Cullen Bunn (W), Gabriel Hernandez Walta (A), Jordie Bellaire (C)
Cover by: David Yardin
Publisher: Marvel Comics
I’ve mentioned this comic many times sprinkled through my reviews. It is easily one of my favorite comic book series of all time. Number 17 is the single best issue of the series.
This was a gritty, slow character study that travels through the mind of Magneto. Each issue was a lot of Erik Lensherr contemplating the world around him and certain events that he witnessed. Then, in the last act, he would fix something that he didn’t perceive as right for mutantkind. It caught a lot of flak for this, but it was one of such comics I’ve seen since Ed Brubaker was on Captain America.
Another great thing about this book was that almost each story was self-contained. You could pick up an issue and easily follow the story and see it through to completion in the same book. This is immensely rare these days, as many of you probably know.
This comic displays a very covert Magneto. His powers were weakened in the X-Men story that preceded it, so he could not be as theatrical and high-profile in his actions as he once was. He has no Brotherhood, and Cyclops’ X-Men hated him for betraying them to Shield. He is in a moment in his life where he’s reevaluating his methods, yet, at the same time, those methods are the only ones he knows.
The art fits the comic perfectly. Walta draws a very gritty, dirty, and grimy world. This isn’t a happy story, and the art reflects it. It’s an unpleasant world to live in, and that’s exactly how Magneto sees it. The muted colors that Bellaire brought to it matches Walta’s art perfectly. The two of them together put Bunn’s story to life in a way that exemplifies why I love comic books as a storytelling medium.
At the point in the series where issue 17 takes place, Erik has managed to establish a small mutant settlement in the ruins of Genosha after Red Skull’s attempted coup from the Axis story.
The irony of this issue is that it’s actually finishing a story which began in the previous one. I know, I know, I praised it for its self-contained stories, but this arc earned its two issues.
Magneto is being haunted by ghosts of his refugee childhood. An S.S officer named Hitzig, who Erik had assassinated by Wolverine’s X-Force, has shown up on Genosha. This particular officer personally tormented Erik in during his childhood in Auschwitz. He unexplainably has powers that he could never have had, and he’s brutally killing mutants.
In this issue, Hitzig has left a message written in mutant blood on the mirror of Erik’s bathroom. Magneto manages to track him down right as he takes another mutant life. He impales Hitzig multiple times with iron rods, only to find out that he cannot be killed. Flesh tendrils erupt from Hitzig’s chest, he fights back against Erik, and then he escapes.
Erik puts the pieces together, and he remembers a mutant illusionist he met on Genosha before the events of Axis. He meets up with her, and she tells him that her illusions have become perverted ever since she was kidnapped by the Red Skull. She can’t control them, and some come to life. She can’t overcome the horrors she experienced at the Red Skull’s hands, and she doesn’t know any way to stop it other than dying. She has accepted this fate, and she tells Magneto to kill her. He carries this wish out, and Hitzig dissipates.
This issue was so stunning to me the first time I read it. It’s a rare comic that talks about personal demons that can never be overcome.
I know I usually champion the fun and upbeat titles, but I love a dark story when it’s told well and not simply trying to seem edgy.
This comic is so emotionally powerful, and it genuinely brought me to tears the first time I read it. The final scene with the illusionist mutant is heartbreaking, and the writing is so masterful that they never directly need to say that she has PTSD or that she’s asking Magneto to kill her. You can understand exactly what is happening here without it being told plainly to you.
The illusionist has been poisoned by her life experiences. She didn’t choose to be kidnapped or for her powers to turn on her. It just happened to her. Magneto can’t save her. He can only spare the other inhabitants of Genosha. Yet at the same time, it’s his demons that she’s accessing with her powers. Hitzig may be dead, but he’s never left Erik’s mind. Therefore, the illusion of Hitzig can never be killed.
Magneto may historically be arrogant, but, in this series, the reader sees that he has always had doubts. This experience has brought them to the forefront, as his horrific past had returned to take the lives of mutants whom had put their trust in him. He’s no longer sure he is fit to lead them.
This comic is incredible. The series as a whole is just as incredible, and it always amazed me that it never got wide acclaim. It’s been continued, more or less, in Cullen Bunn’s current Uncanny X-Men series. That book is worth checking out too. I definitely recommend it.
If my opinion is worth anything to you, dear reader, look for Bunn and Walta’s Magneto series in trades. It is amazing, and everyone who worked on it deserves recognition. It’s easily one of the best comic series I have ever read in my life.
And on that note, I’m signing off for now. Until next time, keep reading comics!