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Oct 20

Iceman #1-2

Posted on Saturday, October 20, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

This is an interesting new phenomenon – a book that didn’t survive as a monthly makes a comeback on the strength of sales of the collected edition.  Perhaps it should be more surprising that this hasn’t happened before.  It’s not that unusual for Marvel and DC to launch a book in the expectation that the potential audience lies outside the direct market, but those books tend to be ones whose appeal is obviously outside the direct market.  Sina Grace’s Iceman, being basically a mainstream X-book, despite the heavy focus on Iceman’s coming out, is not so clearly in that category.  But here it is for another run, presumably due to sales of the collection coming as a pleasant surprise to Marvel.

The first two issues seem to be self-contained, so let’s take them together.

And Iceman is, in many ways, hyper-conventional.  Issue #1 opens with one of those scenes where Iceman stops a passing baddie in a back alley to show off his powers, which is the sort of thing Spider-Man was doing routinely for decades.  The actual plot for that first issue is quite different; it involves Iceman discovering a missing persons flyer, apparently for one of the Morlocks and deciding to lead a team of X-Men underground to investigate.

Unfortunately, as it turns out, only Bishop is available, leading Iceman to wonder whether his missions maybe aren’t being given quite the priority they deserve.  They’re an unusual pairing for the first issue, because even though they were on the team together in the mid-nineties, they really have nothing in common and no chemistry.  But that’s the angle; Iceman isn’t quite able to conceal his disappointment at being given just this one C-list X-Man for his mission, while Bishop does his best to ignore that, along with Iceman’s babbling.  Bishop’s not exactly portrayed here as a bundle of laughs to be around, but he is written as a professional who’s trying his best to be a team player with someone he finds tremendously irritating – and largely succeeding.  By modern standards, this is an unusually positive depiction of Bishop; he knows this story isn’t about him, and he’s not trying to make it about him.

The actual threat in the Morlock tunnels turns out to be a new version of the Marauders, who have come to have another go at thinning out the herd.  These guys have D-list written all over them; many of them don’t have names, and their uniform is thoroughly bland.  That actually works for the story, but it’s hard to tell how far it’s a conscious decision or just a sign of Nate Stockman’s art being rather middle of the road.  It’s fine at the more conversational moments, but the first issue is a touch bland when the story feels like it calls for something visually striking.  The second issue is rather better on that count, but still struggles a bit when asked to visualise the astral plane, striking a note that’s a bit more cartoony than it was probably going for.

Anyway, the misdirection here is that Iceman and Bishop both treat these guys as low-rent imitators – a threat worth dealing with, but not a serious reprise of the Morlock Massacre – but an epilogue establishes that they really are working for Mr Sinister, who’s presumably going to be back later in the series.

What does any of this have to do with the themes of Grace’s Iceman?  Well, there’s two aspects, neither exactly central.  One is to go back to the theme of Iceman trying to live up to his potential and take the lead instead of just being a team player.  The other is how the Morlocks themselves fit in, as the group who hide away from the world and just want to be left alone.  This is not so well handled; the story can’t find that much to say about them, other than to have them gripe about the X-Men not understanding, and attempt to position the Morlock tunnels as a “safe space”.  That’s not an inherently awful idea, but if all you do with it is throw out a 2018 buzzword and leave it at that, it’s not going to work.

Issue #2 is an Emma Frost story, as she enlists him to help rescue her brother Christian from their potentially abusive father.  Her stated reasons for choosing him are that he’s “less susceptible to telepathic attacks when you’re in ice” (what?), good in a fight, and “good with people”.  Supposedly, Christian is out of an institution and running the Frost family business (this is the Marvel Universe, where shareholdings bounce around as the plot demands), but Emma thinks he’s being hidden away by an inexplicably superpowered Winston Frost, who won’t let her in to see him.

If your main reaction to all this is “who the heck is Christian Frost”, well, that’s understandable.  Technically he’s a Grant Morrison creation (as in, he was in the background of a flashback to Emma’s childhood), but in practical terms his only previous appearance was in the first six issues of the Emma Frost solo title – you know, the one which actually contained young-adult stories about Emma’s teenage years, but had dreadful T&A covers laser-targeted at driving away anyone who might actually have enjoyed the content.  This was around the time when Emma’s evil sisters were cropping up on a regular basis; Christian was a dissolute bohemian who was also clearly the nicest of the family, and a tremendous disappointment to the overbearing patriarch.  He winds up having a breakdown and being packed off to an institution.

