Magneto is one of the most well known and popular characters in the Marvel Universe. The Master of Magnetism has been a foe to the X-Men since the very first issue, and over the decades he has fought them countless times, been a part of some of the biggest moments in mutant history, and even starred in his own solo comic.
In July of this year, Marvel announced a series of one shots titled X-Men Black that would star an iconic X-Villain. The first issue would focus on Magneto and be written by the legendary Chris Claremont. The idea was rife with potential, especially since Claremont is arguably the writer that made the one time leader of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants so popular. Does X-Men Black: Magneto live up to the hype?
The key thing to remember about Magneto is that it is essentially a first issue. Along with being the first of the five issue X-Men Black miniseries, it is also includes the first chapter of a story involving perennial X-Men nemesis, Apocalypse. Many times the first issues of comic books are like the first chapter of a book or the pilot of a television series. There is so much importance in getting across character motivations and personalities that plot can be placed on the back burner.
Magneto is a prime example of this as the short story involving him is as much about reintroducing him to new readers as it is about telling a story. The result is a one shot that covers all the familiar bases before a anticlimactic ending. The X-Men – especially when written by Claremont – have always had a heavy dose of discrimination in their narrative. Early on Magneto deals with this, but the whole sequence seems forced and ends up going nowhere. The battle is also tinged with bias against mutants, but it would have played out better if it were more of a straightforward battle between good and evil. After all, X-Men Black was supposed to highlight the X-Men’s greatest villains, and Magneto’s intentions are very defensible.
Of course, that is part of the reason for the character’s popularity — it’s not very hard to defend many of his actions. Still, he is a character who operates in shades of grey and in Magneto the situation seems pretty black and white.
Not helping matters is the art of Dalibor Talajic. Even in his silliest costumes, Magneto has an air of royalty and power to him. Talajic makes him look like a feeble man. Never has the man who has beaten some of history’s most powerful mutants looked so nonthreatening.The ‘Degeneration’ story starring Apocalypse is much better. While the opening seems innocent enough (“innocent” in regards to Apocalypse), the story slowly evolves into something much more sinister. By the end of the story, chances are that readers will be worried for the villain who once turned Angel into one of his Four Horsemen. The art is also an improvement from the Magneto story.
X-Men Black: Magneto has its moments, but never seems to live up to the high hopes it had when it was initially announced. The story never really gets the reader invested and adds nothing to of one Marvel’s best characters. On the other hand, the opening to ‘Degeneration’ is very engaging. It will be interesting to see where it goes.