First teased by artist Tony S. Daniel through his Twitter account, Tom King’s script for Issue Fifty Seven of “Batman” undeniably provides a seriously bone-shuddering third chapter to “Bruce Wayne’s latest duel with the Soviet assassin” Anatoli Knyazev. But whilst “the fight between the Bat and the Beast” ably demonstrates just how formidably brutal a combatant Jim Starlin’s co-creation from the late Eighties can be when cornered three hundred clicks from civilisation, this twenty-page periodical’s most engaging asset is arguably it’s intermittent secondary plot thread detailing the exploits of a pig, wolf, fox, hare and squirrel travelling together to Saint Petersburg “to pray to god.”
In fact, in many ways it is debatably “the Cold War between Batman and the Russian killer” which intrudes upon this comic’s overall enjoyment, especially when the youngster’s night-time nursery read takes a decidedly dark turn into the macabre and disconcertingly describes three of the supposedly fluffy animals mercilessly feasting upon those “who has the thinnest voice” following the entire group’s entrapment down a broad, deep pit. Perturbingly pencilled and painful to peruse courtesy of the fox apparently “eating my own flesh” at one stage, these perplexing panels are a far cry from the imagery conservationist Beatrix Potter created with her twenty three children’s books such as “The Tale of Peter Rabbit.”
Of course that doesn’t mean to say that the ex-CIA officer’s well-penned fist-fight amidst the frozen tundra isn’t also worthy of praise, as few within this comic’s audience could surely have found much to fault with the Dark Knight’s grim-faced, pulse-pounding punch-up against the cybernetically enhanced hit man and it’s cheerless conclusion. True, the Caped Crusader is unnervingly on the wrong end of a severe beating by a one-armed man whose simple-looking prosthetic hook can apparently scythe through the costumed vigilante’s face mask and body armour like a hot knife through butter. Yet the World’s Greatest Detective had apparently just trudged “through nothing but snow and ice” for almost two hundred miles, as well as “got a bullet in my arm.”
Regardless of any writing quibbles, Antonio Salvador Daniel is clearly at the very top of his game drawing “Beasts Of Burden”, and whether it be Batman unsuccessfully dodging all of his foe’s numerous shots, or Knyazev felling his well-worn opponent with a series of ‘big boots’, each and every one of this book’s break-breaking pictures is packed full of animated life. Indeed, it’s a genuine shame that the “Battle For The Cowl” illustrator doesn’t continue to regularly sketch for this title, or that “folklore artists” Mark Buckingham and Andrew Peopy won’t dip into another of the fictitious Alexander Nikolaevich Afanesyev’s traumatising tales.