Ice Cream Man: Palindromes (#13) – W. Maxwell Prince

5 out of 5

This isn’t a perfect comic, but its so unanabashedly brave and so honest in its execution that I can’t help but applaud it.  W. Maxwell Prince has proven now, across several mini-series, that his earnestness in structural experimentation and surreal subject matter exploration isn’t a bandwagon interest or youthful flight of fancy; so many writers who adore the Moore / Morrison literary / abstract approach do nothing but slather their comics with unnecessary ‘meaningful’ exposition or forced weirdness, but Prince’s work – while occasionally uneven, perhaps – comes off as legitimate.  ‘Palindromes,’ an issue which is meant to be readable forwards and backwards, the pages beginning to mirror one another once you get to the midpoint, is uneven as well, or imperfect, as I’d first mentioned.  It stretches to include some bonus palindromes; its surreal setting, following that same pursuit, loses a little bit of immersion.  But it’s still incredibly fascinating, and the kind of thing that has you reading and rereading, forwards and backwards, or from both directions at once.  While no one would say constructing such a comic is ‘simple,’ it could be considered as fairly simple once you’ve nailed down the dialogue, but that’s selling it way short.  Placement of text, how the images can be perceived due to reading order, and flip-flopping the perspective, are all considerations that affect how the book works, and they were, no doubt, all considered.

Our titular Ice Cream Man has, of late, become more of an observer; his presence here, only seen via a passing truck at the start and finish, only indicates that whatever events we’re going to witness will be, on some level, removed from reality.  And as our lead character, Paul, reflects on the passing of his significant other, Michael, we follow his visual descent into the ‘underworld’ for answers: how does one move on?  When is it moving forwards?  When is it backwards?  And from this, its obvious how the palindrome theme intertwines, but it’s a deeply affecting way to have us traverse through grief.