Late thoughts on Iceman which may or may not be at all relevant. You decide.
Once upon a time we had a single X-Men comic featuring a team of five young mutants led by a stodgy old guy. Sometimes they fought evil mutants or dastardly villains. Other times they fought for their own survival against robotic Sentinels. They often acted like a family when they weren’t pitched in battle because they were a family of sorts. And we loved it! That is, until not enough fans loved it and the series was canceled and “revived” featuring reprints. And then Giant Sized X-Men happened and fans’ minds exploded with the infusion of new mutants and a few of the originals. Bobby Drake was not of them though and he and Angel wandered off to the Champions and then Defenders, had a 4 part mini series, and from there things get complicated bouncing around the Marvel Universe as well as big events and sliding timelines trying to compact continuity. Which is my way of saying I’m not a stickler for continuity and hell, even if I were I don’t remember all of it in general let alone when it comes to details about Mr Drake’s long history…and also the X-Men of the last so many years. I hear your cries of heresy and throw on a couple more exclamation marks for effect!!! (This may invalidate for some readers any points I make.)
So why did I read this issue? The reason is simple. I’ve read Sina Grace’s highly personal graphic novels Self-Obsessed and Not My Bag and appreciate his ability to convey a wide range of introspective character notes and his unflinching attitude at putting everything on the page. And his Cedric Hollows – Dial M For Magic novel is fun too! Even way back in the day of just the original five I wasn’t very interested in Iceman because he seemed like a cypher and what I’d read of Bendis’ stories leading up to his revelation with Bobby fell flat for me. I’m willing to change my mind though.
First issues are typically set up with some action to the story. There is a some variation on that formula since Bobby is tied to the X franchise. Remember I confessed to not following the X-Men much? Right. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise to a lot readers that an X-Men is currently based in Central Park or seeing a member of the Purifiers as the villain like they were to me. The Purifiers ideology is easy enough to get a handle on, mutant elimination based on some perverted idea of Christianity, if not the scope of the bigoted organization’s abilities and relevance in whichever X book they’re being used. One of my first impressions of Anonymous Purifier wannabe is he was a low level villain and hardly a worthwhile threat for a debut issue. Then I gave some more thought on the matter. As far as I know, Iceman doesn’t have a rogues gallery of foes outside of the X-Men and I think Grace intends to focus on a lower key action and villains rather then on an epic battle scale to keep thematically on point with giving him (or should it be them?) a more interesting life post coming out. This may be why Bobby, after having just visited his opinionated parents, had a fleeting moment of doubt during this fight before boasting he’d faced down Magneto and Emma Frost both. Of course, some fleshing out with older Bobby may have occurred during the Extraordinary X-Men series of which I’m unaware because I had to make a budget decision between it and All-New X-Men.
The continued presence of the young O5 Bobby in the present day along with older Bobby creates opportunities for characterization and storytelling. It’s up to the efforts of individual writers to make good (or bad) use of it. Here Grace uses the situation to play younger Bobby against older Bobby with scenes and dialog resembling sibling rivalry. Age isn’t their only contrasting point. Young Bobby has accepted being gay and has a boyfriend whereas the older one has had a challenging time processing it, is just now thinking about dating, and is bogged down with the psychological baggage of his parents’ narrow mindedness and passive aggressive behavior. They’ve been portrayed as conservative and less than accepting of their son being a mutant as far back as the 1980s Iceman mini series if memory serves, so of course this begs the question which Grace raised of just how will they react to learning their son is gay too. Part of me wants his parents, or possibly just one, eventually to come around to accepting Bobby while another part of me wants to see the idea of Bobby happily living his life and thriving without the judgy Mr and Mrs Drake anywhere in sight. I’m certain Grace will be thoughtful and surprising however he chooses to deal with them. Oh, god! They also don’t know about younger Bobby being stuck in present day, do they? That’s going to be really awkward! Speaking of awkward, former girlfriend Kitty Pryde will show up as will Nortstar who crushed hard on Mr Drake way back during Chuck Austen’s lamentable run. It’s these kinds of awkward relationships that have me really intrigued to discover what Grace does.
Older Bobby strikes me being around 30 years old. Give or take since characters rarely seem to age. If my guess is accurate, he isn’t quite old enough to have experienced age related bias (some) gay men begin to experience as they get older. I may be the only person who’d like to see this issue explored even to a small degree. Not that I don’t want older Bobby to be happy, but happiness doesn’t depend on being partnered in a relationship and this seems like a unique opportunity with a gay character in mainstream comics. Then again, my perception of his age may be off by a few years and he’s 25 or 26 which tosses out this possibility straightaway.
Allesandro Vitti is an artist whose work is unfamiliar to me. He has worked on Secret Warriors and several other Marvel series and Red Lanterns and Suiciders for DC/ Vertigo. Looking at the art as I turned the pages I kept thinking that Vitti’s style reminded me of another artist but I couldn’t put my finger on who. Looking at Bobby’s parents’ faces made me think of Frank Quitely, but he wasn’t it. Maybe Carmine Di Giandomenico? Closer maybe, but no. Giuseppe Camuncoli is my current guess. Vitti’s compositions are solid, displaying a variety of detail as appropriate for the scene and field of vision. His figures are solid and grounded in beleivable spaces whether it’s Midtown Presbyterian Hospital or the Danger Room of the Xavier Institute and he’s certainly skillful with using angles and vantage points to move us through the pages. Vitti also has a firm grasp on the similarities and differences in face and body with the two Bobbys in both powered up and resting states. All in all Vitti’s skills are accomplished. Yet something nags at me and after reflecting on it I think it comes down to my own personal aesthetics (re: bias) on how some characters should look. The previous X-Men series I read before All New X-Men was Marjorie Liu’s run on Astonishing X-Men which included Iceman though my reason for reading it was to keep up with Northstar and fiance/ husband Kyle. I remember thinking how Iceman was drawn with jagged ridges and spikes was visually jarring to my own perceptions of Iceman which are heavily influenced by Neal Adams who drew the last run of the O5 series before its cancelation. The change in appearance does make sense in its own ways thogh. Still, this bothers me and spurred me to look at art samples on Vitti’s site, all of which I really liked. My reaction in the beginning to Di Giadomenico’s take on the Flash has been similar and it’s changed for the better with each issue he’s illustrated. I suspect this will happen here as well.
Rachelle Rosenberg color palette changes to match scenes throughout the story. Blues and violets dominate the ice laden practice opening sequence and the hospital fight scene. Warm tones underscore a feeling of home and family at the Xavier Institute. Muted colors bring down the mood in Mr Drake’s hospital room and other parts of the hospital viewed in other scenes. Rosenberg’s coloring benefits from a light and deft touch with light sources.
I think Grace, Vitti, and Rosenberg have gotten the series off to a good start and look forward to the stories they tell in future issues!