He was also gay, which was a big plot point in that story and clearly something his father disapproved of, though I’m not sure the original story went quite as far as the recap here (which claims that Winston had him undergo conversion therapy and so forth – the tone of the original story was more that Winston just saw him as a liability to the family image and wanted him out of the way).

As it turns out here, Christian is genuinely out of the institution, but probably shouldn’t be; he’s got powers of his own, and the “Winston” who drove Emma away is actually a projection of his paranoid mind.  The plot gets a bit clumsy around this point; by the end, she’s apparently trying to use Iceman to show Christian an example of how to overcome an unsympathetic upbringing.  But even if that was Emma’s plan all along, it’s still a pretty weak reason to enlist Iceman in particular (Christian’s mental health problems clearly extend way beyond a homophobic father); and if she didn’t know what was going on, which seems to be the plot, it’s even less clear why Iceman is here.

This issue works pretty well as an Emma Frost story; it’s not a bad idea to dust off Christian and give her someone to look after who she actually cares about, because god knows that’s a side of her character that’s been neglected of late.  And Christian’s not a bad character on his own terms either, at least as written in the original Emma Frost series.  This story seems to be setting up a status quo where she regains control of Frost Industries with Christian as her genuinely-beloved front man, and you could certainly do something in due course with the idea of Christian as the basically decent outsider who can keep Emma grounded once his head is back together.  But as written in this issue, Christian is a stock character, the childlike victim.  There was more to him than that before, and hopefully there will be again.

Overall, two decent issues, where the good or at least promising generally outweighs the clumsy.  But there are still the heavy handed bits weighing it down from time to time.

Bring on the comments

  1. Moo says:

    “less susceptible to telepathic attacks when you’re in ice”

    But very susceptible to retcons, apparently.

  2. DannytheWall says:

    I really enjoyed the first attempt at Iceman’s series, although I think it circled being something great without really nailing it. Part of it being that there was no real hook to it all. Example – trying to relocate him to LA was part of the hook, but it never committed. So far, the second series is more or less “Iceman Team-Up”, which I guess isn’t that bad of take.

    I just wish that Iceman could have a true solo series with his own unique location and supporting cast and everything– otherwise can we really say that his story premise is “trying to live up to his potential and take the lead instead of just being a team player”? Maybe Christian Frost could be a step in that direction– Iceman desperately needs an archenemy and if you can’t use Emma then use Christian? But Sina Grace’s track record leads me to believe we’ll never see him again.

  3. Chris J says:

    I’m trying to remember the last time Iceman had a story in a team book that centered on him. Late Marjorie Liu Astonishing X-Men? Zero Tolerance in the 1990s?

    And being more resistant to telepathy because of ice is up there with Silver Age Magneto using his magnetic fields to somehow be a general-purpose shield. Even by Marvel physics that is odd.

  4. Jason says:

    Bobby’s ice form is no longer just coating his body in ice(at least most of the time) He turns himself into solid ice. Shatter him and you get chunks of ice, not blood or bone or organs. He’d been more resistant to telepathy because his brain is no longer there in the way an ordinary humans is

  5. Luis Dantas says:

    That does not really make sense, though. If he has no brain and no other organs or even biological tissue at that moment, what is it that allows him to perceive the world at all?

    At that point he is not even a mutant anymore, but rather some sort of elemental or mystical being that has the power to change into a biological body.

  6. Psycho Andy says:

    Over a decade ago, Sean McKeever and Takeshi Miyazawa’s MARY JANE series was cancelled after 4 issues, but the manga-sized digest sold will enough to get another 4 issues out of it. That digest, in turn, sold well enough to get the 20-issue SPIDER-MAN LOVES MARY JANE series, which basically ended when McKeever signed an exclusive deal with DC. A year later, there was a 5-issue sequel series with Terry Moore writing, but it didn’t take.

