After seeing X-Men First Class, I remember thinking how brilliantly badass the scene was where Magneto hunted down the Nazis. The idea of Magneto, such a powerful mutant with strong personal convictions, seeking despicable people responsible for atrocities, felt like it was begging to be turned into a spin-off movie. Well recently Brian Michael Bendis said that the new Magneto series was basically built from the idea of that scene. Magneto alone and on the road punishing those who deserve it, that is certainly a kickass premise. Add that to the fact it’s written by Cullen Bunn, who’s responsible for some strikingly good comics, and drawn by Gabriel Hernandez Walta, who’s nailed the art on a wide variety of titles over the years, I was made rather curious. Well now the issue is here, does it come together?
The issue begins with a waiter explaining the shocking and brutal way that one of his patrons was recently murdered. Judging by the title of the book and the way he was killed it’s not difficult to hypothesise who was responsible. Afterwards we join Magneto himself as he’s in a small motel room grimly musing over what he’s just done and intends to continue doing. Yes, Magneto is now traveling the country and hunting down the very worst of humanity, and I love it.
With all form of supporting cast stripped away, the storyline is more like reading about an assassin than an ex-super villain. The basic plot is more like a cleaner, super powered Punisher tale than anything else. It works exceptionally well, it feels like there’s a calm determination to Magneto and unshakable belief that he’s doing the right thing. It’s characteristics that have always been apart of his character, but just never used in quite this way before.
The artwork is quite down to earth, which makes the gruesome sight of Magneto’s victim look even more unnerving, in the best possible way. These are horrible things happening to horrible people and Magneto just became an anti-hero in the same category as Wolverine’s darkest days. When he’s sat pondering over his mission the stern, almost miserable, look on his face it perfectly matches his inner dialogue. It’s not just the characters that are great though, the world looks lived in, with lots of everyday clutter dotted around rooms and exteriors. It’s not the most conventional looking X-book, but this direction really suits the tone of a story that’s a bit darker and grittier than usual.
I wasn’t a huge fan of Magneto’s recent decision to go full on bald but it looks very fitting here. With a shiny head and some slight stubble, he looks like someone who means business. Physically he’s looking pretty fit too, give him a shave and he could practically be a stunt double in the next Hitman movie. Furthermore the black outfit looks sensible but intimidating, in the action scenes he looks like a dark force of focused energy.
Smartly, Magneto doesn’t come across like he’s actually enjoying what he’s doing. That would strip a lot of the fun from the book, ironically. Magneto isn’t a psychopath, well not in any extreme way anyway, he’s more likeable because you know that he takes no pleasure in this. It’s not desire that drives him, it’s duty.
Overall this is one hell of a fun issue. If you like movies about professional killers, like Leon for instance, or you got as giddy as me during that First Class scene, you will love this. It’s Magneto at his most brutal but also the most grounded I’ve seen him recently, potentially ever. This isn’t a super villain parading around in purple and a cape, it’s a man sitting down for a drink with someone he’s about to swiftly murder. Not your usual X-Men story, but a damn good one.