Detective Comics #1016 review

So here’s how great of a writer Peter Tomasi is: the conclusion to the “Cold Dark World” arc is generally fine.  It wraps things up fairly well, I suppose, though it definitely doesn’t finish as strong as it started.

Even still, despite a somewhat odd pace and some twists that could have been disastrous in the wrong hands, I was still emotionally invested in the story being told.  True, this arc did hit its peak in the first few issues and never managed to attain that level of greatness again, even now.  There’s still enough great character work here that more than made it worth reading, though, and even recommending the arc as a whole.

Following Nora’s complete heel turn, Batman and Mr. Freeze have formed an uneasy alliance to try and bring her in.  Batman, naturally, wants both the Fries’ to answer for their crimes, yet he’s still sympathetic to Victor’s love for Nora.  That right there makes a great case for Tomasi being a great Batman writer: he knows that, in spite of Bruce’s drive to end crime, he still cares about people.  In fact, you could go so far as to say that it’s caring for others that actually motivates him, as he doesn’t want the same tragedy that he experienced to befall others.  That extends to a man he considers a foe, too: while he knows that Victor has made choices that have consequences, Bruce wants Fries to be able to restore Nora to the woman he loves.  As much as both Bruce and Victor may want to play at it, neither man is truly cold and heartless.

As a side note: please, please forgive me for an ice puns that I make, intentionally or no.  Some phrases are just too ingrained in the vernacular that it’s hard not to use them, while others are just so perfect that I would kick myself for not taking advantage of a prime opportunity.  I’ll leave it to you to decide which is which.

So, the plot of this issue can be boiled down to a pretty basic summary: Nora Fries has gone mad, and Batman and Victor team up to stop her.  As with all good stories, it’s the details that make it work, and there’s a lot of really interesting stuff going on here.  Before, I lamented that Nora’s turn was too abrupt, and I don’t think I phrased it properly.

Yes, it’s clearly explained in the text that Luthor’s formula had some sort of corruption that caused her to break bad.  I should have clarified in my analysis that it wasn’t so much the reason for her turn (which, I’ll admit, I didn’t address at all), but how little we know about her that makes it less effective.  All we know about Nora is the romanticized idea of their love as told through Victor’s point of view, so without knowing her as she truly was before, it’s not nearly as dramatic to see her become such a violent and remorseless killer.

Here, it’s explained that the formula Luthor provided Victor was a derivation of that used for the “B-Zero Experiment” way back in Forever Evil.  I like this for two reasons: one, it provides a somewhat plausible, in-canon reason for why this supposedly “special formula” would cause Nora to start acting like that.  I wasn’t a big fan of Forever Evil by any means, but I genuinely liked the Luthor and Bizarro subplot, so it’s nice to see a callback to it.

Second, it goes to show that even though Lex is positioning himself as an “apex predator” and an advanced and perfected human specimen, he’s still the same old devious Lex Luthor.  Using something that will give somebody what they think they want without any thought of side effects or negative consequences is a total Luthor move.  He got what he wanted, so why should he care what happens after the fact?

And man, when I say Nora is ruthless, I mean it.  She shuns the perceived weakness of Victor’s unrequited love, which is emotionally devastating in itself, and she has a complete disregard for human life as well.  Remember when Freeze froze a cop in the first issue of Gotham Central, then shattered the body?  How utterly shocking and despicable that was?  Well Nora takes it a step further by rearranging the remains of a dead, frozen police officer.  It’s a disturbing scene, to be sure, and even if I wasn’t completely sold on this drastic turn at first, Tomasi has been building it pretty well.

He’s aided, as always, by Doug Mahnke, who gets some support from Tyler Kirkham this go around.  Like José Luís, Kirkham’s style is a nice complement to Mahnke’s, and maybe even moreso.  Knowing that it’s two different artists, it’s easy to tell who took which pages, but the differences aren’t so drastic as to take you out of the story.  Like I’ve said before, I’d much rather have a single artist on a single issue and, by extension, a full arc.  That’s not always realistic, though, so if multiple artists are needed, then pairing them based on style is the way to go.  Even with multiple inkers, David Baron’s colors help keep everything cohesive by using those brilliant chill blues that have run through the story, and as always, Rob Leigh’s lettering is pitch perfect.  From the sound effects to the dialogue, there’s not a single misstep from Leigh.

The visual storytelling is less action-focused this time around, though as confident and competent as ever.  I love the layout choices, with different sized panels of a variety of shapes used to convey tension and mood.  The icicles bordering certain panels are obvious choices, yes, but no less effective, especially when the writing and visual storytelling are so strong.

And when there is action, well, it’s insanely entertaining.

I still love the ridiculousness of that suit.  Oh my gosh.  Bonus points for the snappy one-liner.

Without spoiling it, the best aspect of this issue– and perhaps even the entire arc– is the tragic role reversal the story ends on.  Freeze wanted one thing: to be reunited with his wife, at any cost.  He was given that gift, however fleeting, and ended up losing her in a completely different way.  Tomasi emphasizes character over conflict, when necessary, but proves to be a master at both.  I wish more time would have been spent on developing the various plot threads more than they were, but even still, it’s solid, competent storytelling.  You can say much worse things about a comic.

Recommended if:

  • You love Detective Comics.
  • You can appreciate a tragic role reversal.
  • You love ridiculous Batman costumes.

Overall: An entertaining story, confidently told by masters of their individual crafts.  There’s quite a bit in this issue that may not make me truly love a lot of the choices made in this arc, but they’re contextualized in a believable manner.  So while it may not be the story I would have told, I can still see why this is the story the creators chose to tell.  It looks gorgeous and there’s quite a bit of heart amidst tragedy, which is about what you’d expect from this Detective Comics creative team.

SCORE: 7.5/10