As promised for a few weeks, the mighty review catch-up begins! Rather than make them exactly chronological, I’m grouping recent releases in ways that make sense. Today, we’re checking out two Hasbro Pulse Marvel Legends exclusives: The Hellfire Club boxed set, and the “army-builder” Hellfire Club Guard.
Comics History: The Hellfire Club first appeared during the fabled “Dark Phoenix Saga” in (Uncanny) X-Men #129, cover-dated January 1980. Their appearance here informs the design of the four figures in the boxed set, as well as the Guard. You probably know that the Club tried to both recruit Kitty Pryde and seduce Jean Grey into becoming the club’s Black Queen, thanks to the manipulations of Jason Wyngarde, aka Mastermind. The idea of the Club, created by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, has its roots in both history (“Hellfire Clubs” were a real thing where powerful people would indulge in particular behaviors behind closed doors) and pop culture (one such club appeared in the “A Touch of Brimstone” episode of the U.K. series The Avengers in 1966; the updated look and name of Mastermind is inspired by actor Peter Wyngarde, who appeared in that episode). Two members of the Club, Emma Frost and Sebastian Shaw, continue to play crucial roles in the X-books today. Frost and Shaw are included in the boxed set, as are Donald Pierce (who also appeared in #129) and Jean Grey (in her Black Queen garb). The set also produces an opportunity to make later Black Queen Selene, which you’ll see. The Hellfire Club guards debuted in the Dark Phoenix arc as well, and had a showdown with Wolverine in the scene that made him a breakout star in issue #133.
The packaging of the boxed set is very cool. The outside evokes the club gates. Inside is an invitation reminiscent of the one that Angel received. There’s an inset piece of art of the four characters represented, and the background art looks like the Inner Circle’s private chambers. It’s beautifully done.
Let’s take a look at the figure . . .
White Queen Emma Frost: There have been Emma Frost figures before, a couple of which were unfortunate. The Walgreens exclusive version was actually a terrific figure in a more modern costume, but fans had always wanted this original iteration of Emma. It’s fantastic. This is pretty much exactly how I always wanted to see Emma Frost represented. The cape detailing and the clasp are on point. The bright blue eye shadow is both comic accurate and of the period when Emma first appeared. Despite the hit or miss nature of heel-booted figures in the standing department, I found Emma easy to pose and stand. This is a really strong entry for the series.
Black King Sebastian Shaw: It’s about time. Shaw has been a significant antagonist for the X-Men for 40 years now, even appearing in X-Men: First Class. And yet, here’s the first-ever figure. I’m happy to report that it’s a good one. Yes, Shawn and Pierce appear to use the same body when Pierce should be thinner, but that’s almost a quibble, considering the fact that these even exist. The face sculpt is pretty much perfect, and the overall design is great. I like the slide off cuffs that facilitate easy changing of the interchangeable hands. I used a fist for the display because Shaw’s power (observing impact and converting it to strength) is obviously a physical one. Cool figure.
White Bishop Donald Pierce: Pierce is a cyborg, and later becomes leader of the Reavers. His cybernetic nature is reflected in the interchangeable cyborg hands included in the set. There’s also a blaster that I deemed him, considering his use of weapons with the Reavers and so on. Frankly, I’m just glad that this got made at all.
Black Queen Jean Grey/Selene: There was a previous Black Queen Jean Grey figure that was a Toys R Us Exclusive. It’s . . . not great. This one is, though. Yes, the body is basically a repaint of the Emma Frost body, but that Jean head sculpt is dynamite. I’m choosing to display mine with the Selene head; Selene was a significant antagonist for years, and deserves to be represented on the shelf. I really like the Selene expression, which reads as “queen bitch.” Not wrong. Unsurprisingly, the figure comes with a whip as an accessory.
Hellfire Club Guard (not in set): This is exactly what I want from an army-builder figure. He’s got the details right, he’s got appropriate accessories, and he doesn’t cost as much as the other figures. Thank you, Hasbro! Even if this guy is a low-frills affair, he’s still very accurate (mask looks great) and provides an extra layer to your Marvel collection. I’m a big fan of the army-builder concept, and I hope to see Hasbro continue to employ it in a number of ways.
