Scott Snyder is one of those authors who has become synonymous with contributing to the Batman mythology. Just as Dennis O’Neil did so in the 1970s by bringing back the noir detective pulp into the stories and just as Paul Dini reinterpreted the characters for the animated series in the early 1990s, Scott Snyder’s penmanship of the character shows that he is able to reimagine him in different settings while adding to it. To me, he is up there with Dini, Miller, Azzarello, and Chuck Dixon as one of my favorite Bat scribes. He just gets him.
Snyder’s expertise and style leans towards drama, noir, and horror. He combines these elements beautifully in the latest issue of All Star Batman. I admit, Mr. Freeze isn’t one of my favorite characters. I don’t hate him but I have not read a story that I felt was very compelling.
It has nothing to do with Ahnold His storyline almost always utilizes the same concept: he is trying to find a cure so that his wife Nora can come back. Now, I have nothing against tragic origins. Depending on the writer, they can be very powerful but I really don’t like it when it becomes a sole defining tragic trait of a character. It becomes predictable. Snyder uses this concept but he also adds an intriguing layer to Mr. Freeze that makes him scary and he does it with the text and with the help of artist Jock.
My favorite parts were pages 2 and 3 when Batman narrates Freeze’s favorite poem ‘Fire and Ice’ by Robert Frost. This part stood out to me because it just barely (and carefully) touches upon a very rarely seen part of Mr. Freeze, his humanity. Fries/Freeze is a scientist. He is someone of cold logic, detachment, clinical observation. His mission to cure/save Nora from her cryogenic bed has becomes a part of his narrative that it no longer surprises or shocks us. She is almost like an experiment that he almost always working on. Yet, Snyder reminds us that there is a man with passions underneath that cold exterior. Batman underlines this when he stats ‘Because there was something about the first part that spoke to him. A world inflamed by passions, by desire.’
Doctors, scientists and artists are always working on something and when they make that little break through, no matter how small, they may or may not share that victory on social media. Not everyone wants the attention (unlike, say Joker). I imagine Freeze/Fries is like that. He is an introvert who is always looking for ways to tinker with science and cryogenics that no one really takes him seriously and each day he comes closer and closer to his goal. I really like the subtlety that Snyder worked in here.
Snyder’s use of prose reminds me of his work in AD. It’s creepy in an otherworldly way which is fitting because All Star Batman primarily takes place outside of Gotham. His text is enhanced with the gifted artistic machinations of Jock. This dream team are no strangers to one another. They collaborated previously on another one of my favorite Bat trades, ‘The Black Mirror’ and on Snyder’s ‘Wytches’. Jock’s art fits in perfectly in any horror inspired work. If you haven’t read ‘The Black Mirror’ do yourself a favor and pick it up. What makes Jock’s art so compelling is that he has a lot of shadows and splash. He has great definition with his lines but his use of shadows and dark splashes add that element of spooky mystery. If his work on ‘Wytches’ is any indication, he would be great for a Lovecraftian adaptation. Hell, put him on a horror title and I would read it!
I really liked what he did on page 3 where he made Fries’s base look like a snow globe.
Snyder and Jock added creepiness to Freeze in a way that never really saw before with the text and prose. Note the heavy usage of whites and pale blues. Note how it contrasts with the bright redness of Freeze’s goggles and the text when he speaks. It sort of reminded me of ‘The Yellow Bastard’ from Sin City but in a far less gross way. I saw someone who was so consumed with his mission and had been doing it for so long that he really believed in it. The ‘hot pink’ text which emphasizes the ‘fire’ in Victor’s mission (not to mention that it is show the reader that he is the one who is speaking) is a great contrast to Batman’s earlier observation of describing Freeze’s voice as a ‘transmission’. Brrr!! It may not seem like a big deal but it is small details like this that make me appreciate an overlooked character in a new way.