BATMAN WHITE KNIGHT PRESENTS: VON FREEZE #1 / AUTHOR: SEAN MURPHY / ARTIST: KLAUS JANSON / PUBLISHER: DC COMICS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Already one of the most sympathetic villains in Batman’s rogues gallery, Mr. Freeze gets an even more tragic origin in Batman White Knight Presents: Von Freeze. Not the main-continuity Mr. Freeze, then, and this is not a story that fans of the character might have expected. Having played a pivotal role in Sean Murphy’s White Knight, Victor Fries takes centre stage in this spin-off, filling in some of the gaps alluded to in the original story.
Fans of classic battles between the Bat and the iceman may be left wanting, as Murphy digs down into the history books and back to Nazi Germany. The Von Freeze in question, as it happens, isn’t Victor, but his father. Working with the Nazis to get his experiments done, it’s Victor’s dad who invents the famous Freeze Gun and who emerges as the villain here. These dark skeletons in the closet are shared with one Thomas Wayne, while Victor performs surgery on Martha during her pregnancy with Bruce. All key character moments which will deepen one’s understanding of the characters in White Knight, and a strong story in its own right.
While the writing is every bit as powerful as anything in White Knight (and more, given the harrowing real-world subject matter), the book’s artwork struggles to pull its weight. Comic book legend Klaus Janson does well with the old Gothic interiors of his buildings, chilly exteriors and expressive, haunted characters, but his figure work is clunky and awkward, especially during the book’s final few pages.
Nevertheless, a few wonky characters in a Batmobile can’t undo the story at its tightest and tautest, and this is a fascinating character study on one of Batman’s most compelling foes.