Bobby Drake was always the kid of the group. Growing up with two rather serious parents, made Bobby want to act out all of the time. When he started turning into a snowy mess, Professor X and Cyclops decided to pay the Drakes a visit. Requesting that Professor X removes any memory of his powers from his parents’ minds, Bobby convinces them that he’s going to an elite Boarding School. It would be years before Bobby told his parents the truth and it provided for a really heavy-handed scene in “X2: X-Men United”. That’s when we got a year worth of snowman Bobby before Jack Kirby said let’s get the guy to harden him and actually make him look like he’s made out of ice. Thus starting decades of worth redefining Iceman’s powers.
Iceman has always had a weird relationship with being a dude that makes ice slides. Whether it’s “Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends” or “The Champions”, no creative team has ever been able to pin down what really works with being a permafrost version of The Human Torch. While The Human Torch was always shown as an immature fuckwit, Iceman was a kid growing into a man that never had been allowed to express his feelings. His emotional state became tied to his powers and his frequent flare-ups in defense of his friends. Bobby bonded with Angel and Beast first, but would soon grow to let other X-Men into his inner circle.
Around the same time, various factors such as Loki and secondary mutations began to cause him to have frequent power flare-ups. Iceman spent most of the late 1980s and 1990s trying to find a balance between his old self and a need to become more of a power player on the team. Angel became Archangel, so why can’t Bobby do more than throw snowballs and freeze water? Readers would later see Iceman makes spiked shoulders, fists and a spine in his new ice form. This wasn’t someone that was going to get pushed around anymore, but was it Bobby?
As Bobby grew older, he came more confident in himself. Gaining his accounting degree and finding an identity outside of the Xavier Institute, he started taking his first steps to become something greater than a mutant paramilitary figure. But, life has a funny way of pulling you back into the mix. Iceman was used more as a supportive player for a bit until his father was nearly beaten to death at a Graydon Creed political rally. Fearing for his family, Iceman dropped back for a year or so. Unfortunately, the X-Men were attacked and captured during Operation: Zero Tolerance. It was up to Iceman to rebuild the team and find a way to rescue his friends.
So it carried on, as it always did for years and years. That was until the great X-Men schism and Bobby Drake found his true identity. Chastising Scott Summers for thinking that a charter X-Men member is obligated to fall in line behind Cyclops, Bobby chose to follow Wolverine to the Jean Grey School. Bobby’s argument was that Xavier’s dream was to provide young mutants with the tools to become productive members of society. Cyclops had started to fall in with Magneto and believed that mutants needed to be ready to fight humans when the time came. Bobby became disillusioned, but willing left with Angel, Beast and Wolverine for the comforts of Salem Center.
Now, Bobby is one of the lead professors at the Jean Grey School. Teaching a new generation of mutant kids, trying to mack on Kitty Pryde and working to keep Wolverine in check. That’s not to say he doesn’t still get his cool moments. After all, he recently was blessed by a Priest, so he could use his ice powers against vampires. Get it? Cold holy water blasts against the fanged and undead? You didn’t see that noise in a Blade movie. Not to mention the time that he was attacked by Azazel and beheaded. Using his powers in his ice form, Bobby was able to reconstitute an ice body that reverted to human form once he fully changed.
When Beast brings the first X-Men team from the past to the present, Bobby flips out when he sees his younger self. Eventually, the two versions of Bobby bond as the younger is impressed by how his powers have developed. Since this is Bendis, the time shenanigans go the other way and Iceman learns about his Ice Hulk form from the future and what it means for his powers. Can we get something else other than check out this year’s power set?!? What about examining the realities of a young man growing into the person his parents were, while juggling the need to fight radical military front dedicated to exterminating his particular species off the map?
While Marvel aims for the broadest audience, there’s so much missing in the approach. While Iceman started life as a Human Torch clone, he became the best mirror for those that grew up reading the book. He’s an adult that found purpose while taking time to save the world and become a better person. I know that’s not as exciting as fighting Sentinels or The Brood, but not everyone in the Marvel Universe spends their days smacking around bad guys. DC is starting to launch a Gotham Academy series that examines the school aspects of what it’s like inside Gotham City. I hope that Marvel has the sense to retool “Wolverine and the X-Men” to match that dynamic for Iceman. After all, it’s not like Wolverine is long for this world given recent Marvel plans.
Iceman isn’t one of my favorite mutants, but I respect the role that he has to play in the greater story. Various chapters of this project will end with brief recaps based on what we covered and some long-time fans might feel like I’m giving their favorite character the shaft. That’s not intentional. However, even I find it hard to muster that much of a desire to examine Iceman’s time spent with The Champions or New Defenders. The less said about his interactions with Cloud…the better.