What I thought of X Men: Grand Design #1

Marvel Comics are in trouble according to many an article out there on the interwebs, and indeed much of their monthly line (barring a few gems like Squirrel Girl and the astonishingly charming Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur) ranges from average superheroics to incompetent drivel created by people who don’t know what they’re doing. So here comes a genuine comics auteur in the shape of Ed Piskor to retell through his eyes the first 300 issues of X Men. That takes us from Kirby and Lee’s early vision, through to the Roy Thomas/Neal Adams/Jim Steranko era and then the Chris Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne era and beyond.

From the off Piskor deftly welds Golden Age stories into the mythos of the X Men not to mention Piskor is perfectly happy using sound effects to create comics not designed to be adapted for a film of TV series, but to be read and enjoyed as what they are; comics.This panel of a teenage Magneto escaping Nazis by controlling Captain America’s shield is a delight.

We were promised a coherent story as opposed to a routine retelling of the X Men’s history, and we get it. In fact the information and detail in this is extraordinary, and even if you’re used to Piskor’s work from Hip Hop Family Tree, this is dense stuff. IT is however, never tedious or boring.

Neither does Piskor shy off from going cosmic early on in the narrative.

However the timeline is stuck to as snippets and back-up stories are all pieced together to form this one driving narrative Piskor was out to achieve.

So when we come to the X Men forming as we know them in Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s first issue, we’ve had an extensive and detailed history in the equivalent of a single monthly issue of a standard American superhero comic.

X Men: Grand Design is a reminder of what made Marvel great which is that they made comics which were fun , not to mention the vision of one or two people pushing to do the best they can rather than committees of accountants or editors who have no idea how to edit. Things clearly are not right at Marvel as this interview with Ed Piskor and X Men writer Chris Claremont hints at,  but X Men: Grand Design is a joyful, loving celebration of everything that made Marvel great as well a great work of comics from a creator allowed to do what he wants. That should be a hint for Marvel as to how to make things better for the entirety of their line, but right now X Men: Grand Design is the perfect superhero comic.

What I thought of Hip Hop Family Tree #1

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These are the monthly reprints of Ed Piskor’s lovely looking large volumes of the history of hip hip he’s been doing for Fantagraphics. I’ve been meaning to pick a volume up when I’ve got a spare few quid but in the meantime here’s the first issue of the monthly comic as a taster.¬†Piskor manages to tell the story of hip hip from the days of DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash in the style of 1960’s and 70”s Marvel Comics, in particular the style of Jack Kirby.

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This could have got tired quickly especially as these early years are the subject of many a BBC Four documentary, but Piskor makes reading these tales of the creation of hip hop a sheer joy and he’s giving details that I didn’t know. For many of us living on this side of the Atlantic hip hip probably came onto our radar thanks to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five producing these two utter bits of sheer bloody genius.

Piskor’s pages crackle with the energy of those early days, but it’s not a santitised version but thanks to this pop-art Marvel Comics style Piskor uses it never becomes too mired in the deprivation of the time.

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I’ve not even heard of a lot of the acts Piskor discusses here, and names like Kid Creole come as a bit of a shock when I always thought he was a cheesy act lost in the mire of the 1980’s. As for how the term ‘hip hop’ came to be originated that’s included here too.

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Overall this is a brilliant work of history not to mention art, because this is art detailing the creation of one of the few real American artforms which is hip hop. It’s a great comic made more accessible thanks to the monthly format, but fuck it. I’m buying the collected volumes because this is genius stuff.

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There’s so much to love in this comic. Buy it!