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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.

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X-Men Origins: Gambit #1 [Review]

Random Acts of Redemption

Writer: Mike Carey
Artists: David Yardin and Kraim Roberson
Colorist: Nathan Fairbairn
Letterer: Rob Steen
Assistant Editor: Daniel Ketchum
Editor: Nick Lowe
Cover: David Yardin
Publisher: Marvel Comics

I broke a personal rule for this issue: I actually paid the $3.99 cover price for it–a price that I despise and on the whole make a point of avoiding on principle alone. However, it’s a one-shot, and I count 30 pages of story, which is slightly higher than a standard issue.

The story of this issue basically follows Gambit–Remy Lebeau–from childhood until what I believe is the incident that introduced him to the X-Men (though I’ve never actually read his first appearance). This is a bit of a recap sort of issue, taking what’s been revealed and established through the years on the character and putting it into a single chronological narrative. That feat is accomplished quite well, and I enjoyed the story as its presented here. It’s also interesting to compare to what I remember of the Gambit series that ran for a couple years back in the late 90s/early 2000 to this…I’m pretty sure that a lot of the story here is based on what was established in that series.

Carey does an excellent job of boiling things down and hitting “the main points” of Gambit’s background. It’s kinda hard to believe (in a way) just how little was known (established) for so long about this character in the first few years of his existence, particularly throughout the 1990s…I’d be quite curious as to how one would “read” those issues in light of currently-established facets of the character, and see how all the cryptic comments/references to vague events hold up–how well more recent writers have fit things to those.

The art somehow reminds me a bit of the Ender’s Game/Shadow books–moreso with the coloring, I think. The style works well, and it’s enjoyable to see the “modern” take on glimpses at 20-year-old events in the X-Universe…characters look as they should on the whole, but the art style is obviously in line with this book as a whole.

If you’re a Gambit fan, this issue’ll be well worth snagging if you haven’t already (I had to wait an extra week as it sold out at my local shop the first week). As a one-shot with extra pages, it’s even worthwhile if–like me–you hate paying $4 for any single issue.

Story: 8/10
Art: 7.5/10
Whole: 8/10

and FINALLY…the Hulk.

Just in time for a certain new movie due out, This scene can appear on my shelf:

3.75"-scale Hulk vs. Wolverine
3.75″-scale Hulk vs. Wolverine
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