Ice Cream Man: Late Night Splashes (#23) – W. Maxwell Prince

4 out of 5

W. Maxwell Prince has managed to break on through to the other side with Ice Cream Man: he teased us with enough loosely connected ideas and concepts in the early issues to vaguely establish the lore backing these one-shots of nightmares, but then – by my opinion – struggled with finding a rhythm thereafter that maintained momentum for the series, while allowing it to stick to its anthology guns. Lately, Prince has been working in several experimental issues, breaking from the standard comic book format quite distinctly, and even opened up the platform, when the COVID quarantine first hit, to other creators. For this reader, this has allowed him to get over that perceived hump: the title can now be whatever he wants it to be, erring toward explorations of evil.

And so Late Night Splashes takes the format of a play, or perhaps a storybook, or perhaps a comic, or perhaps its own thing: a cast list on the first page, with each cast member reflecting on events via full text pages facing full, one-panel illustrated pages, provided by regular series artist Martin Morazzo and colorist Chris O’Halloran. Our Ice Cream Man foibles this time are presented by way of animal trainer “Rick Saccharine,” guest on the Mack Benson talk show. On the left, Mack, his friend, his wife, and his intern / fling reflect on an accident that has just occurred on set; on the right, we see the accident unfold. To drive the “point” home, that we shan’t be looking for deeper meanings in this comic, Saccharine himself takes over a page at the end, reminding us that, essentially, shit just happens, and there’s not always a reason. (Which is, of course, perhaps the most frightening realization of all.)

The subtle ICM flourishes in the art and colors are great, and Prince does an excellent job of capturing each narrator’s voice. The visual aspect sort of lacks impact, though, as its endpoint is a foregone conclusion – we know where it’s going thanks to the text. I was expecting a little more delicacy there – something to “learn” (or not) from the pictures as much as the text, but at the same time, it’s a little game, knowing what’s coming and turning the pages to see it visualized. I have to admit: this was one of the few times I didn’t flip ahead in a comic, so the game worked.