Review by Frank Plowright
With the third oversized instalment of his X-Men history Ed Piskor’s narrative heads into a complex era and for the first time he no longer has the space to explain all new characters and their backgrounds. Forge, who came to prominence at the end of Second Genesis is given context, but there’s nothing for Psylocke, while Longshot is summarised in a caption.
As with the previous volumes, it’s appreciated that Piskor doesn’t just copy the art from the original comics, but offers alternative viewpoints, and still provides interesting differences. The sample art is Storm crossing between dimensions where time passes differently, the disorienting unreality provided by fading the art and restricting the colour.
Despite much being the same as the previous two Grand Designs outings, this is the weakest of the three books. Firstly Piskor is attempting to fit a greater number of original issues into the same page count. Secondly, those issues are monumentally more complicated than previous stories, as original writer Chris Claremont really expanded his idea of what the X-Men could be involved with. However, in broadening his horizons the original stories weren’t as entertaining as Claremont’s earlier work. Piskor transfers the melodrama, and the expanded cast, but in compressing the history too many of the changes seem trivial. Storm loses her powers, then regains them. The X-Men are hidden from public view, then they’re not. It’s an inevitable consequence of the format, and this is even with Piskor making sympathetic decisions about what’s important to highlight. Madelyne Prior, though, is a character who really benefits from Piskor’s retelling, her story here transmitting as far more tragic than when rolled out over several years of continuity in the 1980s, while Jubilee’s introduction is also well handled.
Right at the end Piskor drops a smart piece of storytelling. A pivotal piece of X-Men history was curiously absent from Second Genesis, and the presumption was the complications of that story wouldn’t be simply compressed when Piskor needed to fit so much in. That’s wrong. Instead he’s chosen to rejig the narrative and slot it in here. It surprises and fits solidly with what events have built to.
The treasury sized finale also includes a favourite Claremont/Jim Lee story recoloured by Piskor, and the entire Grand Designs story is also available in an Omnibus edition.