The first Batman annual of the new 52 came out today, written by the unequaled Scott Snyder, and you better believe this met my expectations, which were pretty high going in. Mr. Freeze has always been an interesting villain, but never quite got the defining story he so deserved, and this issue sets out to correct this travesty. While I enjoyed the hell out of it, there's a few gripes I have with it that keep it from truly being one of the finest done-in-ones I've read in a while.
Let's start with the good. I really dug the art in this issue. While it was ranged from above average to really good for most of the scenes involving the Bat family and other minor characters, the parts where Freeze was the center of attention really impressed me, and his new look is incredibly cool, though I am a little confused at why didn't even have sleeves, when they stated in this comic any kind of heat would make him boil alive. That's one of the biggest problems in the issue, where they define his condition as being a result of his cells "capturing the cold", which is just bad science since cold is the absence of heat, not a tangible thing like heat is, and therefore cannot be "absorbed". It's a nit-pick, and Snyder probably just tried to explain to the reader in layman terms what happened to Freeze, but it's something that rubbed me the wrong way. He could have just said the nature of his cells changed, dropping to well below zero and reacting dangerously to high temperatures, but instead we got a rather poor explanation. I did enjoy little details like why he always kept those goggles on, though, and they are a pretty iconic part of his character now that I think about it.
This issue did, however, pretty smoothly connect to the Night of the Owls event, as strange as it was that Victor was captured, analyzed, and then made his escape and attack all within the same night that the Owl attack had occurred, or at least that's what I gathered from the dialogue. I assume this takes places soon after the event ends, though don't take my word for it.
As for the way this issue redefines Mr. Freeze as a villain, reading through it I was a bit worried about how they would pull it off. At first, I was afraid that Bruce Wayne by the end of the book would seem like a pretty big dick from what I was seeing in the second act, by the last few pages everything came together and gave a pretty intriguing take on Victor's madness and fascination with the cold, which actually explained why for so long he was placed in Arkham Asylum instead of Belle Reve. Some may not like the little change they made, but I actually found it made him even more tragic, someone consumed with fighting a battle that wouldn't satisfy him even if he won. The dynamic between him and the Penguin was also very fun, the way they kept pushing against each other, trying to get a rise from them, until coming to an agreement, which is how I imagine many of Batman's rogues must operate. The fact that the master of cold was dealing with an Antarctic bird also was a clever touch.
But again the little nit pics are what drag this issue down. Besides little grievances like Robin getting his arms frozen in combat only to show up the next page completely thawed out were annoying, though it's not really a continuity error, it just would have helped if it had been shown, and as i mentioned before the bad science was irksome. My biggest problem, however, is just one little line during the flashbacks to when Fries worked for Wayne Laboratories, where it states it occurred 6 years in the past, and then follows up by stating that Bruce had only recently returned from his training, sometime in Year One. This screws with the overall Batman continuity a bit, since it was generally accepted that due to the Dark Knight's status as almost an "urban legend" in the DCU, he operated for years before Superman went public 5 years ago, which explained why he went through 4 Robins in such short time (also, if he started 10 years ago, it would explain how he could have had Damian, if he had slept with Talia early in his career). This really condenses the time-line a bit, so hopefully Snyder will realize his mistake and explain how during his time as Batman he spent some of his adventures abroad for some reason or another, or maybe in future issues they change that one detail.
Still, for all it's little flaws, I enjoyed the hell out of this issue. I'm sure it'll be divisive for some people, but it's a worthwhile read, and I would definitely recommend it to someone looking for a Mr. Freeze story that gives a solid take on the character.