Ed Piskor is credited as “cartoonist” in X-Men: Grand Design. I’m even sure, with the Internet, you can easily find out the last time someone got credited as a cartoonist in a Marvel book. Marvel is the antithesis of cartoonist books. Yet here we are.
With an X-Men comic no less. I should just get this statement out of the way. I can’t stand X-Men comics. Never have I ever. Because there’s always something wrong with the way the story’s being told (i.e. why has the third movie got better symbolism than anything else ever did but it still is crap). So. I’m going into this book not liking X-Men.
It’s unclear if the title’s going to be ironic. Grand Design is a comic book history of X-Men, the comic book. Piskor opens the book in “safe” Marvel territory with the Watcher. He’s telling his Iron Man-looking recorder android thing he needs to relate some history. It starts back in the forties with the Human Torch and Namor, which is pretty traditional Marvel Universe history stuff. It was in Marvels, right?
But then there are these Golden Age heroes tracking down Namor, which seems a little strange for a Golden Age story. Turns out it involves Professor X’s dad. Then there’s Captain America and Logan. And young Magneto. Only that scene never happened in a comic, it happened on a cartoon episode. Piskor’s taking all these terrible retcons and making them into what they never were, a grand design.
Wokka wokka. Or maybe Grand Design is just going to be Marvel’s branding for Piskor doing a history of The Avengers and then Spider-Man. Hint hint. Because Grand Design is something else. It’s making X-Men comics–their dumb continuity, stupid aliens, Professor X bickering with young Juggernaut, Jean Grey killing some dudes, whatever–it’s making X-Men literary. Through an amazing “cartoonist.” Piskor’s able to get about a scene a page. Professor X gets more, but they’re long sequences setting him up. Because if it’s the story of the X-Men, it’s the story of Professor X.
Only not really, because, it’s history. It’s a comic history of comics. And holy shit, it’s amazing.
Piskor’s sense of visual pacing for getting information across is unreal. He’ll go from broad summary to intense close-up–because he’s got a lot to cover. There’s Professor X, Bobby Drake, Magneto, Magneto’s kids, Jean a little, Scott, Hank. And it’s the “regular” origin and then, all of a sudden, it’s got these obvious retcons. Sometimes terrible details, but Piskor just fits them in. The storytelling style, how Piskor’s exposition reads–sorry, the Watcher’s–it’s dry, but with sympathy.
It’s a beautiful comic. Wonderful. I can’t wait until the next one, and the next one, and the next one. And then the hardcover. Because even if X-Men is goofy and often terrible, it can also be good. I think? I can’t remember. It’s pop culture now. X-Men has transcended enough. It’s just pop culture.
I can’t wait to see Piskor expertly, beautifully retell some lame X-Men comics. Wolverine and Scott are going to meet. There’s going to be Dazzler. Then there’s all that Morrison stuff I never got around to reading. And whatever the hell they’ve done since.
What if Piskor makes me enjoy reading a Deadpool comic.
I can’t wait.