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Jul 21

Giant-Size X-Men: Magneto #1

Posted on Tuesday, July 21, 2020 by Paul in Uncategorized

The Giant-Size X-Men one-shots have a slightly odd place in Hickman’s line. On the one hand, they’re written by Hickman himself, and they feature what seem to be significant plot points for his wider story. On the other, they differ in tone from his X-Men stories, with a more relaxed pace and none of the data pages that normally provide heavy-duty exposition. They feel a little detached from the rest of the line. After all, even when something seemingly important happens – like Storm’s infection by the Children of the Vault – it never gets mentioned anywhere else, and vanishes into the narrative ether.

Granted, the long interruption caused by the pandemic probably makes that look worse than it is. But there’s a definite sense of Giant-Size X-Men being off to the side somewhere, creating Schrodinger’s plot developments that won’t feel like they really matter until another book mentions them.

So what we have here is an uneasy hybrid, a comic which depends on the wider line for its plot points to carry weight, but in itself seems more concerned with providing a showcase for the artist. In this case, it’s Ramón Pérez, who does indeed do an impressive job, in a low key sort of way.

Magneto lends himself to a lot of quite obvious (and overworked) scenarios, where he plays the mutant leader or liberator, or winds up the humans, or whatever. In this story, his immediate mission is simply to get hold of a seemingly-uninhabited island in the Faroes for the use of Emma Frost. (As I mentioned in the annotations post, the real-life Mykines isn’t uninhabited at all – it has a village on it – but Hickman certainly seems to think this one is monitored only by a lighthouse keeper, so we’ll go with that for story purposes.) His and Emma’s wider agenda is purposefully obscure, so we’re left with a story about how Magneto interacts with characters outside his normal orbit when he’s trying to be non-confrontational. The island (somehow or other) belongs to Namor, and Magneto has come to trade for it, which he duly does by helping out with an undersea problem.

Pérez gets to draw Krakoa and undersea monsters in this issue, but the best pages are the ones that just show Magneto waiting patiently on a remote island. There’s a nice balance in these scenes – Magneto is being unusually respectful to Namor simply by putting up with this waiting game, but at the same time he retains a quiet dignity, and somehow avoids looking out of place. It helps that his current white costume is rather less garish than more traditional mutantwear, of course.

Once Namor shows up, we get a strange little half-formed adventure in which they investigate a Kraken in the ocean deeps, and encounter some ancient mystic creatures inside it, in what seem to be an echo of the three fates. That trio try to play out their usual solve-my-riddle-and-make-a-choice routine, which Magneto predictably outthinks. (It’s not all that challenging.)

It’s a strangely detached, drifting scene. In large part, that seems to be intentional. The trio are getting terribly worked out about something of tremendous significance to them, but which doesn’t appear to impinge on Magneto at all. He seems wholly uninterested in their protestations about the implications of what he’s done, and doesn’t even stop to find out what they’re talking about. But he does hold on to the key that he took from them, so maybe he’s listening after all. Still, it plays as though a traditional magical-choice story is trying to get going, and Magneto simply derails it by calmly, impassively, unostentatiously declining to play out the assigned role.

You can see how that works in terms of Magneto’s character. Under Hickman, Magneto is quietly confident that mutants finally have the upper hand. He’s refused to accept the role that seemed to be laid out for him and helped to rewrite the ground rules of the series the way he wants them. Or has he – because he seems to be trying to help Emma set up a satellite island linked to Krakoa, but distinct from it. And why is he trying to do that?

In the short term, the significance of most of the things happening in this story remains obscure. Why does Emma want an island? Why does Magneto want to help her get it? We can only speculate. What did the big sea monster have to do with anything, beyond the rudimentary plot mechanics of doing Namor a favour in exchange for the island? Again, there aren’t many clues. If you’re trying to take this as a plot-driven story, it’s rather frustrating.

But as a mood piece it works rather better. Those montage sequences of Magneto killing time by wandering farm tracks, collecting firewood, and standing by his campfire in the middle of the night are lovely. And Pérez can really sell the grace of Magneto building a citadel from scratch out of a bunch of unlovely shipping containers. All that kind of carries it through.

Still, we’re getting to the point where some of the things introduced by Hickman need to start paying off. We are, of course, coming up for X of Swords, and while I can’t help but be sceptical about the wisdom of a line-wide crossover on that scale, it does at least feel like the sort of story that should mark the Hickman line moving on to its next act.

Bring on the comments

  1. Scott Brewer says:

    I’m thinking about dropping all the x-books I read. I don’t really want to, but X of Swords looks like you need to read every part and I’m not prepared to spend that much.

  2. Adam says:

    I enjoy the continuity notes and the podcast, but my favorite thing on this site remains your reviews. Happy to see a new one.

  3. JD says:

    It’s nice how well Perez fits here, since he wasn’t the first choice : this issue was originally solicited with Ben Oliver drawing it. It got pushed back and switched with the Nightcrawler one (presumably to accommodate the delays incurred by the change of artists).

  4. neutrino says:

    Was it worth $4.99?

  5. jpw says:

    @neutrino – Very few comics are worth $4.99

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