By Alex Batts — Detective Comics #1013 pushes the action in this Mr. Freeze-focused arc into overdrive. Writer Peter J. Tomasi is again joined by penciler Doug Mahnke, inkers Keith Champagne and Christian Alamy, colorist David Baron, and letterer Rob Leigh to round out the creative team. This first issue in this arc did a great job at setting the stage, and this issue does a fantastic job at escalation.
*Spoilers for Detective Comics #1013 follow. For final thoughts and a rating, check out the OVERALL section at the bottom of this review*
The issue opens with a brutally intimidating sequence of Batman interrogating one of Mr. Freeze’s goons who he apprehended after the end of the last issue. Batman’s interrogation tactics are as persuasive as ever as he gets the thug talking in no time. An interesting tactic he employs is having Alfred dressed and posed on the ground as another goon that Batman literally beat to death. Batman allows the person to believe he’s killed the man on the pavement, which naturally gets the criminal talking. After learning that Mr. Freeze is the man behind the abductions, Batman and Alfred return to the Batcave for preparations.
We then cut to Mr. Freeze in his base of operations talking to Nora, which is normal for him, however when he asks his team to report in on the mission to capture the last woman, he receives no feedback. Batman then burns through one of the walls in his base with a phenomenal splash page showing off a brand-new anti-Freeze heat Batsuit. I don’t know what exactly to call this suit, but I do know that it is certifiably awesome. It has brilliant red accents, layers of armor and an extra breathing apparatus, as well as a heat rifle to counter Freeze’s normal freeze gun.
Now is as good a time as any to talk about the art in this issue, and it steals the show. From here on out the issue is mostly action, and the art team absolutely delivers on all fronts. As already mentioned, the design of the new Batsuit is stellar, and the splash pages and panels we see it appear within are a pure marvel to look at. Mahnke’s pencils are detailed and easy to follow, the inks create a great balance between high and lowlights, and the contrast in color between the reds on Batman and the blues of Freeze with the snow/ice environment create truly striking visuals.
The action sequences are laid out dramatically and effectively, with the pacing in certain pages increased and decreased for whatever dramatic effect is intended via different panel layouts. The issue sees Batman confronting Freeze, who then uses a transponder he had planted in his previously-failed reanimation experiments to reanimate the corpses of his projects, creating essentially frozen zombies to swarm Batman.
While Batman struggles with the horde, Freeze escapes using a vehicle he had stored in the back of his facility as a contingency plan for Batman’s interference. Batman, of course, ends up dealing with the horde of undead and makes chase after Freeze. The back and forth between Freeze and Batman in this issue is great to see and highlights how well the two know each other and how many times they’ve gone head-to-head over the years. Each knows the normal tricks that the other relies on and has already planned accordingly. It’s like watching the beginning of a chess match where each player is already focused on the tenth move.
While Freeze gets the upper hand by the end of this encounter, Batman has Alfred prepare the Batcave for guests and asks him to don a mask. Batman returns with all the women Freeze had abducted with the goal of reviving them. One of the highlights of the issue, as it has been throughout Tomasi’s time on the title, is the banter between Alfred and Bruce. At the start of the issue, Batman critiqued Alfred for his performance as the dead criminal, noting that he could see him breathing, and now as he returns to the cave and finds Alfred wearing a Flash mask, he jokes that out of everything in the Batcave that’s the best mask he could find. Alfred’s ever witty remarks are always welcome, and these quick moments of humor add a lot of levity to the book, showcasing how comfortable the two are around each other.
The issue ends with Batman sure he’ll be able to revive the women, and then cuts to Freeze who is now deeper in the Gotham Pine Barrens with his wife, Nora. He’s finally prepared to raise his wife from her cryogenic slumber and begins the process of revival. The scene is heart-pounding because of how major of a moment and status quo shift this is for the character. The issue ends with Nora waking at last, but her reaction to consciousness isn’t as happy as Freeze would have hoped.
Overall: This issue is jam-packed with action, stellar art, and witty dialogue. The story has taken a turn that a few months ago I never would’ve expected to see, but now eagerly await to see how it continues. 9.0/10
Detective Comics #1013
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Doug Mahnke
Inkers: Keith Champagne and Christian Alamy
Colorist: David Baron
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Publisher: DC Comics
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Alex Batts is from Texas. A lifelong comic book enthusiast and movie lover, if he’s not talking about comics, he’s probably not talking. You can find him on Twitter by following @BatmanFiles