Ed Piskor’s returns to his concise, condensed chronicles of the X-Men this past week with the first of two oversized books, X-Men Grand Designs: X-Tinction #1, looking specifically at the mid to late 80’s of the Uncanny X-Men, The New Mutants and X-Factor titles. Covering what now seems to be the last great soap opera age of storytelling, courtesy of Chris Claremont on Uncanny X-Men, Piskor has the unenviable task of condensing a publishing periods that seems to have spawned so many stone-cold classic storylines like the Mutant Massacre, Fall of the Mutants and Inferno, in a fairly short amount of time, when I look back at it all now. With Claremont destined to leave the book in the early 90’s, this comic book recounts, for me, the last time I truly followed, truly felt a connection with the X-Men, give or take the odd dive back in from time to time (e.g. when Grant Morrison took over).
It’s a dense period of publishing, what with X-Factor and The New Mutants books on the go at this time too, meaning Piskor has to incorporate events from this series into an already convoluted and cramped history. Hence, some of what I remembered to be huge events and big moments are boiled down to nothing more than the “odd skirmish” as Mister Sinister puts it when commenting on the Fall of the Mutants storyline, which spanned a total of 9 issues back in 1988 (The Uncanny X-Men issues #225–227, X-Factor issues #24–26, and The New Mutants issues #59–61). Seems some sagas had to be squashed down when trying to tell so much and from so many different sources. It’s another amazing feat by Piskor who must have devoured hundreds of comics in preparation for this series. And make sense of them all as one connected story! Excelsior, indeed.
As with his previous journeys down Memory Lane, Piskor’s brilliance in creating a cohesive read is in finding his through line narratively. In this case, its the birth and teething years of Nathan Summers, the boy destined to become Cable one day, but who’s birth in issue #201 of Uncanny X-Men is this issue’s starting point. Of course, in his subsequent kidnapping at the hands of Mister Sinister – another figure who’s shadow looms large over this book – we also get to witness Madelyne Pryor/Summers breakdown and big reveal to be a clone of Scott Summer’s one true love, Jean Grey, and her descent into evil as the Goblin Queen (although her sordid relationship with Alex Summers is glossed over entirely for some reason) and the fallout from that in Inferno and beyond.
Once again, we are treated to Piskor’s old-school colourings, washing the whole book in an appropriate sepia tone, but with one big, effective difference. His creative and clever use of white as a dominant feature that make the pages almost glow. A fitting optical effect when we are witnessing of Dazzler’s powers or Gateway’s transporting portals. Against a backdrop of sepia brown, it makes each page it appears upon pop and I imagine it’s not the last we’ve seem of this simple but ever so effective use of pure white in Piskor’s art.
Overall, some events, or narrative points, were always going to be victims to the bigger story that Piskor is telling. It’s to his credit that this street smart history of the X-Men is so gripping and engaging, given how much it does have to boil down, in some cases to but a few panels, but makes it all work wonderfully. I’ve been looking forward to this one all year and it does not disappoint.
For X-Men readers young and old, this is an essential addition to your collection. And, out now from Marvel.
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