(Marvel Comics, 2014)
Written by Cullen Bunn
Artwork by Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Color Artwork by Jordie Bellaire
Usually the announcement of another X-Men related solo series generates little to no excitement in my sphere of existence. I much prefer my X-Men in team form. When I heard that Magneto was going to be the next X-Men team member to get the solo treatment, however, I was more than interested. I was excited, add to that the fact that Cullen Bunn was to be the series writer and that excitement turned to elation. After reading the first issue of this series I am happy to report that my initial enthusiasm was not only well founded but is now multiplied. Bunn’s grasp of Magneto’s complexities as well as his nuances is nothing short of phenomenal; to say he gets this character would be a gross understatement. Even with vastly diminished powers, Magneto makes a formidable impression and Bunn uses the former villain’s flaws to great effect in developing the character. The narration in this issue provides us with an intimate portrait of Magneto’s current mental state; he is a character that defies classification, not quite a hero or a villain yet to label him an anti-hero just somehow doesn’t seem right either. He is a man working his own agenda; playing very much by his own rules without the restrictions of moral absolutes. Magneto goes beyond the ends that justify the means to reach a place where resolution and absolution are blurred into a morally ambiguous service to a self-proclaimed greater good.
This issue finds Magneto right where Bendis left him in issue #16 of Uncanny X-Men; he is very much a man without a home after turning his back on both the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in discouragement. He once again finds himself treading his own path in search of freedom for all mutants from oppression and violence however, paradoxically he is not opposed to using violence, even murder if need be, in his pursuit. Magneto #1 is not the typical X-Fare that most of the solo books have so disappointingly amounted to, far from it. This book is thoughtfully written from concept to completion; the narrative is engrossing and entertaining although it is a bit darker than most of Marvel’s current offerings, joining Moon Knight #1 also with that distinction, I believe this series would appeal to the long time, fully indoctrinated X-Fans as well as offering first time readers an optimal jumping on spot. This is largely a new Magneto; Bunn very quickly establishes that fact in the first pages of this issue, everything from the tonal quality to the atmosphere of this book is its own. Magneto is portrayed as a man of strong convictions and beliefs; his adherence to those beliefs is what defines him. Bunn digs deep into Magneto’s psyche and exposes all of the subtle elements that make him so complex and multi-layered. At one point in the story Magneto lists all the various names he has used; in a litany of former identities, he illustrates very succinctly, that this is a path he has been on for a long time, not only that but it speaks to his motivation and perseverance in showing that he would rather lose himself to an assumed persona than give up his fight for what he believes to be right. Bunn captures the essence of this character in a way that has never been done before; his use of narration and introspection cuts right to the core of Magneto’s mental state and uncovers a man in turmoil holding tightly to conflicting ideals that threaten to tear him apart. This is amazing character development and just plain brilliant writing.
Walta and Bellaire collaborate to stunning effect on this issue. The character design is intriguing and innovative; Walta’s take on Magneto is grim and weathered; he is a man who has seen too much, lived too much and it all shows in his face, particularly his eyes which are wizened yet tired. This is not stereotypical super-hero visuals but this is not a stereotypical super-hero book. It’s dark and Jordie Bellaire captures the tone of Bunn’s narrative spot-on with her muted, subdued hues and palette of earthy tones. Her work on both this book and Moon Knight is just so subtly gorgeous and somehow both minimal and lush at the same time. I really love her work and nowhere does it triumph more than in these two books.
Magneto is the X-Men solo series I have been waiting for and this creative team delivers on every single level; great story, engaging characterization, intriguing plot and first rate artwork across the board. I cannot say enough about this book; Marvel packed a heck of a one-two punch this week with Moon Knight #1 and Magneto #1 both of these books are perfect examples of just how good comic books can be. Believe me you do not want to miss out on either of these books; the second printings are on the way. (5/5)
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Shawn is an aspiring writer/ artist who has been reading, collecting and living comic books for over 30 years. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, their son, lots of cats, dogs and other various finned and furry friends.