But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Based on the splash page, Jacob Riker sees Batman swinging near his balcony window and pines for the Dark Knight Detective’s help. Because Mr. Freeze is at Riker’s door. The criminal is very unhappy and decides to make an example of Riker. As Wein writes, “And Jacob Riker’s final scream is mercifully brief!”
The Bat and the Cat
The next day, Bruce Wayne is working in his office when he receives an interesting visitor: Selina Kyle, AKA The Catwoman. She doesn’t know Bruce and Batman are one in the same. She’s done her time and now wants to invest some money in Wayne Enterprises. Bruce initially balks, but then relents. Not before pissing off the former criminal and allowing her a cagey smile.
No sooner does Bruce lament his predicament—even ordering Lucius Fox to check out Selina’s story—than the Bat Signal graces the Gotham sky. Batman’s on the case. When he meets up with Commissioner Gordon, the Caped Crusader sees Jacob Riker frozen to death in a block of ice.
Meanwhile…on the 13th Floor
An older man named McVee enters another office building across town. A young woman--who turns out to be his girlfriend, Hildy--greets him and hands him a parka. Inside his special lair, Mr. Freeze awaits. Unlike Riker who refused Freeze’s request, McVee is all in. In a bid to make himself immortal, McVee lays down in a clear coffin. Cryogenic gases fill the chamber. When the doors open, McVee is no longer himself. He is now an ice zombie.
Hey. It’s 1978.
That's yet another failure. Freeze wants to find a way to convert Hildy into something like himself so they can live happily ever after. She, however, isn't buying it. She's already planning on double-crossing the criminal.
In S.T.A.R. Labs, there's a figure on an operating room, shrouded with a sheet. The scientists chat about how the Wayne Foundation made it possible for the body to be delivered. One scientist utters the words "Yea, this new radiation treatment will either cure him--or kill him."
No sooner are the words out of his mouth than the figure rises up, breaks the bonds holding him on the table, and proceeds to lay waste to the lab.
Until he falls dead.
What? Fear not. All will be explained.
Tracking Down Freeze
Through a contact--in the 1970s, it seemed every issue had Batman talk to some street man to get information; this time, it's "Benny the Buzz"--Batman sneaks into a building owned by Mr. Freeze. Benny was right. Batman walks into a trap. It seemed Benny telephoned Freeze before Bats even arrived.
The Caped Crusader leaps into action against the ice zombies which Mr. Freeze calls...wait for it...his ice pack. Yup. If you've ever fallen while ice skating, you'll know ice is hard. Batman finds out the hard way after socking one of the zombies in the jaw...and nearly shattering his knuckles.
The fight is short and Bats is thrown in the same cryo-tank as the unfortunate Mr. McVee. (Think he was named after the husband-and-wife team in Fleetwood Mac?) Freeze doesn't want to make the same mistake he did with McVee on his lady love. Despite our hero's attempts to get out, he nonetheless is rendered into an ice zombie!
Now, we know Batman has something up his sleeve. He's already revealed to the reader he applied insulating salve to protect him against the cold air of Freeze's hideout. That's the answer, right? Well, partially.
In a small soliloquy, Hildy talks about her plans. She also marvels at how handsome Batman is. She goes so far as to kiss him.
And knows the truth at the exact moment Freeze confronts her for her double-dealing. But she can't get a word in edgewise because Freeze won't let her. Batman comes to her rescue. Freeze is dumbfounded. How could Batman not be a zombie. Well, our hero disabled muct of the cryogenic hoses before he even stepped foot in the hideout!
A fight quickly ensues. Batman can't beat the zombies so he turns his attention to Freeze. As you can see from the cover image, this version of Freeze has a costume and a glass helmet. Batman shatters the glass, the only means of communication Freeze has to his ice pack. They stop moving. Batman leaps to action. Hildy picks up the damaged Freeze Gun and aims it at both men. She pulls the trigger.
The freeze ray backfires. She's frozen solid. "Your Hildy wanted to stay young and beautiful forever," Batman says to Mr. Freeze as they leave. "And it looks like she's finally gotten her way!"
The Tag Ending
Remember that sheet-shrouded figure? Well, the same pair of scientists now stand over a freshly dug grave. They name the dead man: Mark Desmond. They lament not being able to help poor Desmond, but now he at least has peace. They depart.
Then, the earth begins to rumble. Dirt shakes. And a thick pair of hands emerges from the ground. Mark Desmond is alive!
I don't know about you, but having what is basically a prelude to the next issue buried (natch) in this issue is pretty nifty. It's good storytelling, but it's also good marketing. What kid in December 1978 is not going to search for that next issue?
Wein's writing really shines in the sidebars. With the comic medium, you've got pictures. The writer doesn't need to say a lot, at least as it appears on the page. But Wein does more. He adds depth to these panels, whether it be descriptions of the city or the inner thinking of Bruce Wayne and Batman. When Wein came over to DC from Marvel, Batman was the character for which he wanted to write. He adds more than simply a comic adventure. He helps to reveal the man behind the hero.
The art is by the combo team of John Calnan and Dick Giordano. They make a good pair. Their illustrations of both women are very good and, oddly, quite sensual. How they stage certain sequences is also well done, almost like a movie. All in all, Wein, Calnan, and Giordano produced a good issue.