Graphic Novel Review: Magneto: Infamous

Magneto: Infamous

Magneto: Infamous - Credit: Archant

Terrorist, outlaw, hero, X-Man? Who is the real Magneto?

(Panini Books)

With his first appearance coinciding with that of the original X-Men, the master of magnetism’s history has been irrevocably linked to that of the mutant team, as he has flip-flopped between being a Machiavellian supervillain to a tortured anti-hero, and every position in between.

Erik Lehnsherr*’s origins are irrevocably linked to the Nazi death camps of WWII, but thanks to an alien rejuvenation some years back, Magneto remains relatively youthful (unlike his movie counterpart). For a long time he also represented a philosophical dichotomy contrasting with the viewpoints of Charles Xavier, simplistically referred to as the mutant Malcolm X against Xavier’s Martin Luther King, as they clashed over whether Homo Superior could ever really integrate with normal Sapiens.

But recent years have seen him lend his allegiance to Scott (Cyclops) Summers, who had established a mutant utopia following the events of M-Day, which saw the majority of the planet’s mutants depowered by the Scarlet Witch, perhaps recognising that Scott’s new vision for their race was remarkably close to his own.

Xavier’s death at the hands of a Phoenix-possessed Summers, and the scrambling of Erik’s powers by this all-powerful cosmic force, resulted in him joining Cyclops’ band of renegade X-Men and becoming an outlaw once again.

No longer an A-list villain, this series offers a new dynamic for Magneto, as he skirts the fringes of the Marvel Universe tackling hate crimes against mutants and struggling to regain his previous control over his powers.

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Although rarely seen in costume, and not relying on his abilities in the same way he once did, he remains a terrifying force, using simple everyday metal objects to deadly effect.

Writer Cullen Bunn presents a character who coldly rationalises his violent behaviour, is not afraid of using interrogation techniques which owe much to his experiences under the Nazis, and shows no signs of real redemption or moral development.

It’s a fascinating book, and perhaps one of the strongest mutant titles of recent years, but where exactly it is going has yet to be established. For the moment this isn’t a problem, but sooner or later the reader is going to have to decide whether reading a series about Magneto reaping his own brand of vengeance on rogue mutants and racist humans alike is enough.

* Magneto’s alter ego is in fact an alias, as he was born Max Eisenhardt, but we’ll stick with the former name as it is the one he is best associated with in both the comics and movies.