Friday, 24 January 2014

ICE #4: "The Price You Pay!"

("It can be in any tense, but it must make sense.")


While I await the arrival of my copy of X-Men & Alpha Flight, let's finish off the two miniseries we've been looking at over the last few months. 

First up, we have the concluding part of the Iceman miniseries. Last issue I passed out major credit for DeMatteis combining some bonkers scenes with tightly structured layouts and themes.  This time, alas, it's much closer to the other way round.

Which isn't to say there isn't a theme at all, which is at least something.  We're clearly still on the same beat as the series maintains overall, that of the power struggle we have with our parents. When Iceman and Mirage return to her father Oblivion's dimension and he begins to kvetch about how she doesn't appreciate how much he's given her, Iceman - and we - immediately cotton on to the fact that this is just the same argument every young person has with their parents, over and over again.  Yes, Oblivion is the ultimate expression of this, having quite literally fashioned Mirage from his own anima, but the link is pretty obvious.

This isn't the most original idea in Western fiction, naturally; variations on this particular guilt trip go all the way back to the garden of Eden.  But exploring human nature through the lens of unimaginably powerful anthropomorphic projections of philosophical concepts is a path rather less well trodden.  Sandman is still four years away, after all.

So all of that is to the good.  The problem creeps in when we try to pin down exactly what the story believes it has to say on the subject.  Mirage is the central problem here.  She begins the issue screaming at her father for not allowing her autonomy, and our sympathies are clearly supposed to lie with her. But once Iceman knocks her father over with some frozen water (which is apparently supposed to be a big deal despite Oblivion being indestructible, nigh-omnipotent, and the creator of those particular molecules of oxygen dihydride in the fist place) she turns on a dime and announces she wishes to stay with her father forever.

(Actually, this turns out to have been Oblivion's plan all along, with is pretty fucking creepily manipulative.)

This is a woman who two issues ago was willing to let innocent people be munched to death by flying death-bugs rather than speak to her father.  And now a bad day at the water-park turns all that around?  You can hear the story mechanisms creaking loudly here.  It is almost time to end the series, so the conflict between Mirage and her father must be resolved.

But the mirror conflict of Iceman and his folks needs to be dealt with as well - not much point in a thematic mirror if you ain't going to use it. It's important the book explains how the Drake family differ from the Oblivions, and the answer, inevitably enough, is love.

Which, in a general sense, I can follow.  Once Mirage declares her willingness to stay with her father, she immediately becomes subsumed by him.  The suggestion, then, seems to be that without love, you have exactly two options: cut all ties with your parents, or fall utterly and forever into their shadow.  You need to love them enough not to run, they need to love you enough to let you be your own person.  I'm far from convinced that works as advice, of course; suggesting smothering and control stem from a lack of affection seems too obviously to ignore the correlation between love and the wish to control. But fine, it's a coherent position.

The problem is that Mirage's desire to literally return to her father's bosom is explicitly spelled out as stemming for the love she bears him and has only just learned to recognise. Oblivion is unable to temper his love for the daughter he created from himself because he cannot love her, but the daughter carved from his own nature returns to him out of love.  The left hand is re-writing the right here, and the whole narrative becomes badly frayed as a result.

None of this is helped by Iceman's beef with Oblivion.  I mean, fine, he's the dude that started all of this, and it was his minion that killed his father in that time-travel mix-up (how does being the daughter of Oblivion give you a time machine, now that I come to think about it).  Bobby starting a fight makes perfect sense (except on a tactical level, but then since when has Iceman cared about minor details like that?).  The trouble is why he does it, which is his conclusion that all the times in his life he's been riven with self-doubt are actually Oblivion's fault.

Which makes not one lick of sense. Not even one of those tiny licks you employ on ice lollies straight from the freezer, when you fear getting your tongue stuck to your treat.  Not the most non-committal graze of the tongue-tip from the smallest, most nervous kitten.  None.  Oblivion is the avatar of pre-creation and post-destruction.  He is the dust that has settled.  He doesn't fiddle with your emotions when you are alive, he takes you after even death has lost interest in you.  The thought process here seems to be that Oblivion treats his daughter like the Drakes treat Bobby, the Drakes have left Bobby with a self-confidence problem, therefore Oblivion is as responsible for that as Iceman's parents are.

Which means, in short, that a fight which makes no sense breaks out so as to result in a declaration of love that makes no sense, entirely so that the story can head to its conclusion, where Oblivion remembers his deal with Bobby and restores his father to life, and Bobby to our reality.  Whereupon, of course, he gives his parents a lecture about how their love should be more important than what Bobby does with his life, and all is mended.

Well, except the story, of course.  That lies in a smoking heap of delirious ridiculousness.  But it was an interesting ride, for all that.  It never really pretended to be much more than that. Young man gets on roller-coaster with family issues, gets off with new insight.  Job done.

Just not done as well as it might have been.


Once this story escapes the strange timelessness of Limbo, we return to the night of the Drake's disastrous party.   When Angel and Beast show up they specify that this is Friday, necessitating a minor change to the timeline.  Taking this story a day back in time makes no difference to Iceman's timeline, since we've been ignoring him ever since he quit the X-Men, and we don't have Beast showing up in Los Angeles to kick of Beauty and the Beast until over a week later.


Friday 29th September, 1984.



Contemporary Events

Grand Ayatollah Haj Sayyed Abdullah al-Shirazi dies, aged 92.  Amongst other things, al-Shirazi was known for helping to build schools, house earthquake victims, and provide care for civilian victims of Iran's war with Iraq.

Standout Line

"What is union without separation? What is peace without struggle? And what is love -- without hate?" - Oblivion.

Jeez, I dunno.  Obviously fucking preferable?  What is wrong with these people?

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