For those of you who are not currently reading Sean Murphy‘s fantastic Batman epic, stop reading this and go do that before reading Batman: White Knight Presents Von Freeze. Go ahead, I’ll wait. It is that good. Now there have been many many interpretations of Batman over the years. Not all of them have been good and only some of them great. Sean Murphy’s Batman is that latter category.
What makes his Batman so different? One word. History. No not the history that we have seen throughout the DC Multiverse. It’s a very specific history that he has woven. See his heroes are much more than just costumed nuts venturing in alleys and across rooftops punching bad guys. They are people. Just plain people. People that have to make difficult choices and face excruciating consequences. No different than say, you or I.
Oh sure they may have more resources and an impeccable noirish sense of style. But they are at their hearts, human. These traits that are injected by his writing. It makes them leap off the pages and feel like they are standing next to you.
To me, that is more important than any silhouette or cool (heh I promise not many freeze puns) costume. So any time a creator has the chance to build upon the world in their vision, it more often than not adds something very special to what is already there.
In Batman: White Knight there was a brief mention of some deep history between the Wayne and Fries family. In Sean’s own words this was something that was always intended for that book. Constraints forced him to leave it out. Still, he felt it was too important a story to leave on the cutting floor and he was right. So here we have it and let’s get to Batman: White Knight Presents Von Freeze.
We open up some time ago with a young child and older man being chased in the snow back in Germany during WWII. There’s a gunshot and a bleeding man. With his dying breath, he pleads to a very young Victor Fries to please take care of his infant daughter.
We cut some years later as Victor all grown up is staring at a photo reminding him of that day. He now works for Wayne Cryotech where a young scientist objects to his work.
As he tries to explain himself, he hears screaming downstairs in the lab. It’s none other than Thomas and Martha Wayne. Martha is currently pregnant with their future son Bruce but in dire straits. Thomas and Victor have to work together to get her stabilized.
Once this is accomplished, Thomas and Victor are then in the study afterward bonding over the subject of fatherhood and it is here we are treated to a very interesting backstory involving the Fries family.
I don’t want to go into details or deep spoilers though as this issue is too good to dismiss in footnotes. What follows is a very deep and sometimes disturbing retelling of some of the horrors of that time period, particularly for anyone of Jewish descent. Sure this is a comic and some of these horrors did not directly happen but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have were the access to some of these resources available in devious hands back then.
We get background on the famous Mr. Freeze Cold gun as well as a very different interpretation in the Victor and Nora dynamic. The art is wonderful as both the artist, Klaus Janson, and colorist, Matt Hollingsworth, do a great job of presenting a palette that really showcases this story in the best possible fashion. I have been a fan of Klaus for a long time and this is some of the best work of his career.
The story beats and panels just whiz by as you become sucked into this tale page after page. In a story that I thought was going to be all about Nazi fanaticism, I am reminded to once again not judge a book by its cover. Fair warning, there was barely a hint of a cape or cowl this whole book. This at the end of the day was a deep story of two families tied together and how they move forward.
I will be honest Batman: White Knight Presents Von Freeze was not the type of content I thought DC would relegate to their Black Label imprint, but I’m glad they have. Not every Batman story need be about crazy maniacal villains or insane death plots. Sometimes they just have to be about reminded us of the very human choices we all have to make and how to overcome whatever may find us.
Story: Sean Murphy Art: Klaus Janson Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review