Overview

I.C.E. #1

Review

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I.C.E. #1

Credits

  • Words: Doug Wanger
  • Art: Jose Holder and Brian Stelfreeze
  • Colors: Mike Wiggam
  • Publisher: 12 Gauge Comics
  • Price: $1.00
  • Release Date: Jul 20, 2011

This week, 12 Gauge Comics pulls the trigger on their latest action/adventure comic book franchise called I.C.E., from Managing Editor Doug Wagner and Art Director Brian Stelfreeze. Topical, explosive, and well-crafted, I.C.E. #1 is available for a steal as part of 12 Gauge’s Buckshot promotion for $1.00.

I.C.E. stands for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an elite agency dedicated to curbing the flow of illicit goods and people across American borders. Drug trafficking and illegal immigration are hot topics in the U.S. political landscape, polarizing both major parties and entire states, in the case of Arizona. Wagner knows his target audience well though, and smartly refrains from social commentary, avoiding the pitfall of politicizing what is simply intended to be a timely action/adventure yarn. I.C.E. doesn’t preach which is appropriate. Cole Matai and his motley band of agents aren’t out to judge the refugees and criminals they apprehend, they’re out to enforce the law – no more, no less.

As tempting as a “hipshot” metaphor is when discussing an action comic published by a company called 12 Gauge is, it’s really not appropriate to apply to I.C.E. #1. There’s nothing scattershot in Wagner’s approach to his plot, as everything is planned out and paced meticulously for maximum effect, showing a restraint and understanding of the action genre that ranks up there with Mark Millar and Brian Michael Bendis. From the innovative opening car chase to his solid characterization, Wagner instinctively knows how to effect a balanced, kinetic pace that doesn’t get bogged down in unnecessary exposition.

Jose Holder’s art is appropriately raw-edged and gritty, yet avoids muddy storytelling with intelligent panel choices and page construction. The aforementioned opening sequence is brilliantly depicted, showing a remarkable restraint as Holder hooks the audience by building the action gradually for an amplified impact during the scene’s climax. By contrast, Brian Stelfreeze’s art in the supplemental back-up story “Hot Tin” is more stylized than Holder’s work but no less robust and evenly paced. Each artist complements the other, lending stability and consistency to the entire issue.

Smart, relevant, and slickly produced, I.C.E. evokes the spectacle and style of modern action blockbuster movies thanks to a crisp, even pace and intuitive understanding of genre conventions. More importantly, Wagner, Stelfreeze, and Holder have produced a real comic book in I.C.E., importing film archetypes and techniques yet remaining true to their home medium. Whatever the franchise’s ultimate fate (Cole Matai’s uncanny resemblance to The Rock seems a little too coincidental, for my taste), Wagner and company can remain confident in the fact that I.C.E. #1 is first and foremost a damn fine comic book.

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