“Beasts of Burden” Part 3
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Tony S. Daniels, Mark Buckingham
Batman finally tracks down and confronts the KG Beast… but who will be the victor?
The conclusion to “Beasts of Burden” is somewhat disappointing after a fun, suspenseful set-up in the previous issue. Part of this is because writer Tom King struggles with writing interesting action scenes. Looking back, many of his fight scenes are broadly written, where much of the action is implied, but not fully shown. Many times King’s fights tend to be bland and uninspired.
The most notable example is the the conclusion of the I am Bane storyline where Batman defeats Bane by headbutting him and… headbutting him some more.
The same problems are displayed in this issue. It features the typical Batman punches and kickes, but not much variety. To be fair, Batman dispatches the Beast in a more creative way than he did with Bane, but this leads to another concern: Batman’s decision at the end of the issue.
Without giving too much away, Batman makes a pretty controversial choice at the end. On the one hand, it is cool to see it echo the ending of KG Beast’s debut arc Ten Nights of the Beast. However, it is also troubling to see Batman so far gone mentally.
Of course, this disturbing ending is intended to shake readers a little. King was wise to also parallel the Batman vs KG Beast battle with a Russian tale of a fox. The point is driven harder because of the eerily ambiguous ending of the fairytale.
No, the real problem with the ending is the lack of appropriate build-up. When compared to the previous issue, the ending did not feel like the natural conclusion to Batman’s character journey. Throughout this story arc, he has remained fairly level-headed, even jaunty on his quest to find KG Beast. So, it seems left-field and sudden for Batman to reveal darker tendencies at the end.
Furthermore, I was disappointed to not see a more emotional fallout to the Nightwing incident. King’s Batman is consistently written as stoic to the point of being aloof. Unfortunately, Batman acts this way the entire storyline too. There was no emotional catharsis, nor was there any direct acknowledgment of Nightwing. Batman acts likes a complete emotional vacuum. Which is fine-since Batman is like that at times, but it’s hard to engage readers to his character.
Interestingly, the most frightening thing about the issue for me were the fairytale segments. This is due to Mark Buckingham’s wonderfully cartoony and sunny art. Once, the fairytale takes a darker turn, the violence is downright nightmarish. On the flip side, Tony Daniel’s realistic art looks great and dynamic. You can certainly get a forward momentum from the fight scenes-even without the aid of speed lines. The snowy setting is also fun to see. Daniels usually thrives with shadowy environments, but seeing Batman and KG Beast in the snow stretches his artistic muscles a little bit.
Overall, I found the final chapter to “Beasts of Burden” underwhelming. The use of parallel storytelling and great art can only carry the comic so far. The build-up was lacking and the climax was a tad generic. What’s worse, King’s interpretation of Batman failed to engage me emotionally, making the whole adventure feel empty and shallow.
Images Courtesy Of DC Entertainment