Tuesday, 10 December 2013

ICE #3: "Quicksand!"

(Sweet Oblivion.)


Well, this is a pleasant surprise.  Based on the previous two issues, I wasn't expecting much here other than another twenty-three pages of wacky irrelevance. Instead, what we have here is a good deal more interesting.

Last time round, if you remember, Bobby Drake had accidentally travelled back in time to visit his parents, only for his father to be killed in a cape-fight between himself and Kali, an assassin tracking the original owner of Bobby's purloined time-machine.  Unsurprisingly, such meddling with the space-time continuum quickly resulted in Bobby being erased from existence.

This turns out to be a more involved process than one might think.  Rather than simply crossing over from "being" to "not being" without hassle, Bobby finds himself trapped in some kind of void, filled with memories from his past.  Except there not actually memories.  Beast never said "Exigency! Parabolic! Impecunious!", nor did Jean sing "By the time I get to...  Phoenix...". Darkstar never called him a "capitalist pig" and "money-loving exploiter of the masses".  This is Bobby's past seen through the lenses of his own immaturity.

But the void doesn't just reflect that attitude. It explains it, boiling down Bobby's young life into a series of situations into which he was unwillingly thrust and which he finds impossible to process. Take mutant rights, for example, which here is simplified to Xavier being shot by mutant haters as Bobby tries to give him a piggy-back to Westchester. "Who would shoot a nice bald cripple like you?" he asks, almost like a child, as Xavier falls.  His initial discovery of his mutant powers is shown here literally killing his mother, though his father responds that she won't get really upset unless he fails to become an accountant.

These are pressures with which Bobby simply cannot cope.  Even his own self-pity makes things worse; he can no more face up to the power of his own unhappiness than he can the expectations of others.  In the end, all he can do is hope for oblivion.

This is all presented in five pages of jokes and "guest appearances" (after shouting at Byrne last time for misleading covers, I should really take DeMatteis to task here too; a vision of a character is not an appearance by that character, except maybe if that character is the Vision), which are both fast paced and frequently very funny. The comic plays with structure here as well; the initial crash-landing of Bobby into the void is accompanied by widening panels as he approaches the "ground", the symmetric layout of every subsequent page breaks down at the exact same moment he does. It's all very clever.

So where is Bobby? Well, it turns out he got what he wanted.  This is oblivion, helpfully ruled over by a being calling himself Oblivion, kind of what one of the Endless might have been if Stan Lee had been in charge of designing them.  Oblivion mentions others like him; Death, Joy, Eternity. Presumably Drake escaped the clutches of Death by being written out of life rather than having life end.  Whether or not this is preferable is not yet clear.

Still, it seems Oblivion has plenty going for him.  Access to Bobby's not-quite past, for example.  For every event that happens there are an infinite number of events that could have happened but didn't, and are cast into oblivion.  Does Death get the past that actually took place?  Is there a difference between things gone that once were, and things gone that could have been but weren't?  Oblivion isn't saying. He has a mission for Drake.

It might seem a terrible coincidence for a man so willing to entertain the idea of non-existence has arrived at Oblivion's door.  Greater coincidences have been trotted out across Marvel history than this, of course.  But perhaps there is more to it than that. Perhaps Iceman, subconsciously seeking a way out of his life, didn't protect his father as well as he otherwise might. Perhaps Oblivion's daughter placed herself next to the Drakes precisely because she recognised in them a spark of herself.

You read that right. Oblivion has himself a daughter named Mirage; a piece of himself he gave independence to so as to have more than puppets and the disappeared to engage with. But, as with women and apples, Oblivion has learned to his cost that granting free will to someone you then insist follows your instructions isn't a tactic with a long-term success rate.  Now Oblivion wants her back before she gets powerful enough to overthrow him, and he needs Bobby to do it. If he fails Oblivion runs him out completely, but should he succeed, Oblivion will untangle the recent causality snafu and return his father to this mortal coil.  I'm not entirely sure how that's in Oblivion's jurisdiction, but I'm new to this game.

Either way, the irony here is delicious. Bobby craves oblivion as an escape from his unmanageable life, and all oblivion has to offer is more work.

All of this set-up is quite wonderful.  Alas, the payoff is less interesting. Oblivion sends Bobby from his reality to Mirage's so he can confront her.  There's some potentially interesting morality at play here: should someone give up their freedom in return for the life of someone she's never met or claimed any responsibility for but who is nevertheless dead because of her carelessness? Unfortunately, we skip all that in favour of Mirage freaking out and trying to kill Bobby. I suppose it's hardly surprising she would turn out to be as clearly batshit as her old man, but it does mean the second half of this issue amounts to a fairly standard dose of comic book hyperbole and beat-downs, which is a bit of a shame considering how strongly things started.

We end here with Mirage coming within inches of killing Iceman, but deciding ultimately that her father is the one she has to deal with if she wants her freedon permanently.  So she zaps herself with Bobby in tow back to her home dimension, only to discover this was what Oblivion had been waiting for all along...


It's hard to say when this adventure takes place, since we have no idea of when in time Iceman actually is when he confronts Mirage.




X + Unknown

Contemporary Events

Singing and murder and fucking and food, I've no doubt.

Standout Line

"I forgot how dangerous self-pity can be! I'm drowning in my own tears!"

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