Uncanny X-Men: Winter’s End #1
Writer: Sina Grace
Artist: Nathan Stockman
Colorist: Federico Blee
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover Artist: Javier Garron & Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Review by Nico Sprezzatura
Sina Grace’s latest run on Iceman may have come to an end, but winter’s not over just yet. This week’s Uncanny X-Men: Winter’s End #1 officially wraps up Grace’s time with Bobby Drake – at least for now — with a poignant coda that some readers may find very satisfying.
I don’t normally spoil books in my reviews, but after reading Winter’s End, I have to address a major plot development mentioned above. Consider this preamble an official SPOILER ALERT for what I’m about to discuss!
Alright, so here’s what happens in Uncanny X-Men: Winter’s End. While battling Ice Master (an older version of himself from a possible future; don’t worry about it), our newly-resurrected Jean Grey gets involved in the fight, and Ice Master has some pointed words for her — specifically, that Jean outing him years ago led to this bleak future wherein Bobby allows his lover Daken (Daken!!!) to betray him, spelling cosmic doom for the X-Men as a whole.
As you may remember, Bobby originally came out as gay in Brian Michael Bendis’ All-New X-Men, and it was a whole thing — primarily because it wasn’t on his terms. Much has been written and said about the way (time-displaced) Jean forced (time-displaced) Bobby to come out of the closet, which eventually led to the mainstream adult Bobby to also come out. While I wasn’t quite as offended as some people were, it was objectively a shitty thing for Jean to do. And that’s okay! People often forget that fictional characters are supposed to make mistakes and do the wrong thing, though it seems like most of the frustration came from Bendis’ lack of clarity on whether we were meant to recognize that Jean was in the wrong. Because it happened in the penultimate issue of ANXM, which ended ahead of the multiverse-shaking Secret Wars, we never got a proper conclusion to that plot. Despite the two characters in question regularly appearing in other comics together after the fact, no writer attempted to address the lingering bitterness felt by both Bobby and readers alike… until now.
Which brings us back to Winter’s End. After the events of Extermination, the time-displaced X-Men were brought back into the past, effectively forcing teen Bobby to live out the remainder of his youth in the closet once again — this was another unpopular decision for many. It should be noted, however, that all the memories and experiences of the time-displaced Original Five were merged back into their adult selves as a result, which means Bobby has access to his younger counterpart’s feelings. So when Ice Master calls Jean out, Bobby takes a rational stance and points out that it was a different Jean who did it, but notes that it still sucked all the same. With this out into the open, Bobby forgives Jean on behalf of himself and Ice Master, and they leave it as “muddy” water under the bridge.
There are other things to talk about in this issue — like a cameo appearance from the drag queen mutant Darkveil, formerly known as Shade — but I was really struck by the unexpected resolution of that Bobby-Jean thread. It called to mind an essay by Carol A. Strickland called “The Rape of Ms. Marvel”, wherein Strickland recounts the mind-numbing saga of Carol Danvers (who was pretty popular this past weekend!) being coerced into a sexual/procreative relationship with an alien creep with the total blessing of the Avengers, only for her to return years later (by comics legend Chris Claremont, no less) to scold them for being so passive about the ordeal.
The similarities between that and Bobby’s mangled coming-out are obvious, insomuch as they both involve characters being wronged by others under the pen of one creator, leading another creator to address it years later. I just assumed Bobby would never confront Jean about what happened between them, so to see it playing out in Winter’s End was nothing short of a relief. The fact that Grace uses it to wield disparate pieces of canon into one overarching story is near masterful in execution, too. Playing with canon as a plot point can be tricky, but it just feels so earned and organic here. Also, I will never stop thanking Grace for his apparently Bobby/Daken kick, because that’s absolutely one problematic ship I can always get behind. There’s one scene in particular that may very well be the gayest thing I’ve seen in mainstream superhero comics since the end of Midnighter & Apollo.
It’s not only praise to Grace, either. Nathan Stockman and Federico Blee return from the second volume of Iceman, and their work here is very good. The action scenes that can only be described as “Iceman vs. Iceman” are top-notch superhero action, but the smaller-scale character stuff looks just as nice. If Iceman ever comes back for a third limited run, I’d really like to see this creative team intact, because I think everybody involved has a deep love and understanding for Bobby Drake as a character. But if this is indeed the last time Grace writes Iceman, then it’s a cracking story to go out on.
(Also, stay for the Marvel Handbook entry on Darkveil! I really hope Marvel has some sort of plans for her, because she’s simply too cool a character to just waste.)
The Verdict: Buy it.
Even if you skipped Sina Grace’s Iceman, Uncanny X-Men: Winter’s End #1 is an essential installment of Bobby Drake’s storied history.