Perfect 10: Mr. Freeze

Perfect 10 is a series of essential recommendations that fully encapsulate a comic character – 10 desert island picks of runs, single issues, arcs, etc – curated by Comfort Food Comics.

  1. Batman Gotham Adventures #5: By Ty Templeton, Rick Burchett, Terry Beatty, Tim Harkins & Lee Loughridge. Mr. Freeze owes his modern popularity to the reimagined version of him introduced in the Batman the Animated Series’ episode “Heart Of Ice”. Done so perfectly well by that team, he only appears in one more episode, Deep Freeze, as well as a feature movie Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero. The comic tie in eventually gets around to using him in this Gotham Adventures series. Serving as a direct sequel to Deep Freeze and Subzero, we see Mr. Freeze is in custody at Wayne Enterprises where the villain of Deep Freeze, the Walt Disney pastiche, Grant Walker bursts in to kidnap Dr. Francis D’anjou. Walker needs this scientist to save his life as he is now a second Mr. Freeze who may soon die. Mr. Freeze joins the Batfamily to save D’anjou because he is the new husband to the resurrected Nora Fries and Mr. Freeze will do anything for the sake of her happiness. It’s a wonderful followup to the previous animated stories about Freeze and organically brings you into the new status quo for the characters as these tie in comics continue past the Animated Series ending.

2. Batman: Mr. Freeze: By Paul Dini, Mark Buckingham, Wayne Faucher, Linda Medley & John Costanza. This book is one of my favorite Batman comics of all time. I included it in my custom bound Comfort Food Comics Batman book. This book was released in a series of one shots focusing on characters featured in the 1997 film Batman and Robin. This is essentially Paul Dini adapting the Animated Series episode “Heart Of Ice” into the main DC Universe. That whole reinvention origin and story gets overlayed on to continuity and massaged in so it can work. The art is on another level as Mark Buckingham does some of his career best work. “Heart Of Ice” is an incredible cartoon episode but this comic is a better version of that story with more room to breathe.

3. Gotham Central #1-2: By Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, Noelle Giddings & Willie Schubert. Gotham Central is one of the best comics ever made in the medium so do yourself a favor and read the whole thing immediately. This opening arc shows how horrifying and brutal it would be to have to go up against a supervillain like Mr. Freeze when you’re just a regular human. He is used so well here as his arrogance, vast intellect and deadly freeze gun are juxtaposed against regular old cops trying to use conventional means to try and stop this overwhelming force.

4. Batman: Gotham Adventures #51: By Jason Hall, Brad Rader, Terry Austin, Albert De Guzman & Lee Loughridge. This is it!! Finally Mr. Freeze and Nora are going to be reunited! Or are they? An extremely emotional “What a twist!” issue that continues the ongoing story of Animated Mr. Freeze from Batman Gotham Adventures #5 but brilliantly entwines it with Roland Daggett and Clayface as well. The Rader/Austin art team creates a very unique look that is somewhere in between regular DC house style and the usual Animated Series cartoony style. (DISCLAIMER: There is a Batman/Batgirl throughline in this that pushes the romantic angle for them. That’s disgusting, but the Freeze stuff is top notch.)

5. “Mr. Freeze in… Close Shave” from DC’s Beach Blanket Bad Guys Summer Special: By Paul Dini, John Paul Leon & Deron Bennett. This is a short story from a fun Summer themed villain special and Paul Dini uses it to craft what may be the most delightful Mr. Freeze story ever. It starts with him in a Kaiju size robot suit called “Glacier Vengeance” which he is testing out when he runs into two squabbling ice cream truck vendors arguing about which turf they can claim as their own. One uses the face and name of Mr. Freeze as their mascot and Victor abducts them and threatens to destroy the truck. The owner is a struggling mom with her daughter and they appeal to Freeze with a story about how she had to use him as a gimmick to get ahead and support her family. As we all know, Freeze is a sucker for family. He tries the Guava flavored ice she has and ends up enjoying the brain freeze it gives him. Now on her side, he returns the family with their truck to the ground but not before using the giant mech to grab her competitor’s truck, toss it aside and emphatically proclaim this corner theirs. This may be my favorite comic involving Mr. Freeze. It is hilarious and touching and makes you feel insanely good. I love John Paul Leon’s artistic rendition of Victor chomping on a cool treat.

6. Batman Gotham Knights #59: By Robbie Morrison, Charlie Adlard, Brad Anderson & Clem Robins. This is such a great single issue of Mr. Freeze and Batman getting stuck together after Batman foiled his scheme and them forced to have a long conversation before they have to team up to save themselves. Said scheme was taking a Gotham City Summer charity event and freezing everyone. This was doing them a favor, freezing them in their moment of happiness, says Freeze. Batman says it’s him lashing out at everything because he now lives to hurt people after what happened to his wife. We get so many perfect Freeze monologues about how he views Batman and how Summer sucks and Winter is great, etc. Freeze’s usual modus operandi. This one is worth it alone for all of that sublime Freeze dialogue. A perfect single issue exploration of both characters.

