Overview: In Batman: One Bad Day: Mr. Freeze #1, Batman and Robin track down Mr. Freeze in an attempt to help him save his wife, Nora.
Synopsis (spoilers ahead): Batman: One Bad Day: Mr. Freeze #1 begins in the past, as Nora Fries returns home from a night out and greets her husband, Victor. She tells him she wouldn’t have bought the tickets if she knew he was going to be working so much. A coughing fit overcomes Nora, and Victor asks her if she’s seeing a doctor for it. Nora brushes it off before heading upstairs. She stops on the stairway, telling Victor that life can’t always be about work and that she’s afraid that the two of them might look back and realize that these were their best years.
In the Narrows, a band of Christmas carolers are accosted by a criminal named Meek. Before Meek can do any harm, Batman and Robin (Dick Grayson) intervene. On the ride back in the Batmobile, Robin asks Batman if he used the carolers as bait. Batman doesn’t answer the question, merely stating that they weren’t in any real danger. The goal was to stop Meek before the criminal murdered another family. Batman adds that Meek is one of the “irredeemable” ones. Robin, taken aback, asks if Batman truly believes that. “Yes,” Batman says.
Back at the Batcave, Robin tells on Batman to Alfred. Robin adds that if Batman doesn’t believe criminals can change, then there’s no point in Arkham Asylum or what they’re doing as heroes. When asked if he believes there’s one criminal who can change, Batman reveals that he believes in Mr. Freeze.
What follows in Batman: One Bad Day: Mr. Freeze #1 is a brief recap of Victor Fries doing everything he can to save Nora, freezing her and having his work destroyed, resulting in his transformation into Mr. Freeze.
Bruce Wayne trades his Batsuit for his Matches Malone outfit, planning to go out and find leads on Mr. Freeze. At a bar, Malone gets a tip on Freeze’s whereabouts and his next heist — an armored truck.
Robin sets up shop, watching the armored truck above. As it drives, it’s hit with something and spins down into an underpass. The two men in the truck are greeted by Mr. Freeze and his associate, Frostbite.
Batman leaps into action, fighting both of them at once. Batman tells Freeze that their business is personal, and when Freeze asks how it could be personal, Robin intervenes. “We wanted to do something nice,” Robin says, “…for your wife, Nora.”
Freeze sends Frostbite away and then hops a ride in the Batmobile with Batman and Robin. Batman drives them to an abandoned lab and helps Freeze set up shop. Mr. Freeze says that he will get to work, and when he’s found something, they can bring Nora to the lab. Batman tells Freeze that he’s had all Victor’s old notes digitized, as well as information on the latest developments into her condition.
As Freeze tirelessly works in his lab, Batman and Robin stop crimes around Gotham City. All the while, a letter Nora wrote to Victor is revealed. It’s just before her incarceration in ice, and she tells Victor that she believes he lets everything get to him. Things should roll off him, but he runs hot and takes offense at the smallest slights, carrying grudges afterward.
Freeze collapses to his bed in agony. He remembers Nora in her hospital bed. Victor is insistent on curing her, but Nora pleads with him to use his brain to save the world, that it is better to have loved and lost.
Victor awakens in a rage and destroys his lab, marching out into the world with a new and improved Mr. Freeze costume. Later, Robin holds a burned photo of Victor and Nora outside of the wrecked lab. Batman says that it’s going to be a long night.
Later, Batman goes to the home of David Lookner, one of Nora’s friends. David reveals that Nora had a living will that was never submitted and that Victor was her first disease. Near the end, Victor let none of her friends see her, telling them flat out, “She doesn’t need to see you now.”
Back at the Batcave, Batman suits up in multiple layers and then dons his sun suit, which hasn’t been fully tested yet.
Batman and Robin drive to the docks where Mr. Freeze is located. Batman reveals that when they fought in the underpass, Batman put a tracker on Freeze.
In a desolate boat, Batman confronts Freeze. The Caped Crusader tells the rogue that he knows the truth, that he knows Victor stole time from Nora and robbed her of the end that she wanted.
Mr. Freeze sends Batman into the icy waters of Gotham. Freeze and Robin battle next, and Robin finds his way to where Nora is frozen. Next to her are frozen animal companions. Victor has been freezing them because she loved animals.
When Robin expresses disgust at what Freeze has done, he tells the Boy Wonder that his life is the way it is because he likes it. With Nora frozen, Victor says that she can’t spend his money, nor do they fight anymore. Nora can’t go out all the time, and he doesn’t have to worry about when she’s coming home. When Robin tells Freeze that this isn’t what his “big brain is for,” it triggers a memory in Victor.
