Monday, December 25, 2017

X-Men: Grand Design #1 Review - Marvel Monday

X-Plain It

Writer: Ed Piskor
Artist: Ed Piskor
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $5.99
Release Date: December 20, 2017

I'd like to say I'm a huge X-Man fan, but sadly, I am only in spirit.  While I was growing up, the X-Men was one of the comics that almost made me take up our fun hobby, but in the end, I couldn't get myself to just jump into a book with that huge a history.  I was both intimidated by it and also knew that with my compulsions as they are, I'd end up going down a rabbit hole that my brain or wallet would probably never recover from.  Then, the X-Men movie hit and I could just sit my ass in a theater seat and join in on the fun!  Since then, I have dabbled in the X-Men, but am nowhere near an "X-Pert" (do people use that?) and barely even what some would call a "filthy casual".  That's why this book interested me so much.  I haven't done a Marvel Monday review in quite some time, but a book "chronicling all of X-Men history!" seemed like a great time to get back to it.  So, is this book I've been waiting for all these years?  Let's find out...

If you are not aware, Ed Piskor is the brains and talent (and everything else) behind one of the best comic books of all-time, Hip Hop Family Tree.  If you haven't had a chance to read that, go and do it right now!  If you have already done so, or are returning after I ordered you, you will be happy to know that this book has the look and feel of HHFT.  That means it looks awesome!  Piskor uses the same old school print design that makes everything here feel classic.  The book opens with the Watcher being joined by the Recorder so that he can document what he's seen from "A very extraordinary pantheon of Mutants".  Again, classic!  Let's say "Nouveau Classique" so we can sound way smarter than we'll ever be.

Now, this is the part of the review where I usually go through the major plot beats of the issue, but I don't think that will actually work here.  First off, Piskor tackles a whole lot here.  We get to see the origins/backstories of some of the most famous X-Men and the best part is, a lot of it takes place before X-Men #1.  How is that? Because, like everything in comics, the X-Men story has progressed through the years, not only by moving forward but evolving it's past as well.  So much of this issue involves putting all the flashbacks and stories that came later into a nice little flowing package that gives you the whole story, right here and right now.  I'm sure some people who are more steeped in the X lore might have issues with what gets more page space and what doesn't, but I didn't have any problems and those people probably hate anything fun, maybe even going as far as hating Stompers, the best toy ever!

After reading this issue, you will be up to speed on all the earliest mutants, but it's not just their names and powers.  You will see Xavier's early troubles and struggles, you will know what Magneto suffered through and why he feels the way he does and you will know things about the early X-Men that readers wouldn't find out for over twenty years.  That in itself is the reason to give this book a read through, even if you have read all the issues that ever came out.  Speaking of which, after a cool roll call of X-Men creators, Piskor included a neat little index of all the plot beats in the comic so you can go and read the actual stories they came from.  I loved the addition because after reading this issue twice, I had the urge to go and read Invaders #16, Bizzarre Adventures #27, X-Men #117 and so many more.  As an added bonus, they are easily found in the Marvel Unlimited App.  Have I told you how much I love Marvel Unlimited?!?!

So, I'm sure you can tell that I think this book is a winner.  If you are like me and have wanted to learn about the X-Men, but don't have the time and/or money, this is the perfect solution.  I can now stand at the water cooler at work and talk about the time Warren Worthington III saved his boarding-school roommate and know what I'm talking about!  What times we live in!  It's a bonus (and a huge one!) that you also get fantastic Ed Piskor artwork as well.  I know this is a $5.99 book, but the extra page count and awesome art make it worth every penny.

Now, it can't be perfect right?  Well, it almost is.  The only thing I can find fault with is that with so much crammed into the book, some of the scenes do not transition into each other as well as I'd like.  It certainly doesn't ruin anything, but a couple times I had to make sure I didn't miss anything as we jumped into a new character or scene.

Bits and Pieces:

This book is a fantastic retelling of the X-Men story and perfect for new readers eager to learn and old salts looking to take a walk down memory lane.  Ed Piskor doesn't give a page per page retelling, however, but takes all the years of expanded stories, puts them into place and makes it all easily digestible with his classic style.  I can't wait for the next issue and hope that Marvel gives him free reign to do this for all of their franchises.


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