The New Batman Adventures – “Cold Comfort”

coldcomfortEpisode Number:  3 (88)

Original Air Date:  October 11, 1997

Directed by:  Dan Riba

Written by:  Hilary J. Bader

First Appearance:  Jack Ryder

“Cold Comfort” (which shares a name with the Iceman episode of X-Men) is the unofficial completion of the Mr. Freeze trilogy in Batman: The Animated Series. It’s interesting to me now in doing these how fast and furious it feels like Mr. Freeze has come at me with the trio of “Deep Freeze,” SubZero, and now this episode following the amount of time that passed between the debut “Heart of Ice” and Freeze’s return. Of course, in real-time “Deep Freeze” aired in 1994 with SubZero seeing release in 1998. This episode actually aired before SubZero was widely available so this episode some-what spoils the ending to that feature.

This episode also isn’t the reintroduction of Mr. Freeze that we were supposed to have. The Batman Adventures Holiday Special, which “Holiday Knights” was partly adapted from, also featured a Mr. Freeze tale called “White Christmas.” That segment was supposed to be featured either as part of “Holiday Knights” or as its own episode. Following SubZero though, that story didn’t make sense as it required Nora Fries to be dead so those plans were scrapped and we somehow ended up here. This episode is interesting to me because it’s written by someone not named Bruce Timm or Paul Dini. Of course, neither worked on SubZero (which is what initially led to the confusion with “White Christmas”) so their hold on Freeze had already been lessened. Handling writing duties for this one is Hilary Bader in her first contribution to Batman. She wrote several episodes for Superman (and actually first wrote for the character of Superman on the show Lois & Clark) and will make additional contributions to this series. She’ll also handle the final Mr. Freeze episode in this continuity, the Batman Beyond episode “Meltdown.”

freeze why not

Mr. Freeze is back in black looking to spread some misery.

After somewhat flirting with heroism, “Cold Comfort” returns Mr. Freeze to the world of villainy. At the end of SubZero, Victor Fries is shown witnessing a news report of his wife, Nora’s, revival and curing. With tears running down his cheeks, he leaves the scene to walk off with his two polar bear companions into the arctic. We don’t know what he’s planning next, but we obviously know he’s happy to see his wife is okay and will get another shot at this whole life thing. He’s not sporting his handy cold suit, so for all we know it’s been destroyed and he’s trapped in the cold confines of the arctic. Will he return to be at his wife’s side or is he resigned to let her be? He’s obviously found his emotions and is no longer the cold, dead, man he was when we first met him. I’m pretty sure by the end of that movie most of the audience is rooting both Victor and Nora, but no villain seems to ever truly give up their life of crime so I doubt anyone was holding their breath.

The episode opens with a long, lingering, shot on a dinosaur skeleton at a museum. Dr. Margaret Madsen (Tress MacNeille) is exhibiting some new bones discovered at the Gotham Museum and it’s being covered by the local news, hosted by Jack Ryder (Jeff Glen Bennett). It’s a pretty standard piece for the local news, until Mr. Freeze (Michael Ansara) crashes the party. He’s got a new look going on with a mostly all black suit with some light blue accents wisely trading in those purple gloves and boots. His head is still in a fishbowl and his voice is modulated. The shape of his head is much longer now and it basically looks like a cross between a skull and a potato. His goggles have also been replaced as he just naturally has red eyes now with a liberal amount of black surrounding them. If his head weren’t so oddly shaped I’d probably prefer this look to his past one.

ice maidens

Working for Mr. Freeze apparently includes a dress code now.

Freeze is accompanied by some new henchwomen this time. Basically taking a cue from the old 1960s television show, they’re all wearing purple parkas and sunglasses and are very campy looking. In the credits they’re referred to as Ice Maidens and are voiced by Tress MacNeille, Cree Summer, and Lauren Tom.

Mr. Freeze turns his attention to the dinosaur while one of the women restrains Dr. Madsen. When she points out that no one would buy a stolen dinosaur Freeze corrects her – he doesn’t wish to steal this priceless artifact, but destroy it. He uses his freeze ray to coat the once great beast in ice and watches it shatter. Madsen is reduced to tears calling out “Why?” over and over as Freeze leaves with a simple “Why not?”

freeze painting

So destructive.

