Writer: Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV
Art: Jason Fabok, Peter Steigerwald
Publisher: DC Comics
Batman Annual #1 brings one of Batman’s most sympathetic villains into the New 52 universe: Mr. Freeze. As is often the case with characters in the New 52, his origin story gets some tweaks, a few of them rather surprising, but on the whole, this is a great introduction for one of the all-time classic Batman villains.
For many fans, Batman: The Animated series had the definitive version of Mr. Freeze and his origin. The episode “Heart of Ice” gave the character a deep level of empathy, so much so that it was kind of hard to really feel like he was the “bad guy.” Batman Annual actually follows that template fairly closely, but then as Scott Snyder often does, puts it all in a surprising new light. Some of it works quite well, but has the side-effect of making Mr. Freeze less of a sympathetic character and more of a traditional, delusional villain. Other twists don’t work nearly as well; Bruce particularly seems to act out of character as he takes the place of a role that was filled by someone else in the animated series. This wouldn’t be so bad per se, if it wasn’t for the fact that Bruce’s dialogue is eerily similar to that of the other guy in the animated episode, and that guy was a real corporate, sleaze ball jerk; not something Bruce Wayne is usually associated with.
As is often the case when Mr. Freeze is involved, one of the motivating factors for everything that takes place is love. Typically, everything Mr. Freeze has done in the past has all been done out of love and devotion to his wife Nora, although that’s all brought into question here. In fact, Batman at one point accuses Mr. Freeze of not even knowing what real love actually is; but Freeze isn’t alone in that dilemma. Many have no idea what love really is. Love is often confused with feeling good, or with lust or passion, but true love, while it may have elements of those things, is much more than any of that. Want to know what love really is? 1 John 4:10 says “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Love isn’t about us and our wants, and love often times isn’t even mutual. There’s no greater example of that than Jesus on the cross. He died because God loves you. You may not love him, you may not even acknowledge that he exists, but he still loved you enough to have his son Jesus die in your place, to pay the price for your sins, so that if you should so choose, you could experience true love in a relationship with God.
Batman Annual #1 may have a Night of the Owls banner across the top, and it does have a few mentions of those events and some ties to what’s happening as Gotham faces the wrath of the Court of Owls, but for the most part this is an origin story; this is the re-introduction of one of Batman’s most intriguing villains. For that alone, this issue is worth the price of admission. That it adds some interesting new twists to said origin is just icing on the cake.
Score: 6 of 7
A BIG thanks to Astro-Zombies for providing the material for this review. Learn more about them at astrozombies.com.