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Aug 21

X-Men: The Trial of Magneto #1 annotations

Posted on Saturday, August 21, 2021 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

“Dial M for Wanda”
by Leah Williams, Lucas Werneck & Edgar Delgado

This is a five-issue miniseries following on from the murder of the Scarlet Witch during “Hellfire Gala”.

COVER / PAGE 1. The body of the Scarlet Witch with Magneto in the background. To avoid spoilers, the solicitation art showed a chalk outline in place of Wanda.

PAGE 2. Opening quotation. The Scarlet Witch is talking about immortality being a curse, the irony being not just her own death but the pride that the Krakoans take in their resurrection technology. Note that over in Way of X this week, we’re also being told that resurrection has a major downside (specifically, it provides a route in for Onslaught).

Although the quotation is said to be from “years ago”, as far as I know it’s original.

PAGE 3. Recap and credits. Wanda’s body was found in X-Factor #10.

The small print reads “murder investigation – trial of X” in the top left, and “Who killed Wanda?” in the central bottom. The choice of characters to highlight in the cast section more or less presents this as X-Factor #11.

PAGES 4. Daken examines the crime scene.

For any newcomers, that’s X-Factor’s leader Northstar in panel 1, with members Daken and Prestige (Rachel Summers), accompanied by her Warwolf pet Amazing Baby. X-Factor’s normal role is to verify that mutants have died so that they can be resurrected without risk of duplication, but they’re the closest thing Krakoa has to murder investigators.

Also present are Wolverine (Logan) and Domino from X-Force, the “mutant CIA”, and Wolverine (Laura Kinney) and Synch (Everett Thomas), who were literally just voted onto the X-Men a few hours ago in X-Men #21.

The Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff) has a horrendously complicated back story, caused in part by efforts to distance her and Quicksilver from the X-Men for licensing reasons during the period when the X-Men and Avengers movie licenses were in separate hands. For present purposes, it’s enough to know that she and her brother Quicksilver were for many years believed to be Magneto’s children, and that in 2005’s House of M event, she had a breakdown and wiped out the powers of most mutants on Earth. Krakoan culture views her as a hate figure.

PAGE 5-6. Rachel views the past.

Rachel’s powers include the ability to see events from the past, something that dates back to Excalibur.

X-Force were shown working as the Hellfire Gala event security in X-Force #20 and Wolverine #13.

PAGES 7-9. X-Force and X-Factor examine the body.

According to page 12, this is the “corpse garden” in X-Factor’s grounds, where bodies are allowed to decompose for purposes of scientif study.The people gathered around the body are X-Force’s Beast, Sage and Wolverine, plus Prodigy and Eye-Boy (who normally do the forensic work for X-Factor) and Cecilia Reyes, Krakoa’s main regular doctor (as opposed to mutant healer).

Sage, plus . Prodigy and Eye-Boy, who normally do the forensic work for X-Factor both get dialogue. I think the woman who speaks first is X-Force member Sage, though we never get a clear shot of her. Wolverine (Logan) is there too. Up in the gallery are X-Men Cyclops, Jean Grey and Polaris (who only just left X-Factor a few hours ago), plus Egg, Tempo, Proteus and Hope from the Five. Their fifth member Elixir is absent for some reason.

Note that while Beast is characteristically trying to take control of the situation, Wolverine stays back and lets his son Daken do his job. He only intervenes to prompt Daken when he thinks something has been missed.

The facts that her murderer had a white cape and used metal is, very obviously, meant to point to Magneto.

Cecilia says that Wanda died at 2.56am. That contradicts S.W.O.R.D. #6, in which she didn’t even arrive at the venue to meet Magneto until 3.17am, 21 minutes later. Most likely this is an error, but the timeline of the Hellfire Gala was fairly consistent throughout the tie-in issues, so maybe not.

PAGES 10-14. Magneto tries to persuade the Quiet Council to resurrect Wanda.

The Quiet Council. The ruling body of Krakoa. Going clockwise from top in page 10 panel 1, we’re seeing Magneto, the empty seat that formerly belonged to Apocalypse, Mister Sinister, Exodus, Mystique, Kate Pryde, Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw, Nightcrawler, the empty seat that formerly belonged to Jean Grey, and Storm (still on the Quiet Council even though she’s also been appointed to its equivalent on Arakko).