Before being hospitalized, Nora asks Victor if what he’s going to do will help him or her. She tells him that it isn’t what his big brain is for.
Robin cuts the hose on Mr. Freeze’s ice gun, and he loses control of his weapon. It fires wildly. The deck of the ship gives out. Robin, Nora, and Mr. Freeze fall. Batman takes down Freeze, telling him that the Caped Crusader knows that Freeze never had a plan to save Nora. All Freeze wanted was to keep her, not save her.
When Freeze is carted away, he whispers something to Robin, something about what he learned during this whole escapade.
Back at Wayne Manor, Batman and Robin send Lucius Fox insights into Freeze’s unpatented technology so that it can help others.
At Blackgate, Freeze is let out into the snow for yard time. He hears on the news that mysterious technology gifted to Wayne Enterprises has led to a breakthrough in vaccines and medicines that previously required powered refrigeration. The research is being made open source so that it can benefit the world.
Freeze thinks back to what Nora said to him about using his big brain for good, then collapses into the snow. He makes a snow angel, laughing at the gift his knowledge has wrought.
Analysis: Batman: One Bad Day: Mr. Freeze #1 is a strange animal, and it’s one where readers’ mileage may vary. Whether or not a reader likes this book is dependent on where they land on different characterizations of Mr. Freeze over the years. Victor has been a crook, a heartbroken man struggling to save his life, or an egomaniac whose self-interest has driven him and led him to abuse Nora rather than save her.
If readers are of the mind that Freeze is a romantic member of Batman’s rogues’ gallery, that he’s an accident who only wants to cure his wife, then Batman: One Bad Day: Mr. Freeze #1 isn’t for you. The Freeze found in these pages is more of the cold control freak that dominated during the Scott Snyder years on the Batman title. It’s revealed in this book that Victor keeps Nora frozen because his relationship works best that way. She can’t go out and party at all hours of the night with people he doesn’t like. She can’t spend his money. She can’t argue with him. In her frozen state, Nora just floats there, looking angelic, while Freeze can focus on his other interests. She is an object to him, one he surrounds with other objects in the form of frozen animals.
In 2022, this Mr. Freeze characterization fits with society’s more recent focus and pushback against “nice guy” archetypes that passively abuse and undermine women’s ability to live their own lives by their own means. It’s definitely an interesting take, but again, readers’ mileage may vary.
Admittedly, the Mr. Freeze interpretation I prefer is the scientific sad sack, the one who just wants to give his wife her life and agency back after her bout with a terminal illness. While I find it poetic and sweet, I also understand that the old-fashioned male hero trope intertwined with this idea may make other readers uncomfortable. In some ways, it’s eerily similar to the white knight saving a princess from the castle. I get it, but I equally find it distressing to transform Freeze into just another cold abuser.
Freeze’s hero narrative is the one thing that separated him from the other rogues. It’s the one defining feature that makes a clear distinction between Victor and the Joker, Penguin, Mad Hatter, or any other number of classic Batman villains. Treating him this way, while it avoids retreading a story most fans know by heart, it also strips Victor of his unique, complicated identity.
With this One Bad Day installment, Freeze is just another run-of-the-mill control freak. He’s less of a scientist and more of a taxidermist, immobilizing his wife, so he can look at her when he wants.
The ending tries to cover up this characterization by noting some of the good wrought by Freeze’s scientific endeavors, but it comes across as strange and forced. Adding fuel to the fire, the whole reason Batman sought out Freeze was that Robin pushed back against Batman’s belief that criminals can’t change, trying to force some sense of hope or belief in the Caped Crusader. Mr. Freeze was supposed to prove that not all villains are bad people who can’t change, and obviously, his was not the redemption arc Robin was hoping for. With that in mind, what’s this book trying to say?! How are we, as readers, supposed to walk away from this?
That said, the art by Matteo Scalera in Batman: One Bad Day: Mr. Freeze #1 is beautiful, haunting, and really sells that winter scenery. Despite one’s feelings on how Mr. Freeze should be portrayed, the art is worth your attention. If you’re a fan of Batman: The Animated Series, the first suit readers see Mr. Freeze in is very much inspired by the cartoon series. Dave Stewart’s colors are the “frosting” on the cake, bringing Scalera’s linework to incredible heights.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with a copy of this comic for review purposes. You can find this comic and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this issue digitally on Comixology through Amazon or a physical copy of the title through Things From Another World.