Ice Cream Man #10: Las Estrellas Escriben
iEs un hombre de la gente, el General!
Well … not exactly.
Story: W. Maxwell Prince
Art: Martín Morazzo
Colors: Chris O’Halloran
Letters: Good Old Neon
Publisher: Image Comics
Las primeras páginas de Ice Cream Man #10 son en Español, and considering both the plot and the subtext (tied as this series is to the celluloid nightmare past of America and its garish, trembling present), it’s a smart choice for the book. After the events of the last issue, the field was pretty open for Prince and Morazzo to take us anywhere, and settling us in a fast-paced, tragic and Romantic (with a capital R) border story is a nice nod to the current political reality, as well as the liminal state in which borders exist in our collective consciousness.
Borders are both frighteningly real and dreamily obscure. Blood is often, if not always, spilled to create and maintain them, and they’re often erected and enforced at the expense of indigenous populations, revolutionaries and idealists, and most definitely for economic benefit. Borders allegedly protect us, but there are many, many ways in which they can hurt us, as Prince shows in this issue. The more subtle take on the Man in White’s dimension-defying violence in issue #10 is enjoyable. There’s a body count in this issue, sure, but there’s also a modicum of hope at the end that’s a sweet antidote to the Ice Cream Man’s callous snuffing out of young love. Whereas issue #9 felt like a drawn breath, issue #10 is off to the races again, and by building on the serial structure of the Ice Cream Man’s brutal deconstruction of modern life, it seems like we’re taking a narrative turn. For now.
To what, exactly … who can say?
Morazzo’s art is up to its usual quality, and that quality is exceptional. His faces are wildly expressive with very minimal, crystal detail: the General’s grinning, ghoulish dandyism, María’s paralyzing fear and stunning calavera visage, and John’s dreamy blond idealism are all stand-outs in issue #10. Morazzo does equally well with a more extensive cast, marketplace and architectural detail and the same deceptively simple layouts that’ve enhanced the series’ breathless tone from the outset. O’Halloran’s colors are, as always, gorgeous, and it’s inspiring to see what he’s able to do with muted, nighttime or indoor tones to create layered and grounding landscapes. The backgrounds on a few of the later pages boast a nice, sickly gradient from blue to yellow to putrid green, and shadows are always carefully considered. There’s also a lovely, creepy shine to everyone’s eyes that’s more pronounced than ever in this issue, as if to remind us that we shouldn’t rest easy on any sense of normalcy that the daylight brings in this book. Ever.
Good Old Neon’s lettering is top-notch, with a nice (and recognizable) serif font in the narrative boxes and the usual, deceptively casual style on the dialogue. Balloons are very tight, with as little padding as humanly possible, and tails are economical. Prince does a good job of breaking up large swaths of narration and pacing out dialogue, but it’s still a challenge to situate white balloons on O’Halloran’s beautiful backdrops. Ice Cream Man’s lettering sets off a phenomenal package, and gives us that tightrope-over-the-abyss feeling this storytelling should.
This book is unpredictable in the best possible way. We know what’s at stake thanks to the first arc, and we have a deeper understanding of how the two archetypes came to be, or come to be, or are coming to be … or do we? Maybe not. Maybe we don’t have any idea at all, but Prince, Morazzo and the team are crafting an epic that’s on par with the heaviest of hitters in comics history, and it’s simply not to be missed.