ICEMAN: THAWING OUT
Writer: Sina Grace
Artist: Alessandro Vitti (#1,#3,#5)
Inker: Ed Tadeo & Ibraim Roberson (#2)
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Pencilers: Edgar Salazar (#2,#4) & Ibraim Roberson (#2)
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover Artists: Kevin Wada (#1-4) & Marco D’Alfonso (#5)
Rating: 8/10 Snowmen
Bobby Drake is the Iceman. He’s the cool guy. He has ice powers so you know there probably will be a lot of those puns sprinkled throughout this review. As one of Xavier’s first class of gifted youngsters, Iceman has been around for years. He’s saved the world as a hero a number of times. Throughout those years he’s had to watch his fellow original peers go through hell. Dying, and then coming back again only to die and eventually come back yet again. Constant mutations to their physical appearance and even becoming a Horseman of Apocalypse for a time and struggling to keep that dark persona from taking control again. It seemed like Iceman had it the easiest compared to his pals. That was until a series of events brought his younger self to the present where lil Bobby broke the ice by letting everyone know he was gay. Thawing Out explores the Iceman we’ve all grown to know and love as he opens up to himself and others about the kind of love he had been hiding from others for so long.
Normal tendencies for humor aside, I wanted this section to be a more serious one because coming out isn’t something I can deflect with humor as easily as Iceman. Compared to the other books I have read that have supported the LGBTQ+ community, this one hit home to me the most. I am fortunate to now, live in a place and am surrounded by a largely supportive mindset that doesn't discriminate against those based on gender or sexual orientation/identity. That wasn’t the case before, where I grew up or even in many places. Anti-LGBTQ+ felt like the overarching opinion of my hometown as harassment and threats were the loudest and largest response from people. Did you know some of the largest reasons for youth homelessness are reported to be those who don’t identify strictly as heterosexual or cisgender? Check it out sometime because it’s really unfortunate.
I’ll never fully know what that feels like to have to come out to another person. When I was younger and I thought about what it meant to come out my thoughts went immediately to “cool you came out” and that was it. It’s not that easy. This book does a pretty good job of presenting that thought and showing that it’s not a one and done process. You say it once and the whole world doesn’t hear you. You have to come out to your parents. You have to come out to your friends. Your teachers. Your peers. It doesn’t stop. Each time it’s in hopes that you will still be seen by those people positively. I loved that most of the comics I read now treat LGBTQ+ characters like everyone else, but I have huge respect for Sina Grace for making this a personal story about coming out. Not only does this story work as Iceman coming out to everyone in his life, but it also works as this character that many of us have known for so long coming out to us. With that all being said we can jump into the plot of the story.
The Cold Shoulder (Issue #1)
With lil Bobby’s reveal of the Icemen being gay this whole time, it’s put the big snowman in a position where he has to accept that himself and start letting people know before the news gets ahead of him. First up, his parents. While visiting them at a hospital the place gets attacked by an anti-mutant zealot dude in a football helmet (fragile masculinity anybody). You think that would be the toughest part of the day but it’s actually a breeze taking down this nutso. The hardest part is even without his parents knowing that he is gay, they already struggle to accept him as a mutant. So he’s already come out once in a sense to some strained success. His parents ask him to leave for everyone's safety, leaving him a little steamed that they pushed him off.
On Cooldown (Issue #2)
Who doesn’t love an awkward moment between an ex? Well, I can tell you that Bobby wanted that awkward moment as much as the Titanic wanted a hug from that iceberg. Bobby is going on a two-person mission with his former girlfriend Kitty Pryde who isn’t too happy that he didn't tell her about being gay. That discussion is going to have to be put on hold as their jet crashes into an abandoned store. Ok, it’s not abandoned there is a mutant kid here who they are looking for. Also, there is an angry mob after the kid because his powers are making everything going haywire (electronics, mutant powers, diplomatic situations). If they don’t code-name this kid “Haywire” in the future I’m going to be pretty bummed at the wasted opportunity.
While the duo’s powers are on the fritz and angry mob is after them the former couple decides to have the talk. While it was funny that Kitty says she found out Bobby was gay from Goldballs (there is a mutant named Goldballs and he is one of my favorites from Uncanny), it was sweet to see her talk about how she wanted to be there for him to process his sexuality and act as social support. So after the heroes assault the kid and take off back to the school to enroll him, Iceman is 1-1 for success on his hardest endeavor.
Having a Meltdown (Issue #3)
Bobby heads over to the parent’s for dinner with another go at coming out to them. While Icebergers aren’t on the menu for tonight, Mr. and Mrs. Drake are serving out some old fashioned values and narrow mindedness to Bobby’s life as an X-Men, wanting something more “normal” for him. If having the conversation constantly putting Bobby in the icebox wasn’t bad enough then a group of anti-mutant zealots (remember Bobby put one on ice in the first issue?) invading the home to kill Iceman definitely takes the ice cream cake. Bobby makes short work of these baddies at the cost of his parent's new home and another opportunity at coming out as they ask him to leave once more after the damage caused. It’s a frustrating issue to see Bobby have to be interrupted
The Cool Guy at the Party (Issue #4)
So that angsty kid. The one I decided to call Haywire; well he went missing until some posts from his adventures out in the city with a mysterious benefactor are brought to Bobby’s attention. Bobby puts on his coolest attire and heads to Greenwich to attend some fancy party which the rich and famous love to go to. While there Bobby is going to find out that the kid is being manipulated by Daken, the son of Wolverine. Daken’s going to murder flirt with Bobby the whole time and point out his insecurity while the kid gets away. The highlight of this issue for me was how great both Iceman and Daken are at being sassy as they flirt back and forth with each other. After failing the rescue mission Bobby is gonna head back to the mansion where his parents are waiting and he’s gonna end this one with the cliffhanger of coming out finally.
Snow and Tell (Issue #5)
The announcement goes as well as you would expect from all the dread and set up that the first four issues have done. His parents already dislike mutants and hate that he won’t leave them and to no longer have a hetero-normative relationship they see that as a win for the “Iceman”, since the perceived image of their son is now dead. As things continue down the slippery slope of confusion, resentment and anger things take another turn when the Juggernaut shows up for lil Bobby and the rest of the time-displaced X-Men.
Bobby heads out to deal with the menace seeing his conversation with his parents going nowhere. As they leave, however, Kitty hands them a letter Bobby had been writing to tell them he was gay. I don’t want to spoil the letter cuz I've spoiled a lot of this story already, but it’s a beautiful moment shared paired with Iceman being the hero he has always been. This issue really touches on how Bobby has felt both from his parents’ expectations, the world he grew up in that was less accepting then and the expectations he had as a hero.
A Frosty End
As I stated at the beginning, where more of the current stories I’ve read are treating LGBTQ+ as a natural and common part of life Sina Grace didn’t skate around this issue. Sure there was humor, I mean Iceman has always been a funny guy with the quips. Even still the humor didn’t feel like it took away from the emotional turmoil that Bobby was dealing with and has been dealing with for so long.
I felt like the issues with Bobby’s parents were the meat of this story. Trying to watch Bobby confront his parents about being gay and seeing how they react to his current lifestyle as a mutant is some of the most stressful moments in comics I've ever experienced. The art wasn’t anything that really popped out for me as much. Alessandro Vitti’s art has a lot of edges and lines, it’s almost like an ice sculpture. However, I did like the design of Juggernaut and how Iceman’s powers looked from time to time. The real strength of this book to me was the writing though. I would recommend this book to anyone that’s a fan of the X-Men as it puts a whole new perspective on all of the internal challenges Bobby Drake has had to face under the surface