Magneto has switched to a version of his black costume (from his 2014 solo series), presumably as a show of mourning.

Obviously, the fact that Magneto is pushing so hard to resurrect Wanda points strongly away from his having murdered her. In S.W.O.R.D. #6, he claimed that he still thought of her and Pietro as his children despite the subsequent retcons. But the main reason he gives here is that “you’re all wilfully making a choice to endanger the Krakoan experiment.” We don’t see him explain what he’s referring to there, but everyone seems to understand.

Resurrection. Normally available only to mutants, who are backed up on Cerebro. But, Professor X explains, Wanda and Pietro are an exception because they do have Cerebro back-ups. Uncanny Avengers vol 2 #4 eventually revealed that they were not mutants, but had been disguised by the High Evolutionary. The logic, I suppose, is that they must have registered on Cerebro as mutants at the time, as otherwise their absence would have been noticed – particularly during the time when Quicksilver was actually a member of X-Factor.

Note the wider implications, though. Xavier seems to be saying that Cerebro stopped recording them once the true position became known, but presumably that was due to a conscious decision on his part. It’s unlikely that Cerebro was reading Uncanny Avengers. He certainly seems to be saying here that the supposedly mutant-centric technology of resurrection is in fact perfectly capable of being extended to ordinary humans – at least in principle. The volume of humanity might still be beyond his resources.

“Multiple potential suspects with supernatural abilities.” I’m not sure who exactly Magneto is identifying as having “supernatural” abilities among X-Force and X-Factor, unless he’s using “supernatural” to mean generically superhuman as opposed to magical.

The vote. The three votes in favour of resurrection come from Magneto himself, the consistently nice Nightcrawler, and Kate Pryde, who voices a surprisingly traditional moral line. Those voting against are the four outright villains (Sinister, Exodus, Mystique and Sebastian Shaw), Emma Frost and Storm. The motives of the latter two are interesting – Emma seems to just see Wanda as a liability to mutantkind, but Storm says nothing to explain her decision. Magneto takes them to be simply shrugging their shoulders and accepting that normal human limitations apply to everyone but them – even though Professor X has very clearly just told them that it isn’t true.

Note that Professor X, as chair, doesn’t cast a vote one way or the other.

“I carved myself out of torture to stand tall upon the ruins of my subjugation.” Magneto is alluding to his back story as a Holocaust survivor.

PAGES 15-17. Magneto refuses to be arrested.

The generic Krakoan s are celebrating the death of their national hate figure (“the pretender”, because she pretended to be a mutant).

Note that in S.W.O.R.D. #5 (just one month before the Gala), Magneto gave a speech to the Council telling Fabian Cortez that if he committed murder “again, for any reason, I would face exile. And face it gladly, for we must be a nation of laws.” Even assuming he’s innocent, he’s not exactly honouring that commitment to due process – but the reality is that the Krakoan legal system is so rudimentary that it doesn’t have any due process. There are no judges, and no meaningfully specific laws – just the whim of the Quiet Council.

PAGE 18. Kyle comforts Tommy.

Tommy is Speed, formerly of the Young Avengers, who was Wanda’s reincarnated son. Kyle Jinadu is Northstar’s husband, seemingly the only human living on Krakoa (for reasons that have still never been explained, despite the Krakoans steadfastly refusing to accept human refugees in other stories).

“I called my brother, but there’s been some sort of space emergency.” Tommy’s brother is Wiccan (Billy Kaplan), who is married to Hulkling, the current emperor of the combined Kree/Skrull empire. The “space emergency” is the “Last Annihilation” storyline over in Guardians of the Galaxy, which also tied in to S.W.O.R.D. #7. That issue confirms that Tommy’s intuition is correct: Billy has been trying to contact Wanda, and assumes that his inability to do so is because something is blocking his signal.

PAGE 19. Professor X tells the Avengers about Wanda’s death.

Captain America, Iron Man, Wasp and Vision attend (rather than the current line-up of the Avengers, which would have people like Blade and Ghost Rider who barely know Wanda). Vision is Wanda’s ex-husband from the 1980s.

Xavier can be quite high-handed with the non-mutant heroes during the Krakoan era, but he’s being much more like his old self here.

