Welcome, dear readers, to X-Men: Bland Design, the weekly multi-part recap column that strives to answer the question: "What if Ed Piskor had no art skills, a juvenile sense of humor, and less classic material to work with?"
Things have changed in the X-Men comics (and superhero comics in general) since the glory days recapped in Piskor's magnum opus. Gone are all of the thought bubbles, most of the narration boxes, most of the references to past issues, and perhaps most importantly, any trace of the idea that any comic could be some reader's first. Casting aside many of the properties that set comics apart as a medium, the modern superhero-industrial complex has instead chosen to treat comics as glorified storyboards, decompressed and written for the trade.
But for X-Men fans, it doesn't matter. We'll obsessively buy and read all of these X-Men comics until the day we die, no matter how bad they get! And if we're going to do that anyway, we might as well document the experience for you, our dear readers, brothers and sisters and non-binary siblings in suffering.
This week there are five regular-priced X-Books on the stands, which will cost you 20 bucks to buy, and, thanks to the aforementioned decompression, roughly 10 minutes to read: X-Men Red #2, X-Men Gold #23, Venom #163 (a crossover with X-Men Blue), Iceman #11 (the final issue), and Rogue & Gambit #3. Let's find out what happens in the final issue of…
SINA GRACE (W)
ROBERT GILL & SINA GRACE (A)
Cover by KEVIN WADA
• After the shocking events of last issue, Iceman is on the trail of a powerful new mutant that can't get his abilities under control…
• Will the Xavier Institute have a new student or will Iceman do the unthinkable?
• Kitty's offer still stands: Is Iceman ready for his own team of X-Men?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99
We're sorry to see Iceman go, but we love to watch him leave! That's a butt joke. This is the final issue of Iceman, which is sad because it's been a good comic, but we'll choose to be happy instead because it's seen some much-needed character development for Bobby and will leave him in a better place than when it started.
We open with a fantasy. Bobby Drake (Iceman) leads a team of X-Men to victory in battle and is about to make out with his handsome boyfriend, Judah, when suddenly his daydream is interrupted by reality. Bobby is talking with fellow mutant Julio Richter (Rictor) in a noodle restaurant about leading a team of X-Men. It's a date, it seems, and it's going poorly as both men have spent the lunch talking about their exes (Rictor cannot stop thinking about Shatterstar). Thankfully, the date is interrupted by a call from Bobby's mom, who needs his help.
We cut to a flashback of Bobby as a kid, which is drawn in the style reminiscent of a silver age comic. We're not even going to try to ponder what this means with the Marvel Universe's rolling timeline, which currently puts Bobby's childhood sometime in the early 2000s. In the flashback, Bobby and a friend put snow in the boots of a man named Mr. Winklestein, but he's not amused by the prank. Bobby's friend blames the whole thing on him.
On Long Island, Julio, who by the way is sporting a killer mustache and soul patch combo now, arrive at Bobby's parents' house to learn that one of their neighbors, an older man name Mr. Poklemba who has recently been seen ranting about mutants at a homeowners' association meeting, is in trouble. There is pink energy leaking out of his house, and Bobby's parents think it might be mutant powers. Bobby and Julio investigate, finding the house a mess and some strange drawings of mutants and X-Men newspaper clippings.
This provokes another flashback to Bobby's parents arguing about his burgeoning mutant powers, spurred on by a drawing Bobby made of himself holding hands with a snowman. Bobby's dad, William, who is also sporting a sweet 'stache by the way, is not amused. They've come a long way in accepting Bobby since the beginning of this series, but an even longer way over the decades, it seems.
By the time Mr. Poklemba finally appears, we're starting to wonder whether Sina Grace and Robert Gill are leaving the comics industry to start a facial hair styling salon, and this final issue is serving as an advertisement for their services.
Bobby introduces himself, and Poklemba freaks out, screaming that he's not a mutant while blasting the boys with his mutant power. A hole opens up in the ground and Julio falls through it to the basement while Poklemba runs upstairs and locks himself in his bedroom. Julio tells Bobby to take Poklemba out before things get worse.
Next, we get a flashback to the '90s, which a caption tells us is set around the time of X-Men #3. Bobby has become more powerful after the fight on Asteroid M and believes he can take a bigger role in the X-Men. He's telling this to Scott Summers (Cyclops), but then Wolverine shows up with some drama about Rogue, Gambit, and Jubilee, so Scott brushes Bobby off. God, we miss thought bubbles.
Back in the present, Bobby is indecisive about what to do. He makes jokes as Rictor chides him, telling him to take things seriously and solve the problem. Bobby is worried. If he can't solve this, how can he lead his own team of X-Men?
It's time to step up. Bobby talks to Poklemba, trying to understand his mutant powers. Pokelmba calls him a liar and gets angrier. Bobby freezes everything around him and explains that the X-Men can help him control his powers. Pokelmba is afraid that shadowy forces will lock him up and try to use him as a weapon. Bobby manages to convince. Rictor is surprised.
We get one more flashback, to the time of Uncanny X-Men #600, with Bobby talking to his time-displaced younger self, who is going through something of an identity crisis. His advice is to put off dealing with his problems until later (not great advice).
Back in the present, Poklemba has agreed to let the X-Men teach him to master his powers. On the phone with his dad, Bobby thanks him for calling him instead of the police. Bobby's dad invites him to come and visit over the weekend. Bobby's relationship with his parents is headed in the right direction.
This was a great send-off to this title, a love letter to the character of Bobby Drake that addresses all the themes that have been running through the entire series. We'll miss Iceman (the series), but hopefully Iceman (the character) will be taking a more prominent role on the team (see this week's X-Men Gold recap for more info on that).
One more to go…