By Cat Wyatt
Batman #51 is the first issue after the major event that could have been, and unsurprisingly it’s titled ‘Cold Days.’ This holds up for a couple of reasons, one of which being Batman’s mood, the other being the villain portrayed on the cover. It looks like it’s time for another classic Batman versus Mr. Freeze…or is it?
This issue starts out fairly normally, for Batman, that is. Bruce Wayne is walking around the city and naturally he’s getting called out to by the press. So in short it’s nothing new there. Likewise we’re getting flashes of Mr. Freeze…who doesn’t look like he’s in very good shape. Admittedly that’s a little abnormal – Batman doesn’t usually beat his villains that badly, and certainly not the named ones (good luck if you’re a henchmen though).
As it turns out this day is going to be anything but normal for Batman/Bruce Wayne. You see, Bruce Wayne is being a good citizen and heading in for jury duty. You read that right. While normal people like us can expect to attend jury duty on a fairly regular basis, it’s hard to picture somebody like Bruce Wayne getting called in and actually attending.
Naturally Bruce Wayne isn’t going to get put on some minor case either. No, he’s going to sit in on a trail against Mr. Freeze. The irony is almost too much to bear here. You know how the lawyers from both sides will question the jury, to make sure there aren’t any biases? Well, somehow they don’t mind that Bruce Wayne and Batman have a connection…even though Batman is the reason Mr. Freeze is here in the first place.
Obviously the conflict of interest is much more severe than that, but the courts have no idea. Still, it’s a bit frustrating seeing Bruce Wayne flaunt the law like that – even if there really was no good way for him to get out of this while still saving face. For somebody who supposedly cares about doing what’s right…it’s tough to see. Here’s hoping that there’s more going on here, or else we’ll manage to get surprised in some other way.
Still, it’s hard to ignore the truth of the matter. Mr. Freeze faces trial because a vigilante brought him in. What’s more, the very same vigilante – Batman, obviously – beat the ever loving shit out of him. The flashback images overlaying it make that abundantly clear. We can clearly see Batman beating Mr. Freeze until he confesses to the crimes.
We’ve heard time and time again that confession under torture is not reliable, that people will say anything to make it stop. Now, Mr. Freeze is not a normal person, so it’s hard to say if he would break or not under Batman’s fists. Still…it leaves a certain sense of discomfort, does it not?
By the way, the crimes that Mr. Freeze has been accused of? Murder, times three. Three women have been found dead in their homes. There’s no motive listed for why Mr. Freeze would do it, but Batman found evidence that there was a significant temperature drop in each of their brain stems, leaving Batman to deduce that they did not, in fact, die of natural causes.
Okay, it’s a bit of a thin theory, but it’s plausible. The main question is why would Mr. Freeze do that? It’s not really his thing, now is it? Also, since Batman didn’t technically have authority to autopsy those women…well it brings it a little further away from the moral gray area of vigilantism, doesn’t it? Technically there’s no way to prove that Batman didn’t do something to the bodies such as planting said evidence. That’s why we have a set of rules for handling and protecting evidence, to avoid lawyers from tearing into loopholes like this one.
The real curveball comes at the end of the issue. Mr. Freeze has taken the stand – something he isn’t actually required to do, mind you. He admits that he openly confessed to Batman that he killed those three women, but there’s a catch. He says he only made that confession to make Batman stop beating on him…whether or not that’s true, it’s actually a brilliant play on his part. If it’s the truth, he’s putting a shadow over Batman’s reputation and hopefully managing to avoid going to prison (again) for a crime he didn’t actually commit. If he’s lying, well it certainly isn’t going to hurt him any, but it still very well could hurt Batman’s reputation. After all, they still have to prove that he’s lying, and if he can get anything Batman touched as being considered inadmissible…well there goes most, if not all, of the evidence against him. It’s pretty brilliant.
And most importantly, there’s one juror that Mr. Freeze managed to get on his side – Bruce Wayne. While the rest of the jury were content to let Mr. Freeze go to prison on Batman’s say so alone, Bruce Wayne sees the flaw – the complete lack of ethics, in this decision making process. It’ll be interesting to see how long the trial ends up going on for, and if Bruce will be able to change the mind of the other jurors.
This was an oddly fascinating issue. At first it looked like Batman/Bruce Wayne was completely disregarding ethics and laws by being so involved in this trial, only to flip everything on its head. It’s likely that he changed his mind because, haven been there on the night in question, he knows he went over the line in questioning Freeze. Heck, for all we know he did break Freeze and get him to falsely confess. That’s the last thing Gotham needs. Best case scenario it means that an innocent man is in jail and that those three women died of natural causes. Worst case scenario an innocent man (well, innocent of this particular crime spree) has gone to prison and there’s still the real killer roaming around.
It’s clear that Batman was taking out all of his frustration from his failed wedding out on the villains in the city. It’s also apparent that he probably went too far. It’s understandable, why Batman would seek solace in crime fighting. For the longest time it was all he had, and in many ways he probably felt that way all over again. In a way this trial was the best thing for him – if not for being slapped in the face with the repercussions of his anger, who knows how long it might have taken him to get out of this mood.