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Longbox Junk Iceman Part 2: Issues 6 11

  • atom | Male | Utah

"I have a lot of issues. . ."

I write comic book reviews that NOBODY has ever asked for!

June 2019

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Disclaimer time!

IF YOU GRIT YOUR TEETH AT THE THOUGHT OF "SOCIAL JUSTICE" OR "FORCED DIVERSITY" IN COMICS, DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW.

And:

IF YOU GRIT YOUR TEETH AT THE THOUGHT OF A STRAIGHT WHITE GUY CRITICIZING COMICS REPRESENTING LGBTQ CHARACTERS, DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW.

Okay? All set?  

Welcome back to Longbox Junk for more comic book reviews that nobody ever asked for!

So here we are on the back end of a short-lived Iceman series from 2017 - 2018 that only lasted 11 issues before getting the axe in a pretty brutal Marvel culling of titles that has been characterized as a "bloodbath", not only for the number of titles dropped, but also because of the pretty obvious trimming of comics featuring "diverse" characters (meaning non-white, non-male, non-straight and various combinations thereof).

I didn't really mean to hop up on the bandwagon on the subject of these cancellations, but here I am anyway, so let's do it!  My extremely humble opinion is that Marvel is a business that publishes for a wide range of readers.  If they found that catering to various niches wasn't pulling the profit they wanted, Marvel has every right to cancel whatever they want to in order to try something different.  I miss Falcon in his own series, but I don't do the accounting over at Marvel.  And in the words of the great Stan "The Man" Lee. . . 'Nuff Said.

ANYWAY. . .

Here we are at the back end of Iceman.

I know that this intro is running a bit long, but before we jump into these comics, I HAVE to talk about something else for a little bit that I have found to reflect on my opinion of the front half of this series:

Secret Empire.

NOW we're talking controversy.  I'll keep my opinion on Secret Empire short by saying that I liked it.  I'm not normally a fan of crossovers, but I thought Secret Empire was pretty good.  I didn't buy into the whole thing. . .just the main 11 issue mini-series, Steve Rogers: Captain America, and Sam Wilson: Captain America.  Was it the best story ever?  No.  But it was pretty good for what it was.  It might turn up in Longbox Junk some day.

"For God's sake, man! Why the hell are you talking about Secret Empire in an Iceman review?" You ask, with your left eyebrow raised ever so slightly to display your curious annoyance.

And I answer. . .

Issues 6 and 7 of Iceman are part of Marvel's soft reboot "Legacy" initiative coming directly off of the "Secret Empire" event.  In keeping with that initiative, they reunite the original "Champions".  As far as I can tell, this was a strange Mulligan stew of a team nobody really wanted back in 1975 and nobody really asked for in 2018.  Putting that aside, these issues ALSO directly address Secret Empire in that they are tribute issues to Black Widow, who was an original member of The Champions and "killed" by (Evil) Captain America at the end of Secret Empire.

Which leads me to question the entire goddamn review of the front half of this Iceman series. . .

In an interview with IGN, writer Sina Grace told them that only one or two weeks pass between issues 5 and 6, meaning that the first half of Iceman takes place DURING Secret Empire.  This leads to some pretty critical story problems. . .not the least of which is that Iceman takes place almost entirely in New York City. . .which was under a magical dome of darkness meant to keep New York's large population of superheroes imprisoned, and with a bunch of demons running around to keep the heroes busy instead of trying to escape .  The skies are bright and sunny and there's not a demon to be found while Iceman goes about his business in THIS series.

Also. . . like I said, I didn't read all the Secret Empire tie-ins but what I DID read laid out that the mutant population during Secret Empire was given their own neutral country called "New Tian" on the West Coast, on the agreement that they would stay out of the conflict.  Any mutant outside of New Tian was fair game for Hydra forces.  A sort of forced neutrality.  In THIS series, there's an openly-operating mutant school and "outreach center" in New York City, and Iceman is just flying around in a quinjet with Kitty Pryde doing X-Men missions like a brutal Hydra regime hasn't taken over the good old US of A.

