There’s a point in Batman #56 where Batman crosses a line. It’s not an ethical or moral line. It’s a line in what he’s doing, what this investigation has done to him. He’s no longer the world’s greatest detective. He’s become the world’s greatest hunter.
Tom King, Tony S Daniel, Danny Miki, Tomeu Morey and Clayton Cowles pick up an indeterminate time after last issue ended here. I’ve said for a long time that King is telling a long-game story about Batman as a human being, not as a superhero or a myth. This issue shows us a new aspect of that journey that with a man determined.
[**Caution – Spoilers ahead!]
The KGBeast, Anatoly Knyazev, has returned to his home in Siberia after last issue, where he shot Dick Grayson in the head. There he confronts his father. They share a drink, and then the Beast murders his father.
Meanwhile, Batman is moving heaven and Earth to find Knyazev. He literally traverses the globe, confronting black market gun runners, ninjas, and even gods to find him. And the issue closes with a determined Batman trudging through the snow to the remote cabin, where Anatoly has just shot his father.
King’s story here reminds me of what’s really become important to Batman. Yes, he’s still a one-man war on crime, but he’s no longer the loner. He’s a family man. This issue shows why you don’t cross that line.
Bruce’s dogged journey to find Anatoly is wonderfully told. He’s angry, but he uses that to progress his journey. As I said in the opening, it progresses through the issue from an investigate to a hunt. The KGBeast is clearly prey, and it sets up an absolutely brutal confrontation between the two next issue.
Daniel and Miki’s line work is so great here. They sell a Batman who isn’t broken by what’s happened, but deeply changed. They also show how he grows increasingly obsessed. It’s not wild and crazy, but clear headed and angry. The highlight is the confrontation with the New God Kanto, where they’re able to show in just a few moments that Batman is completely in control of the entire situation.
Morey’s work is fantastic, but the best part of his work is the confrontation between the Knyazev’s. He shows the room bathed in just one light source, with the two figures and table between them bathed in warm light, and the rest of the room bathed in shadow. It creates SO MUCH atmosphere for that crucial part of the story.
I have no hesitation to say this has been and continues to be one of the best Batman runs of all time.
Batman #56 is available now from DC Comics.