    I’m pretty sure that’s why Marvel kept trying Runaways runs after Vaughn’s left, too.

    So the outside-the-direct market sales resurrecting a dead book thing happens. Just not often.

  7. Jason says:

    @Luis Dantas

    Don’t forget though we have various superhumans in Marvel who can turn themselves into water, sand, electricity, lasers

    And also various versions of Bobby have been shattered and reformed

  8. Moo says:

    “I’m trying to remember the last time Iceman had a story in a team book that centered on him.”

    I’m trying to remember anything at all involving Iceman written by Claremont ever. Scott, Jean, Hank, Warren, Alex and Lorna all at one time or another appeared regularly in a Claremont book or were at least given some attention. Comparatively, Claremont barely ever wrote Bobby which strikes me as odd.

  9. Si says:

    The Emma Frost series was Young Adult? Yeah, the covers had me convinced it was just plain Adult*.

    Emma should definitely be in Iceman’s supporting cast though. The two have always gone surprisingly well together.

    As for Iceman’s powers, for a while now he’s basically been able to turn into some sort of psychic entity that usually inhabits a “golem” body made of ice, rather than being able to turn directly into ice. He’s been shown travelling through water and stuff without having a body. Yes it makes no sense, but then again his powers have never made sense since his creation. It’s all good.

    *as always, “adult” sadly meaning “childish”

  10. Nu-D says:

    Claremont’s sample sizes with Bobby, Hank an Warren are too small for meaningful comparison. Hank was in two stories, the Mesmero story and DPS. Warren was in DPS and played the damsel in distress in the Morlock story. Bobby was in a very unmemorable Arcade story.

    Everything else in CCs classic run was an X-Factor crossover. So IMO I don’t think a meaningful conclusion can be drawn as to his preference among the three.

  11. Chris J says:

    I think even Age of Apocalypse Iceman was at least an antagonist in Uncanny X-Force, sheesh.

    Alas, poor Bishop. At first I wasn’t sure I agreed that he was C-list, but I think it’s accurate. (I think I was the only person who bought “Team X 2000”.)

  12. Voord 99 says:

    Re: Claremont’s use of Hank, Warren, and Bobby.

    Hank maybe gets a little more use than Nu-D suggests above, because while he re-enters the book (aside from appearing on a screen) with the Mesmero story, he sticks around through quite a few subsequent issues, during which he is pretty much an equal member of the cast. Of course, he was in the Avengers at the time, so this may be straightforward cross-promotion and have little to do with Claremont’s attitude to the character.

    Warren is closer to Bobby, but he comes up more often. For instance, he’s the way that the X-Men get into the Hellfire Club. Then again, he’s useful as a plot mechanic in ways that Bobby isn’t.

    Bobby, yes, it’s the Arcade story. And in fact, his insignificance is more extreme than that. Warren also comes back for that story, as do Havok and Polaris. Also Banshee. Bobby is clearly there as part of an overall “Getting the Silver Age band back together” story, not because of Bobby in particular. Even Hank appears (on a screen).

    (Although how could Nu-D call this story “very unmemorable”! It’s the story in which Arcade lights a match on Doctor Doom’s armour. It’s fabulous.)

    So while I think that Claremont doesn’t display much interest in any of Bobby, Hank, and Warren, I think you can identify Bobby as “last among equals.”

    But is that surprising? Bobby was a very bland character, even by Silver Age standards. His characterization in the original X-Men extended as far as “He’s the youngest one.” Later, he had the distinctive feature added of being the person that Lorna did not find as attractive as Alex. There just wasn’t a lot there to work with.

    Of course, Iceman had visually interesting powers, and that went a long way to compensate for the absence of anything resembling a distinct personality. But Claremont, obviously, was all about the distinct personalities, ideally ones that could be represented by exaggerated dialogue idiosyncrasies.

  13. Chris V says:

    Too bad he wasn’t southern. Claremont would’ve used him more, as that character who speaks with the stereotypical southern accent.

    Yes, I’d say that Claremont didn’t have much interest in any of the original five, outside of Scott and Jean.
    I’d also agree that Bobby might have been his least favourite character from the Silver Age issues.
    I don’t think he really liked Warren very much either, as Warren usually ended up in bad situations when Claremont wrote him, on those few occasions.

