A man loses his beloved partner to cancer and finds himself in a literal downward spiral as he struggles to confront and understand from the King of the Underworld, why this was allowed to happen. Will our protagonist find the answers to why? Find out in our stunning Major Spoilers review!
Writer: W. Maxwell Prince
Art: Martin Morazzo
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Good Old Neon
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: July 31st, 2019
Previously in Ice Cream Man: Life is hell. Ancient powers like the Ice Cream Man take the greatest delight in making it so. The Ice Cream Man preys on the desperate, the weak, those who are suffering. He deepens that suffering, makes it more and more excruciating, delighting in the absurd, the awful, the explicitly ugly. There is no end to his endless hate for all humanity, for the dreadful way he drives people on to a hideous end to their lives and their very existence in time and space. We are born to die, but the Ice Cream Man makes every step on that journey a harrowing punishment that only delights him more. Ice Cream Man, or I Scream, Man?
WHY, GOD, WHY?
Why is horror so popular? The easy claim is that when we watch, or read, tales that terrify, we’re doing it at a safe distance. Sure, Freddy has just opened someone up from throat to groin with that delightful hand of his, but really, it’s all special effects. That vomit is just pea-green soup. Stephen King is simply retreading Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It’s all perfectly safe, so let’s just sit back and enjoy the ride. We like to be terrified because we can always walk out of the cinema, or put the book down, or turn off Netflix.
Ice Cream Man #13, and its predecessors, doesn’t allow the audience that choice. There’s something so eerily creepy about Prince’s writing that it creeps in through the back door of your mind, nestles deep within the coils of your brain, and no matter how much you might want to, you just can’t shake it loose.
Take Ice Cream Man #13 – the central conceit is the story can be read either from front to back, or back to front. On first blush, it might seem that Prince has begun to run out of ideas; he’s now relying on clever tricks to engage the reader’s attention, instead of staying the course and coming up with regular creepy stories. But look at the issue more closely and you’ll see that the main character’s journey is never ending – that he has allowed himself to fall into a circular trap of his own making, that his very refusal to countenance the death of his partner means he’s condemned himself to hell.
Throughout its run, Ice Cream Man has been an endless assault on everything we take for granted. The normalcy of our surroundings, the support structures we have created for ourselves, the sanctity of our bodies and minds – all of these are but tissue paper against the never-ending hurricane that is the Ice Cream Man. Whether in the depths of space, or the inner depths of our souls, the Ice Cream Man inveigles his way in, using our very goodness or best intentions, to betray ourselves by letting him in.
Ice Cream Man #13 is cleverly written and plotted out – it must’ve caused Prince endless headaches making sure the join is as invisible as possible. The existential dread in creates is the real reason this story will linger long in the memory, and indeed, that task is ably helped by artist Martin Morazzo splendid work. I’m always reminded of sadly departed artist Steve Dillon when I look over Morazzo’s work – but that’s not to say he’s not his own man, as his artwork demonstrates. You just need to look into the eyes of his characters to see the depth of their suffering. They always look like they’re ready to collapse in on themselves, literally and mentally, such is the weight of what they’re facing and expected to endure.
BOTTOM LINE: LIFE IS HELL
A solid demonstration that horror in comic books can be just as strong, just as devastating as its live action cousin, Ice Cream Man #13 horrifies and makes you think at the same time. How should someone grieve the loss of a beloved? Is there hope in death? How much of what we regard as life is spent scurrying above an ocean of insanity and that one wrong step can see us plunging into endless suffering? If you’re thinking about this issue several hours or days after you’ve read it, like I have, you’ll know you’ve come across a work of art that has real impact.
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Ice Cream Man #13
I can’t say I love Ice Cream Man #13 – but I do damn well admire the craft and effort put in by all concerned to make it work. The lettering by Good Old Neon in places serves ably to underpin characterisation and mood. The art and writing I’ve mentioned before. It is a hard read, as there’s no hope, no chance for redemption for the main character. But this entire run Ice Cream Man comics will undoubtedly stand the test of time in years to come. It’s that good.