Comic Book Review: "Batman Annual #1: Night Of The Owls: First Snow"
The DC Comics “Night of the Owls” crossover starts to cool down in Batman Annual #1. “Night of the owls: First Snow”, written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV with art by Jason Fabok, tells the story of Victor AKA Mr. Freeze all the way from his childhood to the present day during the nefarious Night of the Owls. This issue reveals his connection to the “alchemy” that the Court of Owls uses to revive their Talons and his obsessive, ice cold motivations. This story retells his origin and gives a new twist on his heartbreaking quest to save his beloved Nora.
“First Snow” begins over thirty years ago in Lowell, Nebraska. Young Victor Fries and his mother are dashing through the snow to get to a snowman building competition. He wants his to be the biggest. His mother tells him not to rush and enjoy the first snow of the season; the competition is two hour away. She tells him that they will make their snowman using an apple; the “elegance that speaks of home”. Then suddenly she falls through the ice.
At 12:02 a.m. at Arkham Asylum, during the Night of the Owls, Dr. Victor “Mr. Freeze” Fries is talking to a staff counselor about his childhood incident. He says that the cold preserved his mother until help arrived. The counselor says that it’s just like Nora—The Court of Owls tricked him and stole his formula to resurrect their Talons—hasn’t Victor’s feelings for his wife led him into this trap? Freeze doesn’t want to talk about it anymore. He asks for the counselors wax crayon pencil. He asks why. Victor replies that it’s for the wire coating and breaks the man’s neck. Using the crayon on the wires in the ceiling, Freeze drops the temperature in the cell to below zero (100-degrees below). The S.W.A.T. team arrived and Victor uses the coolant hose to freeze all of them. He fills his mouth with coolant, gives himself up to the rest of the guard and spits out the coolant onto them, freezing them. He retrieves his cryogenic suit, and steals a Farfanick Food Services Co. freezer truck.
At the Iceberg Casino in Gotham City, at 12:45 a.m. the freezer truck crashes through the casino wall. Mr. Freeze exits the truck. He tells everyone in the place to “Run”. As every one of the patrons run for the doors, Oswald Cobblepot AKA the Penguin (and a few of his henchmen) stands watch on a balcony. The Penguin tells Freeze that this is no way to treat a friend; he could have just called. He asks why he stopped by. Victor says he wants his ice guns so he can flees the city with his wife, Nora and find freedom. Cobblepot agrees, and gives Fries his gun. Now armed, Victor wants revenge on the man who stole his wife from him, Bruce Wayne.
Six years ago, at Wayne Tower Labs, Bruce Wayne was inspecting his research lab with Lucius Fox. Wayne had recently returned to Gotham after a long “vacation”. Fries informed him that they were making progress with the slow-heating process on the Cryo-Preserved Individuals. Wayne says he’s uncomfortable with that line of research and wants the frozen bodies removed to the Gotham University bio-lab. Victor is upset at his disapproval. After Bruce and Lucius leave, Victor promises his cryogenically frozen wife Nora that there is a cure for her illness and now he just needs to prefect the formula to unfreeze her and she can be saved; he won’t let them take her away.
In the present day, Freeze finds the cryo-chamber at Wayne Towers. He tells Nora that his has the formula to bring her back to life: “Wake you from your sleep like a queen in a storybook”. He wipes away the frost on the glass and sees that the body is not Nora. He cries out that he will make Wayne suffer for stealing his wife. Nightwing (Richard Grayson) and Robin (Damian Wayne) arrive and confront Mr. Freeze. He demands both his wife and Wayne for his personal vendetta. They deny his request. A fight ensues. He freezes Nightwing and is about to shatter Robin’s arm when Bruce Wayne’s voice comes over the intercom. He tells Victor that they can settle this “man to man” if he takes the elevator to the penthouse. After his leave, Nightwing tells Robin that Batman has a plan.
During the ride, Fries remembers how, one day, Wayne found out that he was still working on a formula to unfreeze his wife. Wayne wouldn’t let Fries play mad scientist with someone who can’t consent to his methods. He plans to call the police and fire Fires. Nora stays and Victor has to go. Fries throws a chair at Wayne in anger. It breaks a cryo-chamber and spray freezing compound all over Victor. He wakes up in the hospital with doctor evaluating his condition. His body temperature is 23 degree; he should be dead, but the chemical components in his body have changed. He’s alive, but needs to remain at a freezing temperature or he’ll boil alive. He’s put in a cryogenic suit. He cries out for vengeance against Bruce Wayne.
Back in the Present, Freeze exits the penthouse elevator looking for Wayne and finds his frozen wife Nora. Batman crashes through the window. He has heated brass knuckles and starts fighting Freeze. He tells him that he doesn’t understand love, he’s killed many people tonight “out of love” but he doesn’t know love. He’s just filled with “ice and hate”. Freeze says he can’t keep a man from the woman he loves. Batman tells him that they both know that Nora is not his wife: he’s never even met her. Nora Fields was born in 1943 and diagnosed with an incurable heart condition at 23. She was the first person to be cryogenically frozen. Victor Fries wrote his doctoral thesis on her. The reason he came to work at Wayne Industries was for the chance to study her; she old enough to be his grandmother. Her being his wife is a complete psychotic fantasy.
Freeze proclaims his love for her; he knows her better than anyone. “We’re meant to be together!” Batman injects Freeze with his “perfect formula” that raised the Court of Owls’ Talons from their icy slumber. Victor’s core temperature is rising and he collapses. Batman informs Nightwing to get the Batmobile; they’ll take him back to Arkham.
Victor Freeze is remembering his childhood: He’s pushing his mother in a wheelchair through the snow field again; she’s suffered brain damage from the accident the year before. She asks about the snowman competition and the apple—she forgot the apple. Young Victor says they’ll get another one. She suddenly remembers that she DID bring the apple; she’s even carved it. She shows Victor her empty bloody palm. Victor tells her to rest and shoves her into the same hole in the ice that she fell into a year earlier; she sinks into the icy darkness.
Ever since Mr. Freeze was introduced into the Batman universe in the 1959, He’s had no real back story and even his name has changed (Mr. Zero to Mr. Freeze). In the 1992 episode of Batman: The Animated Series, “Heart of Ice” Mr. Freeze (Dr. Victor Fries) was given a proper and very heartbreaking backstory of a desperate genius trying to save his beloved ill wife, Nora Fries, so the two can be reunited. This New 52 backstory is far creepier. It has a sense of Greek tragedy, However; it’s less Orpheus (a man so in love with his wife, that he goes to Hades to get her back) and more Pygmalion (a man so obsessively in love with an inanimate object that he believe it’s alive). This new version gives a darker twist on Fries’ psyche and it will be interesting how the character will play out in the future given that he’s more passionately insane than madly in love. (Interestingly, “Pygmalion” is the Greek version of “Pumayyaton” meaning “gift of Pumay”. The Phoenician god Pumay’s name is carved on a stone is in Nora, Italy.)
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