Letâ€™s return to the days of the cold war…
Batman Confidential has had a lot of ups and downs for me.Â On the one hand the series gives DC a chance to tell origin stories about Batman and his villains, tech, and history, but on the other hand, DC canceled Legends of the Dark Knight (I know, Iâ€™m a broken record).Â With the holiday weekend upon us, what better way to show our patriotism than having Batman take on the Russians, or more specifically, the KGBeast.
Whenever a writer wants to tell the story of how Batman first encountered the Joker, or how the Batplane came into existence, the challenge becomes how to tell the story in a more modern setting to keep up with the forward slips that keep Batman young and relevant.Â The Berlin Wall, which kicked off the fall of communism, happened twenty years ago come November.Â That would place Bruce Wayne somewhere between 10 and 18 years of age in the current timeline, which makes it highly unlikely he would have ever had a run in with the KGBeast.
This presents a problem for Peter Milligan, who wisely chose to drop the KG from the name, and simply call Batmanâ€™s upcoming foe The Beast.Â And instead of making him the Russian equivalent of Deathstroke, Milligan tells a tragic tale of a freakish boy captured and raised by the countryâ€™s biggest mob boss, the Tsar.Â The Tsar uses the Beast (in this issue named Fydor, instead of Anatoli Knyazev from the good olâ€™ days) as muscle to take down those who oppose him.Â Readers only glimpse The Beast, as he tends to lurk in the shadows of the sewer, and attacks his foe in the dead of night.Â Itâ€™s clear from the bits and pieces we see, that the Beast is going to be one scary monster.Â The build up of the character is a good one, as he attacks quickly, and in the dark, which parallels Batmanâ€™s modus operandi when it comes to putting the fear into the bad guys.
The Tsar has a grand plan to smuggle a nuclear bomb into Gotham to hold the city for ransom, but Batman gets wind of the deal, and appears to stop the Tsarâ€™s shenanigans by issueâ€™s end.Â Thereâ€™s a pretty cool moment as Batman ends up on the phone with the Tsar, who explains that Batman canâ€™t be in all American cities at once, making it clear he still plans on carrying out his plot. If Batman canâ€™t protect the entire country – which makes me wonder where the rest of the supers are – Batman is going to take the fight to the Tsar, which is obviously going to lead to a Batman/Beast showdown… of epic proportions!
The writing moves the reader through the story fairly quickly, and as already mentioned, I like how Milligan tells the story of the Beast, while building the anticipation for the full reveal in an upcoming issue.Â Thereâ€™s not a lot of the fighty-fighty going on in this issue, which once again makes me believe that HBO (owned by Time Warner the parent company of DC) would be wise to figure out a way to make a weekly Batman series that follows many of the stories told in this title.
On the art side, Andy Clarke delivers the kind of art I enjoy in my comic books.Â He adds a lot of details in the pages and panel, while still keeping everything fairly simple and smooth.Â The use of colors works well in this issue as well, as David Baron floods the panel with light that is motivated by the action.Â Even in the scenes that take place in dark hotel rooms, Clarke and Baron make use of ambient light to make sure readers know what is going on.
Even though I keep considering dropping the Batman Confidential series from my pull list, DC ends up delivering stories that I find engaging, and The Bat and The Beast is no exception. Tight writing, solid art, and the modern day reintroduction of a cold war villain earns Batman Confidential #31 4 out of 5 Stars.