BY MATT TUCK
Ice Cream #23 continues its perfect run of horror shorts with a strangely symbolic tale that puts a new spin on “circle of life.” Cue Elton John.
ICE CREAM MAN #23
Written by W. Maxwell Prince
Art by Martin Morazzo
Equal parts Crypt Keeper and Rod Serling, the latest bedtime story from Prince and Morazzo dabble in the metaphoric with “Late Night Splashes.”
As we have seen with previous issues of Ice Cream Man, Prince and Morazzo deftly procure different flavors of storytelling, never giving readers time to become too comfortable - which ultimately leads to boredom - with a single narrative structure. Look at Ice Cream Man #20. Prince and Morazzo told a darkly hilarious take on children’s classics, Goodnight, Moon and Green Eggs and Ham that finished on a disturbing-yet-alluring note.
For “Late Night Splashes,” Prince and Morazzo change the format and channel a bit of Stephen King for a short story interspersed with comic book visuals. The issue delivered in its entertainment and left me pondering the symbolism of Jormungandr, but I will get to that momentarily.
The story itself is about Mack Benson, the smarmy king of late-night broadcast comedy, as he lies in a hospital bed, his body mangled by a giant burmese python. The bulk of the story is told in first-person essays detailing various characters’ relationships with Mack, who is painted as an unloving user that is a slave to his own selfish desires.
As the narrative shifts from one perspective to another, it is separated by the horror unfolding before his audience’s eyes. From the first page, we know where the road leads, and that is what makes it all the more unsettling.
In typical Ice Cream Man fashion, our host takes the form of the appropriately-named Rick Saccharine brought to life as always by Morazzo’s perfectly paired art style. Saccharine is a Steve Irwin-esque animal trainer who delivers deadly-clever, inappropriate observations that border on the grotesque. Here, his role is more that of an emissary of karma, doling out an ironic punishment to Mack Benson.
Like his choices coming to haunt him, the snake crushes and tears at Mack while the Ice Cream Man samples the carnage. All the while, the varying character accounts create a portrait of Mack eventually making a triumphant to the spotlight. The endless cycle, indeed.
In true nihilist fashion, Rick Saccharine sums up the story best. “Nobody learns a thing, and history does its repetitive dance through the movements of tragedy, then farce, and then back around again to the beginning. Like a giant, meaningless ouroboros - the goshdarn snake devours its own tail! (It devours other stuff, too.)”
By the end, we are left with a sense that, like the Norse world serpent, Jormungandr, Mack is biting his own tail, trapped in an infinite loop of his own bad decisions.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is also a teacher, freelance writer, comic collector, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.