Staff Picks – Week of 14/02/2018

X-Men: Grand Design #1 & #2
Ed Piskor
Marvel Comics

Adam says: Covering the earliest adventures of the very first team of X-Men assembled by Professor Charles Xavier in the mid-1960s, “Grand Design” is a loving work of comics microhistory by a singularly talented artist.

With the X-Men having without a doubt the most convoluted continuity in all of Marvel Comics, and given the current meandering, identity-lacking plethora of X-books in recent years [excepting “Worst X-Man Ever” which you really oughta read] – given the landscape, Ed Piskor’s efforts to distil the sprawling history of the world’s foremost hated & feared mutant superhero team down to a digestible remix here make for a very, very welcome sight on stands.

Piskor has done his homework and configured a coherent narrative, peppered with his own gorgeous flourishes. His dense retro-styled-but-innovative cartooning make this a much slower read than most contemporary comics. These two bumper issues are treats to pore over at the most leisurely pace. Honest characterisation, distinctive voices, wonderful composition, clever layouts, considered colouring: this MC is in a field of his own at the moment.

Like his other work of microhistory which brought Piskor to prominence, “Hip-Hop Family Tree”, it’s interesting to see that when pushed, Marvel can in fact match production values with the likes of Fantagraphics. Expect these first two issues to be collected in a big ol’ treasury-sized trade soon, as well. Won’t be cheap though, so grab these handy reprints while you can.

Mister Miracle: Director’s Cut #1
Tom King (w), Mitch Gerads (a)
DC Comics

Thomas says: I love these Director’s Cuts as a concept. Usually they’re just used as an excuse to reprint the hit of the moment, but every once and a while that money grubbing dovetails with a book of quality that is deserving of further examination and this is just such a book.

My feelings towards this title are well known, so of course I was excited about taking a peek at the nuts and bolts of how this book came to be. Not only does this book give us the script and original pencils but it also includes brand new content to go with the reprint, a prologue to the series that acts as a re-cap of what went before.

This is a great series and possibly the best book that DC has put out in years and this Director’s Cut is a fantastic supplement.

Invincible #144
Robert Kirkman (w), Ryan Ottley & Cory Walker (a)
Image Comics

Ryan says: My pick this week is one that I’d hoped I’d never have to write and simultaneously one I’m proud to address – the final issue of perhaps my favourite superhero title of all time, “Invincible”.

With this series Kirkman and Walker (and soon after, Ottley) set out to honour their favourite tropes of traditional superhero comics, and at the same time subvert them, throwing in curveballs no-one could’ve expected. It’s by far one of the strongest superhero comics of the 2000’s, made with characters with relatable motivations, sprawling action that puts Hollywood blockbusters to shame, tender heartfelt emotional moments, humour that’ll make you blurt out an ugly laugh in public, and arcing storylines that impact the world around them. Simply put, it’s brilliantly formulated and well-worth indulging in if you’ve not done so already.

And in the spirit of subverting the norms of superhero books, a decision was made to bring the series to a definitive end, which began a conclusive 12-issue storyline, “The End of All Things”. Issue #144 is our twelfth and final instalment, and without giving anything away, it tackles the subject of legacy. It’s a double-sized issue that takes full advantage of the extra page-count, with a story (which poetically features the shared artistic talents of both Ottley and Walker) that follows Mark’s family over the coming decade and admittedly tugs on more than a few heart strings.

As sad as I am to see the series end, I’m glad it ended on its own terms, and this final exceptional issue was an absolute pleasure to read. I hope more titles of this genre take note of what made Invincible so phenomenal, and look forward to the books to come from members of this creative team (notably, Kirkman’s “Oblivion Song”, due out in March).

Twisted Romance #2
Alejandra Gutiérrez, Alex de Campi, Vita Ayala & Meredith McClaren
Image Comics

Will says: Twisted Romance is a weekly mini-series that gives us a modern take on romance stories from comics of the 1950s such as Weird Love and Young Romance. Get ready for some steamy love stories that will pull on your heartstrings, make you blush and occasionally weird you out. It’s an anthology of short stories which stands out so much to me because of it’s stunning artwork! Each issue has an A and B comic with different artists, along with a back-up prose story. Last week saw the talented Katie Skelly tackle how deadly love can be (with the back up story by Sarah Horrocks!) and this week we are treated by the delightful drawings of Alejandra Gutiérrez and Meredith McClaren. Very excited to see what twisted romance story is in store for us next week. Sparks are flying and I have definitely been swept off my feet by this comic!

Jack Kirby Collector # 73

Karl says: Here it is again folks, the latest instalment in the guide to all things Kirby, and issue 73 is a cracking issue crackling with news, reviews and believe it or not new insights and facts about the King of the Comics.

How these writers manage to mine new facts and gems regarding the miraculous body of work given to us by Jack is simply testament to the sheer depth and quality of the artwork and storytelling. A touching editorial by TwoMorrows head honcho John Morrow opens the magazine and among the many excellent articles is a piece on the unlikely and long standing friendship between Kirby and avant garde musical menace Frank Zappa, they planned to collaborate on a comic strip! A feature on Captain Britain brings to light a delightful sketch for an early British comic convention featuring your ever loving blue eyed Thing wearing a Grenadier Guards uniform and Bearskin Hat! Worth the price of admission alone! I always learn something I didn’t know from this publication, this time it’s the outlandish fact that Frank Zappa was the first choice to compose the music for Star Wars! He wasn’t interested.