When Trial of Magneto was announced, there was a lot of hype. Partially because the series is clearly cribbing off the beloved Claremont story, but also the promise of Lehnsherr clan drama was too juicy to ignore. And when the Scarlet Witch wound up dead? All the pieces were in place for an interesting Lehnsherr family story. But four issues in, it’s clear this story isn’t what anyone expected.
The Trial of Magneto is hardly a Magneto comic at all — it’s a Scarlet Witch trial. And it’s a great Scarlet Witch comic…for people whose only exposure to the character is House of M.
The problem with Trial of Magneto isn’t just its marketing centering around Magneto — that much probably wasn’t Leah Williams or Lukas Werneck’s fault, honestly. It’s that the title wants to be a Wanda story but seemingly knows nothing about Wanda at the same time. It’s hard to read Trial of Magneto and think about anything else but how it ignores years of Wanda’s development since House of M, most notably the wonderful Scarlet Witch solo from 2016 (and even Children’s Crusade).
The plot itself has evolved into something very disappointing and convoluted, and that’s from someone who honestly loved issue #1. It was a great setup that featured tons of emotion and interesting development for Magneto on Krakoa. I wanted to like Trial of Magneto so badly, but it doesn’t live up to its premise and it feels like it doesn’t actually understand its cast of characters all that well. Some of its faults feel less like the fault of its writer and more of the hubris of Marvel itself, bloating this storyline to be a miniseries instead of X-Factor‘s final arc. And in the end, we get a long, drawn-out story that meanders around more than it should.
The entire premise of Wanda getting a backup from pre-M-Day isn’t just bizarre, it takes away any emotional depth those scenes are meant to have. First of all, why is the last backup Charles had from pre-Disassembled? Wanda wasn’t retconned out of being a mutant until AXIS, so logically, that last backup should be well past House of M‘s events. The other thing that’s weird is when Billy and Tommy start yelling at her and saying things like “this is why everyone hates you” and “I spent my whole life defending you!”
It’s just…bizarre. Not only were Billy and Tommy historically Wanda’s biggest champions (again, Children’s Crusade), but why are they yelling at this Wanda? A woman who had no memories of House of M or even their existence and was just bombarded with a “highlight reel” of the worst moments of “our” Wanda’s life and was told “yep, you did all this and went through all this so…accept that and carry on!” It lacks any emotional weight because this isn’t a Wanda who even knows how to respond to any of that — she never did it.
Also, Billy never met Wanda until he was a teenager, so how exactly did he spend “his whole life” defending her? It’s just sloppy. The twins’ relationship with Wanda (and her relationship with them) is so fascinating and complex, and I read this and can’t help but think “wow this complicated relationship was handled so much better in Ewing’s New Avengers or again, Scarlet Witch (2016).
The Kaijus attacking the island still feels like something that was inserted in just to bloat the series until it became a full-blown miniseries rather than anything that particularly needed to exist for any real plot. And again, that’s part of why when I read this book, I say its faults probably aren’t all on Leah Williams’ shoulders and have more to do with Marvel itself making this event a miniseries. It wasn’t built to be one, and now that the final product is out there, we can tell.
The entire premise of Kaijus attacking the island is also exhausting because now we have another case of “Wanda accidentally did something that harmed mutantkind and they’re justifiably pissed about it” — and we’re still dealing with M-Day fallout in this book alone so this all feels extremely unnecessary. Wanda being mutantkind’s boogeyman isn’t just tiring, I have to wonder who even likes it.
That’s the thing about Trial of Magneto as a series…I have to wonder who it’s for. Certainly not Scarlet Witch fans. Not Magneto fans (he’s literally barely in this). Not X-Men fans who are tired of rehashing M-Day and want something new and exciting.
At one point Scott says “we’re kicking Kaiju ass” and it just feels so out of place and weird for him. It’s just another instance of this book feeling like it doesn’t understand its cast of characters — even its X-Men ones at times. That’s certainly not to say Leah Williams is a terrible writer with no grasp on any characters (X-Men Black: Emma Frost is seriously one of the best X-Men comics in the last few years alone), but it does feel like a lot of this event, in particular, is a bit out of her comfort zone. Lukas Werneck is a brilliant artist (probably one of the best at Marvel currently) who brings so much life to every page and even his work in this issue just feels like it isn’t up to par with his usual work. It’s not bad art by any means, but it’s not his usual standard.
Trial of Magneto #4 is a disappointing installment in a series that hasn’t managed to live up to the hype it started. The plot is messy and the characterizations seem a bit out of place — and the truth is, this story would have probably been better if it was allowed to be the final act of X-Factor as Williams had originally intended. It wants to be a Wanda book, but it doesn’t feel like it acknowledges any of Wanda’s character development in any of the non-X books she’s been in since 2005.
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