Batman has many classic villains. Mr. Freeze has always been a good villain but never a great one...until now.
When DC first announced that Scott Snyder would be getting his hands on Mr. Freeze, it seemed a bit of a strange choice for a villain in the first Batman Annual in the "New 52." Thinking about it for a bit, it made perfect sense. This was the time and opportunity to turn a good Batman villain into a great one. Mr. Freeze never had a definitive story that made him unforgettable. His best story was from Batman: The Animated Series. He deserved a better story and that's what Snyder and James Tynion IV have done. (Check out what Scott had to say about retooling Mr Freeze here).
Looking over the first page once again as I write this, I can honestly and truthfully say I just got a chill thinking about how this story ends. I'm being completely honest, no "chill out" puns here. Snyder wanted to make Freeze creepy. That's what we get. Originally he was just a dude that was in an accident that required him to be in cold temperatures. There's something about the calm and quite Victor we see in Arkham, moments before the Night of the Owls story hits. Freeze is not only creepy and deadly but we also are reminded that he's got some intelligence. Why is the Court of Owls after him? You'll find out and it makes perfect sense. It's a surprise no one brought it up before this.
There are some changes being made. Freeze isn't just going to be a cold and deadly lunatic. What he does, he does for a reason. Snyder brings us into his mind a bit. That little bit is more than enough to show us the potential he has. Without going into details, I will say that Nora is still a focus here but there is a tie to another character in Freeze's past. I can easily see some not approving this change but the way it all plays out is perfect. There's plenty of twists and turns here.
I know I've offered a lot of praise for this issue but what really got me was the art. It's by no means bad. It's pretty good. It's just not great enough to blow me away. We've seen so many interpretations and comics with Batman by so many different artists. This art just felt like really good but average Batman art. For the annual and for the semi-reinvention of Mr. Freeze, I would've liked to have seen more. Perhaps I'm being a little over-critical but after seeing Greg Capullo, Rafael Albuquerque as well as Jock and Francesco Francavilla work with Snyder on BATMAN, my expectations are high.
In the "New 52" we've seen a few changes and updates with characters. Some haven't felt absolutely necessary but the changes Scott Snyder has brought to Mr. Freeze will change the way you look at him as a Batman Villain. Freeze never really had a true motive or reason for being a villain besides suffering from an accident and the story written in the animated series. I'm not normally one to cheer on changes and tweaks but Snyder gives Freeze what has been needed for a long time. As great as the story is, it's the art that prevents me from absolutely loving this issue. My expectations are high when it comes to Snyder/Batman issues and for this update with Freeze and the first new BATMAN ANNUAL #1, it should all be mind-blowing. The art is very good and fits the story well. I might be a little greedy in wanting more. We haven't seen many changes to the Batman characters in the "New 52" and Snyder shows us the advantages to being able to make these sort of updates. Mr. Freeze is now completely worthy of being a major villain in Batman's rogues gallery.
I've read many Batman annuals over the years. Many have been unremarkable. This Batman annual will be unforgettable.