Batman Annual #1 Review and Other Thoughts

Posted: June 2, 2012 by Jon Erik Christianson in Comicology - Comic Books, DC Comics

Beware, this review of Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, and Jason Fabok’s Batman Annual #1 review will feature spoilers. Proceed with caution.

The Batman series this year has been a winding, haunting thrill ride of an experience thanks to fine work produced by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and the rest of the Batman crew. Batman may have the best rogues gallery in all of superhero-dom, but the Court of Owls has managed to shoehorn its way in with the greats.

That being said, people may be curious to see what’s going on with Batman’s classic villains and their origins since the New 52 reboot. Penguin got his own (fairly stellar) mini-series complete with an origin story, Poison Ivy is out painting the town red (or green) with the Birds of Prey, Two-Face has been getting his story told in the back-ups of Detective Comics, and Harley Quinn similarly got her origin story re-told (don’t talk to me about it) in Suicide Squad. Oh, and the Joker got a face-lift.

But what about Mr. Freeze? Well, Batman Annual #1 takes a moment aside from the chaotic owl action to  re-introduce the dude with a cold shoulder.

Unfortunately, this still well-written story’s modification of Mr. Freeze’s origin story renders my icy hot passion for the character tepid. Click on after the break for the rest of my review.

Cover courtesy of DC Comics.

Mr. Freeze’s Batman: The Animated Series origin, in short, tells the story of one cryogenicist, Dr. Victor Fries, who freezes his wife Nora in order to save her from a fatal illness that is killing her, slowly but surely. He wants to find her cure. All the crimes he commits afterwards are directed towards this cure, either to procure funds or materials for her salvation.

In all fairness, that origin breaks down as he kills more and more people and his rationale becomes less rational and a sympathetic villain becomes less sympathetic. He can only commit so many crimes in the name of love before he’s either lying or being really inefficient with his crimes.

His new origin (SPOILERS SPOILERS) puts a twist on this. Mr. Freeze claims to be fighting on the behalf of Nora, whereas in truth “Nora” was never his wife. She’s Nora Fields, the first woman to ever be frozen for science. Fries apparently did his thesis on her.

Mr. Freeze has instead become crazy thanks to what appears to be a combination of a) a childhood fascination with the cold, b) a childhood where his mother was horribly debilitated when she fell through some ice, c) his childhood decision to end her now miserable existence by throwing her into icy water, d) an accident involving Bruce Wayne that turns him into Mr. Freeze, and e) some innate level crazy.

I get why his origin changed. His old one would never work long-term. That being said, this new origin no longer makes one of the few sympathetic Batman villains sympathetic.

He’s just a crazy, cold-hearted (intended) killer now. At least, that’s how he comes across. Some of Snyder’s tweets indicate that he still wanted Mr. Freeze to be sympathetic, which ultimately means the story did not come across as it was intended to.

Before reading BA #1, I had just finished the arc with Mr. Freeze in Batman: Arkham City. And even after fighting him, I felt terrible for him. Here he is, just a desperate man being taken advantage of by the Joker and the Penguin where all he wants to do is revive his wife. I truly consider Mr. Freeze to be a tragic ally in the game.

I feel apathetic towards this Mr. Freeze and I hate that.

I also don’t think the art helped. Overall, the art is pretty decent, but I think something goes off-kilter in the last few pages. The last few pages should ideally inspire both horror and sympathy. Instead, thanks to child Victor’s rather stagnant facial expressions, I just see a horrific, unfeeling psychopath. I think I’m supposed to feel bad, like I did in the very first pages of the comic.

Also, his mother’s injuries weren’t very well explained so I didn’t understand completely what had happened.

Again, the book overall is pretty decent. I enjoyed the storytelling regarding his early childhood, his accident with Bruce Wayne, his tussle with Dick and Damien, and his fight with Batman. I didn’t see why the Penguin bits were necessary nor do I think Freeze’s heartless actions at the jail furthered his “sympathy” problem.

The art, again, was mostly pretty decent. I got chills (intended) with how both Nora and Victor’s mother were drawn and the coloring by Peter Steigerwald was phenomenal. I do, however, hate Freeze’s mohawk. That seriously needs to go.

Overall, Snyder is still a strong writer and I’m sure Tynion is too. I just don’t think this new origin accomplished the tasks it should have accomplished.

Review 7.5/10

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