Downers: The boxed set as a whole is great, and I’m glad to see certain figures addressed. However, there’s a downer in that two Club members are conspicuous by their absence: Mastermind, and Harry Leland. I can understand Leland not being here, as he would necessitate a bigger figure and might make an appropriate BAF or a bigger exclusive someday. Mastermind’s absence is noticeable because a) he’s one of the story drivers of the arc, and b) He first fought the X-Men all the way back in #4. I’d really like to see Hasbro do both the Hellfire Mastermind and the original Brotherhood of Evil Mutants take. I feel like they’re both pretty necessary for a complete, classic Hellfire Club (note to Hasbro: see, I’m not stomping my foot for Friedrich von Roehm or something.)
Tell us what you think, readers. Have a safe holiday!
When Chris Claremont was handed the reins in Uncanny X-Men #94, he took the opportunity to put his stamp on almost every facet of their world – and the mutant metaphor was no exception. Given his xtra-ordinarily long tenure on the X-books, it would be impossible to cover his contributions in one essay, so this will be the first in a series of essays exploring how Claremont mutated the metaphor.
As I mentioned way back in Week 4, it took a while for Claremont to bring in the metaphor, and even then the issue is more of an homage to Uncanny X-Men #57 (which he had helped with as an intern) rather than a fully-fledged creation of his own. His “voice” begins to really sing with “the Phoenix Saga” (#97-108), but as I’ve talked about elsewhere, the Phoenix Saga really sings more as a space opera and personal drama rather than a story about what it means to be a mutant.
However, I will argue that Uncanny X-Men #129 is where Claremont really starts to say something about the mutant metaphor with the introduction of his first new mutant antagonists, the Hellfire Club.
So what is the Hellfire Club and what does it stand for?
Filthy Rich, Emphasis on the Filthy
First, and most importantly, they are the 1%. Indeed, the Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club are a diverse array of different kinds of wealth: Sebastian Shaw is a 19th-century robber baron brought into the 20th century, a “self-made man” who thinks only in terms of dominating other people yet hides his feelings of cultural inferiority behind the façade of an emphasis-on-the-rugged individualist; Emma Frost is New England old money, although to be fair her inheritance of Frost Industries from her emotionally-abusive WASP father was in addition to her own fortune earned through her own business savvy (supplemented with telepathic insider trading); Harry Leland is a corrupt corporate lawyer who used murder to move up the ladder; and Donald Pierce is a mutant-hating cyborg industrialist (presumably one of the left-overs of Edward Buckman’s human-only Council of the Chosen).
This is, incidentally, why I’ve previously referred to the Hellfire Club as “neoliberal” as opposed to your classic country-club type: they have both human and mutant members (despite the fact that a lot of their human members are violent eliminationist anti-mutant bigots), they’re racially integrated (Emmanuel da Costa, Sunspot’s father, an Afro-Brazilian businessman, becomes the White Rook; Sebastian’s half-Japanese illegitimate son, becomes Black King for a time), half of their Inner Circle are women (although I’ll get to their issues with gender later). Indeed, the Hellfire Club is almost a classic Marxist’s view of the bourgeoisie; that all other considerations – race, religion, nationality, gender – have been subordinated to capital:
But for all that the Club is open to self-made “powerful industrialists,” the Hellfire Club is distinctly not Silicon Valley “disrupter” types or Sunset Belt ultra-conservatives: they are the Establishment. As Neil Shyminsky describes them, the Hellfire Club “isn’t planning to take over the world. One gets the impression that they don’t need to because they *already* control it.” This is why their headquarters isn’t a secret volcano base on Skull Island but rather a mansion on Fifth Avenue with a view of Central Park, and why the Club’s organizational manifestation is not an evil corporation (a la Roxxon or Alchemax) but rather a social club which hosts the most exclusive parties in New York:
The insidious, all-encompassing influence of the Hellfire Club – the fact that their membership includes not only the “economic elite” but also the “social [and] political” elite of both the first and second worlds (as Colossus’ comment indicates) – is what makes them truly dangerous to the X-Men, who for all their power have almost no cultural capital in human society. Thus, in the wake of their climactic showdown in #134, the Hellfire Club uses public relations and insider influence as one of their main weapons against the X-Men:
Hellfire Club’s establishment status is also linked to their motivations as
antagonists. Unlike the Sentinels, the Purifiers/Stryker’s Crusade, the Friends
of Humanity, or the Genoshan Magistrates, the Hellfire Club isn’t motivated by
anti-mutant prejudice, but rather by the single-minded pursuit of power in all
aspects of life.
than being existential opponents, therefore, the Hellfire Club view the X-Men
as merely instrumental. As Cyclops puts it in #132, they’re “a group of
industrialists out to rule the world. They view mutant-kind – and the X-Men –
as a means to achieving that goal.”
