Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: W. Maxwell Prince
Artwork: Martin Morazzo, Chris O’Halloran (colours)
Release Date: 20th June 2018
The Ice Cream Man, purveyor of fine sweet treats; narrator of twisted tales and agent provocateur sometimes known as Rick. Set in small town suburbia, the Ice Cream Man guides us through a series of seemingly unconnected shockers, ranging from killer pets to monsters, the supernatural, wasted lives and bad decisions.
This Trade Paperback collects the first four issues of the series, and while I’m a big fan of anthology horror, there’s no escaping the fact that the likes of Tales from the Crypt, Creepy, Eerie, The Vault Of… have all done this before, and done it better. I know that sounds like I’m perhaps setting the bar a little high, but I feel that if you’re going to bring out a horror anthology you need to either deliver something new or you need to be aiming for the top. And sadly, I’m not sure this meets either of those criteria.
Writer W. Maxwell Prince does a workmanlike job of the stories early on but I think really loses focus in the second half of the book. Morazzo’s artwork is ok but doesn’t do anything to help build the tension or terror. It’s just a little too clean for the type of stories being told. Sadly O’Halloran’s colours don’t do much to help, there’s just no depth or shadow. In one scene we’ve got a young boy being menaced by a werewolf, in a forest, at night. You couldn’t ask for better ingredients for a terrifying panel but it just feels completely flat, sapping all of the tension out of the moment.
Out of the stories collected in this volume, I felt that only one of them really came close to being up to scratch, and that was the first story. “Raspberry Surprise” is the story of one boy and his pet… that kills adults. Oh, and a random werewolf. I enjoyed this, it was fun, it was dark, it was a proper old-fashioned EC style horror shocker. It’s not groundbreaking or particularly innovative but it was undoubtedly fun.
The next story “Rainbow Sprinkles” is a tale of wasted lives, drug abuse and a shot at redemption that rambles on for 25 pages and ultimately peters out without actually seeming to go anywhere.
“Good Ol’ Fashioned Vanilla” is a story of trying to reclaim past glories mixed with a future shock type story that I really just didn’t get. It’s the story of a one hit wonder musician who is slowly dying of boredom and banality when he gets the chance to save the universe by writing just one more hit record. Supported by a rebel army consisting of Ziggy Stardust, Captain Jack, Eleanor Rigby and Major Tom & Ruby Tuesday, not much actually happens. There’s a hint of Grant Morrison sneaking in at the edges but ultimately the story fades out again, leaving this feeling like a wasted opportunity to do something really interesting.
“Every Good Boy Does Fine” is… I’m actually not sure. It’s a story about a funeral, and a wake and a delinquent father and then there’s a random bit about hell and then we’re digging up a corpse for a tearful family reunion. I’ve read this story a couple of times and I’ve still no clue.
Ultimately we learn that the stories are all connected as a tall dark stranger moseys into town sporting a full Lee Van Cleef outfit and a cryptic warning.
I really, really hope that the issues going forward of this volume pick up the pace. I’ve been looking forward to this for a while and whilst I can see the potential in this, especially with the final page revelation, it really has to step up its game dramatically in terms of writing quality and consistency. If you want to see how to do an anthology horror book well, pick up a copy of the recent Dark Horse release, Shadows On The Grave.
The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Alex Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek