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Review: Iceman #1

Iceman is back from writer Sina Grace with new series artist Nathan Stockman and colorist Federico Blee. In the first issue of the new series, Grace and Stockman indulge in a little team-up action (and jog down memory lane for X-Men fans of the late 1980s) as Iceman and Bishop work together to prevent a new mutant massacre of the Morlocks. They have a really quirky dynamic with Bishop playing the serious focused on several possible futures, and Iceman being the one with the bad jokes and clunky Kanye references. However, Grace gives Bobby a little more self-awareness than the previous volume where he was just coming into his own as both a gay man and omega level mutant and trying to balance coming out to his parents and his first real boyfriend. In Iceman #1, he’s still developing as a person, but is a little more self-assured, which makes the book a little more fun.

Speaking of fun, Iceman #1 has some seriously action-packed setpieces courtesy of Nathan Stockman and Federico Blee beginning with a literal cold open where Bobby saves an old lady from a homophobic bad guy in Hell’s Kitchen while trying to meet a cute guy. (Oops, I have to put a dollar in the clunky dad joke jar.) One thing I love about heroes like Spider-Man is the intersection between their personal life, especially romance, and superhero action, and Grace and Stockman really get that dynamic with a gay superhero. It’s also seriously empowering to see a queer superhero kick a homophobic bad dude’s ass by completely encasing him in ice. And as a humorous cherry on top, pulling out an ice “glass” slipper on the dance floor made me laugh and cringe. Northstar really needs to give him dating lessons. This opening sequence really sets the tone for the first issue with Grace and Stockman, who seamlessly transition from fight scene to conversation without losing momentum handling everything from a main villain reveal to a text message conversation between Bobby and Kitty with style and grace.

Iceman #1 shows again why having an actual gay writer on an X-Book makes the X-Men as LGBTQ people more nuanced and powerful. In this case, there is the Morlocks. Sina Grace uses them as a metaphor for LGBTQ folks who don’t want to pass as straight or assimilate into a patriarchal, heteronormative society. That’s totally cool as Bobby begins to understand after a short conversation about why they don’t join the revolving door of the Xavier School. I also like how Grace refers to the Morlocks home as a “safe space” instead of creepy tunnels or whatever like previous writers.

However, in the context of the story, the Morlocks’ separatism and non-conformity leads to them being targeted by Mr. Sinister and the Marauders, who think they are hampering upward mutant mobility. At best, they’re the Marvel Universe version of Log Cabin Republicans, and at worse, they’re the “no fats, no femmes” guys on Grindr. To give them a little more real world relevance, Grace even makes the new look Marauders organize via the not so nice parts of the Internet like real hate groups. And Mr. Sinister is kind of a perfect villain for Bobby because he’s all about finding the perfect genetic potential, which Bobby kind of is as an ice golem creating omega level mutant.

Just like its protagonist at times, Iceman #1 is a highly confident start to Sina Grace, Nathan Stockman, and Federico Blee’s new series. It gives Bobby both a personal life as well as integrating him into the X-Men as a team, has well laid out action, and the most groan-worthy of dad jokes plus quirky banter between him and Bishop. As an added bonus, Grace writes the Morlocks with respect and empathy transforming them into badasses, who fight for their home and friends and won’t conform to society’s standards instead of empty cannon fodder like in the original “Mutant Massacre” story.

Story: Sina Grace Art: Nathan Stockman
Colors: Federico Blee Letters: Joe Sabino

Story: 8.8 Art: 8.2 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

FlameCon 2018: Writer Sina Grace Talks Iceman, Dad Jokes, and Li’l Depressed Boy

Sina Grace is a veteran L.A. based comic book writer, artist, and former editor whose body of work ranges from graphic memoirs like Not My Bag, Self-Obsessed, and Nothing Lasts Forever to an Iceman ongoing series for Marvel Comics. He has also done the artwork for the cult Image comic The Li’l Depressed Boy, which is written by Shaun Steven Struble. Self-Obsessed was made into a webseries starring Grace as himself and co-starring Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Amber Benson and Adam Busch.

At FlameCon, I had the opportunity to catch up with Sina Grace and chat about his upcoming Iceman miniseries and some other projects.

Graphic Policy: You’ve got the new Iceman coming up. What sets apart this miniseries from your initial run on the character?

Sina Grace: I’m really excited that I get to come back to the series after a passage of time. So, Bobby’s sort of done with the chapter of growing he went through in those first eleven issues, and in this one, we get to see him a little more settled in his skin. The reader will have so much more fun watching him do what he wants to do now that he’s like, “I am an omega level mutant. I am awesome.” He’s finally settling in.

With that comes a lot more fun and also some new challenges.

GP: What are some of those challenges?

