Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Iceman #1: "The Fuse!"



Things are really starting to speed up now, this is the third X-Men miniseries kicking off in 1984 (or the fourth, depending whether this shipped before or after the first part of Beauty and the Beast).  Usually, we'd spend some time trying to figure out this book's justification as part of the larger picture, but things are a little different this time.  First of all, Chris Claremont is entirely absent here, which means we can already offer "X-Man written by someone else".  Second, there's the fact that Ice-Man has been off our radar since 1975 (I may be forgetting a cameo here and there, but the point stands regardless).  Let the New Defenders fans figure out why they might need to read four extra issues of Iceman antics.  We have our old friend back.

So there isn't really a need for this story to justify itself in the same way as, say, Kitty Pryde & Wolverine does.  Nevertheless, we can manage it pretty easily.  Indeed, if there's a problem here, it's that there's too much being juggled here.  In this issue alone Iceman meets up with, in no particular order, his disapproving and smothering parents, a mutant-hating local cop, two interstellar criminals, and the drop-dead gorgeous redhead next door.

The clear implication here is that Iceman has a ridiculous amount on his plate to simultaneously juggle: a difficult family situation, angry racists, rampaging supervillains, and a seemingly hopeless love life.  This is pretty close to the Dazzler template I've spent so much time complimenting over the last year.  We could, if we wanted, argue that a male protagonist going through the same motions as a female one has a built-in audience of all those folks who would have enjoyed Dazzler had they bothered to pick it up, and we'd be right, for all that "let's target the readers with outdated gender perceptions" isn't a sales policy I'd want to back.

Really, though, we don't need to.  There's an even more obvious link here.  Indeed, given J.M. DeMatteis' later career, we could almost consider this a warm-up.  Change smothering parents who hate their son's superheroics for a kindly aunt unaware of them, and swap racist cop Ralph Ratchit (what, no "R"?) for an intolerant and intolerable newspaper mogul, and what we have here is obvious: Spiderman.

(Really, it's the gorgeous redhead next door that gives the game away.  That, or I'm just making links based on half-buried memories of '80s children's shows.)

What's important here though isn't the similarity of set-up, it's the difference in character.  Peter Parker is utterly fixed on trying to do the right thing by as many people as possible, and so ends up pulled in multiple directions.  His desires are clear, but conflicting at best and incompatible at worst.  In comparison, Bobby Drake hasn't the faintest idea what he wants, so he ends up bouncing from distraction to distraction, which may or may not involve trying to stop people from destroying the world.  What's interesting is how the two very different approaches seem to lead to pretty similar escapades.

There's also the delirious rush of squeezing the entirety of Spiderman's shtick into a single issue.  Bobby is on the way to a family reunion when he spots  gorgeous girl Marge and tries to impress her, leading to him being harassed by a bigoted cop, so he runs, only to find the same girl outside his house since she lives next door, and so he gets a chance to chat her up at the family reunion only for supervillains to jump in and try to kidnap him (or more likely, Marge), leading to the trashing of Marge's house, after which the supervillains teleport out just in time for Iceman to be left holding the metaphorical baby when racist cop shows up to arrest him.

It's fun to see it all squeezed together like this.  It's probably necessary as well; you don't want for people to figure out Spiderman's collection of animal-themed grotesques fulfils a role in the narrative that you can't necessarily replicate with generic antagonistic aliens (who by the way seem to be putting an awful lot of hope in an agent named Idiot).  Every truly great hero is defined by a strong rogues' gallery, and I'm not really seeing that here.

Our standard disclaimer applies here, of course; it's only the first issue.  The cover for the second issue seems to bear so little connection to what we've seen here that any attempts to guess what's coming seem doomed to failure.  If things can continue in this gloriously, defiantly deranged fashion, I may not even care.


This story takes place over the course of a single day.  With Iceman so far out of the loop in terms of X-books, there's not a lot to tie this in with events elsewhere, but Iceman does mention Dazzler's recent publicity problems.  We'll therefore set this just after the events of MGN #12.


Saturday 30th September, 1984.



Contemporary Events

"Kiss rocks?  Why would anyone want to - oh, wait, I get it."
Standout Line

"That was another joke, by the way."
"I kind of thought it was."

Bobby Drake struggles to land his humour with the girl next door.

(Also: post 400.  Woo-hoo!)

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