Title: Batman Annual #1 – The Torment of Mr. Freeze
Writers: Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV
Artist: Jason Fabok
Publisher: DC Comics
Rating: 5 / 5
Whoa, was I ever late to the party on this one!
It may have taken me nearly 3 years to read this Batman annual, but I can honestly say it’s one of the better single issue comics I’ve read from the New 52 to date. While technically it was marketed as a tie-in to the then-running Night of the Owls arc, The Torment of Mr. Freeze can be read as a brilliant and poignant stand-alone re-imagining of the Victor Fries origin story.
I’ve said it in other reviews over the past couple years, but Scott Snyder is, for my money, the best Batman writer since Paul Dini. Every fan of the Dark Knight is going to have their own perceptions of who the character is and how he should act, which–granted–after 75 years of stories, that’s pretty hard to change. Snyder does the uncanny in spooling various threads from incarnations of the Bat over the years to both appease fans yet make it his own. But enough about Batman, this issue is all about Mr. Freeze!
As a self-professed lover of Batman: The Animated Series (it rocket-fueled my love for Batman), “Heart of Ice” (the Emmy award-winning episode written by Paul Dini) was pretty much responsible for Mr. Freeze being brought back into the comics canon. Then an unfortunate incident happened where an Arnold got ahold of the character. But we won’t mention that here. Snyder and Tynion’s Mr. Freeze is given a new origin and reason for hating Bruce Wayne and the Batman. Of course it echoes the origin story most fans will be familiar with, but the writers are able to change it enough that we can feel both nostalgia for what we loved and enjoy the fresh take on it at the same time. I won’t go into any spoilers, but there are some touching (or chilling, depending how you look at it) scenes from Victor’s past that help us get into the villain’s mindset.
Until this comic I had never heard of Jason Fabok, but with just one issue he has firmly planted himself on my comic map. His art is simply fantastic. The menacing facial expressions on Freeze and Penguin are just superb and you can really appreciate the time he put into the intricacies of the line work on Freeze’s suit.
If you read the Court of Owls arcs, this comic does a great job of giving a little bit of extra exposition into that storyline, but even if you hadn’t I think it’s right up there with the best of them as best single-issue Batman stories in recent years. Even if it really isn’t about Batman. Highly recommended!
Review by Brent Gladney