SG: I’ve always thought that if you’re known for being an omega level mutant that means people with good and bad intentions are going to be paying more attention. Their eyes are on you. I’ve made it no secret that Mr. Sinister is the bad guy, and he kind of realizes that there’s something special about Bobby. Because Bobby is realizing there’s something special about Bobby. And you don’t want Mr. Sinister to be obsessed with you, I’ll leave it at that.

Then, similarly, we see Emma Frost come back into the fold, and their relationship is so rife with tension. I think one of the last times they had a very big talk about him, she seemed to be disappointed by his immense potential and how he never lived up to it. This series is really going to focus on him living up to his potential and being around people who can bring more out of him.

GP: I’ve talked to a lot of Iceman fans online, and they’ve wanted him to have more romantic and definitely more sexual relationships. What is Bobby’s dating and romantic life going to be like in the new series?

SG: I’m excited to keep Bobby single for a while. I think it’s going to be really fun to have him be single in the Marvel Universe and sort of show what that whole world looks like. How easy or how hard is it to be a mutant and in the X-Men and looking for romance. Usually, with all these other X-Men, they can date within the pool, but aside from Pyro, who they just wanted it to be what that evening was, there aren’t a lot of suitors out there.

He is dating. We get to see what that looks like for him. It’s adorable, but I’m not ready to have him fall in love just yet.

GP: You’re working with a new artist on the series, Nate Stockman (X-Men Blue). What has collaborating with him been like?

SG: Nate Stockman, and I’ve been so lucky because I’ve been saying this about the other artists, is really collaborative and so open minded in terms of taking notes from a writer who knows how to draw and has drawn comic books. Nate is injecting this level of humor that we didn’t quite hit with the previous artists, and I’m so happy because again and again I will say that this arc is a celebration. We got the book back. Bobby is a happier person. We’re just here to have a blast. It’s like a bonus round.

Nate really brings that energy. He’s just so happy and kind, and that’s all you can ask for in a collaborator. He also has really good insights as a storyteller and has helped me become a better writer in the end too.

GP: I saw Bishop on the cover of Iceman #1. What role is he going to play in the series?

SG: He’s mainly in issue one. He does show up at the end of the arc. I wanted a character where it’s the same thing as Bobby Drake. He’s always kind of around. But he’s always in the periphery. Bishop is like that too. There’s a lesson to be learned in the first adventure with them preventing the Mutant Massacre together that I felt he was able to speak to Bobby in a different way and help him understand things. I’ve always been drawn to the character, and I wanted to spend some time with him and see how his brain works. He’s cool.

GP: Yeah, wielding that big gun in X-Men Legends was when I fell in love with him.

SG: He’s also lived out the thing he needed to do in this timeline, and again, he’s in the periphery and on a similar, but different journey. So, I wanted to have these two personalities next to each other for that adventure.

GP: One thing that stands out about your Iceman is that he makes a ton of dad jokes. Why did you decide to make that a big part of his personality?

SG: It’s one of the consistent things about him. If you go through all these books, he makes really dumb jokes. His humor is a little stale, but I had to lean into as a writer because if you only do one or two, people think you can’t write a good joke. So, I kind of had to write 10 or 15 so readers would understand this is about the character kind of cracking wise.

Also, we talk a lot about how Bobby had been hiding a part of his identity from everyone. He’s filling the air. He’s nervous. These are nervous jokes. We’re going to be massaging that in the story talking about that, and how he changes on a micro-interaction level. Maybe, he’s gonna fill the air a little less with dumb jokes, or maybe his jokes will just be good. We shall see.

GP: Yeah, they’re a big part of his character. So, the X-Men have been used as a metaphor for LGBTQ themes for years. What experiences do you as a gay man bring to these characters that a straight writer couldn’t?

SG: I talk a lot about how the power of diverse storytelling lies in the details and specificity. On the way to the interview, we were talking about how opening up the restrooms at FlameCon and making them gender free opened my eyes to “Now I can’t just pop in and pop out. I have deal with a line.” But, cool, I’m aware of my privilege.

There’s no way you can have insight into a story so it’s not even in your eye line. But we bring the specifics of what the experience feels like. Case in point, in issue six of the first series, he falls head over heels with a guy he meets in L.A., Judah Miller. And he thinks about wanting to move to L.A. Resisters, and people who didn’t the like book as a whole, thought that was dumb, and gay Twitter had my back and was like, “No, girl, listen. This is what happens when you just come out, and you’ve spent your whole life thinking you can’t have something.”

You do latch onto the first person who gives it to you and make very questionable decisions about moving across the country. I almost moved to Seattle for love. So, the thing I bring where I can have a character do something that works for the sake of dramatic storytelling, but is still rooted in a reality. I think if a hetero, cis writer did this, it would come off more problematically.

