A Year of Cool Comics - Day 21

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here's the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we look at Daniel Clowes' Ice Haven!


One of the most interesting aspects of Daniel Clowes' brilliant work, Ice Haven, is that the collected work (which I'm reviewing here) is presented pretty dramatically different from its original form in the pages of Eightball. In Eightball (issue #22, specifically), the story unveils itself in the form of an old fashioned Sunday comics page (think Wednesday Comics, format-wise). It is 40 pages long.

In the collected edition, though, the strips are cut so that it is now over 90 pages long (he adds a couple of pages, as well).

The story is effectively the same, but it is interesting to see just how dramatic the delivery is when you lay them side by side. Not to mention the dramatic difference between the ending of the original work and the ending of the collected work. I'll get back to that later.

Anyhow, the concept of the comic is that Clowes gives us the tale of various residents of a small town called Ice Haven, all during a child kidnapping scare (with echoes of the Leopold and Loeb case). All told, about 22 separate characters get spotlighted in their own comic strip, with Clowes drawing each strip in a slightly different style (some style changes are more dramatic than others) with different storytelling approaches for each strip.

The result is a multi-layered examination of the town, with great insight into all of the various characters you meet, who each are fascinating in their own certain fashion. A neat part of the comic is that there is a mystery of what happened to the kidnapped boy, but Clowes makes it fairly clear the answers to the mystery, and yet it is plainly not the point of the comic. The mystery is secondary to Clowes' character work, which is striking.

Here's a few pages showing us various characters, including Random Wilder...

two boys, Carmichael and Charles and their classmate, Paula (all three children are classmates of the kidnapped boy, David Goldberg)...

and Mr and Mrs. Ames, detectives brought in to solve the kidnapping.

Clowes develops each character, but at the same time, it is clear that they are all part of the same circle - Character X is connected to Character Y who is connected to Character Z, etc.

In the original work, Clowes ended with a comic book critic character breaking the fourth wall and examining the story. I thought it was cute, but I could see it causing problems for some (I know my pal Chad did not like that part at all). In the collected version, though, Clowes still has that part of the comic, but it is no longer the ending of the work, and I think the story works a lot better with the new ending.

This is one of Clowes' best works yet, and seeing as how Clowes is really good, that's saying something!

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