It’s Batman versus the KGBeast, courtesy of Alexander Nikolayevich Afanasyev, a 19th century Russian folk writer and ethnographer. Can Batman defeat the KGBeast?
Tom King uses the parallel of Afanasyev’s The Animals in the Pit to tell the story of two-fighters combatting one another to the death until only one is left. The fox in this story is cunning and manages to trick all the other animals to be eaten. Is Batman the fox while the KGBeast is the pig? I’m not certain but this story can be read as hinting that there are other players in this tale who will soon be eaten and consumed by a greater schemer. The bat, figuratively, does not feature in Afanasyev’s story and because it can fly, could always escape from the traps set by the fox. The KGBeast has to be the pig, the one who starts the journey and is the second-last man standing.
The story would also mark a profound change in Batman’s attitude and behaviour as he nearly murders the KGBeast. I’m not worried about this as I know that there has to be someone else in the cold outskirts of Russia ready to rescue the KGBeast from his fate or consume him the same way the fox did with the pig. It is important to remember that early on, in King’s run, Batman has remorse for almost having killed the Riddler during the war between the Joker and the Riddler early in his career. His callousness here, all in the name of Nightwing is surprising but of course, it has to be part of the larger plot and arc that King is working towards. If you feel that Batman was a murderous fiend in this issue, remember that he does not kill and that even a botch attempt made him feel remorse for decades.
Tony S. Daniel handles the fight between the KGBeast and Batman while Mark Buckingham and Andrew Pepoy illustrate the folktale. I enjoyed the folktale pages better, of course. The fight between Batman and the KGbeast was formulaic and another one of those fights to the finish that comics and action films tend to specialize in.
I do hope that I am wrong on the near murder of the KGBeast and Batman’s confusion.