Part of the point of villains month at DC Comics seems to be to tweak or revise characters who have already shown up in the new continuity. Lobo’s latest revamp is the one that’s getting the most attention (over in “Justice League” #23.2), but it’s not the only one. Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti and Jason Masters appear to be trying to do something on a smaller scale in “Batman: The Dark Knight #23.2: Mr. Freeze,” as they redefine Mr. Freeze’s motivation.
We’ve actually already seen Mr. Freeze’s origin in the New 52, back in “Batman Annual” #1, so it’s a little surprising to see Gray and Palmiotti trying to change parts. To be fair, they aren’t wiping things out wholesale; instead they’re shifting what drives Mr. Freeze, removing the idea that there was some sort of Oedipal complex behind the character. That’s a perfectly reasonable change, and I like the chucking of that. The problem is that in doing so, there’s not much else driving this comic. Too much of the issue feels like it’s centered around Mr. Freeze disputing this earlier diagnosis, but that’s not really a plot. By the time Mr. Freeze is pursuing his new family, the book’s slowed to a crawl.
It also doesn’t help that Mr. Freeze isn’t a character that you can center a book around. He’s a little too cold (no pun intended), and not having any real edge or spark. A protagonist doesn’t have to be likable, but does need to somehow hold the reader’s attention. That’s not the case here; watching Mr. Freeze make his way through this comic has nothing out of the ordinary to make it stand out.
What we do get, though, is 20 pages of art from Masters, and that’s reason to celebrate. Most of Masters’ work at DC Comics to date was filling on the occasional page in “Batman Incorporated,” so I appreciate that he’s now getting full-comic assignments. He and colorist Dave McCaig do a good job here; I love the gently drawn pages of Freeze’s teenage life, and the icy blue hues that McCaig uses. Masters has a very soft line, but one that can still pack in a great deal of detail. The frozen skyline of Gotham City from thirty years earlier is hauntingly beautiful, and young Victor watching the drama play out on the street from his window has a sad and almost wistful feel thanks to Masters’s art. It’s well staged, and easy to follow. Watching a snowflake drift across a page has never been so enjoyable, quite frankly.
“Batman: The Dark Knight” #23.2 looks great, but there’s not enough punch to this story to make it stand out. A Mr. Freeze solo story was a difficult draw right from the start, and while Gray and Palmiotti try their best, it’s not one of their more memorable moments. In the end, it’s a nice try, but this is a comic that’s going to easily fade into the background.