Mr Freeze has been a lot of things over his long history. One not villain obsessed with freezing, break out character given a dramatic and tragic new origin in the Batman Animated Series, turned into a pun spewing monster in the Batman and Robin and even turned into the only boss that actually works really well in either of the Arkham video games. Now, in honor of it being the first Batman Annual in quite some time, current Batman writer updates Mr Freeze for the new 52 universe. But just what changes have been made to the character?
What I liked:
From the very first page the thing that strikes you about this comic is how amazing Jason Faboks artwork is. The beautifully sparse image of a boy and his mother crossing ice, Mr Freeze’s vacant red eyes, an ice breakout, everything in this comic really does look astonishing. And considered that the main batman title has had the same artist for 9 issues with no end in sight, letting another work his magic is really great to see.
Mr Freeze himself:
When Mr Freeze is done right, there’s just something that works incredibly well. While most of Batman’s enemies are psychopaths to some degree, having a character who’s whole reason for crime is to resurrect his dead wife is pretty tragic. Though it’s largely undone by the end, for the most part Scott Snyder does Freeze proud by making him a pretty tragic character. A tragic character who’s also pretty bad ass.
The Dynamic Duo:
One of the best things in Batman recently was pairing up Dick Grayson as Batman with young crazy Damien Wayne. The two had a spark that worked in a really cool way. Though their union was sadly (But logically) broken up post-Flashpoint, the two are allowed one brief reunion to face off with Freeze. Can we get these two back together? Please?
One concise story:
The main Batman title has been bleeding out one increasingly tedious story for months now and every other title is wrapped up it’s own little world. It’s great to be able to pick up this title and get a whole story cover to cover that doesn’t require me to research for hours online or collect several tie in issues.
What I’m on the fence about:
Bruce Wayne is a horrible person:
A number of changes are made to Mr Freeze’s origin and while one of them I outright don’t like, another directly blames Bruce Wayne for Freeze’s physical ailment. It all just feels unnecessary to blame Bruce for absolutely every crazy person with a grudge.
What I didn’t like:
Night of the Owls:
For those not in the know, every since Batman relaunched last year, Scott Snyder has been weaving a hit and miss tale that basically involves an ancient society obsessed with owls that employs zombie assassins. This all came to a head in May when a massive cross over with all the Batman titles was launched. This annual bares the logo that it’s part of that cross over and while it does have some mentions to it (including that the zombies live forever through his tech), it ultimately adds absolutely nothing at this point to that overall narrative. Scott Snyder may surprise me by making this whole thing amazingly relevant to the whole Night of the Owls story, but at this point it feels like they just slapped the title on the cover for sales.
He’s in the comic and ultimately adds nothing. At least nothing I could tell. Maybe they had to pad out the page count?
Freeze’s new look:
He has a Mohawk now. That’s kind of silly. And his suit doesn’t cover his arms. That just looks bizarre.
The somewhat dramatic changes:
Mr Freeze was dramatically reinvented from a forgotten villain into an amazingly tragic figure via the episode “Heart of ice” of the batman animated series from the 90’s (look it up, it won an Emmy). Basically Freeze does all his craziness because he’s desperate to resurrect his wife Nora from cryogenic freezing. It separates him from all of Batman’s genuinely crazy foes in a rather cool way. The annual largely follows this back story until it’s revealed that Mr Freeze was never actually married to Nora. She was just some sick lady who got frozen back in the 40’s and Freeze became so obsessed by her that he genuinely believed she was his wife. This ludicrous and unnecessary back story is made even more unsettling considering that the story is bookened by a young Freeze losing his mother into some ice where we’re told she was preserved before being revived in an incredibly impaired state. The end of the book shows the young Freeze dumping his mother’s wheelchair back into the ice.
Now unless I’m wrong, Scott Snyder seems to be suggesting that Freeze had some weird emotional thing for his mother and now carries that out by trying to resurrect some random lady who’s “Old enough to be his grandmother!” that he pretty much is convinced he’s married to.
This, coupled with Freeze’s offhanded confession that he’d torture and freeze animals when he was a kid basically turned a unique villain into just another psychotic with a hang up. Admittedly a more complex and interesting one than “I want to destroy stuff!” but still incredibly unnecessary considering how tragic and simple his desire to bring his wife back at the cost of his own and others lives was.
These changes are subtle but they really do wreak of a writer wanting to put his own stamp on a character who merely needed to be modernized, not torn down and rebuilt.
Ridiculously expensive for such a slight story.
The Batman Annual may end up being a controversial redoing of a Batman adversary or it may be rapidly forgotten. In any event, I found that the good really outweighs the bad, especially when you factor in how beautiful this thing looks. If you can stomach the cost, you’re left with a fun and exciting story. There’s probably nothing here that has to be read though.