PAGES 20-26. Magneto is captured.

As in the autopsy scene, Wolverine is played here as a father taking pride in his son’s accomplishments.

Magneto assumes that the person using his powers against him is newly elected X-Man Synch, who does indeed have the ability to copy powers. He may be right, because we do see Synch a little bit later. But it doesn’t seem to occur to him that it could be his daughter Polaris, until she actually shows her face. He then goes on a rant about how inconsistent and ill-defined her personality is, which was a concern raised in early issues of X-Factor. It’s fair to say that Lorna has indeed been a hazily defined character over the years.

Lorna accuses Magneto of trying to “break” her and “rearrange the pieces of me back into your perfect daughter”. I’m not really sure what they have in mind there. The closest would probably be the time she spend on Genosha with him at the turn of the century, helping to prop up his powers during a period when he was depleted – but that’s not really a period of mental instability. She did have a phase later on, during the Chuck Austen run, of erratically following in her father’s footsteps – but Magneto himself wasn’t really involved in that.

Quicksilver shows up without explanation – as a non-mutant, he shouldn’t be able to use the gates, but perhaps he’s just done the speedster trick of running across the sea. The art doesn’t show this very clearly, but Northstar scoops him up and takes him away before he can kill Magneto. Quicksilver accuses Magneto of having “always talked about” killing Wanda, which isn’t really true, but probably does fit with the sort of threats he would have bandied about when they were all members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants back in the Silver Age.

Pietro insists that Wanda was “just unwell” and “a very sick woman” who “needed help.” That was true at the time of House of M, but it isn’t really how she’s been played in recent years (including in her solo book), nor is it how she was written in S.W.O.R.D. #6. Admittedly, she was shown as being unhealthily obsessed with atoning for House of M in Empyre: X-Men. Note that Pietro is making these comments to Northstar, whose sister Aurora has also been plagued by mental health problems over the years (much more so than Wanda, in fact).

PAGE 27. Scott, Jean and Logan discuss Magneto.

This is where we finally get a “classic” X-Men line-up, away from the others. Logan asks the obvious plot-problem question of why they don’t just read Magneto’s mind, and gets some blather about the difficulties of reading sleeping minds. That would kind of make sense if it had been established over the years, but here it really does feel like something that’s been conjured up to try and cure a plot hole.

PAGES 28-29. The surviving Brotherhood members in the Green Lagoon.

The other two at the bar are the Toad and Mastermind (now of X-Corp), both of whom were also members of the original Brotherhood of Evil Mutants back in the day. Toad always had a crush on Wanda, which never went anywhere. The bartender, as always, is the Blob.

PAGES 30-33. Wanda’s vision.

Wanda imagines herself in white, being killed by the white-robed figure, and bleeding out to turn her costume back to its usual red. There’s no sign in this sequence of her hands being restrained, so presumably this isn’t a literal depiction of how she died. The flowers motif normally points to Krakoa in the current era, which is curious.

PAGE 34. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: AVENGERS ASSEMBLE.

Bring on the comments

  1. Moo says:

    “… except for Polaris, who had body issues so she switched to an overtly-sexualized costume. Ugh.”

    Exactly, yes! Thank you. I was reading some of the “PAD treated her right” remarks and thought to myself , “Really? Just because he managed to not write her as either a victim or a loon?” The bar must be pretty low if we consider simply avoiding that stuff as a bang-up characterization job.

    And the psychiatric issue is what leapt to mind. I haven’t read it in years- possibly not since it was published, but there’s a great deal that I remember about it– with regards to all of the other characters.

    However, where Polaris was concerned, the only thing I could remember at all was that her session, for some reason, ended with her dressed like an Asgardian prostitute.

    Maybe I’m being unfair to that scene (or perhaps not) and as I’ve said, I haven’t read it in years, but I suspect it hasn’t aged terribly well.

  2. Chris V says:

    Yes, that issue reads very badly in the current day.

    What happened was that Stroman drew Polaris in a very distinct manner.
    Fans noticed and mentioned it a few times.
    David decided to make light of this in the story by having Polaris start to think she was fat.
    David said that he planned to follow up on the therapy session issue by revealing that Lorna had developed an eating disorder.
    He left the book before he was able to finish the subplot though.

