Sensationalised by “DC Comics” within its pre-publication publicity by pledging that the streets of Gotham City will run “red like borscht if the Dark Knight gets his way” against KGBeast, and sporting an impressively foreboding Tony S. Daniel’s illustrated foil cover, it’s not difficult to imagine that some readers probably quickly became somewhat frustrated with Tom King’s discernibly actionless script for Issue Fifty Six of “Batman”. In fact, despite the Eisner Award-winner’s narrative including the likes of the Bronze Tiger and Kanto, this twenty-page periodical’s central plot arguably barely contains anything like the violence the Burbank-based publisher’s marketing promised as the Russian assassin supposedly goes on a “rampage across Gotham City”.
Instead, it actually predominantly focuses upon Anatoli Knyazev catching up with his fat wheezing father in one of Russia’s “far east territories”, and dispatching the pot-bellied Vasily with a bullet to the brain; “<Hm. For this, you are weak. But that is my fault. I let you be weak. Because I love you, too, son.> Bang.” Of course, such a tense sequence, intermittently played out across the entirety of the comic, makes for a compellingly enjoyable read, but hardly lives up to this book’s pre-print hype of The Hammer’s former cybernetically augmented trainee tearing up Bruce Wayne’s metropolis so badly that his mayhem “takes a toll on Nightwing when he’s injured in the fray.” Indeed, having been shot in the head by Jim Starlin’s co-creation in this storyline’s previous instalment, the lack of even a medical update on Dick Grayson’s current status is especially infuriating, especially when Alfred Pennyworth is evidently on the verge of providing just such an appraisal following Batman’s identification of “the man with the missing arm at the restaurant” as the “professional killer.”
Fortunately, what King is good at is penning this comic’s titular character at his grimmest whilst trying to locate KGBeast and take him “down like the Berlin Wall.” Splendidly sketched by Daniel, the Caped Crusader has debatably never looked meaner, whether telling the Gotham gun dealer who supplied the Russian with a sniper rifle to run simply so he can savagely bat-a-rang him around the throat or losing three Bat-planes during his attempt to defeat the freezing cold of a harsh Siberian winter, and certainly appears wholly intent upon dropping “both the hammer and sickle on” Knyazev once he can get his hands on him.