Hey, here’s one of those new X-Men books Marvel is launching. Look at that great fight scene on the cover by Javier Garrón and Romulo Fajardo Jr, with numerous mutants fighting future versions of themselves. There’s Bobby, Ororo and… is that a middle-aged Colossus? The comic will no doubt reveal all.
Or not. While we do get the current day Bobby Drake fighting a future wizard version of himself, there’s no spiky Storm or moustachioed Peter Rasputin to be seen. I’m not sure Peter’s in this comic at all, as much of it is set at a birthday party for Bobby in Silver Age Greenwich Village X-Men hangout Java-a-Go-Go and while I’m normally a big fan of superheroes in civvies, it’s tricky recognising anyone without an outlandish appearance, a la Glob or Angel. Heck, Kitty Pryde is named but as drawn by Nathan Stockman she could pass for the much older Janet Van Dyne or Moira MacTaggert.
There’s no big battle involving a modern day X-group, just Bobby fighting ‘Old Man Bobby’ (let it go, Marvel) after the latter tells a long story about his past/Bobby’s possible future in which Terrible Things Happen because he’s shagging the execrable Daken. Despite the title, this isn’t an X-Men team comic, it’s a comic about one X-Man, Iceman, apparently tying up plotlines from his cancelled series. Which wouldn’t be so bad if writer Sina Grace provided proper context for the characters and conversations herein. This ‘Spit Girl’ seems promising, but some information about what she and Bobby mean to one another would be nice. Christian Frost, we’re told, is Emma’s brother, but what’s this about him being in the White Queen’s care, and Bobby’s head? Who’s this Morlock Madin to whom Bobby feels he owes a debt? The final page is obviously meant to put a smile on our face, but I’ve never heard of Judah… he’s apparently an ex, and given he gifts Bobby a Dr Seuss book, that sounds about right.
It’s all pretty frustrating – there’s a two-paragraph inside front cover intro courtesy of editor Darren Shan, but half of that recaps a Mr Sinister plot that’s not referenced here, so far as I can see. There’s a note that this issue takes place before X-Men Disassembled #1, and one in the story that it’s happening prior to Uncanny X-Men #1, which you could be forgiven for thinking was this very issue, what with Uncanny X-Men #1 being emblazoned on the cover – ‘Winter’s End’ is at bottom left, like any old story title. What’s really needed is a note that ‘this takes place after Iceman’s latest run and if you never read that, boo-hoo’. Longtime X-Men writer Chris Claremont used to take flak for his super-expository dialogue and captions, but at least he remembered that every comic was someone’s first. Nowadays, with comic book writers eschewing the basic grammar of the art, such as the omniscient narrator and thought balloons, issues are ever-speedier, less-satisfying reads. If this issue were labelled ‘Iceman Encore’ or ‘Special’ or whatever, I’d have no reason to moan, but as is, this is Marvel’s marketing department taking the piss.
I did enjoy aspects of this issue, and it does remind me I’ve been meaning to read the Iceman stuff on Marvel Unlimited. I’ve always been a big Bobby fan and love that Grace has dialogue nodding towards his accountancy training. Old Git Bobby not trying to persuade his younger self to head for the future to put right what might go wrong, but simply retire from superheroing right now is novel. Grace even makes boring old Bishop fun.
And we get a fantastic rant from Bobby to Jean that’s been a long time coming.
Stockman and colourist Federico Blee do a good job with the galactic goings on of the possible flashforward, the action is big and bombastic, and the body language and facial expressions of the party scene are as terrific as the dialogue.
I must say, mind, that I am appalled that this is a book about a gay guy named Bobby having a birthday and there’s not one in-joke nodding towards Sondheim’s Company.
There’s a bonus Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe-style entry for a mutant drag queen I’ve heard about on Bleeding Cool, which made me grin.
I expect people who were following Bobby’s book will love this, it’s full of positive messages about self-worth and self-determination, and Iceman himself is great company. I just wish there were some truth in advertising as to what the book is, and an embracing of the solid storytelling techniques that worked for Marvel Comics for decades.