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Iceman & Angel #1 Review by Jimmy Callaway

Sunday - May 01, 2011


The omnipotent narrator has largely fallen out of fashion in superhero comics in the last ten or fifteen years. A lotta comics enthusiasts will bemoan the passing of such a staple within the art form, but comics readers are largely a nostalgic lot, and personally (though I can relate), I think this sense of nostalgia holds the form back. One of the marks of fine story-telling is showing rather than telling: its the rule of thumb they hammer into anybody taking even a beginners creative writing class. To have a narrator explaining to the reader every possible interpretation of the action taking place on the page relegates superhero comics to the childish and sub-literate ghetto so many detractors have banished it to already. In so many words, the loss of the narrator shows superhero comics have grown up. Or at least have begun to.

But the story still needs to be moved along, and although comics are well able to tell stories using only pictures (see the works of Thomas Ott or Sergio Aragonés, for example, or the Nuff Said event that ran through a good chunk of Marvels books about ten years ago), words still play a very vital part in the process. And so we come to my personal favorite part of almost any medium: dialogue. Whether its in movies, books, or comics, dialogue (when done well) can elevate a work to new levels of maturity, wit and grace. This doesnt mean I dont like to see Thor pummel the Wrecker with his hammer; I just want their snappy patter to be just that: snappy.

Peter David has been a powerhouse in this regard for the whole of his career. Dave Sim can still do things with dialect that will make me weep. And over the last few years, youve had guys like Brian K. Vaughan and Brian Michael Bendis (basically, anybody whose name begins with Brian and then has two more parts to it) really bring the snarky, distinctly Gen-X-y back-and-forth style of dialogue to the fore. Daniel Way, Rick Remender, Christos Gageall of these writers have honed their dialogue to a razors edge.

Anybody who has read Red 5 Comics Atomic Robo already knows how easily Brian Clevinger fits into this category of writers. But I submit that Clevinger has already set himself apart from the above-mentioned in that his knack for dialogue comes across as smarter and more instinctual than any of the above. Take the Brians, for example: as much as I love their work, often (not ridiculously often, but often enough) they slip over from being clever into just being cute. If Im reading Y: the Last Man or New Avengers and the characters begin to sound like the cast of Friends, then I want to punch somebody. And not just because Im a good American, but when the dialogue gets too cute in this way, it will sever my suspension of disbelief like a big ol pair of literary garden shears. And that is unforgivable, in my eyesI am desperately trying to escape this reality, and if you drag me back into it, I will be forced to use violence.

But Clevinger has hit the ground running over at the Marvel Comics Group. Atomic Robo shows that the guy knows what hes doing already, but proving that in the big leagues, with what Im certain is an unduly amount of editorial interference, is something else entirely. But with his mini Avengers and the Infinity Gauntlet this past summer, and now this one-shot Iceman & Angel, Clevinger dispels any doubts that he is on-deck to be one of Marvels next heavy hitters. His dialogue is razor-sharpalways clever, never cute. His sense of narrative is clear, and his love for the Marvel Universe and all of its minor lights and C-list characters is beyond question. Anybody who writes Goom, the Thing from Planet X, into a current comic has my seal of approval.

So yeah: Iceman & Angel #1 hits all the points on your checklist. Its priced at $2.99, a dollar shy of what Marvel has been getting away with on a lot of other titles lately; the interior art is by Juan Doe, whose work I also enjoyed in the F.F. one-shot ¡Isla de la Muerte! a few years ago; the story itself is a nice, self-contained adventure of two of Marvels original strangest teens of all (an obvious conceptual tie-in to the forthcoming X-Men: First Class film, to be sure, but so what, as long as it makes for good comics). And, as should be clear by now, Clevingers dialogue moves the action along briskly and (dare I say it) charmingly, making for a most satisfying read all around. If you asked why I still bothered with superhero comics, this would be the comic Id hand you.

Jimmy Callaway lives and works in San Diego, CA.  For more, please visit attentionchildren.blogspot.com


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