Review: ‘Iceman Vol. 1: Thawing Out’
Iceman Vol. 1: Thawing Out
Writer: Sina Grace
Artists: Alessandro Vitti, Edgar Salazar, Ibraim Roberson and others
Marvel Entertainment; $15.99
Rated T+ for teens 13 and up
There have been two big announcements regarding Marvel’s Iceman ongoing monthly comic book since the release of the first trade paperback collection of the series. One was that GLAAD nominated the title for the “Outstanding Comic Book” category of their annual media awards. The other is that Marvel canceled it.
Neither is much of a surprise. GLAAD generally nominates any mainstream superhero comic book with a gay character in it—of the ten, five are super-comics published by Marvel or DC. As for the cancellation, solo series starring X-Men characters who aren’t Wolverine don’t tend to last very long, regardless of which non-Wolverine mutant hero is headlining. And then there’s the matter of Iceman‘s quality: The book is something of a mixed bag, as is clearly evidenced in Thawing Out.
One need not get farther than the table of contents to see a warning sign. There are five artists credited for working on the five issues collected within, and primary artist Alessandro Vitti only draws every other issue, with fill-in artists cobbling together the alternating issues. The resultant story thus lacks a consistent look or style, and never even has a chance to establish itself visually, let alone differentiate itself from all the other X-Men books, let alone Marvel superhero books or superhero books in general.
It doesn’t help that the art, in addition to its lack of cohesion, doesn’t always tell a readable story. There’s a pretty notable example near the climax, where Iceman uses his freezing-stuff power in what sounds like a pretty unique way to single-handedly defeat the unstoppable X-Men villain Juggernaut, but the art is just a picture of the two in a vague pose. (The image above, by the way, is from Kevin Wada, who draws many of the covers, not Vitti or one of the interior artists.)
The writing, by versatile comics writer, artist and writer/artist Sina Grace, is on much surer footing. Through a series of connected short, issue-long stories, Grace shows the X-Men’s good-humored, fun-loving Bobby Drake trying to come to grips with being a newly out gay man and struggling with breaking that fact to his parents. What makes it particularly challenging is that Mr. and Mrs. Drake have yet to really accept the fact that he’s homo superior—i.e. a super-powered mutant, despite the fact that he’s been a superhero since he was a teenager. How are they going to accept the fact that he’s homosexual as well?
Grace actually handles Bobby Drake’s sincere but fraught attempts to connect with his parents throughout these five issues quite well. Between his first dinner with them (“Can we not talk about the mutant stuff tonight?” his dad asks) and his finally coming out to them, Grace has Bobby dealing with other challenges, like talking to his last ex-girlfriend, fellow X-person Kitty Pryde.
But because this is a Marvel superhero comic, superheroics are necessary, at the rate of at least one fight per issue, and so Iceman repeatedly fights anti-mutant crypto-Christians The Purifiers, an angry racist—or is that species-ist?—mob, occasional villain Daken, and the aforementioned Juggernaut. All seem chosen for symbolism that relates back to the personal drama, even if some of them feel a little forced.
Of course, the book doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but as part of Marvel’s X-Men line of comics, and that poses a problem for any writer. Grace only gets about five panels in before having to deal with the fact that a younger version of Iceman from his own past has been living alongside him for the past few years, and that teenage version of Iceman came out as gay, pretty much forcing the older, grown-up version to do so as well, and thus forcing this book into existence. As with the fighting, Grace handles it about as well as it can be handled, but, well, despite the numeral “1” on the spine, this isn’t any more brand-new reader-friendly than any other X-Men trade paperback one could choose from a library shelf at random.
Given that the book always would have had an uphill climb, and that it then proceeded to stumble right out of the gate, it’s not surprising that it didn’t last too long…but it is somewhat disappointing. Grace had a good feel for the voice of a complicated character, and there’s enough potential evident in this collection to make one wish more of that potential could have been realized within its pages.
About J. Caleb Mozzocco
J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.
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