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Sep 15

Astonishing Iceman #2 annotations

Posted on Friday, September 15, 2023 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

“Out Cold, part two”
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: Vincenzo Carratù
Colour artist: Java Tartaglia
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Design: Tom Muller & Jay Bowen
Editor: Mark Basso

COVER / PAGE 1. Iceman in action in a city; basically just a generic Iceman cover.

PAGE 2. John Romita tribute page.

PAGES 3-4. Flashback: Teenage Bobby freezes Rocky Beasely.

This is a recap of the Iceman back-up strip from X-Men #44 (1968), part of the “Origins of the X-Men” series which recounts how Cyclops, Iceman, Beast and Angel got recruited into the team. The original story is by Gary Friedrich, George Tuska and John Verpoorten. Bobby is returning home from seeing a film with his girlfriend Judy Harmon when they’re attacked by bullies led by Rocky Beasely. Obviously, in some respects Judy is inconvenient with hindsight, but by serendipity, the bullies do immediately claim that they’re there to “show Miss Harmon just who the real man around here is”, which you could now read differently.

Anyway, the bullies try to walk off with Judy, who specifically calls to Bobby for help, at which point he uses his powers to stop Rocky. The original story is a bit confused about what he actually does – the same panel claims that he “froze Rocky stiff” and that “the hoodlums flee in terror”. Anyway, Judy is shocked, she calls it “the most frightening thing I’ve ever seen”, and runs away. From there, the rest of the story plays out basically as shown here – some of the dialogue has been lifted directly from the original, though sometimes it’s been resequenced. Orlando cuts out just before the last panel, in which Cyclops arrives to rescue Bobby.

Incidentally, while it’s not made clear in the abbreviated version here, Bobby’s parents already know about his powers, and have advised him to never to reveal his powers. Bobby’s father – written in later years as an infuriating bigot – is presented here as a protective parent who correctly anticipated the town’s response and nobly stands up to an entire lynch mob. That’s a beat that Orlando goes out of his way to include here. Issue #46 does end with Xavier declaring that he’s going to erase Bobby’s parents’ memories of his mutant powers, and I wonder if there’s a possible angle here that removing William Drake’s memories of actually raising a mutant child contributed to screwing up his attitudes to mutants – which, in the original story, seem more or less decent and supportive, in the little we see of him.

PAGE 5. The Elements of Death attack Fort Washington.

The original story actually gives the location as “a small town in Nassau County”, but Fort Washington has been established as Bobby’s home town for a while now.

The Sapien League. The Elements of Death are working for Orchis, but since Orchis are publicly meant to be the good guys, they’re claiming to work for the Sapien League, a relatively minor anti-mutant outfit from the post-Decimation era. Page 10 confirms that they have no actual connection with the Sapien League, whom Pequod describes as “one of our lesser competitors.” On page 13, Iceman claims that the Sapien League is defunct. The real Sapien League was last seen in the 2021 Avengers Annual, for what it’s worth.

Rocky Beasely has gone on to become mayor of Fort Washington. Other than retellings of X-Men #44, this is the first time he’s appeared since then, as far as I can tell.

PAGE 6. Recap and credits.

PAGES 7-9. Iceman learns about the attack.

Orlando kind of handwaves away the question of what’s keeping Romeo from freezing to death here, given that his powers are just empathic. Maybe it’s something to do with him being bound to Iceman.

Iceman’s ice sculptures on his bedside tables are… a bit ropey, aren’t they? They look like they’ve melted slightly and re-formed. Hmm.

PAGE 10. Data page – an internal Orchis memo from Pequod to Killian Devo, updating him on his plan to use the Elements of Doom against Iceman. He’s renaming them the Elements of Death. Pequod describes them as “a synthetic soldier running on a molecular-scale intuitive CPU”. These are apparently the “pure element” versions of the Elements of Doom who debuted in Thunderbolts #6, or at least versions made with the same technology.

As Pequod says, it is indeed impossible to freeze helium, at least at atmospheric pressures.

