Graphic Novel Review: Magneto: Reversals

Magneto: Reversals

Magneto: Reversals - Credit: Archant

Hero or villain? Even Magneto’s not sure himself...

(Panini Books)

What makes a man change? Is it the realisation that his actions were flawed, the experience of time, an intervention from an old friend, or a mystical personality reversal unleashed without his permission?

In many ways, all of these apply to Erik Lehnsherr, the mutant commonly known as Magneto, as he undergoes an evolving shift in his stance towards the rest of his face, his approach to hate crimes against them, and his decision on whether Homo Sapiens and Homo Superior would be better off integrating or remaining separate.

Investigating a gang who are extracting the drug Mutant Growth Hormone from captive mutants before throwing them into an arena to fight giant metal wolfs (yes, really), Magneto still finds himself isolated from his own kind, despite his efforts to champion their rights and protect them from oppression.

Things only change as part of a tie-in with the Axis crossover title, in which heroes become villains and vice versa due to a chaos spell by the Scarlet Witch and Doctor Strange. The majority of these issues revolve around Magneto’s clash with the Red Skull, who has created mutant concentration camps on the island of Genosha, and the obvious parallels with Erik’s own experiences in Auschwitz.

Unfortunately, the emotional elements of these flashbacks, which focus on the young Magneto’s inability to kill a camp officer, are then juxtaposed with the comic book Nazi that is the Red Skull, whose cackling madman is much more of a caricature, resulting in uncomfortable shifts in tone between the past and present.

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Aside from these aspects of the narrative, and some out-of-place flashbacks to some of Magneto’s past exploits in the wider Marvel Universe, the rest of this crossover is actually little more than a retelling of the events of Axis from a different perspective, and adds little to that storyline if you’ve already read it.

Erik is obviously on a journey of personal development, as he slowly begins to understand the different perspective of his late friend Charles Xavier, his own role as a saviour of mutantkind, and his redemption after crimes as a bad guy, but it’s better to see that change evolve naturally rather than be forced into fruition as a result of comic book magic, and thankfully the status quo is restored after Axis.

The first collection of Magneto’s solo series was unquestionably one of the stand-out releases of the past year, adding a depth of character and emotional sadness to the one-time supervillain, but that doesn’t quite continue for the duration of this volume. Hopefully things will get back on track now Axis is out of the way, and the creative team can continue to explore this fascinating mutant in the way they originally intended.