In Ice Cream Man #18, from Image Comics, George, a dying father of two, bereft of family, struggles to retain his memories as he slides towards death. But the sum of a father is more than just memories, it is family. Will the Ice Cream Man allow him those memories, or will he devour them one by one? Find out in your Major Spoilers review!
Writer: W Maxwell Prince
Artist: Martin Morazzo
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Good Old Neon
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: February 25th, 2020
Previously in Ice Cream Man: Where to start? W Maxwell Prince is an evil genius, a writer of unparalleled skill tapping into modern horror like no other writer in comics today. Existential dread, body horror, alienation and suburban wastelands all merge into a nightmare reality where reality itself is unreal and where no matter your best intentions, the cold dark hand of the Ice Cream Man is ready to reach out and snatch you away to…wherever.
What does it mean to be a person. You, the real you, isn’t just your personality, or your social media presence, or the desk you sit at for eight hours a day. No, the real you is the sum of your memories, your subjective recollection of what you’ve done and why you did it. But what if your memories were detaching themselves, like icebergs and what if the Ice Cream Man had a hand in it.
Looking at it in one regard, Ice Cream Man #18 is a meditation on what happens when a dying man begins to hallucinate his own death. It could be dementia, it could be Alzheimers. All the creatures he sees: the blob, the boy with the balloon, the dog in the straitjacket, the memory stealing gremlin, could be figments of his eroding mind. Could be…
But we, and writer W Maxwell Prince, know better, don’t we, dear reader? And that is the evil genius behind Ice Cream Man #18 – in offering differing reasons for the main characters mental degeneration, Prince injects uncertainty into the narrative. Is it an illness, or a supernatural being, that accounts for all those missing memories. Both are terrifying, because both can’t be controlled.
Ice Cream Man #18 also suggest the power of words. There are frequent scenes where we journey back into George’s memories, where he grapples for the right word from a steadily diminishing reservoir of options. Prince cleverly finds almost right sounding substitutes – ‘son’ for ‘sun’, ‘blank___’ for ‘blanket’ to not only tie back into the arrival of George’s son, but also suggest the emptiness that is consuming his mind.
It’s not only Prince’s writing that is terrifying, but also Martin Morazzo’s artwork. It’s sheer ordinariness – the banality of hospital corridors, the interior of a car, a baseball diamond – allows the unreal to appear even worse. Gremlins and blobs and other horrifying imagery look far, far worse set against the workaday things we barely take in. He also makes clever use of how the gremlin works – touching people and things in George’s memories renders them a blank, a negative space into which his memory of that person or thing disappears forever. There is one wonderful, intimidating image, where George and his wife take the kids to the Grand Canyon. Standing on the edge of the precipice on a viewing platform, we see the entirety of the image – this tiny family set against a dizzying, vertiginous drop. Much like George’s memories, the family is at peril of disappearing forever, consumed by larger, uncaring forces. Nature has a way, nature always has a way, of gobbling you up – forever.
BOTTOM LINE: DON’T FORGET ME WHEN I’M GONE
Memory and loss feature strongly in Ice Cream Man #18. George laments driving his former wife away,, but still manages to embrace the love and happiness their time together represented to him, even as the gremlin rips those memories from him. Unusually for this series, the story ends on something of a happy note, as George, descending into darkness, embraces his happiness at simply having been. In an uncertain universe, where what we think we remember is not often the case, the fact that we are alive, have lived, can be the saving grace for an existence often spent dancing on the edge of an abyss.
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Ice Cream Man #18
Ice Cream Man #18 another compelling story by W Maxwell Prince, this time of memory and loss. At times it cuts very close to the bone, but surprisingly offers a lighter ending than the others in the series. A lament to aging and memory, this issue is another confident entry in a profound series that examines the nature of life and our experience of it.