Like almost every sane person in the world, I love Batman. When I was a kid, I wanted to be Batman when I grew up. Still do. However, no matter how hard I train in martial arts, or how many mail-order criminology degrees I pay for, I will never be able to get the one thing that makes Batman special: obsession. He is able to push the limits of human performance in every field because he is obsessed with preventing anyone from experiencing a tragedy like his own, and that obsession drives him to do amazing things. It drove him to be the best detective, the best martial artist, and the most dangerous human alive; one that strikes fear in the hearts of street criminals and space gods alike. I love stories where his obsessive drive gives him the strength to do the impossible, but anyone who has ever been obsessed with anything can tell you, it can also bite you in the ass.
Batman: Snow, reprinting Legends of the Dark Knight issues 192-196, written by Dan Curtis Johnson and J.H Williams and drawn by the late Seth Fisher, is a story exploring that exact problem: what happens when Batman’s obsession goes too far? Taking place early in his crime fighting career, the book opens with Alfred finding him shot, near death and bleeding in the Batcave. When he wakes up, though, Bruce is already planning his next move from bed, with his head wrapped in bandages. We start to see that Batman cannot see his own limitations, and he is pushing himself and his allies to the limit. He brushes off Alfred’s suggestion that he gets a full night sleep on days when he sustains multiple gunshot wounds, and Commissioner Gordon cuts him off when Batman rushes through a hostage situation so Gordon can help him with another case. Beat up, overworked, and nearly friendless, Batman still refuses to admit his limitations and goes for a more awesome solution: assemble an Mission: Impossible style crew of ragtag specialists to do his intelligence and recon for him. Honestly, that is an amazing idea that is far more worthy of a TV show than “Commissioner Gordon fights crime without Batman or a mustache”.
Seth Fisher’s art is really the star here. He was truly a special talent that was taken away from us too soon. Seth Fisher died in 2006, from injuries sustained from a fall from a 7 story building while celebrating the completion of his Marvel comic, Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big in Japan. He brought such imagination and attention to detail into all of his work, and I wish we could have seen more of his talent. He worked on such amazingly detailed, surreal and beautiful books such as Green Lantern: Willworld, but Batman: Snow seems to be the most grounded superhero comic story he had ever worked on. J.H. Williams, one of the writers of this book, could have drawn this himself. He is an incredible artist in his own right, as you can see from his beautiful run on Detective Comics with Greg Rucka . It would have been beautiful like all of William’s work, but it wouldn’t have fit. Batman:Snow lives in a nebulous intersection of the Batmen that we know: the human vulnerability of Adam West, the obsessive Batman of the modern era, and the Year One Batman that is still developing as a hero. I don’t know if this is a conscious choice by Williams, or if he was just too busy to draw the book himself, but the choice of Fisher grounds the story in real detail, but also captures the feeling that Batman’s world is getting a lot less ordinary with every new superpowered foe.
Fisher's style gives such a spooky quality to a snow covered Gotham by day.
When you look at Seth Fisher’s work on Batman: Snow, you get a sense that you are looking at something that you are familiar with, but with a completely different perspective. Small things like frost on Mr. Freeze’s nose and icy fog coming from the his breath inside of his glass helmet make a huge difference in making the story feel immersive and fresh. He doesn’t change Mr. Freeze’s costume at all from his standard look, but these tiny, yet carefully considered details gives him a fresh new vitality behind the old, familiar costume. Fisher, an artist who admitted to not being an avid reader of superhero comics, brings an outsider’s perspective that seems to reset your expectations. Even the familiar sight of a Year One Batman story feels so new and so unknown. So many little choices serve to throw you off guard: Batman is not the hulking muscular Dark Knight we see so often now. He feel’s almost Adam West-ish, with his silver age blue and gray outfit and his less defined physique. He strikes the balance between a man who is an elite physical specimen and a genius detective in a way that we have never seen: both parts of Batman are equally believable within Seth’s version of the Dark Knight. Fisher is able to show the obsessive detective side of Batman with such subtlety, like when he gets his bandaged head caught in his cowl like it was a stubborn hooded sweatshirt. After seeing the level of detail and thought he puts into his art, you know Fisher channeled his own obsession onto this version of Batman. He is not the invincible Bat God that we will see later, capable of controlling crime in his own city while simultaneously defending the world from Darkseid . This slight bit of vulnerability in a character that we have seen do the impossible is incredibly refreshing, and adds to that fresh feeling that you get from this book.
Batman Snow is a fun story that uses its art style and a clever story hook to take an old story and make it feel fresh and interesting. We have all read versions of the first time Batman meets Mr. Freeze, whether through the comics, the Animated Series’ amazing episode “Heart of Ice”, or the *ahem* less awesome Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, but this feels completely new. If you want to read a new take on Batman and Mr. Freeze, or if you just want to bask in the beauty of Fisher’s art, this book is a great pick.
Check out Seth Fisher's website to learn more about him, and to check out more of his amazing artwork.