After being left at the altar Bruce Wayne must pick up the pieces and continue to be Gotham City’s protector as Batman. That won’t be easy as Tom King is going to be focusing on Bruce the person rather than the superhero in this new arc that sees Bruce as part of a jury for the trial of Mr. Freeze. This is an intriguing scenario to put Bruce in right after his failed wedding with Catwoman. There are a lot of ways this could go for Bruce as he tries to get back to as normal as possible. This will also hopefully be a storyline that will help rejuvenate Mr. Freeze’s character as the New 52 was not kind to what his backstory was transformed into.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Lee Weeks
Colorist: Elizabeth Breitweiser
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Batman beats the hell out of Mr. Freeze and tells him to talk. Mr. Freeze screams as he continues to take a beating.
Some time later Bruce Wayne arrives at the Gotham South Court and is mobbed by the media. Bruce tells all the journalists that he is there to do his civic duty.
Inside the courthouse Bruce’s name is called.
During the jury selection Bruce is questioned on his association with Batman. Bruce says he sees Batman as complicated figure that is part of the city like a Gargoyle. Bruce is then questioned if his allegiance to Gotham City outweighs his past with Batman.
Eventually Bruce is selected to be part of the jury that will be involved in the trial of Victor Fries (Mr. Freeze).
Bruce then goes on to meet the rest of the jury members and then spends the night a hotel.
Elsewhere Batman (Dick Grayson) meets Commissioner Gordon, who can tell that he is the “other him.” Commissioner Gordon ask if the other one is alright. Batman simply says “No.”
At the courthouse the defense attorney goes over the case involving three dead women. He goes on to say that there is no evidence that the women were murdered given the coroner’s report said they died of natural causes. He then mentions that there wasn’t suspicion of murder until Batman came along.
Elsewhere Batman battles Killer Croc. During the fight Batman leaves Bruce a message to mention that everything is going well and for Bruce to call him when he can.
Back at trial Commissioner Gordon angrily admits that the murder case is all Batman’s theory and that Batman is not licensed to perform autopsies.
During the break in the trial Bruce gets up from his table as he gets tired of the rest of the jury joking around about Batman.
In the bathroom Bruce tears off a urinal and throws it against the wall. He then yells out in anger and frustration.
The trial resumes with Harvey Bullock revealing that when he found Mr. Freeze the villain was knocked out with a note left behind by Batman that said “He did it. Ask him.”
The defense attorney then questions Mr. Freeze and has him admit that he did confess to murdering the three women as part of an experiment when fighting Batman. Mr. Freeze admits that he fought Batman many times in the past but this last fight he could tell Batman was different. He goes on to say that to him Batman was not going to stop hitting him until he admitted to murdering the three women, fearing Batman would kill him if he didn’t admit it.
With the trial over the jury assemble to make their decision. Everyone on the jury is on the same page that Mr. Freeze did it since Batman has saved the city countless times. Before they can make a unanimous decision Bruce raises his hand. End of issue.
The Good: It is never easy to follow up on how to portray characters after a failed wedding. Batman #51 does not necessarily answer any of those questions. Instead it puts Bruce Wayne in a position where he has to deal with his actions as Batman in a public setting while not wearing the cape and cowl. In doing so King raises a lot of interesting points that explores who Bruce is in and out of his Batman costume.
Throughout Batman #51 King does a very good job using the failed wedding as something that is clearly hanging over Bruce’s head. Even though he has yet to really deal with the fallout it is something that is on his mind as he tries to find a new normal after being left at the altar. Bruce state of mind as he tries to focus on what is in front of him showed how unhealthy it is for him to keep his emotions inside. There are clear indications that Bruce does need to talk to someone or else he will break down at an even worse moment than him just tearing off a urinal inside a bathroom.
At the same time, King treats how those close to Bruce are approaching the situation. As shown by how Dick Grayson acted as Batman, everyone close to Bruce is not trying to talk about how he feels. They know that is not how they need will get to the core of what is troubling Bruce and he will just end up hiding deeper inside the Batcave without talking to anyone. This is an adult way of dealing with where Bruce is currently and shows how well Dick, Alfred, Damian, Barbara and the others know him. It was given further depth with how Commissioner Gordon knew that Dick was Batman at the moment and could tell something was wrong because of that without being told anything.
Given that Bruce isn’t up for dealing with the fallout to his wedding having him get involved in Mr. Freeze’s case was a great to confront his methods as Batman. While Batman’s severe beating of Mr. Freeze did show that Bruce is a unhinged given his personal events, this story is about much more than that. As the defense attorney brings up Batman is working outside the system and his involvement in cases can be seen as tampering.
While Batman has built credibility over the years with how he has saved Gotham City countless times it does not mean his word needs to be seen as gospel. This is something that hit close to home for Bruce as he does not deal well with being confronted by this in a public setting. At the same time King and Lee Weeks give us context clues that show how hearing all of this does open Bruce’s eyes on the problems with working outside the system.
All the facts presented does make you wonder if Mr. Freeze did in fact do what Batman forced him to admit to or if Batman, in his less than clear mind, wants to believe that as fact. Given the beating Batman gave him this is an big question to be answered. And with Bruce being the one that may actually defend Mr. Freeze there are a lot of possibilities in how this sets the tone for the series moving forward.
Seeing Mr. Freeze be put in a position that he comes off as a sympathetic person during the trial helped further the greater Batman story King is crafting. The New 52 was not kind to Mr. Freeze as his new origin story did not build a lot of interest in his character. So for King to paint Mr. Freeze in a sympathetic light where he is being shown as a possible victim to Batman’s current emotional state was interesting to see. The nature of what Mr. Freeze is being convicted of also provides the Batman villain a chance to have his character rebooted and tap into what made him such an engaging figure back in Batman: The Animated Series.
Though we didn’t see a lot of it Dick Grayson acting as Batman was cool to see take place. As he showed during his Grayson run, King has a great understanding of who Dick is as a character. King shows how Dick can carry the mantle of Batman with the fight with Killer Croc. In addition to that, he set up for a bigger moment down the line as Dick is trying to be there for Bruce as he does try reach out to his mentor to check up on him.
Throughout Batman #51 Lee Weeks delivers strong artwork that elevates King’s story. Weeks grounded approach fit in well with the story centering around Bruce Wayne being part of a jury for Mr. Freeze’s trial. The emotions that Weeks is able to convey in Bruce’s face added to where he is emotionally after recent events. Everything from Bruce’s indifference, anger and frustration made the story stronger. At the same time Weeks gave a dark and gritty feel to the Batman parts of this issue that added to the tone set by the writing in those scenes.
The Bad: The one problem with Batman #51 is how King does not make the case for Bruce actually being part of the jury. Since we are reminded of how close Bruce has been connected to Batman over the years with things like Batman Incorporated he should not have been allowed to be part of the jury. There should have been a greater case made by Bruce how his previous connection to Batman does not interfere with the decision he would make during the trial. By not doing so it does make it look like Bruce is being given an easy pass for being involved in this story.
Overall: The trial of Mr. Freeze presented a unique opportunity for Bruce Wayne to be at the forefront of Tom King’s latest story arc, “Cold Days.” In doing so King is able to use Batman #51’s story to explore Bruce’s current state of mind following his failed wedding with Catwoman in a fascinating way. The involvement of other Batman characters and Lee Weeks artwork added extra dimensions for where King is taking his run on DC Comics top comic book.