I have very mixed feelings about this issue. It isn’t bad. In fact, it’s very, very entertaining and I thought Jason Fabok’s clean lines and dynamic action were wonderful and Steigerwald did a masterful job of making each panel feel cold. I couldn’t put the thing down! But there are some very drastic changes to the Batman mythology here that I disagree with. Were the changes to Mr. Freeze’s origin good for the story that Snyder and Tynion were telling? Yes. Absolutely. But this isn’t some elseworlds tale; there are some serious ramifications here and I…well, I’ll just put it in spoilers later on and rant about it there or…ya know what, screw it. I should just write a full article about how the Batman rogues gallery is being treated in the New 52 because I don’t like the way things are going at all. Clayface has constant cameos as a punching bag and nothing more, Joker cut off his face and vanished, Harley has a new origin that’s terrible, Two-Face called himself “One-Face” and now thinks he could be District Attorney again, Poison Ivy is no longer a villain but a full-time anti-hero, etc. etc.

Just know that even though the annual is a bit pricey at $4.99 it’s well worth it because if you DON’T read it you’re going to miss out on a very interesting discussion among your fellow bat-fans about Mr. Freeze.

You’ll also miss out on more details about how long Batman has been operational. Ya know how a lot of fans were in an uproar over the New 52 and how it seemed that Batman had only been active for 5 years and that it didn’t add up? That’s like 1 Robin a year and everyone would have to age funny! Remember how quite a few fans theorized that Batman must have been an urban legend or something for a few years before going public and that the 5 year timeline was simply how long the world has been aware of Batman’s existence? Well toss that theory out the window. The Annual issue states that Bruce first returned from his globe trotting only 6 years ago. Batman has been around for 6 years. That’s it. Batman’s timeline is an utter mess so don’t think about it. Put it out of your mind.

One bit of Mr. Freeze’s origin that I will go ahead and touch on since it’s non-spoilerish and it won’t send me on a 2,000 word rant is that I just wish Snyder had taken this opportunity to change Victor’s last name back to Schivell (as it was in the 60s TV series and the Silver age comics) or anything other than “Fries”. I just find it stupid that the guy’s name was Dr. Fries and when he became evil he decided to lose the doctorate and change the spelling of his name to “Freeze”. It’s always irked me. And also there’s the whole coincidence of a guy named “Freeze” gaining freeze powers that always seemed like a bit much.

Overall

This isn’t an important or necessary chapter in the Night of the Owls. It adds nothing of importance to that overall story. It also isn’t a Batman Annual so much as it is a Mr. Freeze reboot that’s incredibly divisive. It’s sure to spark a really interesting discussion among fans, however, and for that reason you should probably check it out so you can join in on the debate because there are plenty of good points to be made on both sides of the argument. It’s a good story on its own and very entertaining and well drawn, but I don’t think that the changes made to Mr. Freeze’s character were positive or very original and I firmly believe that –other than making his incarceration in Arkham more understandable– this new characterization strips Mr. Freeze of his individuality

Spoiler
Since nobody wants to write Two-Face as having inner turmoil, Killer Croc as a victim of abuse, or Mad Hatter as being a lonely, desperate man, Batman is starting to run out of sympathetic villains. Maybe whoever writes for Arnold Wesker next can pick up the slack?
and will lead to weaker and far less compelling Mr. Freeze stories in the future.

SCORE: 7/10