Thursday, February 25, 2010

Iceman's Wacky Existential 80's Adventure

One thing I share in common with my Marvel cohort Tim Dillon is that Iceman is far and away my favorite member of the X-Men.

As with so many of my favorite characters, I'm note entirely sure when or why I started digging Iceman, but I think it can be traced back to somewhere around 1991 when Chris Claremont and Jim Lee unleashed X-Men #1 on the world and likely had a lot to do with aesthetics. Particularly the way Lee drew him back then, I just thought the character looked cool (pun unintended), with his sleek, simple "costume" and it was something most artists could nail pretty easily. He also had neat powers that were different from the ill-defined energy blasts, generic super strength and claws of every kind that populated the 90's.

Just like with Wally West and Rich Rider, as I got to know the Bobby Drake side of Iceman, I found in a nice coincidence that he had a persona I really dug as well. He's the perennial cocky wiseass of the X-Men, but he's also extremely powerful albeit mostly via untapped potential and is crazy insecure about that and a litany of other things; a perfect cocktail for a fun, multi-layered character in my book.

Unfortunately, it seems more often than not that creators don't have much use for Iceman. Don't get me wrong, most of the time writers have good intentions for the guy, but the fact is there are five million X-Men and Iceman just doesn't often make the cut for the A-team. Folks like Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, Mike Carey and others have made great strides at tapping some of that aforementioned potential, but poor Bobby just seems to get perennially lost in the shuffle.

However, Iceman has had his share of solo stories over the years, and some really stand out; one such tale is the Iceman limited series from 1984 by J.M. DeMatteis and Alan Kupperberg. I nabbed it in full during college right after I discovered eBay, off which I also got an Iceman action figure from the 90's that I used to freeze in my mini-fridge and a bootleg t-shirt with him and the Human Torch on it.

Anyways, the comic is trippy as shit.

At the time, Iceman was a member of the DeMatteis-written New Defenders, an eclectic group made up of former X-Men like Bobby, Beast and Angel as well as oddballs such as Cloud, Gargoyle and Andromeda. It was a weird time for an Iceman mini, but it happened, and the results were cee-razy.

It starts with Bobby Drake paying a visit to his parents and catching up with some extended family. Bobby's dad as well as most of his relatives consider him a disappoinment because he ditched a job as an accountant, which everybody else in his family does, and they ride him for it during most of issue one.

(On a side note, I've always found it fantastic that Iceman is a certified public accountant)

Bobby gets pissed off, flirts with some mysterious girl who has moved in next store, then this weird characters named White Light and The Idiot show up. From there it gets weird.

Turns out the neighbor girl is some sort of cosmic entity whom White Light and Idiot are trying to recapture for their mysterious boss. Over the course of the next couple issues, she drags them and Iceman back in time where he meets his parents as teenagers for a little "they used to have dreams like me" bit until his dad gets freakin' shot and he gets whisked away again.

The third issue is a surreal journey of self-discovery as Bobby Drake seemingly gets aged through childhood, the founding of the X-Men, his tenure with the Champions and into his Defenders gig, complete with more of his parents calling him a failure, jokes about Jean Grey being dead, Darkstar dissing him because he's a capitalist pig, and other assorted wackiness. It is absolutely bizarre and DeMatteis makes it cool and cerebral like only he can.

Ultimately, we find out that neighbor girl is Mirage, the daughter of the abstract entity Oblivion, who makes his first appearance here before going on to be a Quasar villain and floating head at those power meetings Eternity calls to order whenever Thanos gets the Infinity Gauntlet. Most recently he showed up in Guardians of the Galaxy.

So yeah, the Marvel Universe's embodiment of nothingness and ennui first showed up in an Iceman limited series--how rad is that?

Anyways, our hero gets caught in a tug of war between father and daughter over whether or not life is worth living, taking charge of your existence and destiny, following your dreams, and a lot of other heady concepts you'd think the X-Men's class clown would be the last character you'd use as a window to, but again, credit Marc DeMatteis for being able to pull it off.

In the end, more weirdness happens, but Iceman does end up gaining a victory of sorts over a guy who gives the Silver Surfer fits and then heads home to reconcile with his parents, tell them he loves them, reiterate his lack of desire to be an accountant, then get called away by Beast and Angel for a new mission.

Summarizing that was a load of fun and I know I got a ton of details wrong because I haven't actually read the book in ages, though I now need to rectify that ASAP. The moral is that while most Iceman stories involve him creating slides and throwing snowballs in the background of a big X-Men battle, he had a four issue epic where he traveled through time, fought a guy named The Idiot more than once, almost scored with a cosmic entity, then overcame the universe's most powerful force for entropy.

Thank you, Mr. DeMatteis. And Marvel Collected Editions, let's get working on this, please.


Kello said...
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Urbane Turtle said...

Awesome! Iceman is my favorite too and I've never even heard about this mini--even better that it's written by DEMATTEIS. Have to check it out.

RKirkMahn said...

Iceman is half a jew.

Ben Morse said...

Was not aware of that. Another thing Bobby and I share in common!

オテモヤン said...
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Jay Faerber said...

Wait a second, you're a big New Warriors fan AND Iceman is your favorite member of the X-Men?

Are you my long-lost (and somehow younger) twin?

Ben Morse said...

Waaaaaaaaaaay younger :-p said...

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