After a six month gap since the last volume ended, Iceman returns this week with a new #1! The icy dad joke-making X-Man’s last solo outing was a bonafide cultural event that stood out atop 2017’s comic book landscape. Back this time around are both Sina Grace and VC’s Joe Sabino, the series’ writer and letterer respectively. Meanwhile, Nathan Stockman takes over as line artist and Federico Blee is on colors. The new volume’s debut issue features a team-up between Iceman and Bishop as they investigate a string of attacks on the Morlocks. How does the new Iceman stack up against its predecessor? Is its debut issue good?
One of this issue’s greatest strengths is that the creative team has a very clear vision throughout, which is especially evident in the plot and choices of villains. Iceman‘s last volume focused largely on self-acceptance and outside threats to mutantkind. This time around, however, we get to see how prejudice can be propagated by oppressed peoples themselves. The group that’s been attacking Morlocks is more or less a mutant version of the Purifiers; they believe that mutants will be more accepted by society if they weed out their own community’s “undesirables,” namely mutants who cannot pass as humans or who fit certain stereotypes.
There’s an obvious metaphor here that could be related to a number of real world issues, such as gay men who look down on other queer people for being “too feminine” or not meeting heterosexual cultural standards of acceptability. It’s always nice to see X-Men comics actually dive into the topics of oppression that’s they’re supposedly based off of, so this plot point is an enjoyable one. We also get some nice scenes early on that address Bobby’s struggles in gay social circles. Before stopping an arsonist who attacks a gay club, Bobby awkwardly flirts with another man who’s not immediately smitten with his dad joke brand of humor.
Speaking of dad jokes, buckle up. If cheesy humor makes you groan then you’ll probably have a hard time with this issue. With that said, if you can accept it then you’ll have a good time. There’s definitely an offbeat flavor to much of the dialogue, but I personally enjoy it. Grace has Bobby’s personality down pat, from his nervous banter to his clunky humor (when his jokes fall flat, it seems like they’re meant to) to his occasional arrogance. This last part is particularly important, as seeing more of Bobby’s flaws makes him a more complex and relatable figure.
Art-wise, Stockman makes a solid first impression here. The flow of movement throughout most of the issue is good, and we get some nice smarmy facial expressions as well. There are also assorted moments throughout where Stockman really impresses with his backgrounds, such as when Bobby and Bishop are wading through the sewers. The patterns of bricks on the walls and the flow of water are both charming details.
The rest of the creative team also does good work here. Blee’s colors are particularly important to the issue’s success, as many of the brighter tones contrast very well against the parts of panels cast within shadows. The lighting on Bobby’s ice projections is especially pleasing to look at. All in all, there’s a nice sense of balance that helps to both illuminate focal points and enhance the mood. Sabino’s lettering is also solid, and the placement of word balloons is clean and effective throughout.
With all that said, there are some cons to this issue that prevent it from reaching its full potential. Bishop doesn’t get to do much besides play the straight man to Bobby’s anxiously over-the-top self, though he does get to call Bobby out on his s--t toward the end. There are also a number of awkwardly rendered faces throughout where characters’ features don’t stay fully consistent across panels. The fight scenes also get a bit generic and don’t feel fully grounded within their settings. My biggest qualm here is with an instance of script/art incongruence. One of the villains claims that Iceman generated an army of ice men in battle, but we never get to see more than one of his humanoid creations at a time. It would have been badass to actually see Bobby generate a small army.
Overall, Iceman #1 is a fun beginning to the character’s latest series. Bobby’s personality if fully realized, the jokes are cheesy as desired, the visuals are solid all around, and there’s some actual commentary on prejudice. All in all, an impressive number of story and character beats are hit by the time the issue ends. Unfortunately, the underutilization of Bishop and the visuals’ more stilted moments hold the issue back a bit. Nonetheless, this is a good time, and it’s great to see the series return.