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Mar 17

Uncanny X-Men: Winter’s End

Posted on Sunday, March 17, 2019 by Paul in x-axis

So here’s a new angle in curious labelling.  Uncanny X-Men: Winter’s End may be billed as an X-Men special, but it’s actually the final issue of Sina Grace’s Iceman.

Now, this certainly isn’t false advertising, or anything like that.  Iceman is in the X-Men too.  And there’s a long history of unresolved plots from cancelled books being dutifully wound up in other titles, at least back in the days when people bothered to do such things as wrap up the unresolved plots from cancelled books.  But there’s no getting away from the fact that this is an issue of Iceman – the main story will make sense if you haven’t read that book, but there are subplots that really won’t.  So you have to suspect that this has been bannered as an X-Men story in the hope that it’ll sell a few extra copies.  (You probably wouldn’t guess that it was an Iceman story from the cover, either, which is a bit of a giveaway.)

Still, the bottom line is as you’d expect: if you were enjoying Grace’s Iceman stories, then you’ll want this, because it’s more of the same.  And if you weren’t, you won’t – even if you’re minded to try out some of his run, this is not exactly the place to start.

What Grace and artist Nathan Stockman are going for here is that ever-elusive sense of resolution, where a story feels like it’s come to an end even though the character’s story will be continuing in other books for the foreseeable future.  And on that score they deliver pretty well.  Iceman can at least offer thematic closure, covering a period of adjustment in Iceman’s life after he came out – or was outed, rather.  That’s the one remaining thread that this story closes off, by finally having Bobby register his objections to Jean about the way that was done.

Beyond that, we have two classic devices for drawing a line under a run.  First, bring back a bunch of characters from other stories for a bit of callback.  So here’s Bobby’s parents again (and giving some constructive parenting advice for once).  Here’s Michaela Ladak to lament that nobody else seems to use her in their stories.  Here’s Christian Frost to thank Bobby for helping him out.  Here are the Morlocks, so that Iceman can do something to help them.

And second, bring in an alternate version of the character from the future, and do a resolution with him.  So that’s our main story here, using Ice Master from the time travelling version of the Brotherhood.  The Brotherhood’s back story is convoluted, but fortunately this story doesn’t have to deal with it.  The idea is much more straightforward: in his own timeline, Ice Master got suckered into playing along with one of Daken’s schemes and kind of wound up wrecking the world.  And so he’s come back in time to try and alter history by… simply encouraging Iceman to give up.

That’s a nice enough idea.  It plays into the notion that Iceman has in the past been too lacking in confident, and too willing to stand at the back and hope for others to take the lead.  Older Iceman seems to have developed from that version of the character, and so, confronted with the biggest mistake of his career, he concludes that he must just be a terrible superhero.  He could have averted the timeline just by persuading Iceman to steer clear of Daken, but no, he figures everyone will be better off without him.  And of course Grace’s newly confident and self-assured Iceman is having none of it.

Nathan Stockman’s art is best when it’s doing character work and real-world settings; he’s good at those.  Much of this issue consists of people talking in the X-Men Mansion or in the current version of the Coffee a Go-Go.   Apparently it’s been rebranded the Java a Go-Go – perhaps somebody’s trade marked the original name.  At any rate, these are places that look lived in, or at least drunk in, and that’s a real strength of Stockman’s work.  It’s such a nice change to see a room in the Mansion that actually looks like it’s been furnished.  On the other hand, when it comes to action sequences and sci-fi locations, Stockman’s often a bit average.  But at least his strengths play to what matters in the story.

The story isn’t especially subtle, but it does at least succeed in bringing some sense of resolution to Grace’s run.  It’s not a classic, and sometimes it’s a little too obvious, but there’s an undeniable appeal to its sincerity.

Bring on the comments

  1. Mikey says:

    It feels appropriate and necessary for Iceman to get the last word in about the shitty way Teen Jean outed him.

  2. Diana K. says:

    Without diminishing the very real need for representation, I can’t help feeling like this failure to do anything with Iceman beyond “which boy is he dating this week” and “coming out drama” is a pretty scathing indictment of the retcon. Even Grace seems to just be defaulting to stock tropes that could have been applied as easily to, say, Anole or Hindsight.

  3. Ben says:

    Boy, do I feel dumb. I thought Sina was a lady’s name until just now.

  4. Luis Dantas says:

    Common mistake, Ben. The surname “Grace” led me towards the same conclusion back in the day, when he was editor in The Walking Dead. It took his own pointing out in the letter pages (and a clarification that “Sina” is short of “Sinatra”) to put me straight.

  5. Nu-D says:

    @Diana,

    Of course, nobody’s had any good ideas for what to do with Iceman since Lobdell wrote him in the mid-90’s. So using this retcon to revise his wallflower personality is quite refreshing, really.

  6. Voord 99 says:

    The closest equivalent to the “Coffee a Go-Go” currently appears to be Coffee a GoGo, in Cardiff (which would not have been my first guess, but why not). It claims to be the “Home of the Reuben Sandwich,” which seems a little arrogant.

  7. Joshua Corum says:

    One more awful comic from Grace, only this time wasting the talents of a good penciller. For me, this was just more of the same pap from the ongoing series. I don’t understand how anybody thinks this is 1) good representation or 2) good comics. Sure, there’s a “confrontation” with Jean but it’s toothless, as everything else that’s happened since he was forced out of the closet. One of the biggest disappointments for me regarding the character has been how he hops into bed with every man that comes along, then directly into a relationship. What is the point?

  8. Moo says:

    What’s this nonsense with Bobby saying “our sworn enemy as his new boo” describing Scott’s decision to date Emma? Didn’t Bobby and Emma become close well before Scott and Emma hooked up? I recall Bobby being Emma’s date for a school dance once during the Generation X period. They were friends, at least. But now he’s writing Emma off as being bad news all along?

