By Patrick Ehlers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
There is an often-repeated, often misunderstood, rule of improv called “yes and.” What it boils down to is that when you’re in an scene with another person, it is your job as a performer to not deny any of the reality your partner has set up, and everything you say should add to that reality. Mechanically, it looks like this: you hear what your partner said, acknowledge and affirm it, and then add something that respects what has already been established. This is great for starting scenes, but beyond the first couple lines, the “and” half of the equation gets dangerous. That’s how you start to get President Michael Vick drilling for pirates’ gold on Jupiter. See how fast that sentence got away from me? That’s too many premises to deal with in any way that makes sense, and is totally divorced from reality.
The new Image series Ice Cream Man as written by W. Maxwell Prince suffers from an overabundance of “yes and.” Prince starts the issue simply enough, with a little boy visiting the ice cream truck all by himself. It’s a fairly normal, transactional scene, punctuated by the titular Ice Cream Man noticing that the little boy does not have his mommy or daddy with him. Prince has planted the seeds of creepiness here, and to this point, it’s working. When the boy returns to his home, a mysterious narrator takes over, describing a spider with the menacing title “most venomous spider in the world.” A second creepy tease. The boy approaches the door, puts an old-timey clothes-pin over his nose like he’s fighting Pepe Le Pew, and slowly opens the door. Creep tease three. All of which leads up to the reveal (er… twin reveals, I guess) that the kid’s parents are dead and he’s talking to this deadly spider.
That’s a lot, but it is by no means too much. Dumb kid lives with a spider who killed his parents — that’s a fine premise, and one that demands further investigation. How does the kid live? How does he feel about his parents? Has he had to hide it from his neighbors? Why does he think the spider is his friend? But rather than answering any of those implicit questions, Prince generates more questions. The cops are investigating a crazy lady’s claim that there’s some kind of cat-sucker-monster stalking the neighborhood. She proves it by pulling the cat’s clean skeleton out of her purse. Then, while out of a peaceful stroll in the woods (?), the kid encounters the ice cream man, with his uniform tattered, as though from some kind of transformation.
And and and and and. Artist Martín Marazzo does some beautifully grounded work here, acting as a necessarily foil to Prince’s manic “yes and”ing his own story into oblivion. By the end of the issue, the world of Ice Cream Man is so fucking weird, I don’t really have anything to latch on to. Is the ice cream man a magical cat-sucking werewolf locked in an on-going war with an ultra-venomous spider? And are they also drilling for pirates’ gold on Jupiter?
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?