SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Batman #56 by Tom King, Tony S. Daniel, Danny Miki, Tomeu Morey and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
The KGBeast committed a beastly act at the end of last issue, grievously wounding Nightwing and possibly changing his life forever. Dick Grayson coping with his injury is addressed in Nightwing #50, but the KGBeast’s next steps, as well as Batman’s, are tracked in Tom King and Tony S. Daniel’s Batman #56. Anatoli Knyazev continues to live up to his name in this issue, and the true — and tragic — origin of that name is revealed.
Following his attempt on Nightwing’s life, KGBeast — actually known simply as The Beast — makes his way back to a remote region of Russia. The purpose of his journey is to confront his father, Vasily, where the two share drinks and discuss their pasts. The visit isn’t a son bonding with his father, though — instead, the two discuss their tortured pasts, particularly Anatoli’s.
As it turns out, Vasily was an abusive father, particularly when drinking. Anatoli reveals that the name he and his siblings gave his father during these abusive episodes was none other than The Beast. Yes, that was the name he took as a Soviet agent, but the term is actually one that he appropriated from his troubled childhood. While his father was a beast in his eyes as a child, his upbringing hardened Anatoli into a beast too.
Curiously, The Beast’s first appearance in DC Comics’ Rebirth era didn’t even acknowledge his Russian roots. In his appearance in All-Star Batman, he was largely shown as a hunter and assassin for hire. It’s not until this issue’s reveal that his father is Russian that the villain’s nationality was confirmed.
As if The Beast’s history — especially his recent shooting of Nightwing — didn’t already convey his brutality, his actions in this issue certainly do. The conversation turns antagonistic when Vasily criticizes his son for being too soft, a rather dangerous accusation to make to an assassin. Perhaps in response to his father’s criticisms, or perhaps finally acting on a long-held wish, Anatoli shoots his father in the head. Unlike his attempt on Nightwing, though, this shot is decidedly fatal.
The entire exchange comes across as a perverse kind of father/son ritual. Vasily’s alcohol-fueled transgressions against his son inadvertently hardened him into the killer he would become. Now an adult, Anatoli drinks with his father, but the son becomes the aggressor after a few too many. As though the student has now surpassed the master abuser, Anatoli’s victimization of his father fatally trumps the suffering he once endured at his hands.
Anatoli’s days of getting beaten likely aren’t behind him, though, as Batman has tracked him down and is looking to make him pay for what happened to the man he has long considered to be his first son.
Batman #57 goes on sale Oct. 17.
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