Those are the two biggest story problems, but there's more.  Like I said above, I'm not normally a fan of big multi-title spanning crossover "events", but all things considered Iceman SHOULD have been heavily crossing over with Secret Empire due to location and that Iceman is an "Omega Level" mutant.

I found the first arc of Iceman to be a pretty good story about a gay superhero trying to find a balance between his personal problems and his duties as a hero.  And to tell the truth, I DO still like the story.

BUT. . .

In my review of issues 1 - 5, I characterized one of the main differences between America and Iceman as the lack of agenda and a more balanced story.  Upon realizing that Iceman takes place RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE of Secret Empire and the writer doesn't acknowledge it in ANY way until AFTER he pushed his "Iceman Coming Out" story arc, I NOW smell the distinct stench of agenda coming from the writer telling the story HE wanted to tell and damn everything else that didn't fit.

In other words, I now see the first half of Iceman as an obvious self-contained "Made For Trade" story that ignores EVERYTHING going on in the Marvel Universe at the time in favor of pandering to LGBTQ readers. . .exactly like America did (Just in a better-written and illustrated way).   Normally, I'm in favor of more self-contained stories. . .but in THIS case I call foul.

So there's that.

Given my new opinion of the first story arc, is there any possible way I can give the back half an honest and fair chance?  I think I still can. I already said what I had to say about the front half.  Taken on its own merits, if the back half is good, it's good.  If it's not, it's not. Let's do it!

ICEMAN

VOL. 3

MARVEL (2017 - 2018)

ISSUE SIX

SCRIPT: Sina Grace

PENCILS: Robert Gill

COVER: Kevin Wada

The remaining members of the original (1975) Champions - Iceman, Angel, Hercules, Darkstar, and Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze) - reunite in Los Angeles to pay their respects to fallen comrade Black Widow. . .recently killed during the events of Secret Empire.  The next day, Bobby Drake's first gay date with a handsome stranger is rudely interrupted by a Sentinel attack!  Luckily, the Champions were at the same party, and they go into action together one more time. . .

First off, there's a VERY clear divide between the following issues and the first story arc (which was obviously written as a trade-friendly story pandering to LGBTQ readers and DAMN IT, I said I was DONE!) both in tone and location.  Also, while the first arc was a single tightly-written narrative (NO! I won't. . .), the series from here is made up of separate (but connected) stories in one or two issues.

On the good side, even though the Champions are pretty much a hodgepodge team that nobody really wanted (A little research showed me that in the 70's the title was pretty much used as a testing ground for new writers and artists), the writer is able to fill the scenes of them together with some great dialogue and a genuine feeling of them being past comrades.  Actually, through this whole issue the dialogue is very nicely done and is really the best part of it.

On the bad side, for all my teeth-gritting about this being a Secret Wars epilogue after completely ignoring Secret Wars (DAMN IT! There I go AGAIN!), the actual tribute scenes for Black Widow are a very small part of this issue (and well done).  This is regrettable because the bulk of the comic is almost overwhelmed by Bobby's getting picked up by a handsome guy while standing in line at a store and the following date later that night at a gay club.  

The dialogue is good, but this issue leans HARD into Bobby fully entering the gay lifestyle now that he's out to everyone.  The Sentinel attack that conveniently pushes the Champions back into action is extremely lazy and tacked on.  The Sentinels turn out to be movie prop robots that a special effects creator hopes luring the X-Men into fighting will gain her some publicity.  Weak is too strong a word for it.

Back on the good side of things, there's another art switch on this issue, and from the looks of it, he's the regular artist for the remaining issues.  He strikes a nice balance between the gritty realism and more traditional comic art that the first arc swung back and forth between.  His faces can be a little vague from time to time, but other than that, it looks pretty good and I'm glad they FINALLY got a regular artist on Iceman.

