Killer Frost: Rebirth #1 Review and Recap

Written by Steve Orlando and Jody Houser
Art by Mirka Andolfo
Colours by Arif Prianto
Published by DC Comics
Cover price: $2.99 USD 

Review and Recap is where I give a quick review of a comic, usually less in-depth than my regular reviews, before recapping it and adding some commentary here and there. Obviously spoilers abound in the commentary section. Anyway, here’s my Review and Recap of Killer Frost: Rebirth.

The Review:

It’s taken a while, but DC has finally decided to push Killer Frost in their comics. She obviously has a bigger profile now, since Caitlin Snow (the most recent version of the character) has been appearing on The Flash since its first episode. Sure, they gave her a Villains Month one-shot, but that was oddly timed, since that was about a year before her live-action debut. Regardless, Dc has finally seen fit to utilise the character more, and while I found her appearances in Justice League vs. Suicide Squad — to which Killer Frost: Rebirth acts as a pseudo-epilogue — to be a mixed bag, Killer Frost: Rebirth does a much better job of making me care about the character.

Killer Frost finds herself tested by Amanda Waller before she can leave the Suicide Squad to join the Justice League of America, and it’s not played as a moral dilemma. It’s not about Frost questioning using her powers, as using them to drain heat, which she needs to do, would kill someone — if she does it, Waller has an excuse not to release her into Batman’s custody. Orlando and Houser do a very good job of getting you to care about Killer Frost, without going out of their way to paint her as some overly heroic victim, which was one of my problems with Joshua Williamson’s writing of the character. Orlando and Houser actually play with Frost’s morality a bit; Frost is played as mostly good for much of the issue, before a twist is thrown in that messes with that. It makes her an infinitely more interesting character. She has some heroic traits, but the ending leaves her morality up in the air, though it does clash a bit with one or two boxes of her narration.

Mirka Andolfo’s art is expressive enough to get you invested in Killer Frost’s story. While it sometimes leans a bit too much towards cute for this type of story and setting, it still works, as Andolfo is versatile enough that he can swing between a cute Frost to a stoic Frost. Surprisingly, Frost’s powers are underplayed, which is very surprising given the rest of these one-shots. It works for the story, though, given her situation. I just wish Andolfo got to cut loose a bit more. Prianto’s colours get the job done, and does a good job playing with lighting to keep things visually interesting in mostly same-y settings.

Killer Frost: Rebirth tells a good done-in-one story that, of the JLA one-shots, links the most to the actual ongoing and why its protagonist will be joining the team. It has enough ambiguity to make Killer Frost interesting, and makes you want to read more of her, just not as a narrator. If nothing else, it got me on board for the character to be in Justice League of America.

4/5 – Very Good

Join me after the break for the commentary!

The Commentary:

So you see that entire quick review I wrote? About how I like the moral ambiguity of Killer Killer Frost as a character? Well…

1

Yeah, I’m hoping that “I’m moving on. Becoming a hero.” thing is just referring to what other people think she’s doing, or she’s saying these things kind of passive aggressively. Or one of the writers messed up or something. Otherwise it kinda clashes with the ambiguity presented at the end of the issue.

Anyway, Caitlin recaps her situation: she’s leaving to be a hero. Then Amanda Waller shows up to tell Caitlin she’s a horrible person, even if she was a victim of circumstance, and no matter what Caitlin says, she still needs to absorb heat from others to survive.

Which makes me question how that works. I read the Villains Month issue way too long ago, and it’s probably floaty continuity-wise. Does the heat need to be heat from other organisms? And do those organisms need to be human? Why can’t she absorb heat from a lasagna? It’s not really answered here. Also, why the crap hasn’t Batman built a solution somehow? Is he just expecting Frost to starve to death after releasing her? Or… I don’t know, is she gonna feed off Lobo? Or is he gonna make Bat-toast? Fuck, how has she survived in prison at all if she can’t feed off people?

Oh, and I need to mention this: that name is weird. Really? Caitlin Snow? Really? Are we still in the Silver Age? And you can’t even say it was normal when she was created, because Caitlin Snow is a fairly recent creation. It’s not as bad as Ray Terrill, but c’mon, guys. Also, is it just me or does the fur lining on her coat look weird on that cover?

Anyway, Waller tells Frost that she’s pulling some bullshit strings and is delaying her release by a few days. She gets put in gen pop and has her cell reassigned so she gets a roommate, which she’s never gotten because things are too tempting. While being transferred, she gets intercepted by the son of the Genocide and the Red Hood.

2

Haha! Who even is this jackass? And is he twelve? Because painting a skull and crossbones onto your lava lamp pill head is just… oh jeez. He says that it’s okay if Frost is just bullshitting about being a hero to get out of prison, but if she’s turned traitor then she’s a garbage person. He also, I think, has a dig at her sleeping her way into a release. Hey, Andolfo does draw her as pretty cute, but I don’t think she’s Waller’s type, dude. Batman seems more like Waller’s type… I just had some gross mental images.

