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X-Men: Grand Design #1 [Review]

xmen_grand_design_0001X-Men: Grand Design

Cartoonist: Ed Piskor
Editor: Chris Robinson
X-Men Group Editor: Mark Paniccia
Editor in Chief: Axel Alonso
Chief Creative Officer: Joe Quesada
President: Dan Buckley
Executive Producer: Alan Fine
X-Men Created by: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: February 2018
Cover Price: $5.99

I crab about Marvel comics all costing $3.99+ and virtually always put back even curiosities once I “confirm” that they’re $3.99+ for the issue held in-hand. I’m down on much of what Marvel has published for the last few years at least, and have had extremely mixed feelings on what stuff I have picked up.

This issue is $5.99.

And I barely thought anything of it. The issue FEELS thick, and heavy, and quite possibly THE single best value in a single issue that I have come across from Marvel in a long, long time.

It took me three sittings to get through this issue. Granted, I had other stuff going on, but I also hadn’t mentally “budgeted” a long time to stay put and read, used to even the extra-sized issues being pretty quick reads.

I’m not actually sure what I expected from this issue. I think initially I thought it was going to be a book that was text-only; when I realized it was actually a comic after all, I decided to give it a shot. What I got out of it is that whatever the length of the finished product, it’s like this detailed “history” of the X-Men, in comic format–using new art and narrative but covering existing material.

The page design includes coloring to make these glossy, higher-quality-paper pages look like old newsprint; the coloring to the story/art itself lends to that effect, giving this the appearance of a classic 1960s comic book or such. While there’s a little bit of “panel creativity” and “white space,” by and large the page layouts are tight and dense, modular classic panels–squares and rectangles with actual borders and gutters in a way that seems to have been largely jettisoned in “modern” comics. The dense visuals share space with dense text–plenty of caption boxes, speech balloons, and thought bubbles; the art is there, the art shows plenty, but there are no full or double-page splashes. The art serves the narrative, rather than some limited text serving up an excuse for big, flashy art.

Story-wise, I didn’t really feel like there was anything “new” or “fancy” or such here. Nothing particularly stood out, nothing was singularly memorable. But then, I was not expecting such. What the story is, what the writing is, is basically a straight-forward narrative, in chronological order, from the beginning of Marvel Comics into the 1960s and the beginning of the original X-Men issues. Things that were revealed in flashbacks a few issues in or 30-something YEARS’ worth of issues in, it’s here in order, unfolding as events unfolded–NOT in the order that details were doled out to readers as the actual issues were published. And this is presented as a tale from Uatu, the Watcher…giving a good context to things now being told in order.

In many ways, I’m sure a lot of people would consider this a boring read, and a re-tread, and probably a few other negative connotations to stuff. Me? I thoroughly enjoyed this. Part review, part history lesson, part summary, and part condensed revisitation of classic stories. I totally appreciate comics in general and the nature of them; the occasional “new reveal” or such, new flashbacks revealing previously-unknown information, the introduction of a character from someone’s past who just happened to not have been mentioned or relevant til “now” in the story that sheds new and different light on past events. But there’s something cool and refreshing about just following a single, one-directioned narrative pulling in everything–from information we got in X-Men #1, to stuff brought up/shown into 2009, 45-some years after X-Men #1.

X-Men: Grand Design (sample 2 pages' layout)

Pages seem to have 5-9 panels each, some more…making for plenty of room to cram a LOT of story into small space. No half, full, or double-page splashes to “cheat” or anything!

For my $5.99, three “sittings” to read, and sheer amount of time spent to read this whole thing, this is the best value in time-to-money I’ve found in years. As I got to the end of the issue, I wondered if this was monthly, or if I’d have to wait up to TWO months for the next issue…but then saw the next issue is supposedly in a mere two weeks.

At $5.99 an issue, and biweekly, and I’m very much looking forward to the next issue? Anyone reading much of my writing of late ought to realize that alone should speak to the quality I see in this. Again–this will not be for everyone. That said…I highly recommend it, especially to anyone who is or was a fan of the X-Men, particularly the 1960s “early days” OF the X-Men.

Jack Kirby at 100

I’m not sure when I first “discovered” Jack Kirby.

I know I was not consciously aware of him as an individual, nor of his significance, but my first “exposure” to him was probably the TMNT storybook The Magic Crystal (itself based directly on the Donatello 1-issue “Micro Series” from Mirage).


In that issue, Donatello meets this artist who has a magic crystal, and whatever he draws comes to life, but then disappears. The two wind up in the crystal’s dimension with all the disappeared drawings, and have a bit of an adventure. The guy’s name is simply “Kirby,” here, and at the time I’d had no idea it was referencing any real-life guy named Jack Kirby.

freedom_force_gameWhen Kirby passed in 1994, one of the X-Men: the Animated Series episodes had a ‘dedication’ to him, that I do recall noticing, though I hadn’t really known who he was. Whether I looked into who he was then or not, I’m not sure…but I imagine there were articles and such about him, at least some sort of reference in Wizard Magazine, such that I got an idea of who he was and his early Marvel work and all that.

Skip on just past the ’90s, and there was a game–Freedom Force–that I’d gotten for the computer. It was a fun game at the time–especially once I discovered mods and such online–but the game itself was heavily Kirby-influenced…something I did notice at the time.

savage_dragon_0076More recently, I’d noticed or mentally connected Erik Larsen‘s Savage Dragon stuff to him, Larsen having a Kirby-esque style at points, and what seems to me a definite visual influence. Said influence was “confirmed” for me, reading Larsen‘s intro to the Savage Dragon: This Savage World collected edition.