Hercules isn't even ON the list of characters I like, but in this issue he definitely has the best lines

So what we have here is an extremely uneven comic that not only serves as a reminder that the writer completely ignored the rest of the Marvel Universe in favor of writing a gay coming out story (DAMN IT!), but also starts to heavily push a gay lifestyle agenda.  The dialogue is very nicely-written and the new regular artist does a fine job, but it's starting to get to the point where I don't want to read the next issue. . .

But I will.  Onward!

ISSUE SEVEN

SCRIPT: Sina Grace

PENCILS: Robert Gill

COVER: Kevin Wada

Continuing from last issue, the reunited Champions battle Sentinels on Hollywood Boulevard.  After saving the life of his new boyfriend during the battle, Iceman is literally "rewarded" with his first gay sex (off-panel, thank God).  A few weeks later, back in New York and carrying out his X-Men teaching duties, Iceman announces that he's going to move to L.A.

After the first pretty tightly-written story arc, Iceman has begun to take a steep slide downward starting with last issue and continuing here.  There are some nice battle scenes to be had, and the new regular artist does a great job illustrating them:

Unfortunately, the action is only a very small part of this issue and clearly contrived to showcase the reunited Champions.  It just feels weak and tacked on to the story that the writer REALLY wants to tell. . .Iceman's first gay sex.  Yep.  And it's written just as cringey (not sure if that's even a word, but there it is) as it sounds.  Up to this point, the writer on this series has been able to nail the dialogue quite well, but in this issue he fails in a pretty spectacular manner.  When this writer fails, he fails hard.

Overall, except for a couple of nicely-done battle scenes to the credit of the new regular artist, this is the worst issue of this series so far.  

NEXT!

ISSUE EIGHT

SCRIPT: Sina Grace

PENCILS: Robert Gill

COVER: Mike Deodato Jr.

Iceman and his younger time-displaced self have dinner with their parents, which quickly turns extremely awkward when they try to claim young Bobby as their last chance to raise a "normal' son.  Young Bobby comes out as gay to them right there in the restaurant and destroys their dreams.  Also, Daken finishes Zach's training and they return to New York to set into motion Daken's mysterious plan. . .

*sigh*

When reading the first arc of this series, I was pleasantly surprised to find the story balanced between Bobby's personal problems and X-Men action.  Since issue 6, that 50/50 ratio has become about 80/20 in favor of focus on personal stuff. 

To make matters worse, the dialogue that had been the saving grace previously is becoming extremely wordy and stilted.  It's pretty obvious that the writer knew that this series was ending and was scrambling to get his message fully across before his venue was closed.  

Overall, what we have here is a stand-alone issue that is almost completely talking.  Even the scant few pages of action that ARE tacked on are crowded with word balloons as Bobby and his younger self talk about their boyfriends while fighting a rando supervillain.

Why?

Moving along. . .

ISSUE NINE

SCRIPT: Sina Grace

PENCILS: Robert Gill

COVER: Kevin Wada

Daken and his young mutant minion (Zach, from issues 2 & 4, now using the name Amp) rudely interrupt Iceman's going away party at the Xavier Institute, keeping the rest of the X-Men busy with a Purifier attack on the grounds and imprisoning the students in the Danger Room battling dinosaurs.  When Iceman confronts Daken and Amp, Daken reveals that he's using Amp's powers to tap into the Apocalypse Death Seed inside him without becoming an actual Horseman of Apocalypse.  During the ensuing battle, Daken brutally stabs Iceman's new boyfriend (Judah) and seemingly kills him. . .

While I'm somewhat glad that the Personal/Action ratio in this issue is better balanced than in the previous 3 issues, things don't make a whole lot of sense here.  Why is Daken concentrating on Iceman when Old Man Logan is in the same building?  When did Daken and Iceman become mortal enemies?  I'm no X-Men X-Pert, but I'm recalling from Dark Reign that Daken has more of a bone to pick with other superheroes and mutants than Iceman.  