PAGES 11-21. Iceman defeats Helium.

This scene doesn’t really call for much explanation. Iceman can’t do much to Helium directly, but he can use ice to contain him and then chuck him into space. The rest of the Elements can be frozen at normal atmospheric pressure, and don’t cause him much trouble at all.

PAGE 22. Romeo reconstitutes Iceman.

Delam tang shode is indeed Persian for “I miss you” (literally, it’s something like “my heart tightens for you”).

PAGE 23. Data page – Pequod’s handwritten notes about whether to call in “the Cleaner”. He also mentioned calling him in as a last resort last issue – and even the Orchis underlings didn’t seem very happy about the prospect. As we see here, Pequod regards the Cleaner as extremely effective but basically an uncontrollable lunatic. We’ll come to who this guy is in a moment.

PAGES 24-25. Pequod calls in the Cleaner.

Mister Clean. The Cleaner is Mr Clean, a one-off villain who slaughtered a Morlock-like community in England in Uncanny X-Men #395-398 (by Joe Casey and various artists). He carried a massive flamethrower, which is probably why he’s been selected as a suitable Iceman villain. He doesn’t really have a costume, but he’s wearing his goggles from the original story, and Pequod addresses him as “Clean”. He’s seemingly burned to death by Wolverine in Uncanny #398 – we don’t see a body, but Wolverine declares that he “ain’t a problem for anyone anymore” – but it’s hardly the sort of death that cries out for an explanatio by superhero standards.

Interestingly, Mr Clean is busily preparing himself for what he anticipates to be a future run of work slaughtering Inhumans. He believes that when Orchis run out of mutants, they’ll move on to the Inhumans. Mr Clean gives the impression that he’s not so much anti-mutant as a psychopath who’ll happily kill anyone for money.

PAGE 26. Trailers. The Krakoan just reads OUT COLD, PART THREE.

Bring on the comments

  1. Man! Mr Clean was the villain in the first X-Men comic my parents bought! Which incidentally introduced me to Iceman and made him an all-time favourite. That opening page with the bagel BURNS in my brain forever. Iconic.⚡️❄️

  2. Mark says:

    On “Fort Washington”: There is a small town in Nassau County called Port Washington. It’s the 2nd peninsula out from NYC on the north shore of Long Island, and is just north of Iceman’s hometown of Floral Park (both in geography and median income).

  3. Anon says:

    Not quite sure what you’re implying by saying Judy is “inconvenient.” Surely you know that many gay men have relationships with women before accepting that they’re gay.

  4. Paul says:

    Of course. My thinking was more that she feels like a hangover from an earlier interpretation of the character, which is not ideal in an origin story (not that it was any good to start with). I suppose she would work if you reworked the story with a greater emphasis on the theme of Bobby trying to fit in until he embraces being a mutant, but the original story only plays lip service to that. Most of it is a lynching scene and a pointless fight with Cyclops.

  5. wwk5d says:

    Given how young we are told Bobby was when he knew he was gay, it’s possible Judy was his first beard.

  6. Karl_H says:

    Situations like Romeo’s and Elsa’s from Frozen always make me wonder, what are you doing in that ice castle all day? I guess Romeo has company whenever Bobby’s not out on a mission, but it seems like it would get boring awfully fast.

  7. Michael says:

    @Karl_H- also, as we’ve discussed before,how does Romeo get food?

  8. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Well, you don’t see any baby seals around, do you?

  9. neutrino says:

    @wwk5d: Bobby only found out he was gay after Jean Grey outed him. He was already an X-Man then.

    Any apparent heterosexuality on Bobby’s part in early X-men issues was forced to be included by a teenage Jim Shooter, who threatened to make the writers miserable when he became editor in chief.

  10. […] Mister Clean. We’ve had a couple of issues of build to Orchis sending Mr Clean after Iceman – as we’ll see later, this attack is a deliberate attempt to lure Iceman out of hiding. I covered Mr Clean’s background in the annotations for the previous issue. […]

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