SPOILER WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Batman #57 by Tom King, Tony S. Daniel, Danny Miki, Tomeu Morey and Clayton Cowles, on sale now!
The tragedy of losing a loving parent is something you never really get over. You can learn to cope and hamper the loss just enough so it doesn’t eat away at you in the quieter moments of the day. You learn to keep living even if means adopting coping mechanisms that may not fit in the mold of what people see as normal grieving. However, very few orphans compartmentalize death by putting on a cape, jumping off rooftops, and punching criminals at three in the morning.
But hey, to each their own. If doing so keeps the creeping dread and existential realization of no longer having the foundation your childhood was built upon at bay, we suppose it’s a valid therapeutic method. Unorthodox, but valid... well, for Batman anyhow. (Quick Disclaimer: We do not encourage any grieving children out there to take up vigilante justice.)
We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again: Bruce Wayne deeply, deeply needs therapy. While we, as consumers of pop culture media have become so desensitized to the horrors of Martha and Thomas Wayne being gunned down in front of their child to the point where it has become storytelling shorthand, Bruce still feels its ramifications. Many creators has grappled with this in various ways.
We’ve seen Batman have an emotional breakdown upon reading a note from his father from an alternate timeline after the events of Flashpoint. We’ve watched as Bruce take in a myriad of children as his squires and develop a fatherly figure. Even his relationship with Alfred Pennyworth feels less like a man bossing his personal assistant around and more like a petulant child trying to accept the presence of a loving stepfather at times, reluctantly admitting the butler means more to him than he might be willing to admit. Over the past two years, writer Tom King has dabbled with the themes of father and son relationships frequently in one of the Dark Knight’s flagship titles. Batman #57 keeps the theme alive, and expands it beyond Bruce and Thomas.
Dad-dy Bat Doo Doo Doo Doo...
The story arc that wraps up in Batman #57, “Beasts of Burden,” dips into Batman’s psyche regarding how his relatively brief relationship with his father helped shape how he views those he sees as surrogate children. It's not exactly explicit in doing so, but the debate of nature versus nurture plays a prominent part in all of this. In a recent ambush by KGBeast, Nightwing was shot in the head by the Russian heavy, leaving Batman’s original protégé severely impaired. Needless to say, Bruce was none too happy and eventually stalked KGBeast to even the score under the pretense of justice. Batman essentially wants to be a good dad, and is sees he has failed at doing so (again).
Anyone who has even a slight working knowledge of Batman and his history of Robins would understand Bruce's primal motives, but what's interesting is how "Beasts of Burden" dives into the relationship between KGBeast and his own father, which oddly enough also ends in a moment of severe head trauma. Despite Thomas Wayne being a nurturing figure in Bruce's life, his death continues to haunt Batman.
Anatoli Knyazev on the other hand was not exactly reared with the same compassion, and this helped lead to the creation of one of the deadliest assassins in comics. But for both men, the relationship between them and their fathers helped shape them to be who they are today, for better or worse.