When you’ve already told some of the weirdest, scariest and darkest stories in your medium, what else is there left to do? Stop telling, and start showing instead. That is exactly how to describe this month’s Ice Cream Man, where Prince, Morazzo and O’Halloran outdo themselves again.
Prince foregoes any real scripting in this issue; while he obviously contributes to the plot, the entire book is basically Morazzo’s and he goes to town by pulling on every heartstring with his characters displaying expressions of shock, wonder, and misery. This book isn’t just a horror fest, rather, there are core themes explored with the biggest one by far being attachment and what happens when there is too much of it, too little of it, and the right amount. The vehicle, of course, is the main character encountering the Ice Cream Man and happily beginning to enjoy his ice cream, which is a Neapolitan. As he near his home, the story veers into three different directions from here.
While on the surface, the stories seem completely different, there is an underlying connective tissue that is subtle but definitely there. In essence, all of these stories are parallel or inverted outcomes and mirror the triality of the Neapolitan ice cream. In one version, there’s love at first sight, more love, even more love, followed by a massive loss and the aftermath being nothing but pain. In another version, there’s disgust, followed by even more disgust, a warning, and then punishment. In the final version, there’s unconditional love for someone who has already been abandoned, followed by a life-changing decision made to be able to sustain that support.
What makes this issue so special? For one, the brilliant coloring scheme. For Prince to be able to pull off the parallel/inversion approach, he had to find a way to ensure the stories remained connected yet distinct. O’Halloran adding a color tint over each set of panels and leveraging the Neapolitan concept is a practical and simultaneously cool solution that just works while raising fascinating possibilities of “parallel universes.” Speaking of the theme of interconnectedness, it was interesting to see what appeared to be cameos from some of the characters that had shown up in previous issue. I saw the Vulture, Jimbo, Bud, Pastor Joel and his wife, the Sheriff and (possibly) Veronica, all key characters in the last five issues. It’s also interesting to note that at least in one of the scenarios, the “typical” Ice Cream Man theme of impending doom is bucked, for once. The only knock I have is that due to the non-traditional flow of the narrative, the development in the last issue with the Sheriff seems to be forgotten. It would be nice to have the larger story continue in the background, even as a minor footnote, but it seems that in this issue he’s a non-factor beyond his very subtle cameo.
Ice Cream Man continues to seek new ways to elicit reactions from readers, this time going for the jugular with an increased focus on emotions. Many can relate to how it feels to be abandoned, and the incredibly unique approaches of no dialogue combined with three alternative paths regarding this issue render a variety of scenarios that are heart-warming, saddening, and horrifying all at once. “What if” will never be the same again.