Thursday, August 12, 2010

Batman: Snow

Batman: Snow (DC Comics): written by Dan Curtis Johnson & J.H. Williams, illustrated by Seth Fisher

A year and a half into his career as the Batman, Bruce Wayne is both tired yet determined to continue his one man war on crime. When he realizes his few friends in arms are limited by their allegiance to the law (James Gordon as a cop, and Harvey Dent as a lawyer, of course), Batman assembles a small, diverse of talented individuals that could offer research and reconnaissance to his cause, and at first their efforts are successful. Unfortunately, parallel to their efforts in capturing an up-and-coming crime lord, the origin of the villainous Mr. Freeze is unfolding elsewhere in Gotham City, and when the plots collide, the results are certainly a snowball of circumstance Batman can no longer control. In the end, Batman dissolves the group and resolves the only partnership that could really benefit him is one involving someone willing to listen to his every marching -- somebody that can watch his back. Good thing the circus, with their feature act the Flying Graysons, are coming to town . . .!

Seth Fisher's art is this story's true selling point, as the artist passed away way before his time and this work stands along Green Lantern: Willworld and Flash: Time Flies as his most mainstream, superhero work. I hate to say it, but honestly I'm not a fan of Fisher's Batman. His work is simply too detail-oriented to depict the Dark Knight as the living shadow many artists personify; for better or worse, Fisher's Batman is way too human. I do like his Mr. Freeze, and the character's incremental development from scientist to hallucinating madman suit Fisher's eclectic style perfectly. Above all, Fisher's passion for illustration is prevalent throughout the story (originally published in single issues of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight) and is greater evidence that the industry lost a star way too soon.

Mr. Freeze has always been one of my favorite villains, but I hadn't thought of him as Batman's first super-powered villain until this storyline. Indeed, thanks to his suit, his strength and defense is more than an average person could handle, so when Mr. Freeze's bosses and the Gotham underworld work together to weaponize that cryogenic technology, everybody's in over their head, especially Batman. Further, while Batman always brags about flying solo, he is in fact one of the neediest characters in comics, and this story ambitiously and successfully sets the tone for both Bruce Wayne's need to work with others and why he's just so darn picky about it. Batman realizes his limitation as one lone ranger in Gotham, but as events unfold in Snow, he also discovers how a group of conflicting personalities becomes a greater liability than its worth. As much as this is Mr. Freeze's origin, it's also that of Batman's feelings toward Robin and the Justice League. Robin's the kid he was able to mold into the perfect partner; the Justice League is a bunch of adults with different, oft unyielding methods and opinions. Mr. Freeze gave Batman a good reason to have a cold shoulder.

This review was originally published in KaraokeFanboy Weekly #4.