Ice Cream Man: Telethon (#24) – W. Maxwell Prince

3 out of 5

I swear this isn’t an intended pun, but: this one feels a little phoned in. (Okay, maybe slightly intended.)

Ice Cream Man has bounced between some killer insights, spectacular weirdness, occasionally oblique – but fascinating – world-building, …and then some “standard” scares that pick at some pretty predictable sores. It’s the series (and writer W. Maxwell Prince) walking a fine line between pointing the finger at the individual – all your doubts and fears are on YOU – versus society, and I tend to vibe more with the issues that sit in the uncomfortable inbetween. Telethon is the first issue where I feel Prince starts to drift into the difficult territory of viewer participation, where we, the reader, are participating in our protagonist’s fate: there’s a telethon going on to save Jerry’s life – and this cute lil’ dog! – and we can do so by not turning the page… I do dig this form of media, in which the audience is made culpable, but it’s an especially tricky game, balancing something that can makes us think a little bit, versus Mark Millar’s Wanted fucking us in the ass. (The latter being, by my opinion, the barrel bottom high school version of this stuff, when dawning awareness of the uncaring nature of the world and our own inherent potential for destruction is mixed with a hormonal need to lash out and swears ’cause swears is cool.) Prince’s take on this is nowhere near the worser end of the spectrum, but it’s also not especially sharp, playing Jerry’s sad sack life for humor and, via Ice Cream Man’s telethon hosting mugging for the camera, attempting a social media-tinted merry-go-round of tragedy porn commentary, but it’s the kinda stuff you’ve seen ever since the internet became an (generally considered) accessible thing and movies and TVs gleaned on featuring pay-for sites that highlighted humanity’s dregs.

The general ICM charm is there, along with Martin Morazzo’s sharp-as-ever artwork and Chris O’Halloran’s brilliant colors – I like that the duo have found a style that’s toned down to a more realistic vibe, as that’s a better fit for the realism-adjacent nature of ICM’s best issues – but the approach here is, overall, fairly standard stuff that doesn’t actually challenge the reader in the way it suggests it is.