GP: Speaking of your experience, you’ve written a lot of autobio comics, like Self-Obsessed and Not My Bag. How do you switch gears from writing so personally about yourself to writing about a corporate property?

SG: I think actually switching back and forth makes doing both easier for me. I have a space where I can be myself and talk about myself and reconcile questions about the world that I have that may not be interesting to everyone. I have a space for that with an audience that is willing to watch me go down these paths. And, then, because I have this safety valve, I can really look outside myself when I’m speaking to an audience that is 10,000 to 20,000 readers, and I can think about stuff that a larger group of people would want to have explored.

I like that I have both. What’s awesome is that Marvel readers aren’t like, “Let’s go look at your slice of life tales.” They love action books so it’s very safe space to go down some deep ends.

GP: In those autobio books, you have playlists, and I low key got into Jenny Lewis because of Nothing Lasts Forever. Do you have playlists for Iceman?

SG: I create playlists for any character with a big speaking role in my comics because I find music to be a fascinating look into someone’s psyche. On a very surface level, it’s a good way for me to be like “My brain is different from his brain.” So, Bobby listens to stuff I don’t listen to.

I joke that I don’t much care for The Weeknd, but Bobby likes him. He likes the War on Drugs a lot. I don’t mind them. They’re actually good. But I wouldn’t have pursued them. They’re in his wheelhouse. They’re what he likes. I was dating a guy, and we spent the date joking about what he would listen to versus us. The great debate is if Bobby Drake listens to Coldplay. I don’t have the answer yet.

It’s a good exercise. Like for Daken, I was listening to a lot of dark, nihilistic, and loud music like Health and Nine Inch Nails. Dirty Beaches too. He’s a very swagger-y guy. It’s a cool tip to tell burgeoning writers. This is how you get into a different groove and force yourself into something: a different conversation.

GP: That’s good advice. I have one last question. I’m a big fan of The Li’l Depressed Boy. Any news on that front?

SG: Our only goal with this new series of The Li’l Depressed Boy is to have the entire arc done before we put it on the calendar. I don’t think anyone likes when a book ships late, and the series comes from a personal place for both [me and Shaun Steven Struble]. We’re just letting it take the time it needs. But there are pages drawn. There is a ton of script written out.

Shaun and I are lifelong friends and partners so as long as we’re in love with each other and the book, it’s always going to be on our minds and always going to be made. Having the book come out on time and having it be the best it can be is more important than anything. No rushing for us.

Iceman #1 will available from Comixology and local comic book stores on September 12, 2018

Follow Sina Grace on Twitter.

Review: Iceman #11

ICEMAN #11 1Sina Grace ends his run on Iceman with a strong standalone story where Bobby overcomes his neuroses, freakouts about his past and possibly leading his own X-Men team, and a trigger happy team-up buddy in Rictor to help his parents’ neighbor, Mr. Poklemba, come to terms with being a mutant. Robert Gill and Rachelle Rosenberg handle the art duties for the main story while Grace does his first Marvel interiors with flashbacks of Bobby’s life as a young boy and X-Man as he comes to terms with being both a mutant and gay. Grace looks at how religion can (Catholicism in Bobby’s case.) influence one’s coming out as queer in a negative way and provides a fuller look at

Even if Iceman #11 deals with some heavy subject matter, like a priest repudiating young Bobby Drake’s status as a mutant and his parents discussing if they did something wrong with him to be one, Grace and Gill don’t abandon the comedy and dad jokes. After a one page cold open of Bobby’s ideal life, they cut to an extremely awkward pho “date” featuring him and Rictor where they talk about their exes way too much Also, lunch dates are the unsexiest of all dates.

One of my qualms with Iceman as a series has been Bobby’s  lack of interactions with other queer superhero  in a non-hostile way (*cough* Daken), and Grace and Gill remedy this in Iceman #11. Bobby and Rictor banter about how Iceman’s neurotic jokes might be a little bit of a turn-off and then they get to go on a mission together and talk the mutantphobic, telekinetic mutant Mr. Poklemba off the ledge. Rictor sees this team-up as a straight-up neutralizing a violent mutant adventure of the week while it’s more personal for Bobby. Either way, Rosenberg’s scarlet palette coming from a house is never a good sign.

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Sina Grace, Robert Gill, and Rachelle Rosenberg hit the right sweet spot between action spectacle and character introspection in Iceman #11. There’s a sort of silly scene where Rictor is getting tired of Bobby musing over how to reach out to Mr. Poklemba and is about to just knock the new mutant out, and Gill draws a montage of Bobby offering him an ice flower and wearing an ice helmet and wielding an ice sword until he finally ices down, introduces himself as Bobby and Madeline’s kid, and generally interacts with Poklemba on a human level.