    Samson ends up looking like a complete incompetent.
    Any psychiatrist acting that unprofessionally with a patient would have lost their license.

    So, while what is on the page reads horribly dated today, David did intend to revisit that issue and deal with it in a more sensitive manner.

  3. Chris V says:

    Er, I should say that scene reads very badly in the current day.
    The issue, itself, is still one of the Bray issues of X-Factor. Everything except the Lorna portion.

  4. Chris V says:

    OK, autocorrect changed “best” to “Bray” for some ungodly reason.
    I am just going to give up now.
    It is not really the Bray issue of X-Factor, whatever that would mean. It is still one of the best issues, however.

  5. Moo says:

    Ok, good. I thought “Bray”. was some hip slang that I was oblivious to (“Dude, that jacket is Bray!”) and I was embarrassed to ask what it meant.

    Anyway, I will say that even though I made fun of “The Gifted” earlier (because I thought it was pretty bad for the most part. John Proudstar — with the power to place his hand on the ground and view clips from previous episodes), I confess that I actually did like how they handled Lorna’s personality.

    And by that I mean they actually gave her one.

  6. Michael says:

    The other problem with that scene was that Alex had slept with Madelyne Pryor, Scarlet McKenzie and Plasma while Lorna was Malice-ized. But PAD was trying to ignore that since he felt that Alex had been left in an unworkable position at the end of the Australian period. But still, you’d think Samson would wonder if Alex’s infidelity contributed to Lorna’s body image issues.

  7. Moo says:

    “But still, you’d think Samson would wonder if Alex’s infidelity contributed to Lorna’s body image issues.”

    He’d have to know about it first, and If PAD was ignoring it then how could he?

  8. Si says:

    I’ve been thinking about this, and I think what made the PAD X-Factor such a stand-out was that it focused on character more than any other team book around at the time. Certainly more than the other X-books, at least. It was a breath of fresh air. But as far as actual stories, it hasn’t held up well at all. Compared to 60s and 70s square-jawed archetype heroes, 80s soap opera angst, and 90s XTREEM, it seemed nuanced and subtle. But compared to today’s comics, you can see how much of it was a façade.

    And yes, the famous psychiatrist issue has not stood the test of time. We all thought it was really amazing when it was revealed that Quicksilver acts cranky because everyone else seems so slow to him. It’s just exposition! None of the interviews really have any depth at all.

  9. Adam says:

    X-FACTOR was also “the funny one” of the titles—not to the extent that it overshadowed all else, but humor was definitely part of the style. A tad like HELLIONS today, come to think it: a book about an unusual cast with a sense of fun.

  10. Taibak says:

    Si: I would disagree with that. I would argue that Excalibur was at least as good while Claremont or Davis was doing the writing.

  11. Si says:

    I agree about Excalibur, particularly the Davis-written stuff (which in contrast does hold up very well). But it was very much its own thing. It was barely part of the Marvel Universe. And I (ahem) kind of forgot it came out at the same time.

  12. Moo says:

    It just occurred to me that Mesmero could be responsible for Lorna’s behaviour dating back to her first appearance. Way back when Lorna first appeared, Mesmero used a “psyche-generator” on her.

    Now, I can’t claim to be an expert on psyche-generators, but it seems to me that if you’re using a psyche-generator for any purpose other than to generate psyches, then you’re probably misusing the device, and Mesmero used it to both control Lorna’s mind and activate her powers (she was introduced as a latent mutant). Neither of these strike me as the appropriate use of a psyche-generator.

    So, maybe Mesmero’s complete disregard for safety manuals resulted in Lorna suffering some, to-date, undiagnosed neurological damage making her wishy-washy, vulnerable to manipulation, prone to erratic behaviour, and indecipherable to comic book writers.

    It would explain a lot.

  13. Thom H. says:

    And the No-Prize goes to Moo for that amazing explanation. I guess we just need to find an artist for our Polaris solo title, and we’re ready to pitch to Marvel. Who’s in?

  14. Evilgus says:

    Didn’t PAD provide an in-universe explanation for Lorna’s fragile mental state, to do with her powers activating and destroying her (adopted) parent’s plane? The memories and powers being subsequently repressed.

    Though I think I prefer Moo’s No-Prize!