And of course, I’ve noticed stuff over the years with art that’s recognizably Kirby, as well as Kirby-inspired. I may not be able to define it well to someone not familiar with the concept, but I “get” references such as “Kirby Krackle” and such.

I have no particular or huge, singular interest in his work…but his work is such that I definitely respect it, its place in comics history, and the impact that he had ON comics through his art (to say nothing of what I’ve heard about his speed!).

greatest_superman_stories_ever_toldThinking about it in all this typing, I’ve thought of a couple of other “early encounters” I had with Kirby stuff.  The first was a Forever People story reprinted in The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told. This was my first-ever collected edition (and I still have it to this day!). I recall really not caring for that story…but paging back through it, I see where its presence certainly means I was “exposed” to Kirby‘s art as early as December 1989, having received this book as a Christmas present that year.

At the time, I had zero other context for Jack Kirby being anyone special, or of the New Gods being a “thing,” barely would have known what a “Darkseid” was, etc. This story from Forever People #1 was my introduction to all that, it would seem, outside of whether or not I’d seen Superman #2 at that point or not until a bit later.


That huge mane of red hair left an impression on me, though, making Big Bear probably the most recognizable of these characters to me for awhile.


Then there was Kamandi: At Earth’s End, which caught my attention shortly after Superman’s return in 1993, due to the aged version of the character showing up in that series. I’m not sure to this day if I’ve actually read the whole of this Kamandi mini-series, but I’m pretty sure I did read the Superman: At Earth’s End one-shot sometime in the last 15 or so years. While neither of these was a Jack Kirby piece…they involved one of the characters he is strongly noted for on the DC end of things.

And of course, there’s the Newsboy Legion, the Guardian, and Cadmus–things that were pretty integral to early-’90s Superman comics, though they were more that I didn’t consciously know or associate with being “Kirby creations” and such.

While I’m no Kirby scholar, nor any particular fan (I don’t dislike his stuff, but I don’t singularly seek it out), I recognize (maybe even more having gathered some of my thoughts and such here!) that his work has been a huge influencer beyond anything I could simply try to note in a post here.

In both the Donatello issue and an issue I recently read of The Savage Dragon, I found pieces by Peter Laird and Erik Larsen about the man, that seem appropriate to share below. Laird‘s piece is from 1986 while he was still alive; Larsen‘s is from just after Kirby‘s passing. Both put things far better than I could, and show some of the influence he had just on these creators and their properties..!


–(Donatello one-issue “Micro-Series” #1)


(The Savage Dragon #8)

Several fellow bloggers’ posts on Jack Kirby today:

The Weekly Haul – Week of January 25th, 2017

At least for Wednesday, this was another "basic" kinda week. Nothing really extra or spectacular…just a huge week OF new books!


The usual Superman issue-of-the-week with the new Action Comics issue. The premiere issue of the Kamandi Challenge hit. While I was hoping for something squarebound and less expensive, for what it is and everything else they’ve had so reasonably priced, I’ll give DC a "pass" on the extra-sized $4.99 issue. And speaking of "passes," since I’m double-dipping for the immediate read, I grabbed a variant of Batman/TMNT Adventures so at least I have some variety. Finally, the last (I think) of the JLoA ___ Rebirth issues that I neglected from DCBS.


Then the "indie"-ish stuff. Surgeon X #5, though I can’t find #4 and think I might’ve actually intended to let the series go to wait for a collected volume. Oops. And part of me was gonna let Reborn go for the same reason…finding out it’s "just" a "limited series" rather than an indefinite ongoing was quite disappointing. And again for the heckuvit, decided to "try" Loose Ends #1, since the "A" cover was present and I didn’t have much expectations, and it’s a "new series" and #1.

Finally, of course, is the newest AvP issue in the Life and Death mega-arc.

So the week’s added a fair number of "imminent reads" to my alarmingly-quickly-growing "to read" pile, and I’m thinking a lot about what to cut back on sooner than not, given reading habits of the last half-year or so.

Time shall tell!

The Weekly Haul – Week of January 18th, 2017

I think this was just about the simplest, most "basic" week of comics I’ve had in months!


Just four issues, plain ‘n simple. Granted, that Kamandi Challenge is a monster of an issue…but it’s basically a small collected volume; and much like other similarly-sized issues, it’s squarebound WITH spine text, so skinny as it is compared to, say, Batman: Knightfall or such, it’ll go on the shelf. Somehow I’ve gotten it into my head that all 12 issues of the Kamandi Challenge itself will be this size, and sorta hoping so!

Of course, the latest Superman issue; and I look forward to reading The Ray‘s Rebirth issue.

I gave in on Curse Words for the hype AND actually being able to get the cover with the image I’ve come to associate with the first issue. The FAMILIAR image that’s been used with pretty much anything that’s stood out to me since the series was announced…and I think including the announcement. I do not like the price, at $3.99…but figured I’d try it anyway.

This week? No back issues, no bargain bins, no new collected volumes (if we don’t count the Kamandi issue as one). I do have a major InStockTrades purchase on its way, but that’ll either be its own post, or feed into another post, later.

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