I guess his odd new obsession with Iceman can be chalked up to the same sloppy writing that has characterized this series since the "Legacy" break between issues 5 and 6.  There's no good reason for it that I can see except that Daken is bi-sexual and the writer probably thought that a big gay mano a mano (pun intended) battle would be kewl. . .because that's exactly what comic fans want to see.  Judging from the 11 issue run of this series, he might have wanted to think on that reasoning a little more.  Just sayin'.

BUT I DIGRESS!

A bit of stretching would be excusable if the actual execution was good.  Unfortunately, while the art continues to be solid, the dialogue is something I would expect to find 90's Image superheroes shouting at each other from the dollar box. It's pretty plain to see that this isn't a part of the story that the writer was invested in, and he just wants to get back to writing more about Iceman's new gay lifestyle.

But I gotta admit that Apocalypse-Daken IS pretty impressive. . .

Overall, it's plain to see that the writer's heart isn't anywhere near the extended fight scene that most of this issue is.  The only part where he shows some interest is in the opening pages of Iceman's going away party.  Only two more issues.  Thank God it's almost over.

Next issue. . .GO!

ISSUE TEN

SCRIPT: Sina Grace

PENCILS: Robert Gill

COVER: Kevin Wada

As Daken and Iceman fight their way through the Xavier Institute, two students that had been out of the mansion return and confront Amp, taking him down and preventing him from amplifying Daken's powers.  No longer able to control the Apocalypse Seed, Daken goes berserk with massive power and Iceman defeats him by freezing the seed inside him. . .with a kiss.  In the aftermath of the battle, Iceman's new boyfriend breaks up with him because he doesn't want to be a constant target and Kitty Pryde offers Iceman leadership of his own X-Team.

You can almost feel the relief of the writer as he returns to writing the story he wants to tell, with this issue tilting back toward Iceman's personal life after he ends the brutal battle with a berserk Apocalypse-Powered Supermutant in a way that only a writer pandering to the handful of LGBTQ comic readers still hanging in with this title would want to. . .with a sloppy french man-kiss.  

Never mind the full roster of some of the best X-Men ready to join the fight right below them listening to Dangerously Unstable Apocalypse-Powered Daken shouting clearly about his intention to lay waste to New York City.  Nope. . .had to be the man-kiss.

I have to admit that the breakup scene between Bobby and Judah was a welcome return to form with well-written dialogue and Judah not wanting to be Iceman's permanent "damsel in distress" ringing true.  Unfortunately the rest of the issue is weak, to put it kindly.  Crap would be the unkind description.

Storm, Angel, Kitty Pryde, Old Man Logan, Colossus, Beast, and Rogue (among others) are all watching this battle unfold from below.  But it's gotta be Iceman's gay kiss that wins THIS fight.

Overall, what we have here is one of the most ridiculous endings to a battle that I've ever read, and considering some of the crap I pull from the dollar box, that's saying something.  Thankfully, there's some pretty good character moments at the end, but there's no way to unsee a gay kiss winning a fight against an Apocalypse-Powered Supermutant while a full roster of some of the most powerful X-Men stand there doing nothing.

And FINALLY, let's end this. . .

ISSUE ELEVEN

SCRIPT: Sina Grace

PENCILS: Robert Gill & Sina Grace

COVER: Kevin Wada

As Iceman and fellow X-Man Rictor discuss Bobby's team leader possibilities during a failed lunch date, they are called to Iceman's old neighborhood to investigate some strange goings-on.  The events turn out to be an old neighbor of Bobby's parents who is manifesting mutant powers late in life after hating mutants for decades.  Iceman manages to end the confrontation peacefully, and in the process also convinces himself that he's cut out to be a leader. . .

This final issue of Iceman's solo run seems more like a filler than anything.  Probably so there wouldn't be a gap between this run and Iceman taking over as leader of Kitty Pryde's X-Men Gold Team in issue #23 of that series.

