Pulp 157

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Pulp 157

Hey gang! I can’t believe it’s already February – the year is flying by! Next thing you know it’ll be mid-August and we’ll be freezing our butts off.

This week’s comic was picked up with the express intention of tying it in to the exceedingly hot temperature and making a series of bad jokes, but as it turns out this is one heat-beating treat that you really don’t want, given the circumstances. This week, I’ve picked up the incredibly creepy Ice Cream Man, written by W. Maxwell Prince (One Week in the Library, The Electric Sublime) and drawn by Martin Morazzo (The Electric Sublime, She Could Fly). Despite its comforting pastel colours and friendly aesthetic, this is one ice cream vendor you want to stay the hell away from.

Set in a small American town, Ice Cream Man is a series of small vignettes, a set of disparate tales of hedonism, wonder, sorrow and redemption. Each story introduces a new cast of characters, each with their own motivations, flaws and dreams, and each dealing with their own brand of misfortune. Lurking on the periphery, unnoticed and blending into the background, is the Ice Cream Man, accompanied by his brightly-coloured truck and twinkling music. A trickster, a god, or a demon – the Ice Cream Man is everywhere, and anyone who crosses his path is destined for misfortune. With the snap of his fingers, he can change the course of your life – always for the worst.

I can honestly say that I didn’t expect this book to be as dark as it was – and I suspect that’s very deliberate. The physical copy of the book, like the Ice Cream Man’s van, is brightly coloured and non-threatening, but contains some seriously messed up tales of misfortune and outright misery. While each story is self-contained, there is clearly an overarching plot regarding the Ice Cream Man and his nefarious activities, and his otherworldly powers just raise further questions regarding his origins and why he’s terrorising the town.

I really have to give props to Morazzo and colourist Chris O’Halloran for their amazing work on this title; previous reviews have likened Morazzo’s style to that of the legendary Frank Quitely, and I can certainly understand the comparison. When paired with O’Halloran’s bright, blocky colouring, the whole book just looks fantastic. The bright tones are perfectly matched with the dark and sinister themes that appear whenever the tone of the story shifts to the Ice Cream Man’s nefarious influence over the townspeople. The whole book puts you on edge; you never quite know what horror is going to be inflicted next – the scope of the Ice Cream Man’s powers seems nigh unlimited, and it’s not until towards the end of the first volume that you’re given any indication that he has any limits whatsoever.
The book reminds me of Stephen King’s It, or The Twilight Zone – the range of horrors inflicted on the townspeople ranges from slightly off-putting to otherworldly, and the townspeople are none the wiser that the friendly, affable Ice Cream Man is in fact the source of their troubles. There’s something very unsettling about the whole setup that is sure to please horror fans – if you like your books creepy and supernatural, then Ice Cream Man will definitely scratch that itch.

Written by Alastair McGibbon