Magneto: hero/villain

I don’t think any comic book character has crossed the good guy/bad guy line more often than Magneto.  Every decade he decides to once again terrorize humankind or once again aid the human-protecting X-Men.  Though despite his alliances, his motive never changes: mutants rock, non-mutants suck.  More of the former, less of the latter.  What’s Magneto’s opinon on his constant team switching?  I don’t know if anything concrete has come out, but you do get a glimpse in AvX: Consequences #4, written by Kieron Gillen and Mark Brooks.

To get you caught up, in the aftermath of the Marvel event Avengers vs. X-Men, Colossus is on the run for his crimes he committed as part of the Phoenix Five.  Storm can’t convince him to return to his buddies.  Colossus’ arch-nemesis will always be Colossus.

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Much like how history is written by the victors, Magneto adheres to a similar philosophy.  So, when the textbooks get written centuries in the future, what title will Magneto receive?  Honestly, I have no idea.  But I did collect a few ambiguous examples of both.  First up: Captain America #367, written by Mark Gruenwald and drawn by Kieron Dwyer.

Quickly name some of the biggest Marvel supervillains — Magneto, Doctor Doom, Loki, Green Goblin, Mandarin, Kingpin, etc.  And Red Skull, who as you can imagine might not get along with one of the members of this list.  Y’know, because Red Skull’s a Nazi and Magneto’s a Holocaust survivor.

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No telepaths needed to read their minds.  Red Skull hates mutants.  Magneto really hates Red Skull. But as the two argue, Red Skull does defend his ideals with an unfailing confidence that most delusional psychopaths possess.  It’d be admirable if it wasn’t for the whole Nazi thing.

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Look, it can be difficult to argue that Magneto hasn’t turned into a smaller scale Hitler himself, at least with the goal of exterminating/ruling over mankind with his fellow superior mutants.  But despite all the political and moral arguments one could make demeaning Magneto’s speech, allow me to present my own ironclad argument: screw Nazis.  As you expect, Magneto totally wins their little chase.

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Red Skull’s hallucinations and almost-repentance begin two issues later, which we’ll cover later. But I do want to make sure we cover one of Magneto’s more evil moments, like that famous one from the early ’90s when he went full on bad guy.  Wild carnage abounds in X-Men #25, volume 2, written by Fabian Nicieza and drawn by Andy Kubert.  Heads up, it’s going to get wordy.

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Y’know, the moment where Magneto figures, well, time to be a Hitler.  Ends justify the means and blah blah blah.  Then he fights the X-Men for forty pages:

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Do you know the horrifying pain Wolverine experienced when he got pumped full of adamantium? Turns out it hurts way more coming out.

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Despite Magneto’s power, he really doesn’t stand a chance against his old friend Professor X.  It’s only because dear Xavier holds back and instead sends in squads of teenagers that Magneto can even secure victories.  Because if the professor were to ever snap, like say when adamantium rips out of his teammate’s body, poor Magneto can’t possibly defend against that level of psychic attack.  Y’see, when the Hulk gets angry, he can punch dudes into space, but mind powers work differently and the results tend to be far more cruel.

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As many subtly awful things Professor X did during his time running the X-Men, we should applaud him just for the fact that he could have done so much worse.  Like erasing the entire brain of anyone he chooses ever.

As much as I’d like to take sides between Professor X and Magneto, my own identity as a bald Jew puts me in a tricky spot.  On Monday, I’d like to continue exploring some powerful Magneto moments. Hopefully.

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3 Comments on “Magneto: hero/villain”

  1. Magneto, as re-envisioned by Chris Claremont to be a survivor of the Holocaust is definitely a very complex, complicated, morally ambiguous character. One can certainly see Magneto as the personification of Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous warning “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.” Likewise the character seems to embody the old saying “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

    It is also worth noting that on more than one occasion Claremont established that Magneto’s powers have the unfortunate side effect of causing him mental instability. This was no doubt a method to explain the despotic, insane, sadistic behavior Magneto displayed throughout the Silver Age, as well as in Claremont’s own early X-Men stories.

    And so I’ve often regarded Magneto as a tragic but dangerous figure, a man who experienced horrific losses in his childhood & early adulthood who is unable or unwilling to let go of the past, and who is also plagued by mental illness, all of which has led him to fanatical extremes.

    • lee winters says:

      I’ve always found professor x rather creepy. Bald, old man in a wheelchair, hanging out with teenagers , and he could be mind controlling them all the time, for all we know.


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