The Sell: Since Jack Kirby and Stan Lee debuted him in X-Men #1, Bobby Drake, the Iceman has been a staple in the X-Men comics. In fact, according to comicvine.com, he’s been in 6,201 individual comics since he first slid into the hearts of fans the world over. His quick quips and carefree attitude, along with the fact that he is one of the OG X-Men, have made Bobby a fan favorite and given him a canonical longevity that has carried him through countless series, titles, writers, and artists. With his level of importance, it may seem strange to some that 54 years after his inception, Bobby Drake has not had his own ongoing series…until now. Iceman #1 hit the shelves June 7, 2017, finally giving long time fans of the character his own, independent series. Now, you may be thinking, “That cant be right, Marvel put out an ‘Iceman’ series in 1984 and they tried again in 2001.” Well that’s correct, but these were both 4-issue mini series and the new title from writer Sina Grace and artists Alessandro Vitti and Rachelle Rosenberg is the first time Marvel has launched an open ended (probably 12 issues) book.
To understand where this story is going, readers need a little backstory. First, there are currently two Bobby Drakes running around in the Marvel Comics Universe. No, this isn’t some weird clone mishap (Looking at you Spider-Man.) One is a time displaced youngster from the original 1960’s team (thanks Brian Michael Bendis,) the other is the older, more experienced Iceman who has lived all of the experiences and adventures with the X-Men that readers have absorbed over the years. Secondly, both Bobbys are gay (thanks, again, to Brian Michael Bendis). In a recent run, young Bobby’s fellow time trapped teammate Jean Grey accidentally outed our snowy surfer because she doesn’t quite have a handle over her power of telepathy (I know, but it worked out ok.) Oh, also he’s a mutant, for anyone who may not be familiar with X-Men, Marvel, comics, movies, pop culture, or Saturday morning cartoons. Homo Sapien-Superior. Google it. Now, with that little bit of information, and full knowledge that this will get a little spoilery, on to the good stuff…
The Story: Dating…Sucks. Trying to figure out how to date when you haven’t in a long time…sucks. Trying to figure out online dating…sucks. Trying to figure out how to date someone of the same sex when you’re just getting comfortable with that aspect of yourself…sucks. Trying to figure out online dating with a member of the same sex when you haven’t dated in a long time and you are just getting comfortable with yourself…well…IT SUCKS. So this is where we find Bobby Drake, the Iceman. Not fighting sentinels, not tackling Magneto, not stopping a multiverse ending crisis, just trying to figure out how to navigate the complications of adult life as a dual minority in a world that is potentially hostile and confusing. That is to say, Sina Grace fundamentally and conceptually understands the message and the metaphor of the X-Men and mutant kind. He may be playing with a deck that was shuffled for him by other writers, but he is competently playing that hand. It helps, that as a gay man, Sina comes to this from a place of knowledge and understanding. The story opens to Bobby filling out a dating profile and quickly cuts to a training scenario in the Danger Room between him and his younger persona, where the older Iceman shows off his superior fighting and strategizing skills. To counter this, Sina establishes that the younger, time displaced persona seems to have a better handle on “being Bobby,” in other words, is more comfortable having the personal life that the older, “more experienced” Iceman has kept at a safe distance. A text message then informs our hero that his day is about to become even more complicated in ways that can only happen when who, but family, get involved. Soon, Bobby is engaging in uncomfortable conversations where he struggles with the need to explain his personhood as well as literally punching an anti-mutant bigot-terrorist.
Sina Grace does an adept job at establishing the character’s history, the subject matter, and the tone of this title, but falls short in establishing one thing…the ongoing story. It was a little bit of a deflating moment for the first issue of this massively canonized and well known characters first ongoing series to feel like a One-Shot. There is, at best, only a vague notion of what can be expected from this arc. Although the first issue was entertaining, fun, and introspective, there simply was not much of a hook with which to demand return readership to the second issue, which should have been crucial considering Marvel’s X line is nine books thick at the moment. One can only hope that the second issue will be a more sufficient kick off to an entertaining arc on what is to my knowledge Marvel’s only queer lead solo title.
The Style: One thing that readers can count for the upcoming issues is the energetic art from the team of Alessandro Vitti and Rachelle Rosenberg. While Vitti’s art is not heavily detailed, he packs a lot of movement and emotion into his panels using a minimum amount of lines. Because of this style, Vitti does lose something in terms of muscle tone for the costumed bodies of the heroes, especially when in their ice forms. Rosenberg uses shading and highlights in her colors to help establish body tone and muscle structure that Vitti’s pencils leave out. This isn’t a criticism of Vitti’s style. In fact, the opposite. This is a sign of an art team that knows one another’s strengths and abilities, and can lean on one another to produce a finished product that complements both themselves and the story. What the book ends up with is a take on what is becoming the new Marvel house style. The art has a thematic bond with other Marvel books but retains enough of the personal touch of the individual artists that, while readers wont be blown away, they will be entertained and the story is comfortable to follow.