The Hellfire Club’s commitment to capitalist ideology shows itself in their internal organization, which closely follows the precepts of social Darwinism. For all that the Inner Circle might cooperate for mutual profit, they ultimately view one another as competitors in a winner-take-all struggle for power:
The looming conflict between Sebastian Shaw and Jason Wyngarde is hardly an exception to the rule: Shaw achieved his position by killing Edward Buckman and Emma Frost by killing Paris Seville; Emma Frost and Shaw will conspire to try to assassinate Selene; Sebastian Shaw will later be ousted by Magneto, Shaw, and Selene; Shinobi Shaw will challenge both his father and Selene for leadership; and most recently, Emma Frost manipulated the X-Men into helping her overthrow Shaw and become the Black King. Indeed, one could think of the history of the leadership of the Hellfire Club as so many hostile takeovers and corporate mergers (in the case of the X-Men’s later alliance and temporary membership as White Kings).
Fais Ce Que Tu Voudras
Not everything about the Hellfire Club can be explained by capitalism, if only because something has to explain why their uniform trends less toward business casual than the bondage section of Fredericks of Hollywood. So if the first thing about the Hellfire Club is that they’re neoliberals, the second thing is that they’re hedonists:
is this attitude confined to the guests whose privilege the Inner Circle seeks
to exploit: to the extent that we get inside the heads of the Hellfire Club’s
leadership, we learn that Jason Wyngarde believes that “in all our souls lurk a
devil, a yang counterpart to the surface yin” which he seeks to free “from its
moral cage”; similarly, Emma Frost thinks to herself that “in this, as in all
things, my pleasure will not be denied.”
belief that the rich and powerful should be free to throw off the bonds of
morality and taboo, but safely behind closed doors so that their position in
society won’t suffer from public disapproval, makes Marvel’s Hellfire Club very
much the intellectual heir to its real-world counterparts. There were, in fact,
two 18th century British social clubs that operated under the name
of the Hellfire Club. The Duke of Wharton’s Hellfire Club was noted for its
satirizing of Christianity – members claimed to be devils, conducted mock
religious ceremonies, and dined off a menu that satirized transubstantiation –
and the fact that it included men and women as equal members. Sir Francis
Dashwood’s Hellfire Club (which included the notorious gambling addict and
culinary inventor the Earl of Sandwich, the artist William Hogarth, and the
radical journalist and politician John Wilkes) had its anti-clerical elements –
Dashwood rented out a former abbey and brought in sex workers dressed as nuns
for entertainment – but leaned heavily in the direction of paganism,
worshipping Bacchus and Venus and Priapus through the usual methods of
fermentation and fornication. Crucially for this point, Dashwood’s club took as
its motto “fais ce que tu voudras” (do what thou wilt), which they borrowed
from Rabelais and which would in turn inspire Aleister Crowley.
all that these groups were more about over-intellectualizing wanting to drink
and have sex more than the church would approve of, they struck something of a
chord in the public imagination and so the Hellfire Club stuck around in
sensational literature and media throughout the 19th century,
eventually leading to the “A Touch of Brimstone” episode of the U.K Avengers
show which inspired Claremont and Byrne to create the first half of the Dark
At the same time, there’s something very safely heteronormative about the Hellfire Club’s particular brand of hedonism: only the women are dressed up as fetish maids or dommes (and its noticeable that the putative female leaders of the Inner Circle differ from the help only in that they get to wear capes over their corsets), whereas the men remain fully covered-up in their faux-regency knee britches and tailcoats. (One wonders whether Emma will change the dress code to something more authentically BDSM now that she’s the Black King.) It’s very reminiscent of the way that Hugh Hefner tried to cash in on the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s without incorporating women’s liberation or the gay rights movement into his worldview. No wonder then, that even Warren Worthington III who’s hardly the wokest of X-Men even on his best day, sees the Hellfire Club as not much of a radical challenge to conventional morality:
Indeed, Ann Nocenti even addresses the blatant sexual imbalance in the Hellfire Club’s presentation and practice in Classic X-Men #34 , when Emma Frost has a changing room heart-to-heart with an unnamed Hellfire Club waitress about systemic sexism:
While her argument isn’t exactly persuasive – the waitress has much less of a choice in her choice of “weaponry” – it’s almost over-determined that this era of Emma Frost would lean much more in the direction of Camille Paglia than Gloria Steinem, or that her particular line would focus so heavily on the uses of “weaponized sexuality” and her own personal rise to power as both a survivor of sexist institutions and a superior being (both because of her appearance and her mutant power), rather than a systemic critique or collective attack on said institutions. One can only imagine what Emma Frost’s Lean In circle meetings are like.
