The duality of superheroes is nothing new. Stories about the tangled web of public and private personas have driven superheroes for decades. But in the first issue of Iceman — Bobby Drake’s first ever ongoing series — we get a bit of a twist to that duality: Presenting Bobby’s life as a fascinating mix of success and mess.
Image: Marvel Comics. Art by Alessandro Vitti and Rachelle Rosenberg.
When the personal and public lives of superheroes clash, it’s usually because an imbalance in one inevitably starts messing up with the other. Success as a hero? They’re probably gonna be struggling to make time for their life outside superheroics. Happy, steady private life? Some supervillain is just bound to come along and change that.
Iceman #1 — by Sina Grace, Alessandro Vitti, Rachelle Rosenberg and Joe Sabino — is definitely a story about mirroring the lives of Iceman, original X-Men member, and Bobby Drake, recently out (well, in the warped time-frame of comics) gay man. It presents Bobby as a man who has one half of his life perfectly held together, while the other, altogether separate, is a simmering hot mess.
In Bobby’s case, he has the whole superhero thing down just fine. When he’s in action as Iceman — whether it’s training with his time-displaced younger self (who inadvertently helped the older Bobby reconcile his sexuality), or later on in the issue when he’s battling anti-mutant zealot organisation the Purifiers at a local hospital — Bobby is at the top of his game. He’s a great hero, confident and fully in control of his powers (immense ones, given that Bobby has long been deemed an “Omega-Level” mutant, making him one of the most powerful mutants around), if a bit addicted to making incessant, cheesy wisecracks. There’s nothing Bobby loves doing more than being an X-Man, saving the day, and looking damn good while doing so.
However, in his recently upended private life, Mr Drake definitely does not have his shit together. Although, since Uncanny X-Men #600, Bobby has come to terms with living as an out gay man among his friends and associates, this side of himself is still relatively new to him and it’s bundled with all the awkwardness that that entails.
Iceman #1 is framed with narration depicting Bobby trying to fill out his first gay dating profile on whatever the Marvel universe’s answer to Tinder is, with a description that at first focuses more on the fact he’s an X-Men member rather than the fact he’s new to dating men. He’s also quietly jealous of his younger self who seems to have his life much more put together than he does — quickly honing his powers as a member of X-Men Blue and going steady with his Inhuman boyfriend Romeo, living the life the older Bobby desperately wishes he could’ve been living at that age.
But Iceman #1 also reveals another simmering problem in Bobby’s life: The fact that while he’s now out to his friends and fellow X-Men, he’s still in the closet to his parents, who he’s long had a troublesome relationship with, thanks to the whole “being a mutant” thing in the first place.
It’s exacerbated in this issue thanks to a hospital scare for Bobby’s dad, where the young hero also learns that in his distancing from his parents, they have moved out of his childhood home. The moments between Bobby and his parents are handled with grace, their simmering distaste (especially from his father) for their son’s life as a superhero mirroring the underlying tension of Bobby’s fear they won’t accept that their son is gay, just like they barely accept that he’s a mutant. The set up for an inevitable discussion with his parents about his sexuality is given as much importance to Bobby’s story in this first issue as his superhero battle with the Purifiers — and seemingly will continue to be for the next few issues, if the solicits tell us anything. It makes for a refreshing take on this sort of story that we’re not really getting from elsewhere from Marvel at the moment.
In the end, Bobby just wants to be happy both as himself and as one of the most prominent X-Men around. It’s a classic tale on the old “amazing superhero with relatable flaws and problems” trope, and with a character as often cheesy and fun as Iceman, there’s a lot of promise here for an enjoyable, nuanced LGBT lead in the Marvel comicsverse.