the larger story, this specific ‘Batman’ story, so carefully distances the reader from the action just enough to create resonance.
If you press your forehead to the mirror glass you can’t see your reflection. You can’t see the out of place hairs, the gravy stains, that unsightly blemish. You’ve got to step back.
So. If this issue resonates for you, it’s because you see yourself in it. As you were meant to.
If that’s too much, well, there’s always the (very real) pleasure of a swirling cape, flying bullets, the meaty thud of a gauntlet on a naked cheek, and the delicate, artistic crack of a fracturing spine. There’s always escape.
Right until the moment there’s not.
Some stories are fairy tales. Some stories are nightmares. This story incorporates elements of both — and the results are explosive.
Batman #57 Mirror Mirror
Writing - 9/109/10
Storyline - 9/109/10
Art - 9/109/10
Color - 8.5/108.5/10
Cover Art - 7/107/10
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