Eisner Award-winning comic book creator Ed Piskor launches the third and final installment of his acclaimed X-Men: Grand Design trilogy in X-Tinction #1, continuing the streamlined retelling of the X-Men's lengthy history in the Marvel Universe. Just as the middle installment, Second Genesis, ended with the Dark Phoenix Saga from the early '80s, this new chapter opens in the mid-80s to recount several classic stories from the era. In doing so, Piskor delivers another solid chapter that makes the intimidatingly convoluted history of Marvel's Merry Mutants completely accessible in this throwback love letter to the franchise.
With X-Tinction, Piskor retells several classic moments in X-Men history, from the Mutant Massacre targeting the Morlocks in the sewers under New York City to Mister Sinister kidnapping Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor's infant son to conduct genetic experiments on him and bring him to the far-future. It is a considerable amount of material to cover, but, as before, Piskor is more than up to the task, eliminating the more extraneous and confusing elements of the story to present the period's history in a full, organic story rather than an uninspired, long-form recap.
Unlike Grand Design or Second Genesis, X-Tinction largely operates with the understanding that readers have at least a passing familiarity with this time period of the X-Men. At this point, the property is steeped in its own legacy rather than the franchise's origin story in the 1960s or 1975's Giant-Size X-Men #1 relaunch that served as a fresh jumping on point with its expanded, new cast. As such, for readers that may not be aware of the status of the property during the mid-80s, the story is less accessible than its immediate predecessors but still does not require an extensive knowledge of X-Men history to follow along; the team and its new status quo has been set, so this installment definitely hits the ground running.
While Second Genesis leaned more into the sci-fi side of the X-Men's history, X-Tinction leans more into its metaphysical elements, leading to a much more fantastical retelling and, perhaps, making it a little less iconic than its predecessors. That being said, Piskor retains his voice through the scripting and artwork, used the same aged newsprint style presentation that makes the whole book feel like of an art project than a comic book; a concentrated dose of nostalgia in an oversized special issue.
Less effective are sequences within the issue taking place in the spirit realm where Storm and Forge spend much of the chapter. For these scenes, Piskor uses a deliberately faded approach to visuals and text to reflect its astral nature but it can be distracting and hard to make out in some cases, especially with the already aged presentation of the book overall. And while the era had its fair share of strange and unusual characters, even for the X-Men, not much time is given to introduce them with several characters seemingly walking in and out of the narrative to perform their needed role before disappearing back in the four-color ether.
Overall, the first issue of X-Men: Grand Design - X-Tinction sucessfully continues Ed Piskor's exhaustive, one-man love letter to the entire history of X-Men comics. While not quite as accessible as the earlier installments, Piskor is able to impressively streamline the convoluted franchise into an easy to follow narrative that re-presents several key moments in the property as it moves ever-closer to the 90s era where the X-Men reached their commercial peak. And with the knowledge that Piskor's ambitious project is nearly at an end, the first issue of X-Tinction marks the beginning of a bittersweet end to one award-winning cartoonist's look back at the franchise that helped him fall in love with the medium in the first place, sharing his own personal perspective of classic stories from days gone by to a new generation of readers.