Currently in their sixth decade of existence, the X-Men are some of the most iconic characters in comics and pop culture today. And what better way to celebrate almost sixty years with a unique tribute from one of the brightest talents working in comics today.
Ed Piskor has a clear passion for classic comics. His best known work Hip Hop Family Tree (a history of the evolution of hip hop) was as much a tribute to the Marvel comics he read in his youth as it was a historical account of an innovative musical genre – right down to the tributes to famous Marvel covers and the old school brown newsprint paper stock. Now he takes that same level of passion to his latest project X-Men: Grand Design – a love letter to the series that played a huge part of his childhood.
This collection, of the first two part series, has several factors working in its favour. Firstly, it uses the classic oversized Marvel Treasury Edition format that is not only a nice throwback, but also means that it now fits alongside Fantagraphics’ original oversized editions of Hip Hop Family Tree. Secondly, it also reuses the same style of aged brown paper that will take any comic reader back in time the moment they open the book by smell alone. But most importantly, it is a fitting tribute to the classic X-Men stories of the Silver Age and beyond.
The basic gist is that this is a chronological history of the X-Men that The Watcher is recounting to the Recorder with the bulk of this collection covers the classic X-Men stories of the 60s (with a few exceptions such as Wolverine’s first meeting with Captain America, early hints of the Phoenix Force, and Cyclops’ father forming the Starjammers). These include the formation of the original X-Men line-up, the origin and first appearances of the Juggernaut, Mimic’s clash with the team and brief turbulent time as a member and the early appearances of Magneto and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and many more. Piskor does a terrific job at taking elements from several stories from different creators and giving them a unified voice. The old school style of narration is also a nice touch and fits perfectly for this style of story. It has a very authentic feel that evokes the style of storytelling Stan Lee, Roy Thomas and Chris Claremont are known for.
But most impressive is the art. Piskor has a delightfully old-school style that wears its influences proudly with elements of both classic X-Men artists like Jack Kirby and the alternative comic artists that helped spark his interest in the genre. It would not be out of place with any other X-Men comics of the era. To top it off, the collection has some great bonus features including Piskor’s early X-Men fan art from when he was a child and some pieces he did in his early years as an artist. But the best has to be the reprint of X-Men #1 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby that has been recoloured by Piskor himself and is a perfect way to book end this first collection.
Fans of Ed Piskor will find this work fits seamlessly with his previous volumes of Hip Hop Family Tree and for any X-Men fans, this is a must read time capsule that encapsulates everything that made the series so great. Beyond that, anyone who has a nostalgia itch or wants something slightly less cynical in their comics will find plenty to love in this stunning collection.
X-Men: Grand Design by Ed Piskor is out on 17 April from Marvel (9781302904890, p/b, £24.99)