Batman Annual #1 (DC Comics)
by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV & Jason Fabok
Writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion retcon the origin of Mr. Freeze in this annual, and some fans of the villain concept (perhaps best fleshed out in Batman: The Animated Series) haven’t reacted well to it. But by the end of the opening prologue scene, the writers had me; I was in. They’ve presented a vision of Victor Fries as a much more damaged and unstable figure, but I think he remains just as tragic. The anguish that drives him, rather than stemming from a personal loss, arises from mental illness. These revisions add to the character, in my view, and I also appreciated the more direct connection to Bruce Wayne. The script strives a little too hard to connect the story to the “Night of the Owls” storyline from the Batman line of books, and it’s really not necessary. Snyder and Tynion are clearly trying to suck in a few more readers with the tenuous connection and justify that “Night of the Owls” logo on the cover. Since no Talons or Owls or whatever turn up in this story, though, they’re more likely to annoy readers who picked the comic up specifically for the Owl connection.
Jason Fabok’s art is effective and sharp. It reminds me a great deal of the style of Gary (“Shazam!” feature in Justice League) Frank, and its level of detail and realism really brings out the drama — notably in the opening and closing flashback scenes. Those scenes are particularly striking due to the sparse background detail. The rural setting isolates Victor physically, reflecting the isolation he’ll experience socially and psychologically later in life. The almost blank background in those flashbacks also works as a symbol of young Victor as a blank slate who’s about to be defined by an extreme circumstance. The muted blues and greys in those scenes also convey the cold — both literally and thematically — quite effectively. 7/10