Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mr. Freeze: Beginnings

WARNING: There are spoilers for Batman Annual #1, which just came out yesterday.
Animated Mr. Freeze

Mr. Freeze is an interesting character in the Batman mythos.  He was first introduced in the 1950s, and he was just a crazy rogue scientist whose freeze gun backfired on him.  Nothing special, other than using cold to commit crimes (which is so extremely Silver Age, it's not even funny).

Then things got rewritten with Crisis on Infinite Earths, and, in 1992, Batman: The Animated Series had a very interesting episode, "Heart of Ice".  It recast Freeze as being more tragic than crazy.  In it, we learn that Freeze was previously Victor Fries (it's pronounced the same way as Freeze), a cryogenics scientist who's trying to save his wife's life while performing research at a science firm.  Eventually, his funding gets cut off, and, while he's begging the CEO to help him, the CEO kicks him into some chemicals, and his whole condition gets started.  This origin eventually became "canon" for the comics character, and pretty much everything since then has taken off of that.

After that, he has two main goals: revenge and saving his wife.  What I find fascinating about the character, especially in relation to the various other Batman villains, is how very different he is.  Yeah, he's crazy and working outside the system, but he has a goal: so many of the other Gotham characters perform crime for crime's sake, only there to antagonize Batman or Gotham or Robin and get attention and basically ruin everybody's day.  They're outside the system because they were always going to be outside the system, because it's the only way they know how.  Freeze, however, is outside the system because he's found that the system doesn't work for him.

(Tangent: I was just reading the Onion AV Club's review/recap of The Sopranos episode, "Luxury Lounge", and the recap talks a lot about how the character of Artie Bucco would, basically, rather fail than live outside the system, and I find that an interesting inverse to this character.  Heck, there might be an essay there...but that's for another day.)

So this is all established, and has been the story for 20 years.  Then Batman Annual #1 came out yesterday, and we got the "nu52" version of the character.

nu52 Mr. Freeze, from the Batman Annual

In the issue, we see events unfold, seemingly, like they always had, with a bit of streamlining.  Fries has been working at WayneCorp on cryogenics, one of his test subjects is Nora Fries, Wayne cuts out the project (he finds it morally objectionable because none of these subjects actually have a say, and...I kinda see it and kinda don't, because they've already agreed to be cryogenically frozen, you know?  If Walt Disney ever does get a chance to get out of the deep freeze, nobody's going to object because he can't choose to come out of it.  In any case, it's a little specious, is what I'm saying.), Fries tries to sneak in and bring her back after he's been barred from the premises, Wayne catches him, there's an accident, Fries becomes Freeze.


Except except except.

It turns out that Nora isn't Nora Fries; she's Nora Fields, the first person to be cryogenically frozen in 1943.  Fries had done his doctoral thesis on her, and went to WayneCorp just so he could test on her.

Oh, and he killed his mother when he was a kid.

So, in other words, Freeze is crazy and always has been, it's just that he eventually got a special freeze suit to go with it.  Quite honestly, I don't know what I think about it.  For one, it makes him just like every other Bat-villain.  He does what he does because he can, because that's how he would always operate.  There's no choice in the matter, it's his nature.  He isn't who he is because of somebody else's ignorance or callousness, which was always the tragedy of the character, he is who he is because he's insane.

But.  It's still a slightly interesting take on the character, and the execution of the issue isn't bad.  It's just...I liked him a little better the old way.