Mr. Poklemba is pretty terrible with a house that is the opposite of clean, press clippings about all the bad things the X-Men have done, and has a religious hatred towards mutants, but Bobby doesn’t attack him and tries to help him through a heart to heart conversation. These scenes exhibit his growth as a character, and why he would make a great X-Men team leader because he chooses empathy over brute force and uses his abilities to defuse situations and not ramp them up. For example,  because he has the ability to manipulate the temperature of water molecules, he tells Mr. Poklemba to lower his body temperature so that the rage fueling his ability subsides. He is calm and a helping hand (And has a great ass, I had to.) in the middle of a storm and helps Poklemba  realize that maybe being a mutant isn’t as bad as he thought. Just because you have powers doesn’t mean you have to be a superhero or terrorist.

Iceman #11 has insightful flashbacks where Sina Grace shows his skill as an artist and riffs off the style of Jack Kirby, (possibly) Steve Ditko for the sad young Bobby at home scenes, Jim Lee, and even Stuart Immonen plus a plot featuring a one two-punch of cool ice/earthquake powers and human empathy. The series as a whole has been up and down, but Grace, Robert Gill, and Rachelle Rosenberg end it on a positive note with Bobby starting to realize his potential as both an X-Man and a single, gay man.

Story: Sina Grace Art: Robert Gill, Sina Grace Cover: Kevin Wada
Color: Rachelle Rosenberg Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Graphic Designers: Jay Bowen, Anthony Gambino
Group Editor: Mark Paniccia Editor: Chris Robinson Consulting Editor: Darren Shan
Story: 8.2 Art: 8.6 Overall: 8.4 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Why I Won’t Miss Marvel’s Iceman Comic

I have had such a love/hate relationship with Sina Grace‘s Iceman run over its nine issues, but issue nine tipped the scales from “Hey, this is a fun book. I’m feeling it” to “Daken is hot, and it’s nice to see Northstar and his husband, but wow, this is bad.” After spending the five issues having Bobby summon up his courage to come out as gay to his parents via letter, Grace and new series artist Robert Gill have had him let down his hair and relax in the four issues of the “Legacy” era. While having a reunion with his old Champions teammates, Bobby met a cute boy named Judah Miller in L.A. and was thinking about leaving the X-Men and moving to Southern California. This was really a big step for him as a character, and it seemed like Iceman was starting to explore his sexuality more for the first time since he came out in November 2015’s Uncanny X-Men #600.

But that didn’t happen. In Iceman #9, Gill continued to bring the beefcake, and it looked like he and Sina Grace were turning in yet another fun issue with Bobby introducing Judah to his X-Men family and a fight against the mutant-phobic (And probably homophobic) Purifiers while setting up Daken and his edgelord acolyte Amp as the main villain. A throwaway line about the gay former X-Force/X-Factor member Rictor breaking up with his longtime partner Shatterstar should have foreshadowed that events were going to take a turn for the sinister. This is when Daken stabs Judah and makes a joke about fridges, and the plot reason is basically to make Iceman angry and use more of his potential powers.

It’s the “bury your gays” trope in a comic that up to this point has seemed to be about finding your own unique identity even when people hate and criticize you like Bobby’s parents about his life as an X-Man and a gay man.

This trope is even more disappointing coming from Sina Grace, who is a gay man himself, and has written insightful graphic memoirs like Self-Obsessed Nothing Lasts Forever , and even Not My Bag is a humorous, relatable look at balancing an artistic career with a dead end retail job.

Instead of mining the potential of Iceman moving three time zones away from the X-Men and beginning his first romantic relationship with a man, Grace and Gill go for cheap drama and stale story elements. They don’t make an attempt to add Judah Miller to the great stable of “civilian” X-Men supporting characters, like Moira MacTaggert or Stevie Hunter, and just kill him off to further Iceman’s story and make Daken a “more evil” villain.

Also, changing Daken from a seductive manipulator who kisses Judah right in front of Bobby into a remorseless killer makes him much less interesting character. Sure, his powers might have an upgrade, and he might have a new look thanks to the Apocalypse death seed inside him, but the whole sexy bad boy thing goes away. After Daken kisses Judah, there’s a great opportunity for Bobby and Judah to have a talk about their difference in sexual experience, but I guess that’s too mature for a Marvel comic and takes time away from edgy jokes, fight scenes, and mind control drama.

