cover image X-Men: Grand Design

X-Men: Grand Design

Ed Piskor. Marvel Entertainment, $29.99 trade paper (120p) ISBN 978-1-302-90489-0

This labor of love is a cohesive chronicle of the X-Men universe from genesis forward. “I’ll now disclose everything I’ve observed about a very extraordinary pantheon of mutants,” declares a godlike “watcher” in the opening. These world-saving heroes are hated by humanity for their differences (such as Wolverine’s razor claws), which are also the source of their extraordinary powers. In a superhero parable on prejudice and bigotry, the X-Men, led by telepathic mentor Professor X, battles villains, aliens, and their own kind—mutants like Magneto who believe regular humans should be destroyed. Marvel’s popular series encompasses 55 years of intricate narrative, myriad characters, and countless flashback plotlines that resist an easy historical overview. Much as Piskor masterfully took on the scope of rap music in his acclaimed Hip Hop Family Tree series, he synthesizes hundreds of (sometimes contradictory) tales and specific details generated by their hundreds of past creators, faithfully integrating it all into one entertaining story line. For example, he weaves together seamless varied plotlines involving longtime foe Dark Phoenix (subject of the next X-Men movie), a seductively destructive alien life form that threatens to tear the team and the Earth apart. The austere composition is refreshing, given a tendency towards overcomplicated layouts in the contemporary superhero genre. Each page mimics the look of an old issue, with brown-edged pages and Ben-Day color dots to reproduce the simple four-color printing process of comics’ silver age, but Piskor takes only a few stylistic cues from the likes of Jack Kirby, Bill Everett, and Winsor McKay. The oversized treasury format presents the material in gloriously larger-than-life size. Back matter includes Piskor’s childhood fan art and a reprint of 1963’s first X-Men release, by Stan Lee and Kirby. Fans who have been following the X-Men since childhood will delight in Piskor’s dedicated “grand design,” and it’s a luminous beacon for newcomers to join in the fun. (Apr.)