In Tom King’s latest BATMAN #53 arc, “Cold Days,” Gotham City puts notorious villain Mr. Freeze on trial for a series of murders he allegedly committed. Due to his criminal past, Freeze’s jury of peers is quick to come to a decision regarding his guilt, except for one particular juror: Bruce Wayne.

In a surprising, uncharacteristic act, the last issue featured Bruce pleading for Freeze’s innocence, blaming Batman for forcing Freeze into confessing to crimes he actually did not commit. Ultimately, Bruce believes Batman is in a complicated state of being, a state that compromises the symbol he has built. Now, in BATMAN #53, the all twelve members of the jury reach a verdict, one that concludes the trial of Mister Freeze and jumpstarts Batman’s own.

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BATMAN #53 page 1. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Rediscovering The Bat

In my humble opinion, summarizing the events of BATMAN #53 will not do the story justice. It is undoubtedly a must-read in addition to one of King’s best works within his Batman run.

Yes, the plot is straightforward.

However, it gives readers a poignant perspective on Batman’s perception of himself. We come to learn that Bruce Wayne’s parents raised him as a man of faith until the night of his parents’ murder. In that tragic moment, he lost faith in God, the world, and even himself until he discovered something to believe in: a symbol in the shape of a bat.

Now though, his perceptions have changed once again. Bruce finally admits to his peers, and himself, that he is in pain, and he doesn’t exactly know how to cope with that. He admits that he never believed he would find happiness in a life rooted in tragedy, yet he did. He found happiness and solace in Catwoman until, once again, that happiness was abruptly taken from him.

It Is Another Cold Day For Gotham City In BATMAN #52

As a result, Bruce now finds himself in an unlikely state. He knows that the symbol of Batman is vulnerable. He knows that he has changed and has lost control of himself as Batman. Therefore, he asks to be saved. He is asking for direction so that he may find his purpose once more without losing complete faith in the symbol of The Bat.

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BATMAN #53 page 2. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

The End Of The Cold Days

Thus, the jury agrees to grant Mr. Freeze a verdict of not guilty as they maintain a newfound perception of Batman, who they now believe to be an ordinary, vulnerable man who is simply trying to do some good in the world.

Interestingly, these conclusive events don’t necessarily give Bruce Wayne closure. He feels relieved that Mr. Freeze isn’t being punished for something that he didn’t do. However, Bruce’s faith in Batman is still compromised. As a result, he decides to don his original Batman suit to revisit the original reasons that he became Batman in the first place.

So, ultimately, BATMAN #53 is a masterpiece of a work. Many works do feature Batman’s humanity, but this one does so in a way that distinguishes Bruce Wayne from his Batman persona. We witness who Bruce is without Batman, and he feels incredibly conflicted.

He’s lost for apparent reasons regarding Catwoman, yet one can argue that he feels most lost because he no longer has control over who he is as Batman. Batman always served as a foundation for Bruce Wayne’s identity and purpose in life until this period of doubt.

Therefore, Tom King presents an exceptional story in BATMAN #53 that challenges Bruce Wayne’s identity and the uncertain direction Batman pursues from this point on.

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BATMAN #53 page 3. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

The Many Hues of BATMAN #53

I honestly cannot imagine any other artist working on this arc besides Lee Weeks. His work is masterful and wonderfully fitting to the issue’s narrative. In conjunction with Elizabeth Breitweiser’s coloring, the imagery of BATMAN #53 is absolutely spellbinding.

Breitweiser’s consistent use of neutral tones puts us in the dull setting of the jury’s room. Interestingly though, Breitweiser juxtaposes those neutral tones with vibrant, warm hues featured in Bruce’s retrospection of happier times.

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Now, my absolute favorite image in BATMAN #53 encapsulates the final page when we see Bruce Wayne donning his original Batman suit. The image is abundant with nostalgia, and I actually found it to be quite powerful. Bruce may not be certain of who he is without Batman.

However, he does maintain confidence in the belief that Batman is an ever-present symbol both internally and externally. The issue’s final page conveys those perspectives while also incorporating some noir vibes that provide the image with some wonderfully gritty elements.

What Lies Beyond

The effects of BATMAN #50 continue to ripple throughout the current events of this series. However, the continuous reminders of Bruce Wayne’s heartbreak never feel repetitive or redundant. Bruce Wayne is enduring a transformative time of his career as Batman.

He has lost direction and a sense of purpose. Thus, “Cold Days” is an arc that challenges the symbol of Batman. It challenges Bruce’s relentless faith in the symbol as well as the common individual’s belief in the symbol’s infallibility. Oftentimes, comics remind us that the heroes aren’t perfect.

This arc reaffirms that idea, yet it does so in a way that allows us to identify with Batman, a symbol we may have always believed to be untouchable.

BATMAN #53 by Tom King, Lee Weeks, & Elizabeth Breitweiser
BATMAN #53 is a phenomenal comic book that challenges Bruce Wayne and the very essence of Batman, bringing a refreshing change to the series.
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