In a very later seasons of The Walking Dead way, killing off Judah does up the stakes of Iceman and finally gives the book a real Big Bad after going more of a villain/antagonist of the week route ranging from Purifiers to Juggernaut and weirdly and slightly more sympathetically, a woman trying to make it in Hollywood by jerry-rigging her own Sentinels. However, Sina Grace falls into the trap of writing gay men as wholesome Modern Family/Will and Grace types, who enjoy fashion and brunching and bisexual men (Really man because Daken is the only bi character in Iceman.) as sexually predatory and villains.

We’re good for fun sexy times and intense flirtation, but definitely aren’t someone to bring home to the X-Men or parents.

I’m not saying that Grace really thinks bisexual men are sociopaths, but it’s a little sad that gay characters, like Bobby, and to a lesser extent after this issue, Judah, can be fully fleshed out human beings with desires, interests, and neuroses while a bisexual character gets coded as the bad guy, who, oops, makes funnier jokes than the good guys. Daken going completely off the rails without having a solid villain motivation beyond his “edgy” bisexual coding is a regressive, boring throwback to the queer coding of Disney villains and using society’s implicit biphobia to make them seem both evil and seductive. It’s up there with connecting Deadpool’s pansexuality to mental illness.

Daken doesn’t have to be a cuddly, Drag Race watching superhero with a strict, no kill policy, but he has to have a stronger character motivation beyond adolescent nihilism or “for the evils”. For example, Steve Orlando wrote the gay anti-hero Midnighter as a murderer, but he killed those who exploited others like he was exploited by the men who experimented on him and implanted his brain with technology to see the outcome of every fight. This is much more fascinating than depraved bisexual serial killer.

Throughout its run, Iceman has suffered from inconsistency in quality from the constantly changing artists to the heavy decompression and sometimes after school special tone of Bobby coming out to parents his in the first storyline. Up to this point, the “Legacy” storyline hasn’t been bad thanks to some fun guest stars like the younger Iceman, Champions, and Northstar and Kyle in Iceman #9, but then Sina Grace decided to sacrifice character growth for hackneyed plot “twists”.

Instead of doing something revolutionary with a rare opportunity to have a gay male character headline his own Marvel book, he falls back on the same old story patterns of mind controlled, queer coded villains and a dead, barely fleshed out love interest to make the light hearted hero darker and more vengeful.

It’s nice to have a mainstream comic book featuring a queer male character as a headliner, but we as readers deserve more than Will and Grace meets Women in Refrigerators, which is why I’ll be missing Iceman less than I probably should. His solo title had an excellent opportunity to zero in on Bobby’s relationships and growth, but now he’ll probably be back as the X-Men’s resident dad jokester and source of untapped potential without even getting to take a shot and see what his life would be outside that world.

Review: Iceman #5

“Oh no, love. You’re not alone. No matter what or who you’ve been… Give me your hands!”- “Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide” by David Bowie

In Iceman #5, Bobby finally comes out as gay to his parents, and they don’t accept him unconditionally. It’s an issue that really hit home for me personally and is easily Sina Grace’s best writing on the series. The scenes where the Drakes ask their son insensitive, probing questions about his sexuality are more painful than any blow from the unstoppable, time displaced from the 1960s Juggernaut, who is this issue’s villain of the week. Artist Alessandro Vitti and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg draw a mano a mano battle between Iceman and Juggernaut that is juxtaposed with his coming out letter. These scenes show the cathartic nature of superhero comics for queer people, and their ability to make me escape from my issues with a tale of derring-do and overcoming seemingly unbeatable odds.

In previous issues,  I feel like Grace portrayed Bobby’s parents more sympathetically, but their insensitive, bigoted words towards him in Iceman #5 show why he didn’t come out to him earlier and wanted to do it via letter where he could filter and write out his thoughts in a more organized manner. Vitti draws them with big wrinkles and glaring, ugly expressions as they treat Bobby’s sexuality as hypothetical and even ask him questions about sex life. His mom even uses “mutie” and “queer” as slurs and blames his dad’s side of the family for passing these “genes” to him. Instead of accepting, she constantly talks about how he’s a disappointment, and Mr. Drake won’t even recognize him as their son anymore. Grace and Vitti defuse the tension a little bit with some Idie and Quentin Quire antics, but they get blocked off from the narrative by a literal wall of ice given a glistening sheen by Rosenberg. And Kitty Pryde shows she’s an amazing friend by giving Bobby the opportunity to cut loose against Juggernaut (He probably should have backup though.)

IcemanAngry

And after taking non-stop verbal body blows from his parents, a solo fight against Juggernaut is what Bobby (and the plot of Iceman #5) needs. When the battle begins, Vitti draws a craggier Iceman (Because he’s angry.), and Rosenberg emphasizes the red on his uniform shirt. The battle itself is a blockbuster one and extremely creative as Bobby doesn’t have to hold back against the Juggernaut, whose only motivation is to wreck stuff and kill the X-Men blue team, who brought him to present times from the 1960s.

