Author: Lauren Myracle
Illustrator: Isaac Goodhart
Release Date: 3rd November 2020
Published by DC Comics under their Young Adult imprint
Mike Moans is back and oh boy has he missed comics. With the run up to Christmas and the single day of Covid family allocation we had here in the UK, I needed to catch up on both my reading and reviewing.
Let’s start off by pointing out that I am a 27 year old man who is far from the target audience of this week’s read. I am however an avid fan of the couple in this comic – well, more accurately, their animated versions – so let’s dive into Victor and Nora: A Gotham Love Story and see if DC’s Young Adult imprint can appeal to a seasoned comic fan, how much of the characters’ history is respected, and how the narrative forges new paths for my 3rd favourite DC comic couple (I wonder if you can guess my top 5 in the comments with this post, it would be interesting to see.)
Mr Freeze is a villain who I strongly feel you can really get the best value out of. Given only a short pair of Adam West outings, a strongly developed single episode of the legendary Batman: The Animated Series and the beautifully polished in Batman Beyond follow-up, he instantly won over many fans. After those appearances and arguably one of the best boss fights in recent video game history in the Batman: Arkham City game, he has become some of a fan favourite. You may notice me actively avoiding some of his other appearances, but trust me it’s for the best. His comic outings have been few and far between, but it was a delight to see him resurface in Sean Murphy’s recent White Knight series briefly and in the recent Detective Comics run, although I have very mixed feelings about Nora’s role in that.
After a long waffling paragraph, my point is that with the amount of gold in his minor comic and media appearances so far, we’ve been treated to some impressive stories and character development from just a few small helpings. Hence me jumping in excitedly to read this latest outing.
In this iteration, Otto is Victor’s older brother (I’m sure he’s named after the actor Otto Preminger who once wielded the Freeze persona in Batman 66). Otto is remembered fondly by Victor who feels the blame for his brother’s passing in a house fire he caused. This moment led to a rift between the boy’s parents, leaving Victor very much alone with only his passion for science to motivate him. That is until we meet young love interest Nora who is set to melt Victor’s heart of ice. However, as we all know from the traditional Freeze outings, Nora is doomed with a life of chronic illness and an assured early passing.
To handle this story of love and loss we have the returning creative partnership of New York Times bestselling author Lauren Myracle and illustrator Isaac Goodhart, a team who previously worked together on the well-received Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale, also a part of DC’s Young Adult imprint.
Goodhart has done a stellar job here of captivating every key moment of our future frosty couple’s interactons. Be it tone shifting major revelations or subtle facial changes to highlight the emotional growth and personal comforts of Victor and Nora, Goodhart delivers. Every page oozes warmth for both of our future counterparts. The settings are very typical, but illustrated delightfully, complimenting the story and the comfort of the characters. For example, Victor is traditionally
NOTE: From here on in there will be minor storyline spoilers so consider this your fair warning.
That being said, this is very much a story of a well-known path. We know from the get-go that we’re not headed for a fairy tale ending, but more of a journey of inevitable turmoil. This story is about their chemistry and how our young lovers are forced into maturity.
The opening act is very traditional boy meets girl. Victor is focused on science and has an eye for little else – until he meets Nora. Nora is full of life but is on limited time. The two quickly form a bond, and act two is very much about the revelation of Nora telling Victor of her doomed fate and Victor defrosting his heart long enough to share the story of his brother Otto’s passing.
Going back to the impressive visual talents of Goodheart, the highlights here come from the way the anxieties and fears of Nora manifest themselves into a visual iconography of death. Subtle enough for a teen read but still with enough of the heart-wrenching reality. Just check this page below for everything you need to know about just how Goodheart has spun his style into the more harrowing realities.
The relationship between the pair blossoms well and I very much enjoyed the book. I took the time to keep focused on it and finished it in one sitting. It’s a teen book so yes, as a 27 year old man, I should easily be able to finish it in one latte-powered sitting. However, my point is more that I never felt like the story was “beneath me” or a shallow experience in any way. In fact, I have yet to experience that feeling, heaving already read Mera: Tide Breaker and Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass, both also from the Young Adult imprint.
This book tackles a myriad of subjects relevant to a 2021 teen. Sex, chronic illness, young love and loss are all explored. Big shout out also for the creative team including a list of agencies/support lines for readers suffering from any of the issues raised in the book on the final page. This shows real care and responsibility from the creative team. That being said, I want to mention two issues that raised my brow. Firstly, Victor and Nora are perceived as almost a saviour to one another. While young love may feel that way, I’d like to have seen some reference or consideration to the fact that other help is out there, like the way the back of the book did.
My second issue, which I admittedly loved as a Freeze fan, is something I feel should be acknowledged more in a teen book. In the final pages, Victor tries to save Nora from her grim fate. Nora has very much wanted to go out on her own terms and not at the hands of chronic illness. In her planned final moments, Victor gives her the serum, freezing her in stasis. This is very non-consensual and Nora describes it as being her worst way to die.
Previously in their courtship they bonded over ways of dying, so this was a nice throwback. That being said, there are no repercussions to Victor’s actions. Thirty or so extra pages devoted to why this was an inhumane act with consequences would have solidified this book for me. You could certainly see the good intentions of the future Mr Freeze and his conflict with “I do as I must”. Having her preserved secretly avoids major consequences for her personal fate, but I do feel that he should face some consequence.
In his attempt to preserve Nora, he had to steal dangerous chemicals and equipment from the lab he interns, surely having his internship stripped and a downfall would have rounded out Victor’s story. He was very much left with a popsicle for a girlfriend and a guidance to preserve her at all costs akin to traditional Mr Freeze but none of the consequences leading to the ‘villain’ nature.
That said, at the end of the day, all I wanted from this book was a story to set us on the road to this point (see below) and in that respect, it delivered. The heart-warming journey was the foundation to Heart of Ice. Victor & Nora: Gotham Love Story threw some alternate paths but we never strayed too far from the Freeze mythos so I’m a happy reader who would recommend this to the hardcore fans just as much as its young adult target audience.