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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.


Secret Origins: Ziggy

It was a late August day back in 2010, Dad left a voicemail on my cell. A bit cryptic–simply telling me to call him. As my aunt was in the hospital for something, I immediately feared the worst, and called in a panic…only to find out it wasn’t anything urgent.

Dad had been online and came across a Craigslist listing for a cat at a nearby shelter, and Mom had insisted that he needed my blessing before there’d be any consideration of getting this cat, as I was in visiting often, and it’d only been a few months since we’d lost Kayla after having her over 18 years.

I found the listing Dad had seen, and immediately approved.


The shelter had him tagged as "Sigmund." I’d planned to add "Dewey" to that, both for the library-cat and figuring it would sound quite distinguished. Sigmund Dewey.

The shelter had posted the listing too early, so Dad had to wait a few days–they had to allow time for notification any potential owners to come in and reclaim him. During that time, I recall posting in a blog at cxPulp that whether he knew it or not, this was a lucky little cat–because though he was in a shelter for the then-moment, he either had a family that would reclaim him…or he already had a family that wanted him.

And as things went, on September 7th, 2010, Dad went in. As he’s told me, he walked into the place, and even with the other cats meowing and reaching out and clamoring for attention–Dad only had eyes for Sigmund.

…Sigmund, who huddled in the back of the cage and wanted nothing to do with anyone, let alone being pulled out of the cage. But Dad got him out, and that day, he brought this cat into my life.

My conscious plan was to "tolerate" this cat, to "put up with" its presence…I wouldn’t be mean or anything, but I’d be indifferent–he was gonna be Dad’s cat.

That evening after work, I drove the hour in to meet this cat. Such a significant thing, adopting anyone new into your life–and I had to see this cat for myself.

One look at him and I got down on the floor to get his attention. He wasn’t sure of me at first, but then came over to check me out, and allowed me to touch him. (And for the rest of his life, "our thing" was that I was the one that would get down on the floor with him, so he almost never would hop up onto me).

While we were talking, the matter of his name came up, and Mom had a slip of the tongue, clearly saying Ziggy where Dad was calling him Siggy (for Sigmund).

The cat looked RIGHT at her, and we realized in that moment that THAT was his name.

He was Ziggy.

And he got several "pet names" or nicknames. In my own recollection, I most think of "Little Buddy" from Dad, as he’d call Ziggy or get his attention. (And that he was, he was Dad’s little buddy!). To me, he was "Handsome Cat" (cuz I thought Handsome more fitting than Pretty or Beautiful, though those absolutely fit as well). And to everyone, he was also just Zig, or Zig-Zig, or such. But Ziggy was what his "full name" has always been, at least to me. Just like I’m Walter, but go by Walt. He was Ziggy, though he’d go by others as well.


The first photo above is the photo from the original listing, the very first photo I ever saw of him, the very first, period, that I ever saw OF him.

And just above, him resting on Mom, is the final photo I have of him.

The very earliest photo I have of him. And the very last.

Dad brought him into my life on September 7, 2010. And I had to say goodbye to this sweetest, gentlest cat I have ever known, on December 7, 2017.

And in between these photos?

I have THOUSANDS more. It takes all I have right now to hold it together just handling these two photos right now. I’ve shared hundreds, maybe thousands of photos of him before–on Facebook, in messages to friends, occasionally in this very blog.

And I know I will share even more yet, as I somehow learn to live in a world without this precious little cat. I can’t begin to find the proper words, in the proper order and quantity, to feel I’m doing the little guy justice. And as I break down now typing this, I can only say that this is far from the last I’ll have to share of him. But though he’s at peace now…

It is us, those left behind–Me, Dad, Mom, our other cat Chloe, friends and family who knew him–that suffer. Hurt. Have to pick up the pieces of broken hearts.

And me?

Absolutely nothing in my life before this has ever hurt so much, or affected me as this has.

Ziggy Kneeland.

Sigmund Dewey.

Little Buddy.

Handsome Cat.



This quiet, gentlest of spirits…

So very, VERY loved, and missed more terribly than words alone can ever begin to describe.


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