The old man manifesting mutant powers late in life after hating mutants and then hating himself for it is a pretty obvious and ham-fisted allegory for men who come out as homosexual as older adults after living a closeted life of repressing their true feelings and the self-loathing that sometimes follows.  In other words. . .even in a filler issue epilogue, the author just HAD to push one final LGBTQ button.

As with other issues on the back half of this series, this might have been a good little story if the execution of it was better.  The dialogue is wordy, weak, and the whole "hidden" message is painfully telegraphed pretty early on. . .but the writer still can't resist 'splaining it at the end for the slower readers out there .  It all just comes off as being a bit awkward and obvious (and even a little pretentious, to tell the truth).

On the good side of things, the writer ALSO has an artist credit on this issue and to tell the truth, it's some of the best art I've seen on this title.  It's too bad that he wasn't able to double up on writing and art through the series because it turns out that Sina Grace is pretty good with a pencil.

Overall, what we have here is a pretty weak ending to the series.  We go out on a ham-fisted allegory tale about older men coming out of the closet.  The writer turns out to be a surprisingly good artist, but that can't save this issue from being one of the worst in the series.

CONCLUSION

In the introduction to this second half of Iceman, I bagged pretty hard on the first half for being another self-contained LGBTQ "Bubble World" story.  In other words, a story that ignores everything around it in favor of a writer's particular agenda.

But even given that, the first part of this series is far superior to the back half reviewed here.  

The initial story arc wasn't great, but it was cohesive and well written.  The writer says in interviews that he based a lot of it on personal experience, and that really comes through in scenes and situations that have real emotion and real heart behind them.  Was the first half of this series the best story ever written? Not even close. . .but it was pretty good, at least.

THIS half of Iceman shows a very clear divide in that it's pretty plain that the writer had already told the story he wanted to in the first five issues.  The final six issues are disjointed and lack the heart of the first five.  The writer is still pushing his own agenda, but you can tell that his head and heart aren't in the game as much as they were before.  The back half of this series suffers for that.

Sure, there's some decent moments scattered here and there, and the regular artist is pretty solid, but the disjointed story just sort of limps along toward an extremely weak finish, with some pretty awful situations and dialogue along the way.

Overall, this series taken as a whole, I'm of the opinion that this really should have been a 5 issue mini instead of a failed attempt at an ongoing.  Sina Grace was done with the story he REALLY wanted to write with the fifth issue.    

As with America, I'm not going to fault Grace for the failure of this series.  An honest read of the first five issues plainly shows that he was writing from the heart a story that he really wanted to tell. 

Unfortunately, he was ALSO supposed to be writing a mainstream Marvel superhero comic and was clearly uncomfortable every time he stepped away from the personal side of Iceman.  That's Marvel's fault for not replacing him with a writer better suited for superhero action. . . .but they were like "No, no. . .we HAVE to have a gay writer here on our new gay superhero." The EXACT same failure that was seen on America.

Despite my low opinion of LGBTQ "Bubble Stories", I still suggest reading the first half of this series for a pretty good character study of a gay superhero coming out to his family and friends. . .but I ALSO suggest you skip the back half and just pretend it's a five issue mini.  

Up Next. . .

ATOM: You were wrong about Iceman.  I didn't hate the whole thing.

ATOM'S DAUGHTER: Sooooo. . .What are you saying?

ATOM: Just saying you were wrong.  Again. You know. . .just sayin'. 

ATOM'S DAUGHTER:  Really?

ATOM: Just sayin'. 

ATOM'S DAUGHTER: Really? 

ATOM: So what else you got for me?

ATOM'S DAUGHTER:

ATOM: *Head Explodes*

Be there or be square!

  • 195 days ago by edgos2's avatar edgos2
  • This series is a long way from what I bought as a kid in the Seventies. I'm not sure what the younger version of myself would think if I had read something like this back then. The beauty of comic books is that we don't have to buy what we don't want to read. If you try something and it's not for you, move on to something different.

    You're reviews, regardless of the comic books, are always very entertaining, and I appreciate what you do!
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