The dad jokes are gone, and Vitti and Rosenberg replace with double page, shoujo manga-esque spreads of Bobby freezing the speed of light to hit the Juggernaut and then using his ability to change into a vapor to escape his clutches and finally put the kibosh on him. After these pages and a beautiful transformation, the fact that Iceman is an omega level mutant is at the forefront of his character and not just a trivia fact. As he mentions to his dad at the end of the issue, being honest about who he loves has helped him use his mutant powers more effectively. This is definitely true because Bobby does a lot of cool things this issue like impaling Juggernaut on an icicle and sending his ice golems to save civilians while he focuses on keeping Juggy occupied. Water is all around us, and in Bobby’s capable hands, it can be a powerful weapon. Vitti and Rosenberg get really creative with his powers in this issue, especially when he is about to beat the Juggernaut.

The bittersweet ending to Iceman #5 where Bobby and his dad have a polite chat about his letter, say they love each other, and reconcile in the snow rings true to my own experience as a queer man. My parents don’t approve of my sexuality, but they actually do still care about me, and we have a pretty good relationship. Personally, this makes me hurt a lot deeper than a simple Westboro Baptist Church type of hate because it’s infused with love.

Iceman #5 works as a comic because Sina Grace, Alessandro Vitti, and  holds a mirror to mine and other queer men’s experiences using mutant powers and superhero battles as big visual metaphors of both triumph and empowerment when Iceman defeats Juggernaut all by his lonesome and the feeling of being an outsider with his vapor abilities.

Iceman #5 is a powerful, cathartic end to the first arc of the comic and showed me that I’m not alone…

Story: Sina Grace Art: Alessandro Vitti Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
Story: 9.5 Art: 7.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Iceman #4

ICEMAN2017004_covFinally, Iceman gets a little sexy in issue where writer Sina Grace, artists Edgar Salazar and Ed Tadeo, and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg have Bobby bump into Wolverine’s mad, bad, and dangerous to know bisexual son Daken while he’s trying to rescue his rebellious student, Zach, from a members only nightclub. Up to this point, Grace has mainly focused on Iceman’s attempts to come out to his parents and hasn’t had him get into any romantic situations with other men. This is why it’s super nice (and hot) to have him flirt and fight with Daken, who isn’t the best influence on Zach, a mutant that can mess up with electronics and isn’t a fan of the regimented life style at the Xavier School.

Iceman #4 is one of the better structured issues of the series with Grace connecting its plot to a previous adventure while throwing in a splashy guest star, some fantastic action, and some real talk about Iceman’s insecurities and faux confidence. He’s supposed to be a teacher, but is still working on his own issues, like coming out as an adult and not reaching his potential when it comes to his ice abilities. Grace doesn’t go as far as painting the X-Men as evil, but he does demonstrate that their almost paramilitary approach to working with young mutants isn’t the best fit for everyone.

Maybe, some mutants don’t want to fight Apocalypse and just want to dance, play video games, and have a good time. (A partnership with Patsy Walker’s superpowered temp agency would easily solve this problem and also give an excuse for bi bae Ian Soo to appear in Iceman.) It’s honorable that Bobby wants Zach to be able to control his vast powers, but threats and lectures aren’t his style, and the teen can see through him saying that he’ll carry him out of the club in ice handcuffs. Later, in Iceman #4, a skewered-by-ice Daken offers some much needed snarky, yet constructive criticism about Bobby’s approach to leadership and teaching. Basically, Bobby is talking at Zach and not having a discussion about how he feels, like when Bobby makes snide comments about Zach’s Internet friend. Iceman is hella insecure in general with his emotions veering closer to his pal, Human Torch, and not his cool exterior. And he’s going to go supernova metaphorically when his parents show up at the X-Mansion unannounced at the end of the comic.

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Edgar Salazar and Ed Tadeo’s art isn’t the flashiest, but it’s easy to follow, especially the action scenes which have clear moves and motivations. Daken has a healing factor so Bobby doesn’t have to hold back and executes a killer finishing move that plays off Daken’s pet name for Bobby featuring a cool metallic sheen from Rachelle Rosenberg. Also, Salazar and Tadeo’s figure work is quite attractive and seems tailor made for the bisexual gaze aka people who have crushes on both Kitty Pryde and Iceman like yours truly instead of awkward, how is that even a human being 90s inspired superhero art. The cherry on top of the sundae that is Bobby Drake in a white tux is Daken, who is a true homme fatale, and in Salazar and Tadeo’s hands, his ice abilities turn into a kind of sort of metaphor for Iceman possibly being sexually frigid. However, dating and sexy stuff after coming is a real maze to navigate so I also like that Grace, Salazar, and Tadeo are slowly easing Bobby into the world of romance and sexy times.