    It’s funny, then, that Iceman had a solo story written about him, before Cyclops or Angel did.
    Beast, of course, had his own series in Amazing Adventures beforehand.

  14. Voord 99 says:

    Well, Iceman was in a popular children’s cartoon which Googles quickly had just finished producing new episodes and was still airing in repeats (and would for another couple of years), when the J. M. De Matteis series came out. That may have made it an easier pitch.

    It’s surprising that Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends didn’t cause Marvel to push Iceman more heavily outside the X-context, really. Obviously, he was in the New Defenders, but being in a successful cartoon that (as I have just learned) was on TV for five years, is the sort of thing that one might have thought would encourage someone to propose making him an Avenger or something.

  15. Moo says:


    Hank was in more than two Claremont stories. I had Claremont’s return stint in mind as well. Hank was on one of the teams. Later, Claremont tried to take him with him to X-Treme X-Men but had to give him up.

  16. Thom H. says:

    The biggest problem with Iceman, in my opinion, is that he’s in a constant state of trying to live up to his potential. I’m just not that interested in reading a book about someone who has been doubting his own abilities (or not pushing himself hard enough or whatever) for 50 years.

    Writers have been delivering this story about Bobby being not-quite-good-enough forever. Now that he can make ice golems and dissolve into water vapor and transform into a non-thinking ice block, you’d think that he would feel pretty darn pleased with himself. But no, now he’s got to prove that he’s got leadership potential.

    I’d really love to see a story where Kitty (or someone) tells Bobby he needs to live up to his potential and he responds, “I’m one of the original f—ing X-Men. I can freeze the blood in your brain, then conjure an ice army from NOWHERE and declare Central Park my own frozen kingdom. Leave me alone.”

    Apparently, I want Warren Ellis to write him, but you get my point.

  17. Voord 99 says:

    I hate to say it, but that’s getting close to one of my least favorite Bobby moments. It was in the Chuck Austen* run, when he angrily complains – I forget to whom – that the real X-Men are him, Scott, Jean, Hank, and Warren.

    It was one of those moments when one felt that Austen basically had no feeling for the X-Men as a property. Because it made sense from within the story: one can see how one of the original X-Men might feel that they had a special claim on the name.

    But it’s ham-handed extradiegetically. The real original X-Men are Cyclops, Phoenix, Storm, Wolverine, Colossus, and Nightcrawler, with Kitty Pryde coming in the real not-original X-Man and Banshee being sort of “He was there, too, for a bit.”

    No reader is likely to feel that Bobby has any kind of a point here, because the Silver Age X-Men are only the original X-Men as a historical curiosity – the X-Men that reshaped superhero comics and count as “classic” are Claremont’s X-Men. Now, if Austen had actually been doing something with that tension between the intradiegetic history of the characters and the extradiegetic history of the property, there might have been something there. But as it was, it just felt hollow and false.

    *So it doesn’t rank as one of my least favorite Chuck Austen X-Men moments, obviously…

  18. Luis Dantas says:

    There were, curiously enough, two such moments, @Voord 99. And IIRC both times it was Nightcrawler that Bobby was speaking to.

    The first was a continuity implant right after the Krakoa mission in Classic X-Men, by Claremont himself. The second was at a time when he had been losing his human form after a confrontation with Black Tom Cassidy.

    The Classic X-Men implant was particularly cringeworthy to me. Claremont clearly did not think much of either Bobby or Warren. The same story was also the first (retroactive) hint of Jean having any feelings for Wolverine.

  19. Nu-D says:

    Come to think of it, Warren did stick around a little bit more than the other two. He was in one of the Dracula stories, too, right?

    Of course, Bobby got a feature by CC in Bizarre Adentures. I don’t think Hank or Warren did.

    Anyhow, CC 1.0 had little interest in these characters. I hypothesize that he was more interested in Lorna and Alex because they had relatively little baggage; they had hardly been used even when CC brought them back in the 200’s.

  20. Chris V says:

    The Iceman story in Bizarre Adventures was actually written by Mary Jo Duffy.

