The One Bad Day done-in-one story format carries on this week, and this time, Mr. Freeze gets the central focus. We’ve seen the dark heart of Riddler, Two-Face facing his awful father, and Penguin rising to power with a gun and a bullet, but now it’s time to understand Dr. Victor Fries better. Writer Gerry Duggan writing and artist Matteo Scalera take the iconic origin of the character and flip it on its head. Make no mistake, when you finish Batman: One Bad Day – Mr. Freeze #1, you’ll have an entirely different perspective on the character.
Fans of Batman: The Animated Series will need to read this story as it plays off Paul Dini’s revamp and then some. As fans of that show and fans of Mr. Freeze know, the character is deeply tragic as he wishes only to bring his wife back after freezing her to ensure she doesn’t perish from disease. Batman: One Bad Day – Mr. Freeze #1 postulates that maybe there’s more to their relationship than we know.
Things begin to reveal themselves on the first page as we see Mr. Freeze working alone at home when his wife gets home after a night on the town with some friends. He’s annoyed and soon asks her, “Are you seeing someone?” Depicted with spectacles you can’t see through, you get the sense he’s alienated and alone, yet his wife is alive and well. You begin to question his true nature and whether or not their marriage was bliss for both of them. By the end of this issue, you realize the truth, and it’s at once dark and deeply psychological. Mr. Freeze is and will always be a man; we learn he wasn’t perfect even before his accident.
Scalera’s style suits the winter setting and the characters involved. It has a liquid look and feels, be it Batman’s cape and cowl or animated and pleasing facial expressions. Not only that, Scalera gets to draw new costumes for Batman and Mr. Freeze for the final act, and they’re gorgeous. We saw Batman wearing a bit of orange in The Batman, but Scalera sells the color combo here. Scalera also nails the Batcave in a full-page splash, introducing a fantastic new Batmobile and a snow-friendly Batmobile with tank treads. What more could you want from the visual storytelling department for a Batman book?
Primarily about Mr. Freeze, this one-shot is also a delight regarding how Duggan writes Batman and Robin. Dick is only 10 or 12 — it’s the early days for them — and the dynamic is fantastic. We get to see Alfred decorate the Christmas tree (made up of Batarangs, naturally) and give Robin the chance to put up the topper. Little things like Alfred nagging Robin about his reading or Robin wishing to drive the Batmobile remind us of the days when Batman was teamed up with a kid.
Another callback to Batman: The Animated Series is Matches Malone, a fun addition, albeit a bit unnecessary. It only takes up three pages of the book, and it’s fun to see Batman go undercover, but it’s also a bit unnecessary to the plot. I’m nitpicking here, but it stuck out.
It’d be a crime not to mention Dave Stewart’s colors, which continue to show his mastery of lighting. This issue plays with shadow quite a bit, allowing Stewart’s colors to pop. For instance, Mr. Freeze’s new costume is quite simple, but the blue veins of light are pretty cool. A subtle glow of red from Mr. Freeze’s eyes on the rim of his glasses or the blue hues that make up Mr. Freeze’s wife seen through her glass tube add so much to Scalera’s art.
Letters by Deron Bennett are good, with some cool icicle effects on Mr. Freeze’s word balloon tails. His work is easy to read, and quite clean all things told with little flourishes here and there. The captions from Mr. Freeze’s wife in one sequence have a look much like from a note page which is a nice touch.
If you ever wanted a good blend of superhero action and compelling character work for a classic Batman rogue, this is it and then some. Timed perfectly for the winter season, Batman: One Bad Day – Mr. Freeze #1 is a near-perfect one-shot and a near-perfect take on Mr. Freeze, recontextualizing him while adding humanity and frailty.
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