Today, Taylor and Scott are discussing Magneto 1, originally released March 5th, 2014.
Taylor: I’ve always been intrigued by villains. From an early age I remember being bored with the rudimentary morals most heroes possess. Instead, I gravitated to the other side to the spectrum, choosing to root for the bad guys. I found Cobra Commander fantastic, Megatron enviable, and Darth Vader the most impressive person I had ever seen. Something about their ruthlessness always drew me to them. These aren’t simple men — they have agendas and were willing to do anything to see them carried out. Yet each character also possesses a certain cerebral quality that sets them apart from your average thug. It’s this quality that draws me to these characters and it also happens to be the same quality that draws me to Magneto. He’s smart, ruthless, and devoted. But can an entire series based on this metal-bending character be sustained by these qualities alone?
After totally freaking out while visiting Mystique’s mutant island oasis, Magneto is in hiding. He’s doing this for a good reason — S.H.I.E.L.D. is hunting him for killing a bunch of mutant haters. After tracking down yet another mutant killer using a confusing map, Magneto arrives in Mountain Air, California. He makes quick work of some cops who have captured the killer after he turned himself in. Just as Magneto reaches the holding cell, the killer reveals himself to be some sort of weird sentinel-human cyborg. Magneto dispenses of this thing but questions remain about who created it.
To come right out with it, I liked this issue and no small part of that is due to whose comic this is. I’ve always been fascinated by Magneto — his mantra of defending mutant rights at all costs is not without its appeal. While he kills (often) you never get the sense that he does so because it’s something he particularly enjoys. Even though the barista who saw him kill a mutant-hating doctor said Magneto was a man who killed on “autopilot” I think it would be unfair to say he did it without reason. Sure, killing is never a real answer for anything, but at least Magneto is doing it because he’s motivated by a cause that is buried deep within his soul. It feels a bit weird to side with someone who is such a ruthless character, but since we are given his narration throughout the issue, it’s hard for me not to understand the logic of his ways.
Writer Cullen Bunn makes good use of this narration. While it’s true that parts of this issue become bogged down by the relentless narration of its titular character, most of the time it serves as a good way of establishing Magneto’s appealing character. In particular, I enjoyed how Bunn contrasts Magneto’s glorious past with his impotent present.
Magneto, as he reminds us, has been in command of mutant armies and countless times has come close to changing the path of human/mutant history. Now, however, he’s a lone wolf holed up in a small hotel room looking at maps and scanning the newswire for tips on his next move. It’s a stark contrast and one that is achieved both by the decision to make Magneto less powerful than he once was and by his decision to cut ties with virtually all of his previous running mates. All in all, its an exciting endeavor and it will be interesting to see where Magneto’s grassroots campaign takes him.
I also found myself drawn to Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s art throughout the issue. He has an angular way of depicting characters and setting which is sleek and modern. His layouts reflects this as well, with each page being set out neatly and orderly. This runs the risk of sterility, but instead it gives the issue a gritty, austere feeling that is very complimentary of the subject matter.
While there’s nothing totally flashy about the style, its understated detail is something I appreciate. Also, I simply love how he highlights everything Magneto will be able to manipulate in blue. It’s like seeing the world through Magneto vision and I can’t think of a better way of depicting this.
Scott! Are you drawn to Magneto and this issue in the same way I am? Or perhaps there are different reasons you like it? Or maybe you don’t like it all, but why would that be? Also, I’m still not totally sure what Magneto is after in the long run, do you have any ideas? Should I be worried about that?
Scott: Magneto is a captivating character. You’re right, Taylor, there is real cause behind his killing, a rationale anyone can understand — he only kills those who pose a threat to mutantkind. We all like to see oppressive people get there comeuppance — we cheer when it happens in Tarantino movies — but no matter how justified Magneto’s actions may be, he still isn’t a sympathetic character. There’s a certain flair to his murders, a little something extra he tosses in, that keeps him firmly entrenched as a villain, rather than a crusader for justice. It’s the way he takes out a lobby full police officers without batting an eye, or pulls out a man’s fillings before killing him. I understand where Magneto is coming from, but with methods like that, I can’t take his side.
Speaking of those fillings, I love how Bunn and Walta set up that moment. First, the barista talks us through it, explaining how Magneto approached the customer, Dr. Hatcher, and what they talked about. He mentions the finger snap, and the screams that followed. It’s visceral. You can hear it, you can feel it in your jaw, without seeing any of it. Then, we revisit the scene a few pages later. We see Magneto approach the man and identify him as Dr. Hatcher. He uses the key phrases the barista recalled. We know what’s coming. Finally, the last cue — the finger snap- and…
It cuts away. We see no metal ripped from Hatcher’s mouth, no screams, but boy is it effective! I could have sworn I had seen those images, but they do not appear anywhere in the issue. Bunn and Walta did such an incredible job establishing that sequence that I filled in the rest of it in my head. Walta was wise not to show it — what I’ve imagined is surely more horrific than anything that could be drawn on a page. For me, this scene became more than what’s on the page. That’s freakin’ cool.
I think it speaks to my earlier point about Magneto that his means of torture are too graphic to be depicted in a comic book. Later, when he shears the metal from the flesh of the cyborg, we are again spared from witnessing the most gory details, getting only a wide shot of the action. But, in that case, it’s an act of mercy more than a torturous punishment. That’s what makes Magneto so compelling. He’s capable of horrible things, but he is never lacking a conscience. His actions are justified, just not nearly to the extent he thinks. He’s always going to go farther than I think he will — farther, even, than Bunn and Walta are willing to show. That’s both exciting and incredibly scary to think about.
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