    Claremont wrote the “origin of Jean Grey” story in the same issue.
    So, Claremont never wrote a solo story for Hank, Bobby, or Warren.

    Well, or Cyclops for that matter, but Claremont obviously had more interest in Scott than the other three.

  21. Nu-D says:

    Well, there were plenty of Cyclops solo stories in Uncanny. D’Spayre comes to mind, and the honeymoon issue.

    As you say, it’s clear CC had an interest in Cyclops for a hundred issues or so. It’s equally clear he was not very interested in the other boys from the O5.

  22. Omar Karindu says:

    I dunno, I tend to agree that Claremont had an interest in the Beast, but the Beast was locked up with the Avengers titles for a good long while, and then with New Defenders, so Claremont couldn’t use him.

    That would fit with the claims that Claremont’s main interest in the X-Men starts with the Roy Thomas/Neal Adams stuff, since the Beast was arguably the most prominent of the O5 for a while after that.

    I’d argue Claremont’s X-nostalgia reaches back to the Steranko-drawn issues, since Erik the Red shows up early on. But those issues weren’t that far before the Thomas/Adams run anyway. And he likes the Juggernaut just fine.

    The odd part is that Iceman and Angel kept getting stuck on other teams: the Champions, then the New Defenders. But only the Beast seems to have become a beloved, lasting character in multiple franchises.

  23. Taibak says:

    Out of curiosity, what’s the timeline with the O5 X-Men joining other teams? I know Beast joined the Avengers before Claremont’s run, but did the Champions predate his run as well?

    Also, I’m kind of convinced that the only reason Angel is more prominent than Iceman is because artists like drawing him since he lends himself to really dramatic poses. Otherwise, how much did he really contribute to the X-Men during the 70s and 80s?

  24. Chris says:

    John Byrne had zero interest in drawing Iceman

    There’s even a comprehensive X-Men character pin-up with heroes and villains and Bobby is the only one excluded

  25. Moo says:

    @Taibak – Champions came after Claremont took on X-Men. Claremont had Angel fill out the spot vacated by Cyclops after Jean died, but it seemed to me that the point of that was just to do one of those “you can’t go home again” deals with Angel ultimately leaving because he objected to Wolverine being on the team.

    @Nu-D – I doubt Claremont’s interest in Alex and Lorna had anything to do with the both of them carrying little baggage. After all, how much creative baggage did Iceman carry? Zero. Besides which, by the time Claremont got around to using Alex and Lorna, the O5 were off the table anyway because X-Factor was already underway.

    But for argument’s sake, even if there was no X-Factor, it seems likely to me that CC would have continued his existing policy of not writing Bobby. When he finally returned to writing the X-Men and did his 6 month time jump, Scott was still dead, Jean was on a team, Hank was on a team, Warren wasn’t officially on a team but he nonetheless appeared frequently, whereas Bobby had been written out entirely along with (snicker) Marrow.

    The man just wasn’t interested in Bobby. Come to think of it, I’ve never really been interested in Bobby. In fact, I find Claremont’s disinterest in Bobby to be more interesting than Bobby himself.

  26. Snow says:

    Im pretty sure that ive read interviews with Claremont stating that the decision of having Angel joining the team after Cyclops departure in 138 being made by John Byrne who was getting a lot more creative input due to his stardome. This is also suposedly why Angel is written out as soon as Byrne leaves the book a couple of issues later.

  27. Thom H. says:

    I was unclear in my previous comment. (As an aside, a lack of clarity on my part can always be assumed if my comments look like something Chuck Austen wrote.)

    What I was trying to suggest is that perhaps Bobby should be more than a little offended when people tell him he’s not living up to his potential. He’s been in the superhero business longer than most other characters surrounding him, and his powers have grown exponentially over the period of time he’s been exercising them. So maybe it’s time to start writing him like the grown-up he is instead of the perpetual teen in remedial classes.

    I realize he is behind the curve in some ways — he did come out of the closet later in life, and it’s true he hasn’t led his own team — but if “not really trying” is the only story you can tell with the character then I’m going to get bored eventually. And I don’t think someone who can reassemble himself from shattered ice pieces is really lacking a fundamental understanding of his own abilities.