Sometime later, Gotham is shown celebrating its tricentennial with a gala. Mayor Hamilton Hill (Lloyd Bochner) is shown for the first time in this series looking very similar to his previous version, but with more white in his hair. Bruce Wayne is in attendance and is shown complaining to Commissioner Gordon about seeing Mr. Freeze on his television. He comes across as a spoiled, entitled, citizen who wants more from the police which is a pretty solid cover and different from the usual playboy persona he exhibits. Gordon, for his part, listens to Wayne’s complaints without offering much in return likely looking for a way out of the conversation.

All attention is then turned towards Hill who unveils a new work of art to commemorate the city’s birth. Artist Guiseppe Bianci (Ian Patrick Williams) is poised to speak about the mural he painted when Mr. Freeze once again shows up. He offers some praise towards Bianci’s for the work he did while pondering how long it must have taken him to perfect his technique. He then takes aim at it while Bianci begs him not to destroy it for he’s old and couldn’t possibly complete another in his lifetime. Freeze is unmoved and destroys the mural. Wayne, upon seeing his old foe, radios to Alfred who is outside in the limo that he’ll need to change. Expecting Alfred to unveil a fancy contraption housing Bruce’s Batman attire, I was letdown when he simply opens the glove box to fetch the outfit.

look out dog

He seems like the type who would dislike little, yippy, dogs.

With the mural destroyed, Mr. Freeze sets his sights on the wealthy attendees of this gala. He offers them a warning, “Search your hearts for the thing you value most, then despair, for I have come to take it from you.” His gaze lingers on a small dog whose owner tries to shield. As Freeze takes aim, Batman shows up and is able to strike Freeze’s gun with a batarang causing him to misfire. Freeze hardly seems alarmed at the sight of his adversary, and his three maidens start firing at Batman. They’re armed with their own freeze rays, but Batman is able to avoid their fire and take the fight directly to Freeze on stage. Freeze, powered by his new suit, tosses Batman aside with tremendous force yet little effort. This causes one of the girls to think she’s got him dead to rights, but Batman is able to reflect her ice blast back at her freezing her leg. Batman then finds himself staring down Mr. Freeze’s gun, but interestingly, Freeze explains he has no desire to destroy Batman at this time and merely freezes his cape to the ground. As Batman struggles to free himself, Freeze departs leaving his partially frozen henchwoman behind in an homage to “Heart of Ice.” By the time Batman is able to tear his cape from the ground, Freeze is gone.

Batman returns to the Batcave and Robin and Batgirl are there as well. He’s at his computer brushing up on his Mr. Freeze knowledge and giving the audience a refresher. They recall the accident that created him, as well as his wife Nora and her curing. Following that, Nora waited for her husband to return to her, but he never did. Eventually she remarried and left Gotham. Now Freeze is back and apparently out to make everyone simply feel terrible.

freeze doctors

Mr. Freeze is apparently not in the best of health these days.

Elsewhere, in a very cold room a doctor clad in a warm parka reviews some data on a string of paper (it looks like a modern-day CVS receipt). He remarks that his patient’s brain waves look good, and the camera pans to show Freeze on a gurney being examined by a team of doctors. Freeze thanks the doctor for his work, who reminds Freeze that a more appropriate way to say “Thanks” would be to let them go. He walks over to the door, but in come Freeze’s two remaining Ice Maidens. Freeze tells the doctors they do not have his permission to leave, as he rises from the gurney and places his dome back on. Freeze exits the room and heads towards a giant computer (where did he get this stuff?) and explains he needs to strike at someone who feels safe. On the screen, a video of Bruce Wayne making a charitable donation is shown with Bruce saying that those with the most should give the most. Freeze then notes that those with the most also have the most to lose.

Batgirl is shown getting in a pretty rigorous workout at the Batcave. She’s jumping all over various handlebars and such and ends up on a circular device that randomly pops up laser-firing pillars that she has to strike in order to subdue. She’s doing quite well for herself, but eventually she takes a couple of shots before the training session is ended. Wayne approaches and Batgirl remarks she did pretty well. A score is tabulated and she’s delighted to see it’s a new high score, whether that’s a new high for her or in general is not elaborated upon. As Robin found out in the last episode, seeking praise from Wayne often doesn’t end well and Bruce reminds her that she ended the session “dead.” She seems uninterested in arguing the point and instead suggests they call it a night. Bruce agrees, for himself. He remarks she still needs more practice and he restarts the program at a higher difficulty and leaves Batgirl to it as he heads upstairs.

bruce and tim

Bruce and Tim have to deal with an uninvited guest.

