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Sep 6

Magneto vol 4 – “Last Days”

Posted on Sunday, September 6, 2015 by Paul in x-axis

Regular readers, your long national nightmare is over.  The X-books are starting to emerge from the other side of the Secret Wars crossover.  X-Men ’92 is also finished, if you’re reading it in digital form.  First up, though, Magneto.  This final volume collects its Secret Wars tie-in arc, clocking in at a modest four issues, and apparently leading to the end of the series.

Participation in Secret Wars seems to have been mandatory for virtually all Marvel Universe titles – the exceptions being the quirkfests and, for some reason, Guardians Team-Up.  But there was at least a choice between doing a stand-in series set on Battleworld, or a “Last Days” tie-in in the margins of Secret Wars #1.

The vast majority of books opted for Battleworld.  Perhaps that’s because of the appeal of getting to go nuts and throw continuity out the window for a few months.  But perhaps it’s also because there’s only so much you can do with the “Last Days” format – not least because the plot of the main series dictates that the world will end and the heroes will not prevent it.  On one view, this makes the “Last Days” stories potentially rather weightless, although that’s not as a clear as it seems, since we also know that the Marvel Universe is back in October, presumably with a lot of characters awkwardly remembering things they did when they thought the world was about to end.

At any rate, there are seven “Last Days” books, and two of them (Loki and Silver Surfer) take the route of having their characters escape the destruction of the universe in another way.  And that works fine for Loki; it’s already a series about stories, so having its final issues take place against the backdrop of the collapse of the Marvel Universe turns out to be quite useful.  Black Widow, I gather, is basically doing a flashback arc.  Ms. Marvel went for the angle of the rookie superhero in the margins of her first big event, a story that could pretty much have been done just as easily with any Really Big Event.  Captain America & The Mighty Avengers, I haven’t read.

Then you have Magneto and Punisher, two books which actually seem well suited to a straightforward “Last Days” story.  What does the Punisher do when the world’s ending?  Probably the same as any other day: go and kill a few more criminals while he has the chance.  And then there’s Magneto, attempting to prevent the end of the world in what we all know is another exercise in futility.  (And knocking off another anti-mutant villain along the way, because hey, why pass up the opportunity.)

Magneto started off as a low-key, horror-leaning vigilante book, with the largely depowered Magneto hunting down the sort of anti-mutant forces that he could still avenge himself against.  It’s continually grown in scale over its run, and increasingly brought in more traditional Marvel Universe elements, leading to this logical end point – Magneto attempting to single handedly shut down a line-wide crossover.

Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s art has done a lot of the heavy lifting in keeping the tone consistent here; he’s good with epic scale, but the humanity of his characters remains a constant however big the plot gets.  Admittedly, when the final issue starts doing flashbacks to specific scenes in the Silver Age, it does sometimes feel as though the book might as well have gone the whole hog and embraced visual pastiche.  But Walta smoothes the gaps and helps to make these sequences feel like part of a seamless back story, instead of imports from a drastically different style.

This arc is basically a character piece, so the plot is pretty straightforward.  As a back-up plan, Namor has warned Magneto about the Incursions, figuring that he’s the sort of person willing to destroy another planet in order to save Earth.  And he’s right.  Magneto is.  Except Magneto’s solution to an invasion from another world is to try to temporarily power himself up to the point where he can defeat it singlehandedly.  He ropes in Polaris to help, which is set up at first to look like a touching reunion between father and daughter.  But that turns out to be a distant second to the main reason for calling her in: she’s got the same powers as him, and he can nick them to make himself stronger.

Cullen Bunn has touched on this theme before.  His Magneto is motivated partly by hatred for his oppressors, and partly by a genuine desire to help mutants, but he also considers himself a great man and a historical figure.  A big part of his self-image is tied up in the idea that the solutions revolve around him and him alone.  In a sense, he buys into his own status as a major character.  This is presumably why, although the closing pages do have Magneto reflecting on his life just as he dies, he thinks about it in terms of his legacy and how he will be remembered – an odd preoccupation for someone who’s got every reason to believe that in five minutes time there won’t be anyone left to remember him.

Magneto certainly rationalises that part of himself; he would claim that he’s protecting Lorna by sidelining her.  There’s a parallel of sorts with his aide Briar Raleigh, who by this point is established pretty clearly as having a masochistic fascination with Magneto.  She justifies her involvement with him by claiming that she’s helping to direct his rage and obsession against truly deserving targets; but ultimately she has the self-awareness to recognise that she’s indulging her own hang-ups.

On the other hand, he does genuinely want to save the world (why wouldn’t he?), and for all his ego, he’s also willing to sacrifice himself for it.  The closing pages appear to have him coming to the recognition that his tactics have ended up making matters worse for mutants, not better.  Which would point to an attempt to change going forward – except that these same issues also acknowledge his on-again-off-again attempts to be a nice guy in the past, and pretty much come to the conclusion that his demons will always drag him back to the same path.  So perhaps Bunn’s idea is more along the lines of a moment of lucidity.


