By Zack Quaintance — Ice Cream Man #6 is yet another nasty (in a good way) read from one of the most bleak-yet-mesmerizing comics of all-time. In broad strokes, this series is about a sinister Ice Cream Man who serves as the only throughline in a series of disparate tales that add up to one of the most unflinching looks at the everyday lives of modern Americans...in any storytelling medium. Abandon hope all ye who open this book, for sure, yet also know that it will somehow never cross the line into sensationalism. In other words, start reading this and you probably won’t give it up.
I know I won’t any time soon. Ice Cream Man #6 is yet another great issue. In many ways, this is the book’s most experimental story yet, following one character through three divergent life paths, all of which are depicted in near-total silence (and are also depressing as all hell). The reason why the story fractures into three (and gets the name/flavor of Strange Neapolitan) becomes clear near the end, when (no spoilers) the script comes out and just basically states its central conceit.
This is, to be blunt, is a story structure that on the surface seems like it shouldn’t work, should instead tip into feeling too gimmicky. It is, however, pulled off expertly by the creative team. Let’s talk first about the work Chris O’Halloran does with his colors, utilizing three distinct palettes to separate the alternate futures of the nameless hero. This is challenging in itself, but O’Halloran also makes it work while sticking to the general strawberry-vanilla-chocolate color scheme of neapolitan ice creams. It had a high potential to look goofy, but O’Halloran nailed it, using his shades to perfectly compliment Morazzo’s artwork.
Perhaps the most impressive feat in this book is the triply (mostly) silent script, which tells three distinct stories that hit complimentary beats almost always at the same time, even while moving at different speeds through the protagonist’s lifetime to basically end at the same haunting spot. Thematically, this story is somewhat one sizable note, but in terms of craft, it’s easily one of the most impressive feats I’ve seen a writer pull off with structure in some time, possibly since Eric Heisserer’s vignette tapestry in the Valiant book Secret Weapons.
Overall: Ice Cream Man #6 is another astoundingly well-done comic that scares you as you read and then lingers with you existentially for days after you finish. This series continues to be one of the most unflinching looks at everyday lives in modern American...in any storytelling medium. 8.5/10
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