Might as well say up front that the seventh Ice Cream Man collection includes the title character only in the brief, mystical “Paralogue,” so any reader looking for illumination or resolution of the central story in the series will be disappointed. I would place myself in that category. Volume 3 was the last collection to advance the core narrative, so yet another collection of standalone stories is frustrating, however good the individual tales might be. As usual there are a varied lot, each dealing with some sort of descent. The title story comes first, telling the story of an airliner suffering catastrophic failure and heading downward to a certain crash. We see the passengers responding with panic or resignation, and the cockpit calmly waiting for the end. As the plane falls it intersects with scenes from the other stories in the collection, the sort of clever plotting that has characterized the series. The final scenes show investigators hearing dialog from the black box recording that dramatically diverges from the fantasies of the co-pilot. None of the remaining stories are as effective. “Unfortunate Ancestry” depicts Michael descending his own family tree in an effort to understand himself; “The Morphometasis” shows a roach rapidly evolving into a man; “the etymologist rises” finds an etymologist ascending a mountain to meet a monk and learn the first word. We get a promise of a trial for Riccardus, “the demon-god with the ice-cream smile.” So maybe a grand finale is coming?
Static is an actual original graphic novel, with a visual style that would be a fit for an indie comics company much smaller and more esoteric than Dark Horse. It is a dystopian world, and the protagonist is Emmett, a hulking brute of a man who acts as muscle for an eccentric scientist. The scientist is producing Frankenstein-like monsters combining parts of the creatures who have survived in this world. Emmett is mostly focused on getting over an addiction–while running from a gang of violent drug dealers–and trying to reconcile with his wife and son. When he realizes that the artificial lives he has helped to create are conscious and suffering he makes a move that ultimately affects his life in an ironic way. Emmett is a character with very little self-reflection, and Lesniewski’s art has a rough quality that suits him. The conclusion feels abrupt, but it is a logical end to the story, and more satisfying than Emmett’s death (which looked at least equally probable).
Another original graphic novel, this time in a more obviously European style. Chloe is a single mother who is having a rough time: working two jobs to make ends meet, and dealing with her difficult teenage daughter. Soon after getting involved with a travelling businessman named Heath things start falling into place, and opportunities present themselves. But she becomes haunted by horrifying ghostly beings, which are eventually revealed as memories of a life she has no longer lived. Heath admits that he is a chronophage, an alien being who subsists on the memories of others. Every time he changes Chloe’s life for the better, he erases a part of her past: people and events. Most of them could clearly be classified as bad memories: a stray dog attack; finding a dead body as a child; and rescuing her daughter and boyfriend from a drug dealer, for example. But when Heath takes away the event that caused her pregnancy he finally goes too far. Chloe’s love for her daughter forces her into Heath’s dream space, where she undoes his first time alteration to her life line, forever altering their lives and the life of her daughter. Kyriazis art portrays both character and action in an effective, if somewhat cartoony style. The metaphysical scenes would be a challenge for any artist, but he makes them work.