Some of the dialogue is cheesy, but Sina Grace, Edgar Salazar, Ed Tadeo, and Rachelle Rosenberg make Iceman #4 one of the more memorable issues of the series by adding a hint of sexual tension in the interactions (and action of the mutant powers sort) between Daken and Iceman.  Also, Zach running away exposes some vulnerabilities in Iceman beneath his dad joke making, Disney movie referencing, and ice golem hurling exterior.

Story: Sina Grace Pencils: Edgar Salazar Inks: Ed Tadeo Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
Story: 8.5 Art: 7.5 Overall: 8.0  Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Iceman #3

Iceman3CoverThe unofficial title for this issue should seriously be “No More Mr. Nice Gay”.  Iceman goes over to his parents’ house to reconnect and perhaps even come out  to them, but the family “bonding” is interrupted by a Purifier attack. Iceman #3 is the darkest issue of the series yet, and Sina Grace, Alessandro Vitti, and Rachelle Rosenberg give us a glimpse of Bobby’s omega level mutant abilities during a battle in his childhood home. He doesn’t come out to his parents in this issue, but Grace skillfully uses the metaphor of the mutant and the X-Men to show how difficult it is for more traditionally minded people to come to terms with queer people. He writes Mr. and Mrs. Drake very compassionately even if his mom is a little obsessed with asking if the X-Men offer any benefits like a 401K.

With lines and pockmarks everywhere, Alessandro Vitti’s take on human beings aren’t super pleasing in Iceman #3. At the same time, it’s nice to see folks with wrinkles and laugh lines, and the things that make us human. He and Rosenberg fare better during the intense action part of the book. Bye bye ice slides, and hello ice shards and trapping people in ice as Iceman doesn’t pull any punches with the bigots who held guns to his parents’ heads. Iceman is making Elmer Fudd jokes, and then he sees an asshole in a trench with a gun going on about justice. Something snaps, and the pace of the comic gets more frantic and the ice projectiles get more dangerous. By the end of the issue, Iceman is acting closer to Wolverine than his jovial self walking through bullets and explosions and marking up his enemies. He has a reputation as a jokester, but cares about his family and wants to protect them no matter the cost.

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Some of the best parts of Sina Grace’s work on Iceman has been the scenes where Bobby opens up to friends or family about his emotions and his life as both a mutant and a gay man. There aren’t any epiphanies or Hallmark moments with him and his parents in Iceman #3, but they slowly begin to understand where Bobby is coming from. I enjoyed reading the interplay between them at the dinner table and even though they have different lifestyles and beliefs, all the Drakes use humor to deflect serious situations. They have the kind of messy talks that mostly families do. It’s kind of sad that Mr. and Mrs. Drake still struggle to understand their son’s life as a mutant and X-Man, but they love him fiercely. I was pumping my fist when Mr. Drake called out the Purifiers’ leader Beckett for using his religious beliefs as a justification for hatred and violence even though he was being held in a chokehold.

Sina Grace, Alessandro Vitti, and Rachelle Rosenberg start to find their storytelling footing in Iceman #3 with their combination of introspective heart to heart and superhero action. There is less humor and more darkness in this issue, but who has time for one-liners when your family’s lives are threatened by hatemongers.

Story: Sina Grace Art: Alessandro Vitti Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
Story: 9.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Iceman #1

The adult version of Iceman gets a solo series thanks to the talented team of writer Sina Grace (Self-Obsessed), artist Alessandro Vitti (Secret Warriors), and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg. It’s also the first Marvel comic to feature a queer male superhero as the protagonist in quite some time as the House of Bi Erasure decides to throw us a bone for Pride Month. For the most part, Iceman #1 is a breezy read with banter and creative action, but there is a real sadness to its core as Bobby’s parents still haven’t come to terms with him being both gay and a mutant. Grace makes his relationship with them complicated because they aren’t complete bigots like the one-dimensional bad guy that he fights this issue. These kind of nuanced conversations are one of the benefits of having an actual gay man write this title.

Iceman #1 reads like a companion to the memorable and authentic (Thanks to the coaching of Ian McKellen and directing of Bryan Singer.) “coming out” scene between Bobby and his parents in the 2003 film X2.  For the most part, the LGBTQ subtext of X2 is text in Iceman even though Grace and Vitti stop short of Bobby and his parents having a conversation about his sexuality with a battle against the anti-mutant, football helmet wearing terrorist, Purifier interrupting their chat. It’s nice to see Bobby banter with his parents about his ice slides and his mom’s copyright friendly version of a Bed, Bath, and Beyond addiction, but then find out that they didn’t tell him they were moving. Also, they kind of sweep his sexuality under the rug, and Vitti zooms in on the downcast expression on Bobby’s face when his mom asks about his “girlfriends”.

