By W. Maxwell Prince, Martín Morazzo, Chris O’Halloran, and Good Old Neon
Ice Cream Man #3 takes a turn from the visually gruesome in this issue; there are no vicious monsters, overdoses, or car accidents—only one man’s most visceral regrets. The one-hit-wonder, Bud Hickey, this issue’s main character, is the vehicle for exploring anxiety, regret, and perhaps even some form of hope. Thematically, this issue has a lot to dig into. The literal enemy Hickey faces as well as whether or not he’s victorious propose some of the most interesting ideas of the already provocative series.
From the get-go, Prince establishes the issue’s main character as well as his struggle. In a few pages, we have an origin story, his reputation around town, and a handle on his personality, as well as a haunting realization. Throughout the issue, characters continually assure the washed up rockstar that he has a new song buried deep in his gut. When it’s used, it has a tone-setting effect. Based especially on the way the last two issues have gone, the reader assumes that something horribly visceral might happen to the man if he tries to wrench a song out of his belly. The entire issue is foreboding because of this, even when the story becomes more lighthearted and Prince introduces a surreal group of characters. It bounces between these two feelings using dialogue as well as visuals.
A wacky cast of characters battling ice cream monsters with music can only be meaningful in a comic like Ice Cream Man. The team’s willingness to dive into the surreal elements of storytelling pays off in big ways. The action sequences are so well done, especially during countdown, that readers can forget what comic they’re reading. The layouts are dramatic and full of energy. Without reading the words, it’s evident that Bud is in a place of inferiority, but that his comrades have confidence in him. Morazzo clearly has a vast understanding of nonverbal communication as well as direction.
O’Halloran’s colors, meanwhile, have a way of painting the world with as much dirt and grime as the sinister Ice Cream Man would want us to see it. Each scene in the real world is weathered and worn, especially, and most appropriately, Bud Hickey’s house. Even the bright colored-posters that adorn his walls are drowned out by the bleak lighting. Naturally, though, when he ventures into the surreal, O’Halloran shows us a trickle of enticing color and, eventually, a new world for Hickey to explore; one that hasn’t yet heard his music, but desperately needs it.
Ice Cream Man #3 shows the verticality of this creative team. They’re able to explore the mythological, the real, and the surreal in one of this year’s most interesting new series. It has an awareness that makes it seem as if the narrator could reach out and whisper in your ear, but a humor that makes it appear harmless. While you’re least expecting it, Prince ties a character to your heartstrings and makes you care about them.