  9. Diana K. says:

    @Nu-D,

    That’s exactly my point, though – nothing’s really changed, he’s just generic in a different way now. What was the point of the retcon if this is still the best they can do with him?

  10. Ben says:

    Luis Dantas,

    Huh, that’s interesting.

    Didn’t know the WD connection either.

  11. Alex Hill says:

    This really comes down to being another case of Bendis farting out a plot without thinking it through or considering what happens next. It’s turned into another case of trying to make an uninteresting character interesting by having them come out. God knows I want more representation in comics, but this kind of ham fisted way of doing it where ‘is gay’ becomes the defining character trait is just harmful in the long run.

  12. wwk5d says:

    “without thinking it through or considering what happens next”

    Iceman and Rictor going on a date was also a bit…weird, given the relationship between then two of them when Rictor (and Skids, Boomer, and Risty) was a ward of X-factor.

  13. Thom H. says:

    To be fair, being gay in superhero comics is pretty much a non-starter. You’re either dating someone (boring), wishing you could date someone (equally boring), or dealing with discrimination of some sort (still boring). Nuanced storytelling about personal issues/revelations doesn’t sit well next to big action scenes and end-of-the-world threats.

    I think that’s why there are so many queer X-Men. Writers keep thinking they’re going to tackle this issue in a new and exciting way, but it keeps getting flattened by the demands of superhero storytelling. Northstar is the perfect example — he’s been “the gay one” for decades now, and has there been even one memorable (and good) story where that was important? I’d argue his relationship with his sister is vastly more interesting than his relationship with his husband.

    Iceman’s coming out would have been better served as a YA story outside the main Marvel Universe. Or seamlessly woven into the regular books as a subplot. An ongoing rivalry/flirtation with a villain like Daken would have been fun. But putting the spotlight on Bobby’s sexuality for an entire series just shows off the limitations of superhero comics.

  14. Si says:

    Oh dear god, he dated Rictor? He also dated that Pyro guy, also a student in his care, right? That’s pretty disturbing. Technically legal, but not one any real teacher or person in a position of current or former authority would get away with.

    I do get his promiscuity though. It must be like a dam bursting. Beside that, I’ve heard the complaint that all gay men in comics and the wider media are either lonely and chaste, in a stable long-term relationship, or evil/killed, so that male readers don’t feel threatened. Meanwhile the Tony Starks of the world are allowed to go wild, in fact it’s portrayed as a merit. That said, it definitely seems like they got the balance completely wrong, be the character gay, straight or into technarchs.

  15. Voord 99 says:

    If Pyro is a current student, then I think there are legal implications: this surely must be cause for a moral character complaint under New York state law, and Bobby should lose his teacher certification (and – Googles – I see that he can also be fined).

    In both Rictor and Pyro’s case, though, I have a suspicion that the age difference and relationship between them and Bobby has simply been forgotten or possibly even tacitly retconned out of existence. Rictor’s been filed under “adult superhero” for a while, and the way Pyro’s story was framed in X-Men: Gold was “Can he join the X-Men?” instead of “Can he be a student at the Xavier Institute?” — he was depicted as being a peer of Rogue and Iceman, not Anole and Glob Herman.

    But I think it speaks to Si’s second point. Bobby probably dated Rictor because the question was “What other X-characters do we have who are [non-subtextually] gay and not married like Northstar?” and the answer was “Umm… Rictor?”

  16. Alex Hill says:

    I dream of the day that characters in major superhero comics can just be LGBT without it having to be a big deal. Don’t get me wrong, I totally get that we have to be here to get to being there, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. One day we’ll get an Avenger or someone going out on a date with a member of the same sex and it’ll be treated the same as Spider-Man going out on a date.

  17. Moo says:

    Hmm. Maybe they could hire a writer from outside the industry. Someone who isn’t all that familiar with Iceman. Give that writer an Iceman series, tell the writer everything he/she needs to know about Bobby, but leave out the part about him being gay. Tell the writer that Bobby’s straight or let the writer just assume he’s straight. Then let the writer write away, and when the scripts come back, the editors change the gender of his love interest (assuming the writer gives him one) to a male before handing the pages over to the artist.

  18. Evilgus says:

    A more interesting approach would be Iceman being gay, but rejecting the trappings of gay culture. Being gay doesn’t suddenly mean you’re into RuPaul’s Drag Race…!

    But appreciate that would be a dull story.

    Another obvious approach would be characters – the other X-Men – finding Bobby’s sexuality difficult or uncomfortable to handle. But we didn’t get that either.

    Tbh, I think we got a far more nuanced exploration in Beast’s offhand comment designed to hurt Trish, “I think I might be gay”, than in a lot of this series.

    But hey, at least a mainstream X-Man is out, who is difficult to fridge…!!

  19. Moo says:

    “Another obvious approach would be characters – the other X-Men – finding Bobby’s sexuality difficult or uncomfortable to handle. But we didn’t get that either.”

    Now THAT would have been interesting. Especially with the X-Men given that they’re all about inclusion and acceptance. It would have been interesting to see at least one X-Man (Warren would have been a good choice) being uncomfortable with Bobby’s sexuality.

  20. mark coale says:

    I didn’t read the book, but, as discussed here occasionally, did they ever bring back Cloud, which seemed an obvious storyline to do with Bobby?

  21. Si says:

    I have to admit I have no idea what Pyro’s age or status is. Sometimes the X-Men make newbies train constantly for years, sometimes they’re just invited on missions straight off the street whether they’re 30 or 14.

    But despite his age, Iceman’s a senior team member hitting on the probational member that others want to kick off the team. It’s hard to see that as anything but an abuse of trust.

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