X-Men Grand Design: Second Genesis #2
Ed Piskor’s thorough reimagining of the history of the X-Men continues here. In this version of X-History, Rogue steals Carol Danvers powers so that Mystique can attempt to assassinate Senators Kelly and Stern, who are attempting to complete the Mutant Registration Act. The Days of Future Past storyline never happens, in this universe, and Mystique is half successful: she murders Stern. Most of the other events in X-History remain largely the same, aside from several instances (such as the circumstances leading to Storm’s loss of powers) which occur with a few alterations, but we are promised that this assassination is a key event which will have vast repercussions for the future of this universe. This issue reworks the events from the introduction of Kitty to the loss of Storm's powers. Extinction will follow in 2019.
It is extremely difficult to condense five years worth of reimagined story continuity into one forty-five page comic, but Piskor has succeeded in a way that feels energetic rather than rushed. This is largely due to his economy of text and a strong reliance on visual style. There is extremely limited dialogue, in this series, and what text there is is largely composed of clunky blocks of exposition (primarily delivered via the auspices of The Watcher) but the visuals more than make up for any literary clunkiness. Piskor is, in many ways, the mirror twin of Claremont. He is Claremont in reverse. Where the latter showed us his characters’ inner-worlds through thought-bubbles, Piskor utilises a striking visual language. Scott Summers doesn’t say that he’s still so hung up on Jean that he’s sabotaging his relationship with Maddy.
Piskor shows him literally clutching her grave in the panel before he seals his new marriage with a kiss.
Character development happens fast, but it never feels forced. Kitty’s evolution from awkward thirteen-year-old to a young woman is signaled through the dialogue of clothes — this is absolutely appropriate for a person whose inability to dress herself has been a constant theme in the comics since her inception. Kitty’s notorious self-made Ariel costume (glitter-tights and roller skates included) gives way to her green Sprite uniform. She wears the very 80’s pink and blue ‘Professor Xavier is a Jerk’ windbreaker on her date with Peter and she dons her piratical Shadowcat costume near the close of the book.
Speaking of Kitty, the single page sequence retelling her Christmastime battle with the N’Garai demon is one of the highlights of the book. In it, we see kitty express her fear, exhibit determination, and eventually her first intimations of maturity as she triumphs.
Anyone who might have felt shortchanged by Storm’s lack of development in the last issue had their patience rewarded, here. Storm gets the lion’s share of growth. She takes over leadership of the X-Men on the day of Stern’s assassination. She reveals near Phoenix-levels of power in her confrontation with Doom (that shot of him playing with a Storm-doll in the opening pages of the book was hilarious) and the condensed nature of this text really emphasizes the ways that this leadership role hardens her — although she doesn’t shave her hair into a mohawk until after her confrontation with Forge.
Rogue’s forced, painful change of character (as Carol’s living ghost gnashes its teeth in her heels) was beautiful and rewarding. Her eventual absorption into the X-Family felt natural and earned.
One more thing, before I close: this book has some very heavy themes, a good grasp of character psychology, and some genuinely affecting moments, but there’s a lot of humor leavening the dough. The book is absolutely peppered with visual jokes — whether it’s the aforementioned Doom-doll or fight scenes which were clearly modeled on pro-wrestling. There are so many details, there’s so much story to this book, that not only will the reader be rewarded by multiple passages through the text, re-reading is almost a requirement for enjoyment.
I’m not going to heap blind praise on Piskor’s head, however. I have one major complaint:
It could have used more Nightcrawler.
Seriously. Everything’s better with Nightcrawler. Give him another limited series, already, Marvel! Need a writer for it? Call me. I’ll do it for free. That’s pretty much it, though.
A dense, joyous, occasionally frightening, often-hilarious reimagining of five years worth of X-Lore. This is an essential read for fans of all stripes. Plus, there's a panel in which Dr. Doom plays with a Barbie.
X-Men Grand Design: Second Genesis #2, Forge Gets His Gun
Writing - 9.5/109.5/10
Storyline - 9.5/109.5/10
Art - 10/1010/10
Color - 9/109/10
Cover Art - 9.5/109.5/10
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