If someone asks you where to start reading X-Men comics, most answers boil down to this: “That depends – how much time do you have?” That’s not to say there aren’t good jumping on points, but whatever answer you give usually comes with a “but.” “The Dark Phoenix Saga” is essential, but… New X-Men #114 is good, but… Try Astonishing X-Men, but… If you want to get into the X-Men, you need to do your homework, and that’s an understandable turn off to new readers.
There is no single comic-book franchise whose canon is more convoluted than that of the X-Men. It’s for that exact reason that the recently announced X-Men: Grand Design is a breath of relief for both long-time fans and newcomers alike. Helmed by Eisner award-winning cartoonist Ed Piskor, Grand Design will cover the first 280 issues of the Uncanny X-Men, starting with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original run and finishing up with the end of Chris Claremont’s 16-year stint as the book’s writer. Considering the X-Men’s penchant for crossovers, we can expect Piskor to dip into a couple of the franchise’s spin-off series as well, such as The New Mutants and X-Factor.
Grand Design is set to run for six 40-page issues. That’s a lot of content to pack into such a small amount of space. This shouldn’t be a problem for Piskor, however. A longtime X-Men fan, he’s spent the last five-years condensing the entire history of hip-hop culture in Hip Hop Family Tree. That’s right, the entire history. The first volume covers the 1970s up until 1981, with each subsequent volume covering a single year.
Since their 1963 debut, Marvel’s merry mutants have been burdened with dozens of spinoffs, retroactive continuity changes, and abandoned plotlines. Take Jean Grey for example. Her transformation into the Phoenix was originally the result of her abilities reaching their full potential. This was later changed to the Phoenix Force being a cosmic entity that had came to Earth and taken the form of Jean Grey, while the original Jean was placed in a healing cocoon and left at the bottom of Jamaica Bay.
Even something as simple as Wolverine’s claws has a convoluted history. Originally they weren’t part of his mutation; they were bionic implants that were added during the Weapon X procedure. They were later retconned to be pre-existing bone-claws that were coated with Adamantium.
So how do you condense roughly 30 years of X-Men comics without it becoming a dry information overload; a pseudo-Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, or something that reads with as much depth and excitement as a Wikipedia entry?
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