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Jan 2

Iceman #8 – “Iceman vs Iceman”

Posted on Tuesday, January 2, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

Iceman is on its way to a swift cancellation with issue #11, which shouldn’t come as any surprise.  For whatever reason, Marvel persist in launching new X-Men solo titles and, unless there’s a Wolverine involved, watching them crash within a year.  Similarly, Generation X joins a growing list of short-lived titles about the students, a format which has only really sold when it was folded it into Wolverine and the X-Men.  The message should have got through long ago that the X-Men brand is not strong enough to support these spin-offs, but Marvel are implacably determined not to take the hint.

None of this is particularly a reflection of the quality of the individual books.  Iceman is a good enough title, which has done some solid character-driven work on an underdeveloped lead.  Admittedly, issue #8 is a patchy example of that.

The cover curiously bills this as “Iceman vs Iceman, Part 1 of 1” – which is curious not just because of the strange numbering, but also because it’s not an Iceman vs Iceman story at all.  It does indeed guest star the other Iceman – the time-travelling teenager from X-Men Blue – treated here as simply a second Iceman from another timeline rather than the same person at a different point in his life.  Which is clearly the less confusing way to deal with him, though it’s also understandable that the book has chosen to downplay the teen X-Men continuity snarl until it’s eight issues down.

Iceman’s parents want to meet the younger Iceman – which is fair enough since, given the point of divergence several issues into the Silver Age run, he’s their son too.  After a token opening scene in which the two Icemans team up to beat Pyro (who they largely ignore while carrying on their own conversation), it’s pretty much a whole issue of the Bobbys going for dinner with his/their parents, and young Bobby being too nervous to talk to them.  That nervousness manifests as him first being unable to de-ice, and then freezing into a statue as the evening gets ever more awkward.

It’s one of those smart visual metaphors that can’t help provoking a “yeah, but” response, given that it’s such an established character – yeah, but when has Iceman ever had this problem before?  It would be lovely if he did, because it feels very right for the character, and Robert Gill’s art sells it very nicely with the deer-in-the-headlights stare.  But it’s the sort of thing that can’t help but feel a little odd when it comes up for the first time.

The hook here is that Bobby’s parents see the younger Bobby as a chance for a do-over, and want him to come live with them and start fresh.  Again, this is an idea I like more in theory than in practice.  In theory it’s very clever.  It fits with the basic concept of the X-Men Blue team, that they’re getting a second chance at life with the benefit of seeing where they went wrong the first time round – but it inverts that by playing it from the perspective of his parents.  And since we’ve previously established that they feel they lost Bobby when he became a superhero and his life took a wrong turn, it also makes sense for them to see this as an opportunity.

But… the opening arc of this book was rather more nuanced in its approach to Bobby’s parents.  They were intolerant, but they were also allowed to stand up to the Purifiers.  And while that arc wisely fell short of having them miraculously reconciled to Bobby being gay, it did seem to show them taking on board how he felt and going off to think about it.  So to have them show up here trying to just turn back the clock feels like it undercuts the ending of that earlier story, by disregarding whatever progress they seemed to have made.  It would square away nicely enough if the Drakes’ response seemed more multifaceted and confused, but it comes across as one note instead.

Still, there are good ideas in here, and I’d have been happy enough to see this book stick around.  It’s at the upper end of the scale for X-Men solo spin-offs, but the whole concept of these books doesn’t seem to be something that interests the marketplace.


Bring on the comments

  1. Dazzler says:

    X-Men has the best ensemble cast in comics, but obviously very few of the characters are meant to carry a title. I just wonder if anybody at Marvel really thought Jean Grey, Iceman, or even Generation X would last past issue 12. On the plus side, I have a feeling things are going to get shaken up for the better with a new E-I-C and the lifting of any X-Men related moratoriums.

  2. Suzene says:

    The New Mutants/Academy X/New X-Men series sold very well, up until Kyle and Yost decided to leave the book to do X-Force. The point at which the X-Teen books started being a matter of diminishing returns was when they started putting out a new book every other year, telling us how veeeeery important they were to the future of mutantkind while losing any story momentum from the former team, letting the new book peter out, and then picking up with a new team while selling us the same nonsense. The new Generation X at least didn’t bother trying to sell us on this new crew being the future of the X-Men, which I rather appreciated. Not enough to read it on the regular, though.

