ICE CREAM MAN #22/ Script by W. MAXWELL PRINCE/ Art by MARTIN MORAZZO/ Colors by CHRIS O’HALLORAN/ Letters by GOOD OLD NEON/ Published by IMAGE COMICS
‘Tis the season, nerds, and the Ice Cream Man wants to help you celebrate! Whatever your culture or upbringing, we all eventually choose what we will – or will not – celebrate during the latter months. Bound to tradition and family, the choice often seems to be made for us. At least, that’s the dilemma Julie faces as she passes through this year’s holiday season.
Our tale begins on November 30th as Julie’s parents are preparing their home for Christmas. Dad is complaining about trying to decorate the tree, Mom is trolling him with a song about the Grinch, and Julie is examining the family advent calendar with concerned contemplation. Just a typical American family setting up for the holidays. Sure sounds like my house!
As we discover two pages later, Julie is pregnant and she is not especially happy with this revelation. She and her boyfriend are only 18 and Julie comes from a Catholic family. A very Catholic family. A “her mom has ‘…a picture of Pope Francis in her bathroom’” Catholic family.
Through the remainder of the story we follow Julie on her journey of self-discovery while she wrestles with the weight of whether she will keep the child. Each day begins with the family advent calendar providing a new tchotchke that heralds or echoes the events and dreams of the story; from pieces of chocolate to little plastic toys to a dead roach. No, wait. It’s alive.
Ice Cream Man historically takes themes – some familiar, others not – and spins them on their twisted heads. Reveling in the dread and macabre, the creators shine a light on modern society through a distorted lens. Typically, the distortion is not terribly far removed from the realm of possibility. Each of the stories feel like they could actually happen in some unfortunate corner of suburbia. In this story we struggle with anxiety, identity, tradition, religion, and choice. Powerful as they are, W. Maxwell Prince delivers without feeling preachy, except when there’s an actual minister in the panels.
Prince doesn’t just make your skin crawl; he cuts you open, climbs inside, and starts mowing down the fibers of your muscles. Coupled with the edgy stylings of Martín Morazzo’s art, the two present a disturbing yet entertaining story. Chris O’Halloran’s colors manage to set the tone for Christmas while attaching the reader to Julie’s emotional state.
If you have never picked up an Ice Cream Man book, you may be doing yourself a disservice. Reminiscent of shows like The Twilight Zone, Tales from the Crypt, and even Black Mirror, the franchise is a series of one-shot stories with each focusing on a new tale of terror.
However it is you spend this wildly active part of the year, hopefully you will enjoy it.