Caitlin works out that Waller is trying to get her to feed off someone, and says “fuck that”. She also says “fuck you” to Mr. Toxic, the name of Red Genocide here (mental note: remember ‘Red Genocide’ for future use). The guards separate them and Caitlin says she can barely stand, but still is “on principle”.

3

Aaaaand there’s the second thing that kind of messes with the moral ambiguity. Though it’s entirely possible she’s referring to letting Waller win, which she brings up soon after.

Anyway, her roommate is a fire-based chick called Heatstroke. No fair, I’m supposed to come up with the bad combined names! Anyway, the apparent daughter of Heatwave and Deathstroke is obviously there to further fuck with Caitlin. Caitlin says she won’t let Waller win, which makes me partly think the “on principle” line refers to letting Waller control her any longer or losing to her, so that’s a plus.

Heatstroke offers Caitlin something to read, and it’s I think in Spanish or something. Way to just assume, Heatstroke! Your dad better rail against you in his solo series where he rails against things a lot! Also, Heatstroke says Caitlin reminds her of her boyfriend, Coldsnap, who she could never touch because of her powers. Ayy, I think she wants something frosty if–oh. Caitlin makes the sex joke… dammit.

Sometime later, some prisoners come looking for someone. One of the guys has a sun logo on his chest and is adorably proud about it. Caitlin assumes they’re looking for her, but they’re looking for Heatstroke (who I just mistyped as Firestroke, because her name is so bland), because she talked to the cops about something because they had some guy called Darryl, probably Coldsnap. The guy makes another sun pun, because he needs some personality, and uses some equipment to disable Heatstroke’s powers.

Caitlin questions whether Waller will let Heatstroke — whose name is Joanne — die to prove her point about Killer Frost… does she not know who Waller is? Of course she will! Especially if it gets her one on Batman! Caitlin soon realises, no shit it’s Waller, of course she would.

Oh, and the last thing that kinda messes with the morality thing:

4

I’m assuming she means she has to be better for the sake of getting out and not just better to be a better person. Trust me, the ending justifies why I’m doing this with these three narration boxes!

Anyway, even though Caitlin can barely stand, she decides to protect Heatstroke. She gets pinned against a wall, but uses what energy she has left to freeze the attackers to a wall and tell Waller that she lost before Heatstroke calls for help. Either she’s being heroic or she did it to prove herself just a bit more to Batman.

Days later–wait. Days?! Caitlin could barely stand! How did she even… did they give her lasagna? Oh, it turns out Heatstroke gave her a blood transfusion. Which I’m pretty sure — and Waller implies — Caitlin kind of knew would happen. Waller goes on this big rant about why Caitlin sucks and how she’s a monster and how she’ll be there when she fucks up and how Caitlin probably kicks orphans. Batman shows up and tells Waller she’s lost, and Caitlin gets her Suicide Squad bomb taken out… while she’s awake… and it’s not in her neck anymore, but the top of her head… let’s just move past that.

Caitlin is happy to be outside, and Batman asks if her hunger is under control, confirming that he had no fucking plan for dealing with it. Which makes me realise that he probably already has a contingency plan for taking out Caitlin, since he has them for the Leaguers he trusts.

Anyway, It’s revealed that Caitlin was draining a little bit of heat off everyone she came into contact with, which she probably learned to do recently… unless she just never tried and only did so to get out of prison. Also, Frost drains Heatstroke when she hands her a cup of coffee, so I’m guessing the heat she drains does have to be from, at the very least, organic life.

Oh, and this entire story about a character’s resolve being tested by some incredible endurance test that they seem to overcome through sheer willpower, only for it to alter be revealed that they somehow cheater? It’s basically a more obvious, less foreshadowed version of the Grayson #5, a comic I’m 90% sure Steve Orlando has read, given his Midnighter ongoing was a spin-off of Grayson and Midnighter was in that issue. I’m not saying that like it’s a bad thing, it just really stuck out to me.

Either way, we get this sinister-ass look as Caitlin tells us she’s ready for anything.5

Yeah. That look, combined with her still draining from people, makes it seem like Caitlin has some heroic tendencies, but is obviously more happy about being out of prison.

But even without that, this is a good issue. Bringing the moral ambiguity into play, Killer Frost: Rebirth is a good story about a woman using all her strength and cunning to con her way out of prison, and this person who is lightly draining people’s energy, but who has some heroic tendencies, is out in the world and on the Justice League of America. It opens up tons of storytelling avenues as we question how much of a hero or villain she will become, and how her hunger will work out. Leaving out the morality stuff, it’s still a good story about someone striving to be better in order to start a new life, and she just happens to cheat along the way. But how under control is her hunger, really — and how ethical what she’s doing even is — and how she struggles to be a hero are in the air. It still leaves room for future stories, just not as much.

Next up: this week’s Justice League of America: Rebirth!

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