Once in the manor, Bruce confronts Tim while he’s doing homework. Apparently he failed a recent civics test and Tim remarks he doesn’t need to know what a district attorney does. When Bruce tells him that he knows nothing about the justice system, Tim retorts that he knows it’s bogus. When Bruce questions how he got such a notion into his head he says from watching Bruce. It’s a humorous exchange given Batman’s flippant attitude toward law and order. When Tim goes on to remark that Batman doesn’t care one bit about due process, Bruce changes the subject to math.

A knock at the door gets Alfred’s attention, and to his surprise it’s Mr. Freeze and his two lackeys. Freeze freezes the giant stairs leading down into the living room as he casually slides in to confront Bruce. Bruce goes into his whole “I can help you,” routine, but Freeze doesn’t care. He tells him it’s far too late for all of that before turning his attention towards Tim. He remarks that Bruce has been trying to create a new family for himself over the years to make up for the one he lost as a boy. Now Freeze intends to take that which he holds most dear referring to Tim as his surrogate son. Bruce positions himself between Freeze and the boy, but Freeze was just misleading. Deciding that Bruce would be more pained by losing his surrogate father, he turns and fires at Alfred freezing the old butler up to his neck.

freezing alfred

Well, that’s the last time he’ll be able to wear that tux.

Batgirl, having been alerted by a simple push of a button from Bruce’s watch, shows up and attacks Freeze. As he turns his attention to her, Bruce rather coolly approaches one of the Ice Maidens who does not look thrilled to be face-to-face with an unhappy Bruce. The camera cuts away though as we’re not going to show Bruce assaulting a woman. Nor is the show going to do so with Tim, as he’s behind a couch on top of the other maiden who eventually boots him off and into view. They tangle some with Tim being allowed to be shown sweeping her leg. Bruce gets to Alfred, who’s expectedly shivering. Batgirl is able to knock Freeze’s gun out of his hand, and she turns it on him freezing him to the wall. His suit is quite powerful though, and he breaks free as one of the maidens strikes Batgirl from behind. The villains then take their leave, but not before Batgirl is able to fire a homing device at their escape vehicle.

Down in the Batcave, Batman and Batgirl are preparing to go after Freeze while Alfred is shown enjoying a nice chemical bath. Apparently Batman has improved his tech as no longer do frozen subjects need to be completely submerged in a tube. Tim is informed that he gets to stay behind and tend to Alfred, who will apparently enjoy being served for a change. Batman and Batgirl then leave in the Batmobile and the tracking device leads them to an old meat-packing plant that has apparently been abandoned. As they enter, most of the music cuts out and the various meat hooks in the background give off a rather eerie vibe. They find no trace of Mr. Freeze, but then Batman finds a manhole leading to an underground area. There it’s rather quiet as well, but Batgirl is momentarily startled when she stumbles upon Freeze’s suit. The two are forced to deduce it’s a spare because Batman notes it’s not cold enough in there for Freeze to be walking around without his suit.

spider freeze

Now there’s a surprise.

Some yelling from behind a door catches the attention of our heroes and Batman blasts the door in to find the captive medical team. They explain their situation to Batman, and as they prepare to leave they’re stopped by the two Ice Maidens. Held at gunpoint, the two call for their boss who enters into the hallway to unveil his secret. Strolling into the hall comes just the head of Mr. Freeze with four spider-like robotic legs carrying him. When Batman questions what happened, Freeze tells him the accident that created him also caused his body to deteriorate. By the time the medical team assembled before them got to him all that could be salvaged was his head. It’s why he never returned to his beloved Nora, and feeling that he lost everything, he explains he wants the whole world to experience the same sense of loss that he had to endure.

robo freeze

It’s like a docking station for his head. This must be where Nintendo got the idea for the Switch.

