Magneto has always been one of the most popular villains in the Marvel Universe. A villain who has understandable motivations and who has a believably sympathetic side is not the easiest thing in the world to write. Cullen Bunn drops us into Magneto’s world just as he leaves the Uncanny X-Men team and after his powers have been acting up and are working on a severely diminished level. Despite that, Magneto is on the hunt, playing the judge, jury and executioner we know and love.
I really enjoyed how Bunn decides to reveal Magneto’s character and history throughout the first volume, which collects issues #1 through 6. He swaps out information dumps using carefully placed vignettes throughout the master of magnetism’s life, couching present events and motivations in his traumatic past that are part of well-written issues with great symmetry.
The art is moody and the coloring muted, Gabriel Hernandez’s paneling is really well done and tight before Javi Fernandez takes over and shakes things up a bit, in an entirely good way that matches the story progression, for the final issue in contained in this volume (and a couple more issues afterward). He has a really unique style that compliments Hernandez to boot and the artwork, along with the great screenplay-like writing, left me with this feeling that this newer, grittier look at Magneto really gives off this could-totally-work-as-an-HBO-show vibe.
I’ll also note that when I say it could work as an HBO adaption or spin-off of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I mean that it’d have to be HBO because it can get pretty bloody at times. Magneto’s loss of powers ends up leaving him having to work by more conventional means a lot of the time, but that means there’s more than a couple death-by-screws moments. The grittier take is all really well supported by Hernandez’s atmospheric work though, and it really feels like a unique title in Marvel’s line-up. Bunn leads us down into the dark egresses of the man’s psyche with flashlight in hand, casting light on areas of his choosing and hinting at both the man and the monster before leaving it up to us to decide for ourselves who Magneto is: hero, anti-hero, or just plain villain?
Magneto’s inner voice is done perfectly and though I felt like one piece of the puzzle was a bit ham fisted (and perhaps a line or too a bit clumsy), I’m pretty sure it’s going to resolve in a very satisfying way as things are just getting going at the close of the first volume and 99% of the time, I’m loving every line, every panel. We get to see what Magneto thinks of himself and the mask he says he puts on and destroys when necessary. That, along with some extra conflict in the form of a couple S.H.I.E.L.D. agents trying to track him down, winds up being a great tool for Bunn to play with, especially when he casts them in an unfavorable light as well.
I have been following Magneto with great interest and will definitely continue to do so. The first volume is very satisfying and the six issues mark a really great place to take a beat to wrestle with your understanding of the character. The title plays a larger part in Marvel’s next big event, Avengers and X-Men: AXIS, which pits the Red Skull, using Professor X’s brain, alongside some other villains to take over Genosha and then, the world! It’ll be interesting to see what part the former ruler of Genosha plays in the upcoming story. The way recent issues have been going, the second volume is looking more and more like a no-brainer.