Ice Cream Man #1 is out this week from Image Comics, and it’s 31 flavors of disturbing.
Written by W. Maxwell Prince, with art by Martin Morazzo and colors by Chris O’Halloran, Ice Cream Man is a story about…a lot of things. It’s an anthology series, and each issue will feature a new story with a fresh set of characters. And at the center of it all is the ice cream man. This first story, entitled “Raspberry Surprise”, has elements of a crime story, a horror story, and a fantasy story all rolled into one, PLUS it’s a black comedy, and THEN Prince throws in a little philosophy for good measure. Sound like a lot? It is, but consider it a sundae. You can have a lot going on in a sundae, but as long as all the ingredients are in proper proportion with each other, it can still taste delicious.
And this is one delicious sundae.
“Raspberry Surprise” introduces us to a small town full of “kooks and crazies,” each one suffering in their own way. The plot goes in so many weird and unexpected directions that it’d be a shame to divulge anything else, but if you’re a fan of dark and surreal storytelling, don’t sleep on this oversized first issue.
Prince and Morazzo build a sense of dread like nobody’s business. Even something as pure and mundane as a kid walking down the street eating an ice cream cone feels tense. You have no idea what’s going to happen because, hey, it’s just a kid eating ice cream after all, but you just watch and wait for the other shoe to drop, glued to the page. That’s how the entire book feels. You just need to see what happens next.
Morazzo’s art reflects this tone as well. The characters are and look human, but there’s something off about each of them that you can’t quite place. Again it creates this friction in your mind where everything seems commonplace, but you know that’s not true, and the dread and suspense builds.
But below the eerily entertaining surface, Ice Cream Man is about suffering. Each issue in the anthology will tackle suffering in a different light, and explore the nature of human existence. It adds a nice layer to the series, giving the audience something to think about and reflect on. It makes the series – which, again, has very strong fantasy elements to it – more relatable and grounded. We don’t really get a chance to get to know the characters in this story; we never form a bond, and we never will since next issue will be a whole new story. But Prince’s story and the themes therein somewhat make up for that flaw; they help us form some sort of connection to this world.
Sometimes the best stories are the weirdest ones, the ones that don’t fit in any one category. Ice Cream Man is a trippy, twisted, and surreal ride into suburban horror, and it’s just damn fun to read.