This week, Magneto #1 hit. One of the most iconic characters of the Marvel Universe finally gets his own book. And it’s a new #1, even. Cool. So you have a cool guy, a talented team and a brand new first issue. That’s a perfect recipe for awesome, no? Well, then we got Magneto #1. And it’s not even a bad comic book.
They really did try. Magneto #1 is a comic book that is a good solo series for a character who is mainly known to bounce off others and be awesome when in context with certain characters. Magneto is that guy. Up until now, it was a bit of a stupid idea to put the Master of Magnetism, the first enemy the X-Men ever battled in their very first issue, in a café. But that’s how this story opens. With a barista talking about a guy who came into the café and did horrible things. All the while Mangeto is being at what just could be his most awesome.
It becomes pretty clear that this is not a very shiny or happy comic book. This book is pretty obviously about a man who’s on a mission. A determined, desperate old man. The storytelling reflects that, the art reflects that. Nowhere is the spandex, no bright colours. Just Magneto. And he opens with a badass monologue even.
To live among the stars. To rule Jungle Kingdoms. To guide entire nations… only to find oneself here. A self-loathing man might see this as deserved punishment. A vain man might compare this descent to the Christian devil’s fall from heaven. Me… I think the coffee’s not terrible.
This sets the stage for all us fans. For new readers, it doesn’t do anything. For new readers, this is where I’d have stopped reading. Because literally, it explains nothing but you can tell that there’s a rich history there.
And that’s what Marvel’s NOW-initiative is all about, isn’t it? Easily accessible, good for new readers, fun for old readers. Well, this one is fun for old readers, because Cullen Bunn has done an amazing job at casting Erik Lensherr – the man also known as Magneto – as a tragic hero who’s on a mission that he can’t possibly accomplish. In fact, he seems rather confused about his mission as it is. He knows what he has to do, but he seems doubtful, constantly questioning not only himself, but also his ways.
This is all fine and dandy, but without knowing Magneto, without knowing the rich history which has been hinted at in the first monologue of our starring character, this all falls flat. Sure, you don’t need to know the exact details of that time Magneto lived on Asteroid M, or that time he hid in the Savage Land or when he was a member of the X-Men as Xorn. You don’t need that, but it would be neat to not just leave people hanging.
Remarks like the ones about his past career are everywhere. And they’re nowhere explained. As a comic book fan, I cherish these references, because I know that Cullen Bunn knows where he’s coming from. But as a new reader, I’m afraid you’ll be left more confused than anything else. Because not only does his past not get spotlighted, but even casual readers of the X-Men can’t follow along.
Apparently, Magneto’s powers are somehow diminished? How? When? Why? And he’s alone now? Why? Wasn’t he with Scott Summers’ team of outlaw X-Men recently? And why is he bald?
But still, it’s a good comic book. Cullen Bunn does a great job at the story. The art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta is different enough to make this not another X-Men book and more on the subdued side of things and the colours match that style. It’s a well-made comic book. It’s just not for new readers. As a fan, I’ll certainly keep on reading, though.