By Alex Batts — Detective Comics #1012 sees the Mr. Freeze story arc finally begin in earnest. This is a story that has been teased and built up in the closing pages of recent Detective Comics issues and has now taken center stage. Regular series writer Peter Tomasi is rejoined by penciler Doug Mahnke, inker Jaime Mendoza, colorist David Baron, and letterer Rob Leigh. While Christian Duce did a great job with the art for the previous arc, it’s a welcome sight to see Doug Mahnke back on a Batman book.
*Spoilers for Detective Comics #1012 follow. For final thoughts and a rating, check out the OVERALL section at the bottom of this review*
The issue’s opening pages are among my favorite in the book. Starting with close-ups on a snowflake, as Batman gives a poetic narration about their formation. We’re then given a stellar headshot splash page of Batman up close, followed by a location establishing page. We see Batman standing on the boat that he met Catwoman on, catching snowflakes in his hand. Though these pages have inner narration, they are silent as far as the things happening in the scene.
The last page of this sequence features panels that zoom in on Batman’s hand around snow. This transitions brilliantly to the following page where we see Mr. Freeze’s hand open holding snow, and then the panels zoom out to reveal his full figure and location. The first few pages of the issue are so powerful in their visual storytelling. Mahnke’s pencil work is as strong as ever, Mendoza’s inks provide great depth, and Baron’s colors make Batman stand out significantly from the pale background. It’s an incredibly striking sequence that does so much in a subtle fashion.
After Freeze’s introduction, we see him removing his helmet to find that he’s able to live beyond the confines of a cold suit. It’s revealed that he’s been working on nanotechnology for years that would maintain his body temperature at living conditions for him without the need of his restrictive suit. While the domed helmet will always be an iconic look for Freeze, it’s great to see him evolving as a character both physically and intellectually. The visual change provides the opportunity for new artistic direction too, and the in-story explanation is a reminder of his scientific prowess.
As Freeze walks back into his lair we’re given a few pages of his goons reporting to him as they abduct various women across Gotham. The page layouts are all rendered effectively, conveying a ton of visual information in an easily digestible and narratively smooth way. After his teams return with each of the women, Freeze goes on a monologue explaining to Nora why he’s doing what he is. It’s revealed that Lex Luthor gave him a serum that he claims would restore Nora to life, but being a scientist, Freeze didn’t want to use it without first testing it.
He began on various dead animals, eventually moving on to deceased people, but he always ran into problems. He then realized the only way to truly test it would be to use it on women who were in a state as close to Nora as possible. So he’s having his goons abduct women of a similar build and look as Nora. He’s then cryogenically freezing them, and will now attempt to bring them back to life.
The plan is deranged but makes sense for what he’s trying to do. The main conflict in this issue comes from the fact that one of the teams failed to retrieve their target. Freeze had told them to bring the women back unharmed, and when the extraction went south and the woman fell and hit her head, splitting her scalp on the way down, the abductors made the decision to leave her. This allowed her the chance to live and report the crime to the police.
Naturally, Batman is tapped into the police lines and hears the call come through. There’s a rather funny sequence that has Alfred working on the Batplane while Bruce works out, with quote bubbles showing various random 911 calls. The calls offer some levity and it’s also always interesting to see what Bruce and Alfred do in the cave when he’s not off being Batman. After hearing the call about the attempted abduction, Bruce decides to investigate.
At the same time, Sergeant Bullock (interim Captain) receives word that there have been four abductions of women in the last week and ventures to turn on the Bat-signal. In one of the best pages of the issue, Batman is already standing atop the signal and gives Bullock quite the scare. Batman’s looming presence with the signal dramatically lighting him from below is such a perfect Batman image — it’s impossible not to smile at it. The two exchange notes about the abductions before Batman leaves Bullock via his signature disappearing act.
Back at Freeze’s lair, his goons explain the mishap with the last target and Freeze is none too pleased. He scolds them for presuming to think for him and using his hand (and what appears to be a new gauntlet), he freezes the thugs head before letting him crash to the floor, killing him. He then instructs all his teams to return to the house and retrieve the woman. Upon arrival, the goons think they have an easy job as the woman appears to still be unconscious. When they open the door, to administer a beatdown.
This issue does a strong job at setting the stage for the arc to come. Though we’ve had teases for a while, the full scope of what Freeze is planning has finally come into focus. Tomasi’s writing remains solid, and it’s a treat seeing the art team that started this run return to the book. Mahnke, Mendoza, and Baron work phenomenally well together, and the entire book feels so Batman.
Overall: The return of Mr. Freeze is — as it should be — cold, calculated, and creatively executed. With writing that continues to impress and art as good as ever, this issue is a great sign of things to come in this arc. 9.0/10
Detective Comics #1012
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Doug Mahnke
Inker: Jaime Mendoza
Colorist: David Baron
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Publisher: DC Comics
Read more great comic book reviews here!
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