“Beasts of Burden” Part 1
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Tony Daniel
Batman and Nightwing face down the new KG Beast, but not in the way you would expect.
This issue is a continuation of the examination of Batman and Nightwing’s relationship. There are a lot of fun character moments, just like in the previous issue. We see Nightwing makes quips and riffs off of the always stoic Batman.
In retrospect, the majority of this issue has a lighthearted tone. Batman and Nightwing battle against silly threats, like the new Ghost Pharaoh. All the while, the mood is cheerful and full of puns and jokes.
With such a bright tone, Tony Daniel’s moody, serious art feels almost ill-suited. One cannot help but wonder what if the issue was drawn in a more cartoony style, like Matt Wagner’s or Mike Allred’s? Daniel’s art is serviceable and detailed, however, the fluffy feel that writer Tom King is going for between the Dynamic Duo is totally lost on his art. This is not Daniel’s fault, but more the editor’s. In fact, one may argue that the cliffhanger ending-while undeniably dark- would have been more impactful and shocking if depicted by a more cartoonish artist.
Speaking of the shock ending, it is a doozy. It is sure to be controversial and anger some sects of fans. King does his best to build up the narrative to go one way and then go in a completely different direction. He also does a great job building up the new KG Beast. Half the comic is peppered with slow scenes of seeing the Beast prepare for action. It may seem boring to see the Beast doing mundane things like eat lunch, but King smartly intersperses those scenes between the high-flying superhero antics. Furthermore, the Beast’s scenes are integrated into the plot and create a mounting sense of dread.
Another example of how good King is at setting things up, is demonstrated with a throwaway line. King filled the majority of the fight scenes with his typically-annoying writer’s tic of having his characters repeat lines in slightly different ways. (“That’s so much harder.” “It is not harder.”) Fortunately, mid-way through the issue, one realizes that King was over-using his banter as a set-up for a genuinely funny meta-joke. One can debate whether the joke is funny enough to endure an issue’s-worth of repeated lines. Fortunately, it is just barely funny enough to make it tolerable. Barely.
King and Daniel do a fine job setting up the next stages for both Batman and Dick Grayson. The issue was light and breezy with a shock ending. However, the tedious banter and ill-fit art style did bring down my enjoyment of the story a little.
Images Courtesy Of DC Entertainment.