I don’t believe there’s truly a bad episode of The Twilight Zone. Not all of them are great, and many are just fine, but even the worst examples offer a hook or oddity worth sticking around for. They’re curiosities that always offer a chill up your spine or a hearty chuckle. That’s context is important to understand what I mean when saying Ice Cream Man #1 reminds me of a bad episode of The Twilight Zone.
Ice Cream Man offers a series of self-contained stories that interconnect, primarily through the shared element of the titular ice cream man torn straight from a fantasy of 1950s America. The first issue focuses on a child with an independent streak and the police sent to check in on him. That may not sound particularly enticing, but to provide any more detail would be to spoil the ability of watching the story unfold. It’s this process of discovery that proves to be the most enjoyable element of Ice Cream Man #1. The comic is strange, gross, and darkly humorous at different turns, and all of these elements rely on surprise.
Those individuals twists and turns have the ability to pop. There are several page turns that capably horrify or enthrall through the grotesqueries drawn by Martin Morazzo. He renders the mundane and the monstrous alike as something just a bit too ugly to feel real. The child who approaches the van for two scoops of chocolate has lips and a belly like a particularly avaricious character in a Roald Dahl book. There’s something repugnant about him before there’s a real reason to distrust or fear him. When Morazzo tackles far more literal monsters, the effect is amplified just as much as one might expect. That ability to clearly establish tone and build suspense purely through imagery makes the experience of Ice Cream Man enthralling in the moment.
Every delight of the book is as momentary as the child’s cone dripping away beneath the setting sun though. For every moment that lands with a solid laugh or cringe, there is one that is just as likely to baffle. A variety of elements are introduced without any clear purpose and then never returned to. Strange dialogue and a mention of priapism (do not Google this at work) lay down and die on the page. Turning the final page, there are plenty of questions left unanswered, and not because they are seemingly mysteries. Much of the story fails to cohere into the narrative or a broader thematic purpose. Things simply are, and, beyond Morazzo’s engaging illustrations of of them, they do not transcend standard storytelling expectations.
There are joys to be found in Ice Cream Man #1, but they diminish upon repeated readings. The initial surprise behind an open door or in the name of a pet come from simply being surprising. Upon further thought the elements that fail to connect or evoke reaction grow larger while the amusements shrink. Individual panels and page turns still hold some power, but they cannot overcome a story that does not read as being completely prepared. Just like a bad episode of The Twilight Zone though, there remains the promise that next week there will be new oddities and shocks, perhaps even ones that will haunt you for more than a few minutes.
Written by W. Maxwell Prince
Art by Martin Morazzo
Colors by Chris O’Halloran