    I really don’t feel like Grace walked back the development on Bobby’s parents. I’d heard the same criticisms at the start of the book wrt that time Bobby’s dad stood up to Creed, and I feel it’s a criticism that rather ignores how people react to different degrees of bigotry. Creed was literally advocating genocide and murder, as were the Purifiers; it’s very easy for folks who see themselves as good, decent people to identify these sorts of extremists as bad, terrible people and condemn their actions. But the same people who will decry the most blatant displays of bigotry can also be blind to their own, more insidious views. In the case of Bobby’s parents, I don’t see any contradiction between their condemning the actions of a group that’s invaded their home and want to murder their son for being a mutant, thinking elder Bobby has ruined all their lives through his poor choices, and thinking they’re only doing what’s best for younger Bobby (especially when what they see as “best” for him lines up so strongly what they want for themselves). And all this while still loving/professing to love their kid.

  3. Si says:

    Young Iceman accidentally iced up when talking to a potential date not long ago in The All New title. The poor guy likely died, or at least lost several fingers to frostbite. But Bobby met a better potential boyfriend straight after, so it all worked out fine.

  4. Glad you’re enjoying this book, Mark. I agree that it’s great character stuff but I wish Sina raised the stakes a bit to make it a more compelling comic book for the general audience. X-Men is at it’s best when it mixes soap opera and super hero but this title seems to be just interested in the soap elements.

  5. Joseph says:

    @Suzenne: absolutely on point, I read that scene the same way.

  6. Puzzled says:

    People think this is one of the better spinoffs? Dear God in Heaven. Those spinoffs must be shite.

    See, I’m gay and this book makes me cringe. There are plenty of gay men who are basically frat guys who happen to be gay. Why couldn’t they have written Bobby like that? To go from fratty Bobby to capris Bobby boggles the mind. If they actually cared about representation they would have gone the Midnighter route and treated Bobby like a real character and not rewrote him as a typical Gaga-fan clown. 99% of gay characters in media are clowns already. This book deserves the chop.

    And, yes, I do think I could tell a great gay Iceman story that would respect both the oiginal character and gay men. And, yes, Northstar would probably make an appearance.

  7. Mikey says:

    “typical Gaga-fan clown”

    MASC 4 MASC, bro

  8. jpw says:

    I haven’t been paying attention for a while. Pyro is not dead anymore?

  9. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    He came back with no explanation. I think he showed up in the opening arc of X-Men Gold before appearing in Iceman?

  10. jpw says:

    Heh, i kinda like that (though I’m sure it was unintentional). Death/return, plus the saturation of alternate timeline characters, has become so ubiquitous that a guy who has been dead since 2000 shows up and no one even comments. I hope there’s a story in a couple years where he awkwardly tries to talk to Blob and Avalanche about it.

  11. Chris V says:

    I want my Pyro Rekindled: The Return of John Allerdyce mini-series!

  12. sagatwarrior says:

    I think he came back during the Necrosha arc, where a bunch of mutants came back to life, but they never sorted out who were now alive, and who return back to dead.

  13. Jeremy says:


    Spot on. This is the kind of nuance that is missing in far too many stories in every medium. Reminds me of Paul’s review of Uncanny X-Men 414. I just wish Paul still had the time for individual reviews to call out hack writing like this. I’ll quote him with the defining characteristic of Northstar from this story, who did and still does deserve better:

    “He’s gay, you know. He’s gay.”

  14. Thom H. says:

    I think the remit of ICEMAN, though, was to chronicle Bobby’s coming out process. So it’s kind of built in that the stories are about him being gay. Which makes it different than Northstar saying, “Hello! Did you know I’m gay?” every time he shows up.

    Not to say that I love ICEMAN so far. It’s a tough job to write a story about someone coming out and still have it be about that *specific* person coming out. And I think ICEMAN has erred a little on the side of “generic markers of gayness.” Bobby doesn’t particularly seem like a person who would live in West Hollywood to me, for example. (That is where he’s ended up, right? I’m like 85% sure that’s right.)

    But then, I remember coming out and trying on a whole host of new personas before I realized I could integrate the new stuff I liked and mostly just return to being myself. Maybe that’s the plan? That’s giving the writer a lot of credit, but who knows?

    Or maybe writing about gay characters in superhero comics is never really going to work. It’s difficult to write a story about a gay superhero without him talking about how gay he is every issue. Or the series becoming a romance comic. In any case, I think it poses a unique challenge.

    But all of this is moot because ICEMAN has been cancelled, so until Wolverine *finally* comes out we don’t have to deal with it anymore.

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