Ice Cream Man: Certain Descents (#25) – W. Maxwell Prince

5 out of 5

This is all I want in my creepy, cryptic horror series. …Making it sound somewhat easy, I suppose, and on its surface – a plane is going down, and save one fretting passenger, no one seems too concerned – maybe it does seem easy, but I marvel at writer W. Maxwell Prince’s restraint shown here. I compare the writer to Morrison a lot, and one thing I find problematic about Grant is that his method of writing between the panels – that is, creating worlds completely off the page, that you don’t need a lore book to feel and understand – sometimes is countered by his need to be overly wordy and poetic. So he’ll craft an interesting and oblique setup, but then trample over it with too much narration, whereas some of his best works milk maximum impact out of minimal language. And that’s what Prince is doing here. The story’s epilogue – or, I’m sorry, “paralogue” – is where I think of Grant again, as we return to some ICM mythology, and the wholesale creation of different races of creatures panel by panel (gathering for “Riccardus” trial at the end of time…) feels very Morrison-y, but prior to that, Prince is operating in the tonal territory he has crafted and made his own across this series. And while some issues have occasionally stepped over the line into somewhat repetitive “humanity is horror” scenarios, or going a bit too obvious with its messaging, Certain Descents is where it’s all in balance: just on the edge of scary, and funny, and weird; just logical enough without being linear; messages seeded in but not explicitly stated.

It feels like a summary statement of sorts, gathering up all of the feelings that’ve been explored in the previous 24 issues and positing a wonderfully discomfiting parallel of acceptance and denial; the paralogue is a clever way to “solve” the mystery of the Ice Cream Man, or to put an end to his story. This could be a conclusion in other words, or it still allows for plenty more miseries to come. Either way, the issue is perfect.