We’ll find out, of course, because while this is the final issue of Magneto, he’s also going to be in the cast of Bunn’s Uncanny X-Men.  Despite the title, the roster makes that look decidedly like a villain book, and in that sense it looks set to be the continuation of this title.  Unfortunately, Uncanny X-Men isn’t getting Gabriel Walta, it’s getting Greg Land, who is both a huge step down in quality, and pretty comprehensively unsuited for the sort of character-based story that Bunn’s been doing on this book.  Mind you, Uncanny is also a team book of which Magneto is just one part; it’s unlikely ever to have the sort of close focus on him that we’ve had here.

As for Magneto, it goes down as one of the X-office’s successes of recent years, holding on to a strong identity and a clear vision of its character, while making the obligatory crossovers work to support its own stories.  If it doesn’t come to a clear plot resolution (and it doesn’t), it does at least build its themes to a grand conclusion.  As a 21-issue run, this has been well worth my time.

Bring on the comments

  1. Hellsau says:

    How does Greg Land keep getting high profile work?

    Put a Bendis joke here, I’m too tired to think of one.

  2. Dasklein83 says:

    Issue 21 was fantastic. This series was soooooo much better than it had any right to be. Am I crazy for thinking that Bunn is the best writer of Magneto since Claremont?

  3. Chris says:

    Not usually how I see the character but a well-written comic.

    It should have been the flagship X-Men title

  4. Laughing_tree says:

    Besides GUARDIANS TEAM-UP, other titles that aren’t tying into SECRET WARS in any way include GROOT, S.H.I.E.L.D., and DAREDEVIL. I know that last one’s ending, but other books that are ending like LOKI or MIGHTY AVENGERS still had to tie in, so that alone shouldn’t have exempted it.

  5. Brian says:

    Maybe DAREDEVIL *did* have a red-skies crossover, but couldn’t see the red skies…because he’s blind?


  6. Reboot says:

    Groot’s a bizarre one – it launched as an MU book, at the same time as a bunch of Battleworld books…

  7. ASV says:

    Yeah, when Groot was announced, I assumed it was the Battleworld version of Rocket Raccoon.

  8. joseph says:

    I commend Bunn’s work on his AXIS and Secret Wars tie-ins, but honestly they really detract from what was otherwise a very good series. He made then work in service of his character study, but the latter in particular fell flat for me, anything it concluded nicely. The art felt especially jarring in the first two issues of the final arc, with the costumes and introduction of a new color pallet. I wonder about the choice of Lorna’s costume as well, since last we heard she’d still be leading XFactor. It could be that that had changed in the eight months of Time Runs Out leading to the final incursion, though no titles outside of Hickman seem to have acknowledged this plot point.

  9. Team Zissou says:

    A lot of Marvel’s low-to-mid tier selling books have to deal with these crossovers. I didn’t mind them so much in books like Zeb Wells’ New Mutants and All-New X-Factor because they were necessary evils to keep the books going, but they dent the cohesiveness of the series a little — much like this one.

    It’s hard to feel like a series like this one is a complete work when there are a few unfinished stories without the crossover books. The master plot lost me about halfway through the book, but it was always readable with Bunn’s excellent characterization and Walta’s moody artwork.

    I’m looking forward to Bunn’s Uncanny X-Men the most out of any of the new X-books. I never thought I’d look forward to a Cullen Bunn comic book, but here we are. Hopefully he can shed Greg Land after the first arc.

  10. I was disproportionately pleased to see the Magneto post-flipping the world’s polarity flashback, just because it was it was the period when I started reading comics, and I’m happy to see someone remembers that era exists. Whatever happened to Alda Huxley? Did she go evil? They usually go evil.

  11. Anya says:

    I think she just disappeared into limbo.

    I haven’t followed the magneto series too closely but wasn’t briar’s backstory something she was hurt/family killed during one of magneto’s attacks on humans. If so, wouldn’t her ‘personal hang ups’ be a big case of Stockholm syndrome?

  12. Alda is presumed dead in Cassandra Nova’s sentinel attack, like most others who were on Genosha.

  13. wwk5d says:

    Basically, she is dead until some writer decides to bring her back.

  14. Flinkman says:

    This was easily the best thing coming out of the X-Office these last two years…I commend both Bunn and Walta on a job very well done here. I agree that it is a CRIME that we’re not only getting Greg Land back on the X-Books, but back on the continuation of THIS X-Book. It’s also a shame that Magneto is ditching the costume he’s had here too…Chris Bachalo’s designs can be quite hit or miss, but I though this Magneto design was a home run in both it’s black and white versions.

  15. bad johnny got out says:

    @Team Zissou

    Zeb Wells’ Necrosha crossover was the highlight of his New Mutants run, (frankly, the highlight of Necrosha), because that’s where Wells unkilled Doug and introduced Creepy, Disassociated Doug.

    It was the highlight for me, anyway, because I’m a sucker for those Mr. Spock type of characters whose Nonhumanity is Just a Metaphor (for our Total Alienation between our Modern Condition and our Self (by Which I Mean my Dad)).

    When Peter David added Doug to his X-Factor roster, I was pretty disappointed when we got plain old mopey Doug. I really… really… hope someday soon, someone will continue with creepy disassociated Doug.

  16. Reboot says:

    So, Paul, any comment on No More Mutants II: Terrigen Boogaloo? I seem to recall you were pretty vocal about the first time…

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