In a surprising act of gratitude, Mr. Freeze allows the doctors to leave as he climbs back into his suit, which is apparently entirely robotic at this point. Freeze wants Batman to experience his loss and the only thing Batman adores above all else is his beloved city. Freeze unveils what he calls a reverse fusion bomb which once detonated will coat everything in a ten-mile radius in ice. It’s loaded onto an odd-looking helicopter and Freeze intends to drop it on Gotham while Batman watches helpless from ground level. He departs in the helicopter and leaves Batman and Batgirl in the incapable hands of his hoodlums. When one orders Batgirl to put her hands up, she does, but is able to fire off what looks like her tracker gun and hits the maiden in the face. Batman takes out the other one while Batgirl places a full nelson hold on her girl and tells him to go after Freeze.

batgirl ice gunpoint

Yeah, I doubt she can contain Batgirl.

Batman fires his grapple gun at the helicopter and is able to get aboard it just before the doors on the hangar close. Inside, he approaches Freeze quietly from behind, who does a 180 with his head to spot Batman before he can strike. The two fight, with Freeze smashing Batman into the windshield of the helicopter drawing blood from Batman’s lip and nose. Freeze informs Batman he has no qualms about changing his plans and simply killing Batman there before dropping his bomb, but as he approaches Batman is able to fire his grapple gun at the bomb itself latching onto it (this seems really dangerous given that Batman’s new grapple gun just stabs into things as opposed to hooking on). He then hooks the other end to Freeze and presses the retract button which causes Freeze to get pulled towards the bomb allowing Batman to drop it over the ocean with Freeze attached to it. It detonates under water creating a massive tower of ice. Batman begins piloting the helicopter back to land and informs Batgirl over the radio that they’ve seen the last of Mr. Freeze. The camera then pans to the ice tower to reveal Freeze’s frozen body encased within it, but his head is missing.

Mr. Freeze had been softened enough to the point that it was a bit challenging to bring him back as a true villain. Having him once more turn to his feeling of loss as a prime motivator was a logical path for the villain, though his indifference to the plight of others is basically lost as a result. While he still operates in a cold manner, and Michael Ansara still voices him in a monotone fashion, he’s essentially enjoying the suffering of others just without an obvious reaction to it. He also needed a reason to not have returned to Nora. While it could have been a noble choice, it did make more sense for the character to feel like Nora was taken from him once again. The only issue is that the deteriorating body thing basically goes against what we knew previously about Mr. Freeze. Back in “Deep Freeze” it was thought his condition was the complete opposite and that he was effectively immortal. It does give the episode a little something extra to have that reveal in the final act, though “Spider Freeze” is pretty damn hokey.

batman bleeding

It’s not exactly a crimson mask, but it’s always a little exciting when Batman bleeds.

The episode is also not at all concerned with explaining how Freeze ended up in this situation. Presumably, he noticed his body was failing and was able to abduct a bunch of medical professionals before succumbing to his condition, but he sure did end up with a lot of high-tech stuff, not to mention that reverse fusion bomb. How did he get all of that stuff? Did he just buy it? Steal it? Create it himself? He did mention possessing a lot of gold in SubZero, so I suppose he used that to finance his criminal operation, but it is worth acknowledging that the episode takes a lot of liberties with its villain. The Ice Maidens are also atypical for this series. While it appears like we can expect a bit more personality from those who serve the main villains, the matching attire of these women is so camp. It’s not the tone I want this show to strive for.

frozen suit

It’s not the last we’ll see of Mr. Freeze, and yet it also is.

Even though the ending is an ominous one, this is Mr. Freeze’s only appearance in The New Batman Adventures. He will be allowed the distinction of being one of the few villains who gets to return in Batman Beyond and that’s the next time we’ll see him. After a stunning debut in “Heart of Ice,” Mr. Freeze has certainly struggled a bit to maintain the aura he had in that episode. “Deep Freeze” was a real letdown, while SubZero was able to put a worthwhile bookend on things. This episode is largely unnecessary for the character, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s not at all surprising that this show wanted to feature Mr. Freeze, and this portrayal is fine. Things do get a bit rushed though and this is a case where maybe a two-part format would have worked out better. I could do without the whole robot thing, but it’s not the end of the world. It’s certainly better than “Deep Freeze,” but I’m not heartbroken that Mr. Freeze won’t show up again either.


One response to “The New Batman Adventures – “Cold Comfort”

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