    As for “original X-Men” v. “new X-Men,” I agree that argument is a non-starter, and I didn’t mean to imply that Bobby should be upset about that.

  28. Moo says:

    Moo: I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the case. Alex and Lorna showed up really early in Claremont’s run, before even the Dark Phoenix Saga got going. This is when he had them working on their degrees in geophysics and trying to get out of the superhero life.

  29. Taibak says:

    Moo: I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. From what I’m seeing, Alex and Lorna show up in Uncanny #94. They’re working on their Ph.D.s when Erik the Red shows up at their door. I think this is when Lorna started calling herself Polaris.

    Either way, he explicitly set them up as characters who were trying to get out of the superhero business and lead normal lives.

  30. Taibak says:

    Thom: I agree. There are probably stories to be told where Bobby realizes that the older X-Men still see him in the kid brother role, which causes the newer characters to disrespect him on some level, so he tries to break out of that mold.

    Which probably means we’ll just get a story where he snaps and becomes a supervillain. *sigh*

  31. Moo says:

    @Taibak- You’re pretty sure what’s not the case? I know Alex and Lorna made appearances earlier in Claremont’s run. Not sure what that has to do with what I was saying earlier, though.

  32. Moo says:

    @Snow – Oh right, that makes sense. Cockrum came back after Byrne left and Cockrum did NOT like Angel, to put it mildly. He gave an interview to Peter Sanderson wherein he compared Angel to Hawkman and said: “Hawkman is a force! Angel is just an idiot with wings”.

  33. sagatwarrior says:

    I think part of the problem with Iceman is that he is always seen as the jokester, someone who wants to be the life of the party, rather than a leader of mercenaries responsible for protecting humans and mutants. He doesn’t have that dark, foreboding edge with a bleak, somber backstory like a Wolverine or a Cyclops. Didn’t he leave the X-Men at one point to live a normal life?

  34. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    I think he was working as an accountant and dropped it in the blink of an eye when Angel gathered the team back together to form X-Factor.

    But that’s just what I half-remember from a Jay&Miles X-Plain the X-Men episode from some time ago. Never read that myself.

  35. Allan M says:

    @Omar: I think Beast’s popularity in multiple teams is down to the Englehart/Tuska revamp creating a visually distinctive character who can serve different group dynamics. X-Men need a science guy to do and say smart things, sometimes a strong guy, and he can do both. Avengers has strong guys and science guys out the wazoo, so he becomes the class clown who is also a genius, offhandedly.

    He continues the class clown routine into Defenders (which didn’t have one at the time), but when New Defenders begins, he consciously invokes his experience as the X-Men and Avengers to step up as a team leader. He goes to X-Factor, and returns to science guy mode, but funnier this time, and later invoking his celebrity status as a former Avenger. And we much later get him making use of his public persona and academic background to run the Xavier school.

    Whereas Iceman is just Iceman. Nothing new about his role in Champions, not seeing any new aspects of the character. He’s just there making ice slides some more.

  36. Chris V says:

    Yeah, it tied in to that Bizarre Adventures solo story, where he was at university.

    Claremont’s intention for the original X-Men always seemed to be that they were going to retire and live normal lives.
    That the life of the X-Men was just for a limited period in their lives, before they moved on to live their own lives, and be replaced by the next generation of mutants.

    I know, as I pointed out above, that the Iceman solo story wasn’t written by Claremont, but I’m sure he would have agreed with the direction.

    He wanted Scott to get married and have a kid and live a family life too.

    I’m sure that, maybe without X-Factor being a mandated thing, we would have seen Warren and Hank moved on with their lives too.

  37. David Phelps says:

    “the first six issues of the Emma Frost solo title – you know, the one which actually contained young-adult stories about Emma’s teenage years, but had dreadful T&A covers laser-targeted at driving away anyone who might actually have enjoyed the content.”

    At the 2004(? – I might be off by a year or two) Mid Ohio Con, Greg Horn was on a cover artists panel. He mentioned that he was hired to do covers for the series but no one ever bothered to tell him what the series was actually going to be about, snd he (naturally) assumed it would be the adult Emma. He was rather surprised when the book actually came out…

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