Marvel’s Grand Design miniseries are some of the most fascinating projects in superhero comics, giving solo cartoonists the opportunity to recount the complicated histories of Marvel characters through their own distinct points of view. Ed Piskor kicked it all off with X-Men: Grand Design, condensing decades worth of stories into a single narrative that chronologically incorporated all of the wild retcons that would come later. That idea on its own makes the Grand Design books an enlightening exploration of continuity, but it becomes even more exciting when the creators have full freedom to experiment with the visuals. Marvel made a truly inspired choice in hiring Tom Scioli for Fantastic Four: Grand Design, handing over the First Family over to an artist greatly inspired by their co-creator, Jack Kirby, but who has developed his own unique aesthetic over the years.
Scioli is a creator who delights in taking big risks with corporate IP, delivering ambitious reinterpretations in comics like Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe, Go-Bots, and Young Animal’s “Super Powers” back-ups. Scioli’s art evolved significantly when he started using the technique broken down in “The Jack Kirby Pencil Test”, skipping the inking step and coloring his pencils with softly textured hues on top of a yellowed newsprint foundation. Keeping the pencils gives the art rawness and spontaneity, and his bold palettes and precise rendering keep everything looking crisp while still evoking that weathered look of a back issue that’s been sitting in the back of a longbox in the basement.
This exclusive preview of next week’s Fantastic Four: Grand Design #1 encapsulates everything that makes these books so damn fun. The retro cover design with the corner headshots. The title page offering a montage of major moments to come. A story that puts everything in chronological order so that the first time we see the Fantastic Four is in ancient Egypt, with Scioli placing the time-travelling tale of Fantastic Four #19 where it should fall in the proper timeline. The artwork is infused with Kirby energy, but Scioli packs it into smaller panels that allow him to fill each page with information, with only one image taking up the full width of the page: Eternity itself. But Scioli takes inspiration from more than just Kirby, like the panel of King Randac kissing his mate that replicates the composition of Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss”. It’s a small moment that shows the depth of Scioli’s art knowledge and his eagerness to bring in different influences, refreshing this established history by approaching it from a variety of artistic angles.