In the midst of all “The Dark Knight Rises” hype, it is easy to overlook the “less in the public-eye” world of Batman in his current comic form. With the relaunch of 52 DC comic titles, it was a bit unnerving for a die hard Batman fan like myself to see a mythos that had lasted since the 30′s rebooted with new first issues. Thankfully Batman did not undergo the massive retooling of say Aquaman or Swamp Thing.
The biggest changes are as follows: Barbara Gordon can walk again and has taken back the mantle of Batgirl. This is so far the best change made as Bab’s will always be “my Batgirl.” Dick Grayson is Nightwing again and has taken over Haly’s Circus. Damian Wayne is still Robin but works closely with his father in the pages of “Batman and Robin” which has become easily my favorite New 52 series. Commissioner Gordon has red hair and is younger looking a la “Year One.” Jason Todd and Tim Drake are doing their thing leading The Outlaws and Teen Titans respectively but I haven’t been able to get into these comics myself as they didn’t appeal much to me after reading both number 1 issues. This was a shame to me as both characters are personal favorites of mine when found in the Batman world, but lackluster on their own.
Now on to my new personal favorite New 52 adjustment: Mr. Freeze. Say what you will about the character but just don’t pass judgment solely on the version portrayed by Schwarzenegger! (I know it’s hard believe me.) For me Mr. Freeze has always been one of my favorite Bat-villains. I think it started with the 60′s show. The first episode with Freeze has Batman and Robin actually frozen by his ice ray. They weren’t put into some silly death trap like a giant milk shake or anything and I think that’s why this one always stuck with me: it seemed to me that for the first time, the dynamic duo were in real trouble. So when the New 52′s first Batman Annual came out this week, I was very excited to see that Mr. Freeze was the focus.
I truly do not have a SINGLE negative thing to say about this 40 page issue. Written by the amazing Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV with beautiful art and cover by Jason Fabok, this issue was a joy to read and look at.
The bulk of the story focuses on a Mr. Freeze origin we have all seen before: Dr. Victor Fries works for Wayne Enterprises this time around in the cryo-lab in the basement. Secretly he is working on thawing his wife Nora from her icy slumber. Normally Freeze is trying to find a cure for her but in this issue he has already done it. The major plot points center around the Bat-family issue cross-over “Night of the Owls.” It’s too much to get into now, but basically the Court of Owls use this unthawing technology created by Freeze to reanimate long gone assassins.
The real great stuff occurs when we learn that it was Bruce Wayne who pulled the plug on Victor Fries’s unsanctioned experiments on his wife Nora. This of course makes Victor a very sympathetic character and as he tries to attack Wayne he inadvertently causes an accident dousing himself with Cryogenic material. This transforms him into Mr. Freeze: a literally cold-blooded killer who can freeze you just with his touch, and can put liquid nitrogen-like fluid into his mouth and spit it at prison guards! Freeze wants revenge on Wayne as well as the Owls for taking his wife from him and stealing his scientific research.
At this point you might be asking why this is such groundbreaking stuff? Well then let me hit this with a SPOILER ALERT tag and beg you to read the comic before reading the rest of this post.
Still here? Ok here it is… At the end when Freeze comes to kill Wayne and is met with Batman, the Dark Knight himself reveals during the battle that Freeze’s wife Nora has been at Wayne Enterprises since 1940 along with other frozen human experiments from over the years (think frozen Walt Disney.) Freeze never was married to her and his psychosis is far greater than anyone could have ever imagined! When I read this I was so excited to have the classic villain origin turned upside down and on its head. I haven’t been this shocked reading a comic in years. Also young Freeze apparently murdered his own mother by pushing her into a frozen lake! Yikes.
If you are a fan of Batman or Mr. Freeze, walk don’t run to a comic store, or your iPad comics app, and get the new 52 Batman Annual #1. You won’t regret it.