Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV really upped the depth of the classic Freeze character in this first Batman Annual of the New 52. Freeze is written as a mentally and emotionally disturbed man who has lost touch with reality. This villain has two obsessions in life – to awaken his wife Nora from her cryonic slumber where she was placed to save her from dying of a heart condition, and to destroy Bruce Wayne. Years ago Dr. Fries was a scientist and employee of Bruce Wayne’s. Having decided the study of cryonics was outdated and discomforting, Wayne shut down Fries’s lab. He prevented Dr. Fries from reviving Nora and took her out the mad scientist’s reach.
The result was a fight ending in an accident that changed Dr. Fries’s biological structure and created the well-known villain. That part is pretty standard. The interesting layer of this story is how Snyder and Tynion wrote the man that is Freeze as mentally disturbed even from childhood. He takes part in horrible acts of violence and when he later remembers the events, the memory has been manipulated in his mind in order to make himself into the victim. The idea of it is really quite fascinating. Several plot twists are offered in this issue. Unfortunately, though, they are rather predictable ones.
Such themes revolving around Freeze’s development as a villain offered enough of a high concept plot for this story to stand on its own, even though the issue does tie into the current Night of the Owls event. Continual references are made to the Court of Owls, shaping this story into the appropriately sized puzzle piece to fit into the event by adding Freeze’s motives behind his actions. But the tie-in is subtle. As it had been previously announced at the conclusion to the Night of the Owls event, I expected it to have more of a focus on that plotline, though I was not disappointed by its ability to maintain independence. The Freeze-focus was both engaging and important to building his role in the new continuum.
The storytelling would have, perhaps, been less effectual if it weren’t for the detailed, affective art of Jason Fabok and colors by Peter Steigerwald. The art was consistent throughout the entire issue, providing a realistic effect that drove this story home. I would think that it would be difficult to pose so much story against such a cold, white background as was required at times. But Steigerwald always made the eye follow the colors and the story through the wintery scenes.
I would recommend this issue to anyone following any of the Batman books. I would also recommend it to those considering following Batman and would like to get a taste of the storytelling without being shoved into a plot that can’t be followed without significant previous reading.