A delectable horror comic, Ice Cream Man (Image), hides under deceiving covers at your local comic shop.
The first issue’s cover–also the Volume One Trade cover–shows a smiling ice cream man in powder blue, holding up a fresh serving to smiling children against a pink background. The ensuing story begins with a pleasant transaction between a boy and the ice cream man. On the boy’s return home, however, things darken. He greets his parents, dead at the kitchen table, and a spider known as the “most venomous in the world.”
This run of pages is a microcosm of the series itself: don’t get too comfortable; trouble is a page-turn away.
Each issue of Ice Cream Man is a self-contained story, telling a different tale that connects to the mysterious titular figure. The Ice Cream Man–billed as “Friend. Foe. God. Demon”–stands at a nexus of awful things, a villain whose monstrosity ratchets up with each issue. A few stories in, an opposing figure appears in a cowboy named Caleb. An adversarial relationship between the two develops, albeit slowly, over the course of ensuing issues. They have a shared history, and a conflict is coming.
The art by Martin Morazzo (pencils/inks) and Chris O’Halloran (colorist) serves the story well–crisp and efficient throughout, with ghastly and weird images that stick in your head. The writing by W.Maxwell Prince is strong, using varied devices to great effect.
Consider “Ballad of the Falling Man” (Issue Five), a story encapsulated in a one-hundred-story leap off a skyscraper, or “Strange Neopolitan” (issue Six), a largely wordless Sliding Doors-esque tale where a man’s changing pedestrian path offers three different outcomes. Other standouts include “Rainbow Sprinkles” (Issue 2), a tale of a drug-addled couple, and “Good Ol’ Fashioned Vanilla” (Issue 3), the story of an aging one-hit-wonder looking for a follow up to his iconic, decades-old track. These are stories to gorge on that stick in your head afterward, demanding consideration and additional reads.
All this being said, the book isn’t perfect. I question the author’s intent in limiting the larger context between Ice Cream Man and Caleb. It weakens rather than enhances the standalone stories. While there is a larger context of an affected (or infected) town, the absence of human problem-solving also puzzles me. How do these horrific events go unnoticed, especially by the promising detective characters introduced in the first issue?
These are mild objections, however, outweighed by propulsive stories and high enjoyment level. There is something compelling about the dark storytelling as well. These stories are oddly life-affirming in the way observing darkness gives one appreciation for the light. I’ve read the books multiple times and plan to go back for more.
Ice Cream Man is past the twenty-issue mark and a recommended addition to your hold bin. The flavors are strange and unsettling, yet rewarding once digested.