When Trial of Magneto was announced, people were excited — we thought we were finally getting geat Magneto content, a story that would pay homage to Claremont’s own trial of Magneto but for the Krakoan era. Unfortunately, what we ended up getting should have been called the “Trial of the Scarlet Witch” — and it isn’t just a bad story, it’s a story that doesn’t know what works about the Krakoa era at all.
SPOILERS AHEAD for X-Men: The Trial of Magneto #5!
First things first: Wanda’s murderer is revealed! But it’s such a dumb resolution to this plotline it feels like the safest choice imaginable, like they picked this character to sidestep any actual drama. And that’s a good metaphor for this book in general — “safe” and done with the purpose of sidestepping any actual drama.
So yeah, Toad murdered Wanda –or at least, that’s the story the Council got. As you can imagine, no one will miss him when he goes into the pit with Sabretooth and it’s not like he had a title to be on anyway so…whatever. I’m sure this will not rock Krakoa at all. It’s just a disappointing choice in general and nonsensical at best — why does Toad suddenly care that Wanda left the Brotherhood? Even if this is just the excuse he picked for a frame job it’s weak at best and I can’t believe the Council fell for it. I’m pretty sure this was not a defining part of his character in, uh…any other story since the ’60s?
It also makes little sense like Toad is pissed at Wanda for leaving the Brotherhood but not Pietro? Who joined and left it with her? How did anyone on the Council buy this reasoning? How did anyone on the Council buy the idea that someone as weak as Toad could ever kill Wanda in the first place?
It’s not 100%. clear but it seems that Toad took the fall for Wanda and let himself be framed for her murder. Toad being the one in the hole has 0 consequences in the long run and just feels like a safe choice. And if Toad is just taking the fall for Wanda killing herself, where is this plot going to be picked up after? It’s not like X-Factor is still around to do it. His presence won’t actually be missed on the canvas if he’s never in anything. And if Wanda framed Toad to cover up that she killed herself, which seems to be the case, how is that her redemption arc? It’s weird that this is never directly addressed nor do we see Toad and Wanda interact.
We don’t even see Magneto conspire with Toad to take the fall for his daughter, which would have been great scenes to see. She doesn’t show a shred of remorse either for making an innocent man spend his life in the hole if she did frame him. The whole situation is just very convoluted and strange. It feels like clearing up the frame job plot and focusing on that more was more important to show than half the stuff in this mini, like the Kaijus attacking the island.
A lot of this book just feels convenient, and that goes beyond the Toad reveal. Like when Wanda’s setting up her circuit she picks the children of Krakoa’s founders, citing that all these characters’ parents are important to Krakoa. So of course, we get Polaris (Magneto’s daughter), Legion (Charles’ son), and Proteus (Moira’s son). But wait! Cool as this idea is, doesn’t no one know Moira is alive, let alone a founder of Krakoa? Yes! So how does the story rectify this plothole? It doesn’t! Wanda just says Kevin being here “feels right.” Like….okay.
And after that’s taken care of, we find out what Wanda’s big “sorry for M Day” gift to mutantkind is: she made it so mutants who died before Cerebro was offline could finally be resurrected. And cool as that is because it means we get people like John Proudstar back at last, this entire sequence is just another instance of me thinking that certain writers in the X-Office just aren’t on the same page as Hickman when it comes to what Krakoa is.
When Hickman released House of X/Powers of X it was more than just a bold new era for the X-Men, it was interesting. A big reason it was so attention grabbing was that it was the paradise that wasn’t a paradise at all — he’s making numerous references to Huxley’s Brave New World, after all. This place was dark, and it had dark secrets lurking beneath its pretty surface. All of Hickman’s work on Krakoa-era titles seem to be in this vein too, especially Inferno. Krakoa is only a paradise on a superficial level and that’s so damn interesting to read.
Trial of Magneto is allergic to any actual drama, though. Sure, an actual paradise where nothing goes wrong and everyone is good is a fun concept for an endgame to the X-Men’s lore once they stop being published, but it’s one hell of a boring story to read as a reader in the now. There needs to be stakes. There needs to be drama. And Trial of Magneto doesn’t get that.
It makes Crucible a choice now so that people can say “actually — I’d rather be resurrected regularly.” It has Exodus now telling children the story of how Wanda became “The Great Redeemer” instead of the “Pretender.” And all of this is just too good to be true and again, feels like it’s missing the spirit of what Hickman created. When the Crucible issue dropped, social media lit up. Whether you agreed or disagreed with the practice almost didn’t matter — it was supposed to be something that made you a little uncomfortable even if it was ultimately a good thing because it led to the resurrection of de-powered mutants. Its removal as mandatory feels worse than just a dumb idea from a writing standpoint, it feels detrimental to the Krakoa era as a whole.
Krakoa needs stakes. Krakoa needs to be imperfect because anything else becomes boring from a storywriting perspective.
This story feels lazy. It feels unnecessary. It feels like it wants to wrap up everything in a neat little bow with no problems whatsoever. And that’s a nice sentiment, this world where nothing goes wrong and everyone is happy…but it makes for one hell of a boring story.
The best parts of Trial of Magneto are the scenes between Wanda and Erik. It’s nice to see this title just completely ignore the AXIS retcon to the best of its ability and treat Wanda and Erik like family again. Having good Lehnsherr/Maximoff family moments is something I’ve missed from comics for a long time. These scenes have a ton of heart, and part of their effectiveness is uplifted by Werneck’s pencils. Werneck’s art isn’t just gorgeous, he’s so wonderfully expressive that you can practically feel the characters’ emotions lifting right off the page. He truly is one of the best in the industry right now.
At the end of the day, Trial of Magneto is a bad event, but it’s hard to pinpoint whose fault that is exactly. It feels unfair to hoist all the blame onto Leah Williams when it’s clear some of the reasons this event failed were outside of her control, like making it a miniseries instead of the last arc on X-Factor. The pacing problems and sections where the story pussyfoots around certainly would have been fixed if this story wasn’t bloated to be a miniseries rather than an X-Factor arc. Even the marketing of it all hurt the title, calling it the “Trial of Magneto” and focusing so heavily on him when he was barely in the story at all.
Leah Williams is not a bad writer, and when she’s on the right book, she shines. But perhaps she was out of her comfort zone with these characters and this lore. So much of Wanda’s history was just glossed over or treated like it didn’t exist, I have to wonder how some of this made it past the editing stage in the first place. Wanda in this story feels less like Wanda Maximoff, a longstanding and powerful Marvel character, and more like a glorified plot device. Do they not have character bibles they give to their writers?
One also has to wonder if Toad was always who she planned to be the culprit/fall guy or if he was just the character she had to settle for in the end. Maybe we’ll never know all the details, but what we do know is that the book we have right now, just unfortunately isn’t a good one.
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