In addition to the issue of gendered self-presentation, there’s something else problematic in the way that the Hellfire Club practices kink. Even taking into account that the fictional scenarios of BDSM aren’t the same thing as the praxis of the community and that the Hellfire Club are fictional antagonists, it’s interesting that the members of the Hellfire Club don’t practice kink among themselves; it’s only their employees and their prisoners who get stripped down and tied up. In other words, Hellfire Club kink is done entirely without negotiation, consent, or trust. While Jean Grey’s extended gaslighting/mind-control is the more famous case, one of the creepiest examples comes in Uncanny X-Men #152, where it’s implied that Sebastian Shaw and Emma Frost have sex using Storm’s body:
this does prompt the normally-pacifist Ororo Monroe to try to kill both of them
immediately after she reverses the mind-swap, I’m surprised that we don’t see
more callbacks to this profound violation. However, the fact that Emma and
Sebastian choose Storm specifically speaks to a broader attitude of privilege
and entitlement to the bodies of people they view as “lesser.” In turn, I think
this explains a lot about the particular Mills and Boon scenario that Jason
Wyngarde puts in Jean Grey’s head:
A Better Sort of X
The third key ingredient that goes into making the Hellfire Club is that they are (mostly) mutants, and yet are largely unaffected by their X-gene status. Unlike pretty much every other mutant group (regardless of their ideology), from the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants to the X-Men or even the Morlocks (another subject I’ll get to in the future), the Hellfire Club elite not only don’t experience anti-mutant prejudice, but they neither live openly as mutants nor go to particular lengths to hide their mutant identity, and don’t think of themselves as mutants who are part of a broader community.
If we try to describe Hellfire Club ideology on the mutant question from their actions, we see a perverse equality. Rather than showing any kind of solidarity or fellowship, the Inner Circle treat mutants like any other member of the 99% who they are happy to exploit, rule over, and abuse. For me, the key imagery here is that, before we see any of them as individuals, Anglo-American Chris Claremont depicts them as Tory fox-hunters pursuing the most dangerous game:
social commentary goes, a bunch of rich Tories literally hunting the poor is
pretty blunt. However, almost 50 issues later, Claremont returns to the same
imagery, but the victim changes from an otherwise-naked man in pseudo-pagan
headgear to Mystique in her true form:
this point in the comics, Mystique’s blue skin hadn’t quite been the synecdoche
for mutant pride that it became in the movies, but the implication is clear: to
the Hellfire Club, humans and mutants are both inferior kinds of animal, and
the Inner Circle are the gentry who use them for sport. It’s as about as strong
a denial of solidarity and group identity as one can imagine.
the captured X-Men actually ask the Hellfire Club why they’ve gone to the
effort of tracking down and capturing the X-Men, we get a peek at their
super-villainous business plan, and it turns out that they don’t see our merry
mutants as an existential or even incidental threat to the Hellfire Club.
Rather, they see the X-Men as a valuable source of intellectual property:
You can’t really get more neoliberal than isolating, synthesizing, and patenting the X-gene while turning mutant bodies into unwilling test subjects: what the Hellfire Club really want is to turn mutantcy from a random accident of evolution that can empower the poor as well as the rich into a private market commodity that they can monopolize. As Emma Frost puts it inClassic X-Men #7, all of this is a mere “means of enhancing the Hellfire Club’s wealth and power,” since “whoever controls mutantkind will also control the world.” The Inner Circle’s plan may have inspired the master plan of Dr. Zander Rice of the Transigen Corporation from the film Logan, where the existential threat to mutants came not from personal bigotry but an industrial strategy of turning mutants into a product that can be manufactured on demand in the maquiladoras of northern Mexico for the U.S military-industrial complex.
