Last Updated on September 11, 2023
Ice Cream Man #36 is one shot tale of loss and grief and madness. I’ve been reading Ice Cream Man since its inception. What the writer W Maxwell Prince and artist Martin Morazzo have done with this series is an utter marvel. Tales of existential horror, of suburban alienationloss, of creeping dread that takes you in the night and rips you from existence. Each of these titles has been a masterclass in creating, maintaining and paying off an escalation of terror sufficient to make the reader peer uncertainly over their shoulder during the reading experience.
Ice Cream Man #36 is no different. Outwardly, however, it isn’t your usual tale of horror. There is no gore, no Great Old Ones looming over the rim of the galaxy, no masked madmen ready to eviscerate their way through a party of drunken horny teenagers. Aliens spewing acid are absent, dollies with knives running rampant are absent. But what isn’t absent is a tautly told tale of madness, a story about a father’s grief, and what overwhelming regret can do to the human mind.
Madness is the horror here.
Winslow is a doughty fisherman, a hunter who nightly braves the ocean deeps – it is his obsession, an obsession that has ruined his relationship with his daughter. Yet when that self same daughter vanishes on the water, her disappearance shatters his mind. Ice Cream Man #36 opens with Winslow narrating a letter, out loud, to himself, to the consternation of his fellow villagers. He vows to find his daughter, and after buying a bucket of chum, rows out of the harbour and into…myth.
Swallowed Jonah-like by a whale, Winslow finds himself inside the belly of the beast, in a horror show of naked people riding in bathtubs, of a talking wooden doll and of a heroically moustachioed peg-legged sailor who goads and insults him as he stumbles from one bizarre encounter after another, until the search comes to a mind shattering conclusion.
Whether Winslow is insane or the victim of occult forces beyond the reason of mere man is left up to the reader. What I do know is that in Ice Cream Man #36, artist Martin Morazzo’s artwork has never been better. The meticulousness of his vision, the way he dominates each panel with scarifying detail, is a masterclass in how art can evoke mood and atmosphere, and indeed, fear itself. Winslow finds himself in a world that cannot be, yet Morazzo makes it as vital and alive as any other artist in the industry today. That might be the Titanic in the back of one panel, occupying a space far larger than a whale’s belly might be thought of capable of holding, but it is the least strange detail in Ice Cream Man #36.
Come for the madness, and spend the rest of your time going over and over the panel for the intricate details Morazzo brings to his work.
Ice Cream Man #36 is a horror tale, but a horror tale of the mind. While other issues of Ice Cream Man dabble in the horrors beneath the surface of ordinary life, Ice Cream Man #36 instead goes beneath the hopelessly thin scrim of the world, and the even thinner surface of the human mind, to find the horror of loss and grief buried shallowly within us all. Who knows, dear reader…you might one day find yourself in the belly of your own beast. How loudly will you scream?