Batman: Gotham Knights # 59 Retro Review

Reviewer: Kevin S. Mahoney
Story Title: Fire & Ice

Written by: Robbie Morrison
Art by: Charlie Adlard
Colored by: Brad Anderson
Lettered by: Clem Robins
Editor: Matt Idleson
Publisher: DC Comics

Writers have an odd set of rules to guide them. Most, myself included, are under the kind tutelage of a not-all-that-tyrannical editor. Assignments given out, specifications rendered, deadlines given (and hopefully met). Those are fairly structured things. Every once in a while however, the rules fall away and an opportunity to play it fast and loose presents itself. At The Nexus, that rare chance is the “retro” review. The writer picks the book (the editor mandates only the publisher), and writes his own review. Considering the average serious comics publisher has been in business for decades that is a long list of potential choices for any writer. So, to make the exercise more fun, I invented a few selection rules for this review…
1. The comic had to be on sale now at a chain comics shop.
2. The title could not be one I normally read or review.
3. The comic had to be a self-contained story. It cannot be part of a larger arc.
4. The comic could NOT be part of, crassly allude to, or spin off from a crossover event.
5. The comic had to be over three months old.
6. Superman could NOT appear in the book (excluding advertising).

Seems simple enough, right? Do you have any idea how many modern comics are part of big arcs, or spun-off from what are now quarterly, gimmick-ridden events? Or worse, have (blech!) Superman in them? Lots. But not this one…

There are a couple of reasons I don’t read Batman Gotham Knights. One used to be Devin Grayson; I have found her characterization so completely hit or miss as to render sustained reading of any series she writes intolerable. The other reason? A focus on strange character pairings (like Batman and Aquaman having a chat (GK #18). Batman, as a story lynchpin, has two major assets: detective stories and dark and macabre mood. Creating a title that would NOT feature mysteries and would fold a contrasting character into every issue (thereby diluting the Dark Knight’s mystique) seemed pointless. It wouldn’t kill DC Comics to create a Team-Up book for that purpose (like the old Showcase series). Half measures like this impress me even less because Batman’s regular supporting cast and environment is varied and interesting enough to justify its own book. Why wander off the reservation in the first place?

Then I read this story. It’s not written by D. Grayson. It doesn’t concern Batman and someone outside of the Batman canon. It’s a damned cool mystery-cum-character-piece featuring Mister Freeze. It resembled some of the less bizarre LOTDK one shots, except it appears to be in modern continuity. Outside of a throwaway quip, the dialogue is solid while the action is straightforward and substantial. It entertained while recounting the origin of Victor Freeze from separate perspectives, a great new take on an old story.

The art was equally impressive. While the action sequences were exciting enough, what seemed truly remarkable was the amount of care and depth that went into the depiction of both Victor and Batman’s visages during their dialogue. It’s tough to sell a story that has a lot of “talking heads”, but Adlard and Anderson manage it. The expressions match and even add to the impassioned dialogue of both characters. The art includes all that and several explosions and a shattered frozen hand to boot! That’s tough to beat in a one shot story.

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