one might expect, this plan relies upon the Inner Circle having a great deal of
confidence that as mutants, they won’t personally become fodder for the mutant
exploitation industry. As with everything else – the confidence that they can
get away with kidnapping mutants off the street, assassinating U.S military
intelligence officers, or various forms of sexual exploitation of staff and
prisoners alike – the Inner Circle are so convinced that their wealth and power
completely insulate them from the effects of anti-mutant prejudice that they
not only work with bigots like Donald Pierce or Stephen Lang, but go to the ultimate
length of bringing the Sentinels back:
usually think of quislings as being
motivated by fear, cowardice, and an attempt to placate a new ruling power;
it’s pretty rare to see quislings who are confident enough to believe that they
are powerful enough to turn the government and the military-industrial complex
into their pawns. This over-confidence doesn’t so much stumble into hubris as
leap into it with both feet, because Sebastian Shaw, Emma Frost, and Harry
Leland should know better from bitter experience. As we learn in Classic X-Men #7, Sebastian and Emma’s
coup against Edward Buckman was sparked when they learned that “Project
Armageddon[‘s] true purpose [was] to bring about the total eradication of homo
sapiens superior.” In this coup – which happened before the Hellfire Club first tangled with the X-Men – Emma was attacked
by Sentinels and Shaw’s lover Lourdes Chantel was killed by a Sentinel.
this foreknowledge, the Inner Circle believe themselves to be literally
shielded from the threat of genocide-robots:
Unfortunately for the Inner Circle, they are no more immune from ultracrepidarianism than any other billionaire, and thus didn’t really think through the fact that the Sentinels have turned against 66% of their creators. In this case, the fatal flaw was not thinking through the long-term consequences of their actions, that while current-day Sentinels might be under their loose control, they can’t guarantee that Sentinels will remain under their control in the future. Thus, when Rachel Grey travels from the alternate future of Earth-811 (the “Days of Future Past” timeline) to the present-day of Earth-616, the ruling Sentinels send back their most advanced unit Nimrod after her. When the Hellfire Club runs into Nimrod while hunting for Rachel themselves, they are hoist by their own petard:
To an extent, the Hellfire Club’s story ended there, with being forced into solidarity with their fellow mutants out of enlightened self-interest. While the X-Men would be in alliance with the Hellfire Club for some time, there wasn’t really much done with that story hook beyond being background noise during events like the “Mutant Massacre,” “Fall of the Mutants,” and “Inferno.” Since then, it’s not that the Hellfire Club hasn’t been around, it’s just that it’s been used more as a villain-of-the-month than having a starring role in a story which had something new to say about them.
On the other hand, this is the comics industry, where making something new out of an old idea that hasn’t been used much in a while has been the wellspring of critical and commercial success since the 80s. And with Emma Frost as the new Black King, there might well be an opportunity for her (and the reader) to look back at the institution she now rules and think more critically about what it’s all about.
that would be a topic for another People’s History of the Marvel Universe…
 Neil isn’t far wrong. For example,
in issue #182, we learn that the Hellfire Club has double agents working within
SHIELD whom they can order to assassinate U.S military intelligence operatives
without any fear of retaliation from the U.S government.
 Although given Sebastian Shaw’s
penchant for taking off his shirt and getting punched by well-muscled men, it’s
not entirely straight.
 Since Classic X-Men were reprints with edits, interpolated panels, and new back-up stories written by Chris Claremont about a decade after the originals came out, this moment can’t help but have the air of a correction issued by a creator with a track record of listening to and responding to feminist critics of his work.
 For those unfamiliar with British politics, this form of hunting – pursuing foxes from horseback with hounds – and the uniform of red coats and black top-hats is associated with a particularly aristocratic tradition in the U.K that become popular in the 18th century and increasingly controversial up to the present. Both out of animal cruelty concerns and because of the quasi-feudal nature of the hunt, where upper-class horseman run literally roughshod across other people’s lands, there have been a number of attempts to ban fox-hunting, eventually leading to the Hunting Act of 2004 under New Labour. Notably, the Tory governments of David Cameron and Teresa May have proposed repealing the ban due to pressure from rural Tory voters, although no legislation has yet been brought forward.