7. Batman Legends of the Dark Knight #121: By Larry Hama, Rick Burchett, James Hodgkins, Felix Serrano & Bill Oakley. Strap in for this delightful cheesefest! This one is so goofy and so fun you can’t help but like it. This is set during the huge No Man’s Land period where Gotham has been hit by an Earthquake and the city is in complete chaos. Mr. Freeze takes over a power plant and builds an enormous ice castle just adjacent to it to rule over Gotham’s power. Hama goes full corny mode with his dialogue throughout. There is no subtlety here, this is a man in a batsuit punching out a frozen guy on an ice castle and it’s appropriately absurd. Burchett draws Batman so much like the Michael Keaton Batman here. It feels like you are watching an episode of the 1966 Batman TV show that stars the 1989 movie Batman alongside the Arnold Schwarzenegger Mr. Freeze from the 1997 movie. It’s stupid, it’s charming and overall a really enjoyable comic book.

8. Batman Adventures vol. 2 #15: By Jason Hall, Kelsey Shannon, Terry Beatty, Heroic Age & Pat Brosseau. This is the third and final Mr. Freeze comic tie in story that picks up where we left off in Gotham Adventures #51. This is the REAL reunion of Victor and Nora Fries. In the previous story we see that Victor had been writing Nora letters from jail but it turns out her new husband Francis D’Anjou has been hiding them from her. She finds one and is flabbergasted to see he wrote to her. Just when she is about to leave her new husband is attacked by Mr. Freeze technology. Nora travels all the way to Freeze’s arctic base shown in the movie Subzero and they finally after all this time have their reunion. It is heartwrenching. However, in a fight with Batman it seems Mr. Freeze is killed and later it’s revealed D’Anjou framed Freeze for the prior attack on himself and now he is in jail for his crimes leaving Nora truly alone. In a backup story we see Nora seek out Koonak, the boy Freeze rescued and was raising in Subzero. He now lives in an orphanage and the two of them catch up and reminisce on how their lives were intertwined with Mr. Freeze. On the last page we see Nora trudging through the arctic snow, determined to find some sign of her lost love Victor somewhere, anywhere. This one is so emotionally packed and it’s all done in one issue. It is an incredible followup to all the terrific Animated stories of Mr. Freeze.

9. “White Christmas” from The Batman Adventures Holiday Special: By Paul Dini, Glen Murakami & Richard Starkings. This entire Holiday Special issue is one of the most packed amazing issues of a comic you could ever buy. The whole Batman the Animated Series team works on it and this particular story has the best Mr. Freeze creator, Paul Dini, team with show artist Glen Murakami to give us a Christmas themed Freeze conflict. Victor escapes from jail after seeing there wont be any snow until January and starts freezing Gotham City. After a scuffle with Batman in the cemetar, Bruce asks why, on this night of all nights, would you do this? and Freeze points to his wife Nora’s grave. He says she always loved a white Christmas and he needed to make that happen for her no matter what. This is an insanely gorgeous comic with yet another tug at your heartstrings Freeze motivation. The very interesting part of this comic is that it confirms Nora Fries is dead, which had been show creator Bruce Timm’s intent all along as he confirmed in a recent Back Issue magazine interview: “The one story point that always kind of sticks in my craw is that they brought Mr. Freeze’s wife back to life. That’s something that I never would have done, because in my head, she was dead. She wasn’t just like, preserved and on ice… she was dead! So to me bringing her back to life, even though they did it for poignant reasons…it kind of made sense in the story they were telling, but it was — well, that’s kind of like Mr. Freeze’s whole thing, is that his wife is dead. He froze emotionally because of it and everything. Well, now, if she’s back to life, it’s like “Well, now what is he?” So that was weird.” He adds another interesting tidbit in the interview that when this comic was adapted into an episode of the cartoon, this story was glaringly absent. The reason for that was Nora was revived in the movie Subzero and it would contradict continuity: “For instance, in the “Holiday Knights” episode, we really wanted to do that Mr. Freeze story that we had done in the comics. And we couldn’t, because the whole point of that story was that Nora Fries was dead, you know, and, well, no, she’s not dead anymore, so that story is no longer canon.“.

10. Batman #308: By Len Wein, John Calnan, Dick Giordano, Glynis Oliver & Ben Oda. This is the only pre “Heart Of Ice” Mr. Freeze story on the list, but even then you have to imagine Paul Dini and the team drew some inspiration from this issue for the Freeze we know today. In this issue, Freeze, struggling with living his life in his condition, has found a new blonde lover, Hildy, and is attempting to perfect and duplicate his cryogenic treatment to give her the same form of frozen immortality. It’s almost an inverse of the usual try to save his blonde wife, Nora we’ve become used to. The people he experiments on become living ice zombies, Freeze’s “Cold Pack” which he sics on Batman. Freeze even tries to do the same to Batman himself but he as well as Hildy herself, hide a shocking twist from Mr. Freeze. This comes amid writer Len Wein’s bronze age run on Batman, which is a really great stretch of comics. It’s really fun to see this bright costumed and extremely animated proto-Freeze get up to all his dastardly machinations.

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