[Editor’s note: This review may contain spoilers.]
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Jock, Francesco Francavilla
This first installment of a new story arc finds Batman in the Arctic Circle, having tracked Mister Freeze to a research facility. He first finds some of the researchers, dead from having been frozen instantly. Then he is confronted with others that Freeze has managed to keep in a half-living, but mind-controlled state.
Batman attempts to use superheated Batarangs to hold them off, but this causes his Bat-armour to overheat, then go dead. Freeze commands his thralls to pull Batman out of the armour.
Batman pleads with Freeze. It turns out that Batman is attempting to warn Victor that a squadron is coming to firebomb and obliterate the station.
Victor Fries seems unconcerned and explains to Batman that he had taken all the people who had been cryogenically frozen and woke them up to become his army. But he realized that he had woken them up too early.
Freeze’s plan is to put himself and his army back into cryogenic sleep, protected while the firebombs melt the ice core, releasing bacteria into the atmosphere that will wipe out the rest of humanity. When it is safe, they will emerge to claim the world for themselves.
Victorious, Freeze and his army climb into their cryogenic pods, but their sleep is interrupted by Batman. He has introduced a virus into Freeze’s lair, hidden in his own blood. The virus will mature after the firebombing and destroy the bacteria spores.
Batman takes Freeze and pulls him along with himself into Freeze’s cryogenic pod to protect them both from the bombing.
The second story in the issue continues the training of Duke Thomas as Batman’s partner. As the story begins, Batman and Duke appear to be attempting to solve a crossword composed of real people holding letters in the windows of an apartment building.
Duke is anxious to rescue the people, but Batman realizes that the Riddler will have them booby-trapped, only allowing them to be rescued if the puzzle is solved.
A flashback to two days earlier shows Duke and the Batman visiting Arkham Asylum. Every year on New Year’s Eve, the Riddler stages an attack on Gotham. While Batman questions the Riddler, Duke encounters his friend Daryl Gutierrez, who had been affected by one of Mr. Bloom’s seeds, retaining his powers even after the seed had been removed. Gutierrez does something that seems to cause Duke pain.
“Pain” is also Batman’s guess to solve the Riddler’s puzzle, which he tries as Duke gives up on waiting and moves to attempt a rescue. However the guess is wrong, and a bomb goes off just as Duke approaches.
This series so far seems to be taking the familiar members of Batman’s rogues gallery and finding new dimensions in them or taking them in new directions. This time, it’s taking a fresh look at Victor Fries. Instead of Victor trying to revive his wife Nora from her cryogenic sleep, this time he is looking to join her, so that they can both be revived together in a better world.
This makes some sense, as this is essentially what people are attempting to do when they have themselves cryogenically frozen. They are placing their faith in a future that will be able to revive them and provide them a better life than they have in the present.
I also like that the puzzle Batman and Duke face in the backup story is reminiscent of the silver age deathtraps faced by Batman and Robin. It seems almost incongruous seeing Batman attempting to solve the Riddler’s crossword using a tablet.
However, it seems wrong that Batman would guess incorrectly, especially considering that the puzzle appears to be fairly simple. I could understand if the bomb was set off entirely by Duke’s rash decision to attempt a rescue before solving the puzzle, but it seems unlikely that Batman would make such a mistake.
The title continues to hold my interest. Although it seems that Batman has thwarted Freeze’s scheme, I am sure that there is more to the story yet. And I am eager to see how Duke will escape death from the explosion he and Batman have triggered.