  15. Adam says:

    Lord, I don’t know about Lorna having a plane thing, but if it’s true, I guess we know how she and Havok connected so strongly.

    Moo FTW, regardless.

  16. neutrino says:

    It was her birth mother and her husband on the plane. Lorna was later adopted by her mother’s sister and her husband.

    Lorna had the most stable upbringing with a human family and seemed to be the X-man who most wanted a normal life, but Hickman had her saying to Magneto about whether humans had ever produced anything worthwhile.

  17. Moo says:

    Aw, thanks guys.

    Actually, both stories could co-exist. The reason I’d go with “Lorna just needs neurosurgery” is that it’d give a writer an opportunity to rebuild her personality from the ground up (but with an actual plan in mind). I know it sounds convenient, but if the Legacy Virus can be cured globally by one guy plunging a syringe into his body, a writer should be able to get away with this without too much scrutiny.

    PAD’s plane story could remain the standing explanation as to why Lorna was (I guess, mistakenly) believed to be a latent mutant in her first appearance. But then you go on to say it was only *assumed* that the same traumatic incident had been the root of all of her problems since when in fact, it was that damned psyche-generator all along.

    Because I’ve been looking into it, and those psyche-generators are bad news. Wal-Mart doesn’t even stock them anymore. Makes me wonder how the psyche-generating hobbyists have been coping.

  18. Si says:

    How many mutants accidentally killed their parents or maimed their lover when their powers manifested? Now that I think about it, it’s a ridiculous trope. Wait till we hear that Cypher killed his parents when he spontaneously spoke Korean to them and the shock made them both fall out the window.

  19. Karl_H says:

    Just thinking about ways out of the Wanda/Pietro retcon box… Are there any examples of either of them being detected as mutants after the famous “No more mutants” line? Could she have unmutanted them both at that time? Was it Wanda all along?

  20. ASV says:

    High Evolutionary triggered a latent X gene that had been suppressed by their mother’s magic. Because of the involvement of magic, perceptions of their mutantness are warped – when people stopped thinking they were mutants, devices like Cerebro went along with it.

  21. Chris says:

    Northstar and Scarlet Witch should have a support group with Aurora and Quicksilver

  22. Si says:

    “Welcome to Mutants Without Mutancy. I’m Squirrel Girl. This is Wanda, Pietro, Jean-P, Jean-M, and Kitt- Kate. Everyone, a warm welcome to Franklin.”

  23. Si says:

    “Tandy and Tyrone send their apologies.”

  24. Col_Fury says:

    As much as I’d love the Wanda/Pietro retcon to be retconned, we have since met their “real” birth mother in the recent-ish Scarlet Witch series, who was a previous Scarlet Witch. Apparently, being a Scarlet Witch is hereditary (or something).

    However, Uncanny Avengers v2 has the High Evolutionary saying that Wanda and Pietro were actually Django and Marya Maximoff’s kids. Scarlet Witch v2 says they’re Natalya Maximoff’s kids, but as far as I can see doesn’t say who their father is. Either way, the twins can no longer be Magda’s kids. So what happened to the twins that Magda left with the High Evolutionary? Who knows?

    At this point, I think the best they can do is reveal that Magneto fathered Natalya’s twins, Wanda & Pietro. But good luck with that, really (although I’m quietly hoping for it).


  25. Chris V says:

    Karl-That doesn’t work because Pietro still has his powers.
    Also, everyone else who lost their mutant powers continued to have their lives recorded by Cerebro.

    ASV’s is a nice solution.

    I thought there was something mentioned about magic being involved with Wanda and Pietro being thought of as mutants…but I guess I am mistaken.

  26. Si says:

    Pietro lost his powers on M Day. He got them back later by … really wanting them?

    Anyway, my vote would be to walk the heck away from any questions of race, parentage, etc. Just never do another story about it. It’s too messed up already, there’s nothing to be gained by adding to it. They have powers. Why? They’ve been around since the 60s, it doesn’t matter. Who are their parents? Some people, they’re not in this story anyway, it doesn’t matter. This story’s about vampires biting the Avengers giant frozen space robot corpse house or something.

  27. neutrino says:

    In a Quicksilver one-shot, The Quick and the Dead, PAD explained it as a delayed reaction to the Terrigen Crystals in his previous series.

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