Cartoonist Ed Piskor leaves the Silver Age and enters the Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, and John Byrne era in X-Men Grand Design: Second Genesis #1retelling the story of the X-Men from Cyclops and Professor X’s assembly of the “All-New, All-Different” team of Storm, Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Thunderbird, and Sunfire to rescue the original X-Men from the mutant island Krakoa to the conclusion of the classic “Dark Phoenix Saga”. The comic’s biggest strength is Piskor’s meticulous attention to craft including panel layouts and lengths, color choices, and lettering. With so much material to cover, there are no wasted beats in his storytelling, no filler. This does harm its emotional resonance which pales in comparison to Claremont’s original saga that partially worked because the longform storytelling created a connection between readers and characters and developed various relationships in more depth, like Wolverine and Nightcrawler, Jean Grey and Cyclops, and Professor X and Lilandra to name a few in this time period.
However, for the most part, Second Genesis #1 is beautiful, yet streamlined take on one of the most important pop culture icons from a talented writer/artist. Even though there are appearance from various secondary foes and antagonists and even mentions of and cameos from heavy hitters like Magneto and Galactus, Piskor establishes from page one that the Hellfire Club will be the chief opponent of the X-Men in Second Genesis while continuing the larger Ur-narrative of the Phoenix that he hinted at in the first volume of X-Men Grand Design. And the force or character that these two powers rotate around is Jean Grey and later the Phoenix force taking on the appearance of Jean Grey as Piskor agilely summarizes the retcon that allowed for Jean Grey’s “ressurection” and absolving of a murder of planets in a sequence of dark panels that show her go from a powerful mutant to almost a fetus. He even shows his horror chops in his recreation of the famous scene in the “Phoenix Saga” where Jean absorbs radiation and crash lands the X-Men team after they rescue Professor X from mutant hater and experimenter Stephen Lang. A classic countdown sequence combined with some shocked facial expressions builds the suspense that culminates in a firebird rising from Jamaica Bay.
Although Second Genesis #1 is much more plot-driven, and the best X-Men stories I would argue are more character driven (And Claremont managed to cram a lot of plots in too.), Ed Piskor still takes care to flesh out the individual X-Men’s flaws, personality traits, and memorable moments. There’s a baseball game with Nightcrawler playing catcher, early in the book, Colossus and Wolverine link up in a trademark fastball special, and there’s even a panel with Storm’s claustrophobia. Piskor writes and draws Kitty Pryde as plucky and ingenious without being annoying and accidentally saving the X-Men with her phasing ability as Claremont and Byrne were trying to finish off their great epic while also introducing an actual student for the Xavier institute per editorial mandate. She adds bursts of joy and energy between the shadow and flame of Dark Phoenix and whited out psychic duels between Mastermind and Cyclops. The Phoenix and Hellfire Club predominantly take center stage while Professor X’s deal with Lilandra and Shi’ar runs off to the side, and even though some of my favorite X-Men were on this incarnation of the team, they lack a strong identity unlike the original five plus Havok and Polaris in X-Men Grand Design.
Don’t get me wrong. For all its flaws in the characterization department (For example, Piskor puts Professor X and Cyclops at a graveyard at the top of the page, and Thunderbird’s death at the bottom and barely hints at his headstrong nature.) and lack of focus on the Jean/Scott dynamic when Jean is at the center of the story, Second Genesis #1 is the rare mainstream comic created auteur style by a single creator. Ed Piskor gives the subplot heavy, soap operatic narrative of the X-Men a strong thread to follow and lets his nostalgia and love for the source material shine on every page. His art style is retro without being simplistic, and there is a kind of minimalism to his use of captions and dialogue, especially compared to the overwrought style of Claremont. In fact, his strongest emotional beats involve few words at all like Jean and Scott spending one last night in bed before the X-Men’s honor duel against the Shi’ar, and he punctuates these emotional crescendos with the use of black and white instead of the colorful costumes, spaceships, and energy bursts that permeate this book and the X-Men canon as a whole.
Even if it focuses more on singular narrative building than the growth of one of superhero comics’ greatest ensemble casts, X-Men Grand Design: Second Genesis #1 is a wonderful example of the cyclical nature of myth as Ed Piskor filters the beginning of Chris Claremont’s run on X-Men through a lean, visually striking storyteller’s lens or his childhood fantasies through a steadier, yet no less energetic hand. I’d probably rather reread the “Dark Phoenix Saga” though.