For all the fuss that was made about Marvel’s Iceman series featuring the newly out Icemen (two Bobby Drakes), the book’s been a rather dull rehash of the kind of narrative beats you’d expect from so-so queer YA fiction. This week, though, the series finally did something dynamic with its characters that it should have been doing from the start.
Over the past few issues of writer Sina Grace’s Iceman, the elder Bobby Drake’s been trying to get his personal life together in the wake of announcing to the world that he’s gay. He’s extended an olive branch to the women he dated in the past, reconnected with old friends, and even managed to snag himself a boyfriend. But for all that personal growth, Iceman’s always felt as if it were somewhat comfortable not digging into the fascinating weirdness of the Bobbies’ predicament. Rather, it’s been telling a rather straightforward story about a mutant celebrity coming out of the closet and living a normal life.
In this week’s issue #8, illustrated by Robert Gill and Rachelle Rosenberg, the Bobbies reunite (younger Bobby’s been off doing his own thing) for a family dinner with their parents who, up until this point, had yet to meet their time-displaced son from the past. The last time the elder Bobby tried to come out to his parents, he was met with hesitation and apprehension before settling into an uneasy holding pattern with them. The Drakes all love each other, to be sure, but Bobby’s parents weren’t exactly comfortable with their son yet.
Reasoning that it’d be better if they both had dinner with their parents, the Bobbies show up (separately) at a restaurant hoping that together, they might be able to break through the wall of ice separating them all. The Drakes are cordial with the elder Bobby at first as they all wait around for the younger to show up. Much to Bobby’s shock, his younger self is actually hiding in the restaurant’s bathroom, stuck in his ice form due to nerves, something the older Bobby isn’t at all surprised at.
Together, the Bobbies trudge to their parents’ table, take a leap of faith and discover that... the Drakes seem to absolutely love the younger Bobby for reasons that aren’t immediately apparent. Though the Drakes have expressed issues with Bobby’s mutant powers in the past, they warm to their teenaged son immediately and begin asking him the kinds of questions about his life as an X-Men that they never asked their adult son about when he was a kid.
At first, the older Bobby takes the evening in stride and assumes that his parents are merely bowled over at seeing their son as a teenager again, but as the night goes on, the Drakes’ misguided true intentions come to the fore. The younger Bobby, the Drakes offer, is more than welcome to come home with them—to start his life over and to give them a chance to raise their son the “right way.”
After putting up with his parents’ inability to accept him for who he is for so long, the older Bobby finally calls them on their bullshit and explains that there’s no trick to “fixing” either of them. Age difference aside, both Bobbies are fundamentally the same people, meaning that their sexual identities and X-genes are immutable parts of who they are—something the Drakes would do well to accept rather than alienating their son.
The emotional stress and shock of the fight sends the younger Bobby’s powers into overdrive and literally freezes him to his chair, but it’s nothing his older self isn’t ultimately able to help him work through. By the end of the issue, the Drakes still haven’t gotten over their issues with their son’s sexuality, but that’s kind of the point that this issue of Iceman is trying to make, on some level.
As nice as it is to digest pleasant coming out stories that end in tears of joy and acceptance, those stories belie the fact that coming out is a process for many people. It can sometimes involve coming out to the same people more than once. Especially when dealing with people we love, coming out can be an emotionally taxing, devastating experience that just doesn’t end happily the way we want it to.
Iceman seems to be hinting that the Drakes may never be able to make peace with their sons, and as disappointing as that is, it’s honest and real, and doesn’t at all mean that the Icemen’s lives have to be ruined by the fact. If anything, this week’s Iceman is making a point of saying that a big part of it “getting better” is preparing oneself for the fact that some parts of it can and will get worse.