Monday, June 25, 2012

Batman Annual #1

Good news, Doom Bunny! This is the last Night of the Owls commentary you'll ever have to read!

Night of the Owls proves that DC still has quite a bit of work to do to get this whole New 52 thing right. The editorial leadership at DC Comics seem to think that showing the reader that the character they want to read about doesn't live in a vacuum is the most important part of The New 52. They call it "world building" or some other such nonsense. What it really should be called is "story line destroying" because the writers are constantly being forced to come up with stories where their character interacts with someone else's character. The more cynical readers will say that this is just to get buyers to purchase more comic books. And if that's true, it's going to fail spectacularly. Because interrupting a great storyline just to shove Kyle Rayner or Red Hood into your comic for the sake of "world building" does the opposite of making people buy more comics. Let the writers write good stories and the readers will purchase the comic book. But force them to stick a Talon into their book (many in the middle of story arcs already) and the comic will mostly suffer. DC, stop being so concerned with every title having guest stars every few months and let the lead character on a title shine.

I'm glad this whole thing is about to be over. And it's sad that the genuinely well-told story happening in the pages of Batman sparked the idea to have any comic with a link to Gotham be part of the story. It was unnecessary and all it has done is left me exhausted and annoyed. Hopefully Snyder's story in this annual will pull it all together for a decent finish.

For hundreds of years, the Court of Owls remained secret and ruled from the shadows, trying to keep their existence in the realms of fantasy and urban legend. But then Batman discovered them and was close to exposing everything they really were. Desperate to stop the discovery of the members of the Court, they resurrected all of their retired Talons and let them loose on Gotham to kill dozens of important figures. I believe each of these figures they were to kill had some information that could expose the Court. Mr. Freeze worked with them. Batman had recently discovered them. Dick Grayson had just found out about his history and how he was supposed to become the next Talon. Lincoln March had information on the Court which he has just recently passed on to Batman. So this Night of the Owls was an attempt to clean up the pellets the owls had been leaving all over Gotham. They were trying to get back to secrecy. It kind of blew up in their faces though!

So now that I've gotten through the summary of what has been going on, it's time to put the Court of Owls to rest in their nest.

Mr. Freeze as a small boy in Lowell, Nebraska.

It's now just after midnight on the Night of the Owls. Victor Fries has been carted off to Arkham after Jason Todd, Starfire, and Roy Harper saved his life from a Talon. He's busy in therapy talking about the time his mother fell through some ice and the cold preserved her until help arrived. Not that it's any of my business since I've never run an insane asylum, but is this really the time for a therapy session? Arkham was almost killed and the asylum exploded into a riot. Perhaps it's standard operating procedure to interview inductees on their return to Arkham. Oh, it's always on their return! Nobody is ever new to Arkham.

So Victor is telling his therapist all about how the Court of Owls tricked him into using his formula to bring people back from the dead and then how they tried to kill him. The therapist keeps bringing up Nora and Mr. Freeze is not happy discussing Nora. She is currently preserved by cold. She seems to be the reason for all of his experiments since he told Starfire he's doing it all for love back in Red Hood #9.

Here's a riddle: What happens in Arkham when a deranged mental patient is put in the same room as his therapist? If you said, he escapes, you're correct! If you also said the therapist dies and/or falls in love with the inmate, you'd also be correct! If you said the inmate is cured, you need to read more Batman comic books.

Mr. Freeze makes escaping from Arkham look far easier than everyone already thought it was. Once he's out of his cell and back into his suit, he takes a food delivery truck and drives on over to the Iceberg Casino to visit the Penguin. Or maybe to just use Penguin's ice making technology that keeps the casino covered in ice.

A visit it is!

The Penguin and Victor discuss the peculiarities of Victor's visit. A question here, a mild threat there, and perhaps a fake robbery set-up as Victor retrieves his guns from The Penguin. I don't know why The Penguin has them on hand but I'm sure it involves Freeze paying The Penguin large sums of money. Freeze leaves The Penguin's casino with his weapons and heads off to get his wife, Nora, and to kill Bruce Wayne before leaving Gotham for good.

Mr. Freeze's wife was kept in Waynetech where Fries was doing research on Cryogenics. I'm pretty sure there was an accident that turned him into the frozen icicle he is now and he became mentally unbalanced, lost his job, and lost track of his wife's frozen body. But now he's returned for her and found that the cryogenic chamber she was in now contains an elderly man. Freeze also finds some wayward super heroes.

I wonder if they were down here fetching some ice technology to stop the final Talons. Probably! It's a better place to look than a subway or a train station!

Mr. Freeze gets the better of Nighwing and Robin because this is Batman's Annual! Bruce Wayne, calling on some communication thing somewhere in the lab, convinces Mr. Freeze to let Robin and Nightwing go. Bruce is waiting for Freeze in the penthouse at the top of the elevator. And it's taken me awhile because I've just been wrapped up in the story, but I finally realize that this story isn't going to wrap up any Court of Owls crap at all! So I guess the Court of Owls storyline will continue in Batman #10 as Batman takes Lincoln March's information and heads off to shut them down. But for now, in this comic book, Batman is just going to fight Mr. Freeze to the death! Ha ha, no, just kidding. Batman will probably make him cry though.

Batman and Mr. Freeze tussle for awhile in front of Nora in her cryogenic chamber. And then Batman disrupts the delusion.

I told you he was going to make him cry! Does Mr. Freeze cry icicles?

Batman knocks Freeze unconscious by raising his body temperature using the formula that brought the Talons back to life. I think this is some kind of irony or something. But before he blacks out and ends the issue, he has one last memory of walking with his mother through the snow after she recovered, slightly brain damaged, from her fall through the ice.

This scene might have been more poignant if I hadn't been distracted by her bandages being on the wrong hand when she's dumped in the hole.

And that wraps it up for the Night of the Owls crossovers! Hooray! I hope DC doesn't do this too often. Probably three quarters of the Night of the Owls crossovers were crap, throw away stories that didn't do anything for the characters or the current story lines. Even the ones that tried to make them some kind of comment on the main character, like Red Hood or Batgirl. Although Catwoman's issue worked well. So, there was that one.

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