By Zack Quaintance — Whoa. This issue was nuts, in the best way, and I’m going to do my best to not tip into spoiler territory here. However, I make no promises. So, if you really want to avoid any and all chance of spoilers, I encourage you to skip to the Overall section of this review down at the bottom for a spoiler-free word about whether you should buy this comic. If you have read Ice Cream Man #9, well friend, strap in, because this is about to get wild.
Ice Cream Man #9 up-ended my perception about the scope of this comic. It also sent me back through all eight of previous issues looking for clues. And you know what I found? Tons of them, along with a new sense of what this book is accomplishing. As I wrote in my review of Ice Cream Man #8, I thought this series was a commentary on instant gratification of the soul, on giving into easy feelings of fear and anxiety versus doing the difficult self work it takes to be optimistic, contented, happy. And it is that, to extent, but it’s also quite a bit more.
Ice Cream Man is a book telling an overarching story despite on its surface largely appearing to be an anthology series, albeit one with light connective tissue. The spider from the first issue here, a cop we vaguely know there, plus the titular Ice Cream Man and his weird enemy cowboy guy. A closer look, however, reveals that all along there has been a battle raging between two ancient polemic forces, one of malicious chaos and another that just wants folks to know we’re all friends, all connected, all just trying to live our peaceful lives.
To tell that story, writer W. Maxwell Prince, artist Martin Morazzo, colorist Chris O’Halloran, and letterer Good Old Neon have tapped almost every unique quality inherent to the monthly comics medium, ranging from the slow nature of the release schedule (used to draw the focus to the vignettes, rather than the forces in the background) to juke readers on the format of the narrative to the lettering, which is shaded white in boxes for the evil monologues and black fro the good. This comic has been a true work of patient serialized art, and now in Ice Cream Man #9, the creators are pulling what this book is really about from the background to center stage. And, to be crass, this sh** is f***ing epic.
I read this issue twice. The first time intrigued but bewildered. Then I went back and browsed previous issues for every appearance of the Ice Cream man, and I read it again. That time, I was absolutely blown away at what the creative team is doing. With that in mind, it is perhaps fitting and intentional that in Ice Cream Man #9 the old man character in this story tells the black-clad cowboy Caleb, End, beginning. It’s all the same, because Ice Cream Man is a comic built with no distinct start or end point. It’s a fluid story that demands repeat readings to really grasp its nature. At least the first eight issues play that way.
This issue pushed me to look back and also forward, seeding questions with every new reveal as if it were the work of David Lynch, who is a pretty clear influence on this whole deal, what with the idea that below the idyllic surface of life is bugs, as well as the counterpoint—we’re all the same and connected—which is rooted in Lynch’s beloved transcendental meditation and its universal field. But I digress and I’m getting long-winded here anyway, so let’s wrap things up...
Overall: The end of the beginning of the beginning of the end. An absolutely mind-wrecking read that suggests a more grandiose story than initially promised. Get past issues of Ice Cream Man nearby, because the creators have built something complex and subtle that will re-wire your perception of this series. 9.8/10
Ice Cream Man #9
Writer: W. Maxwell Prince
Artist: Martin Morazzo
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Good Old Neon
Publisher: Image Comics
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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.