Their interactions are a little emotional because of his dad’s pericarditis, friendly, and a little bit awkward. When their child comes out, parents sometimes aren’t completely bigoted (Kicking you out of the house) or accepting. (Hugs all around). A lot of times they are somewhere in between. This has been my own personal experience, and it’s nice to see Sina Grace and Alessandro Vitti reflect it in a superhero comic. To go with the uncomfortable nature of Iceman discussing his sexuality and mutant status, there is the fact that his high adventure lifestyle as a superhero has caused him to drift apart from his parents. Iceman is busy saving the day and traveling the globe and multiple dimensions so he doesn’t really have time for weekend visits. He’s growing up and coming into his own as a superhero and man, but that means leaving his childhood behind. But Grace still writes him being goofy as hell, and the comic ends on an emoji.

Alessandro Vitti throws away the notion that superhero art has to be cleanly inked and penciled in his work on Iceman #1. In keeping with the improvisational nature of Iceman’s powers, it looks like subzero jazz with plenty of speed lines during fight scenes before slowing down and being more expressive during serious scenes, like when Bobby sees his parents in the hospital. To go with his art, Rachelle Rosenberg uses a palette that Andre 3000 would describe as “cooler than being cool”, and you can feel the temperature drop when Iceman uses abilities. But there are subtle differences in how the ice looks like a more playful snowball/slushie feel when the Icemen are sparring in the Danger Room versus a harder/freeze you in carbonite color for when he surrounds the Purifier in a pointy ice cave.

Even though its bad guy is one note, and an ongoing threat isn’t built up, Iceman #1 is a successful start to the adult Bobby Drake’s solo debut. Sina Grace’s dialogue has a silly sense of humor just like Iceman has had since the Jack Kirby and Stan Lee days, and it’s nice to have an X-book with more of a slice of life-meets-cool superpowers vibe instead of being steeped in continuity, nostalgia, and/or edginess. Plus Alessandro Vitti and Rachelle Rosenberg realize that Iceman can pretty much shape matter to his will and use this as a license to let their creativity to run wild.

It’s super fun to see Bobby Drake kick ass and crack dad jokes while struggling with dating and his relationships with friends and family as a newly out adult gay man in Iceman #1.

Story: Sina Grace Art: Alessandro Vitti Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
Story: 7.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Bisexual Erasure Strikes Again in All-New X-Men #40

All New X-Men 40 biBrian Michael BendisAll-New X-Men #40 hits shelves tomorrow with a big change to one of the original X-Men characters. Warning Spoilers to follow.

In the issue, regular jokester Bobby Drake aka Iceman, is confronted by telepath Jean Grey after Drake makes a comment about the “hotness” of a female character Magik. Grey, reading his mind, outs Bobby as a gay. Bobby initially disagrees, citing the fact that his older self (time travel stuff) has dated numerous women. He asserts to Jean that maybe he’s bisexual to which Jean says nope, he’s “fully gay.” You can read the exchange on the left.

So I’ve been sitting on this because I want to read All-New X-Men #40 myself first before going on record. But having seen the panels I need to at least say this: Bendis, I really respect your work but you messed this up. Please consider listening to actual bisexual people when you do this sort of thing. Because we are going to have a different perspective on this than you will. I’m not saying that Bobby needs to be bi (though lord knows, we need another bi hero). I’m not saying that Bobby should identify in any particular way. I’m saying that the way the scene was written dismisses the existence of bisexual people. And Bobby deserves to have the chance to define his own sexual orientation rather than having a narrator stand-in tell him how he should or shouldn’t identify.

Evan at Bisexual Books summed it up nicely:

Saying everyone is bi erases us. It invalidates bisexual identity and gives room for people to feel it’s perfectly ok for them to smack their own labels on us rather than allowing us to self identify. This is exactly what young Jean does to young Bobby in this exchange.

Maybe the writer doesn’t want us to interpret Jean’s voice as the narrator’s, though her being a telepath complicates this. Maybe he is showing the limitations of her teenage vocabulary and understanding of human sexuality (they just pulled her out of the 60s). But it is hard for me to read the scene any other way.

erasure(and thank you to herecomesthewomanwithoutfear aka Emma Houxbois for turning my Living Eraser from Dimension Z comment into an awesome jpg. FYI the Living Eraser is a comics meta joke dating back to the silver age).

Also, go read her piece on Rainbow Hub. It’s smarter then mine. And she’s not even bi. So yeah, I’m jealous that she put it better then I did.