X-Men Vignettes #19 (1988)
Writer – Chris Claremont
Art – John Bolton
Letters – Tom Orzechowski
Colors – Nei Yomtov
Edits – Kavanagh, Nocenti, DeFalco
From: Classic X-Men #19 (March, 1988)
I lost a bit of sleep last night… for a couple of reasons.
First: I have a doctor’s appointment this morning I’m a little bit worried about, and Second: I had to try and justify the fact that I’m about to break one of my Chris-mandments and “cheat” in order to present today’s Vignette.
As I’ve been hinting at for the past couple’a pre-rambles, I do not actually own Classic X-Men #19 (March, 1988)… and, as such, according to my “rules”, should not be discussing it here on the blog. Well, here’s da t’ing. While I may not own Classix #19… I do have a copy of the X-Men: Vignettes, Volume 2 trade paperback — which includes the back-up story we’re going to be discussing as soon as I stop blibbuh-blabbah’ing.
So, there’s my “loophole”. That having been said — while I do have a copy of that trade… it is currently packed away at one of the houses – either here, waiting for me to unpack it… or there, waiting to be hauled over. So, I’m still going to be using the… *groan* digital version to procure the pictures for today’s piece. I know absolutely nobody on this, or any other, planet gives half a damn about any’a this (nor should they!), but — like I said, I don’t have a diary, or any friends — so, these pre-rambles have become something of a brain-dump for me.
I actually considered using this as an x-cuse to jump back into X-Lapsed, but with this doctor’s appointment weighing on me I didn’t think I’d be up for spitting into a mic for the better part of an hour. Also, the show’s been away for three weeks at this point, and I’ve yet to hear from anyone who misses the damn thing. Maybe I made the right call in pulling the plug when I did?
Anyway, brain-dump over — let’s hop into a Vignette which follows up on the one we looked at back in Chapter Twelve!
Our story opens at a post-World War II Nazi fortress/base in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It’s just an ordinary Nazi-day… until they notice a strange man, all by his lonesome, walking up the way. When he doesn’t appear to be giving his approach a second-thought, the Nazis (do we capitalize the word “Nazi”? I dunno…) sound the alarm. Unfortunately for them, this isn’t just an ordinary strange man — but, the Master of Magnetism… and he’s here for their asses.
With but a lift of his hand, Magneto is able to tear great big holes in the fortress walls. Nazi artillery bounces off his body. He hoists a tank into the air, throwing it directly into a nearby helicopter. Before the dust even settles, he sees his quarry — and, it’s a good thing this is a text-based deal and not a podcast, cuz there’s no way I’d be able to pronounce this one — Oberstrumbanführer Hans Richter of the Waffen SS. Anyway, Mags is sees this fella… and proceeds to hoist and toss another tank right at him.
Magneto enters Hans’ quarters via the busted-up balcony, tying up the baddie on his way to a giant vault. Our man is able to magnetically access all the loot — however, it’s here where we first see what sort of stress his mutant powers put on his brain. He’s hit with a migraine the likes of which he cannot even summon the words to describe. A pretty interesting bit of foreshadowing, as well as a sign that our mutant big-bad wasn’t immediately an all-powerful dude who had complete control over his abilities.
In the vault, Magneto is able to locate a notebook which lists the names and locations of members of a network of leftover Nazis. He explains to Hans that he and the folks he’s working for will be able to smash Odessa with this information. He then calls in to those folks he’s working for: Control. Isn’t that the same organization that Maxwell Smart works for? Ya know, I had to check — cuz, I initially said that in jest — but, yeah, that is who Maxwell Smart worked for! While he makes the call, Hans notices the agony our man appears to be in — so, even those of us in the back of the class will get it. Worth noting, Erik reports in as Magneto, so he’s already using his [hoxpox]mutant name[/hoxpox].
From here, we jump ahead a couple of weeks, rejoining Magneto on a Rio beach where he’s met by his doctor, the beautiful Isabelle Somethinrnuther. She teases him about being on the beach while dressed in full formal attire, before they head back to their room. Worth noting, before she approaches, our man was reading a newspaper, which featured a story about his old friend, Charles Xavier who just gave a lecture at a Genetics Conference. Magneto wonders to himself whether or not Xavier could help him better control his powers.
Anyway, Isabelle whisks Magneto up to their room where it looks like things are about to become a bit PG-13. Erik pulls away, however, not completely over the loss of his family. While Magda did abandon him, the entire situation surrounding their split is still quite “raw”. As we saw during Chapter Twelve, this is something that still affects and weighs on him even to the “present day”.
Isabelle attempts to comfort him… however, the stress of these memories have caused our man to succumb to another migraine. She tells him he should be hospitalized… which, sure, probably — if he were a normal man — but, what in all hells is a hospital gonna do for a Master of Magnetism? Isabelle offers to give our man a massage to try and calm him down… and so, she does. During the act, however, the poor gal’s neck gets slit! Well, that was unexpected.
Magneto springs up, where he finds himself greeted by — Control?! Ah, ya see, Control’s a bunch of dickbags who have been using the “mutie” to serve their interests. The whole thing is a confusing jumbled Dagwood Sandwich of a plan. We’ve got Nazis and Commies and Muties — oh my! I guess Magneto’s original orders, at least for this outing, had to do with collaborating with the Nazis in order to beat the Commies? Doesn’t look like the bigwig at Control really cares who they’re siding or fighting with, so long as it serves some nebulous interests of — whoever Control answers to?
At this point, Magneto is — ya know, ticked. He goes to lunge at the Control Geeks — but finds himself flashed by one of ’em! Looks like this goof is wearing a tin-foil vest or something which amplifies and reflects Magneto’s hoo-doo back on him? Kinda makes ya wonder why more folks didn’t have these vests during Magneto’s time as one of the biggest big-bads on the planet? Anyway, Erik asks Control why they killed Isabelle — why not just come for him? Well, something-something “pound of flesh”.
They then point their guns directly at Magneto’s head — but, choose to mock him for a bit rather than, ya know, pulling the trigger. This gives our man enough time to collect himself… and, ya know, destroy everybody and everything. He informs the lead Control jagoff that he is homo superior, and thanks to this x-perience, he’s now seen the light. He knows he is destined to rule… and, lord help anybody who dare get in his way. Magneto… is born.
There have been plenty of attempts at telling Magneto solo stories… and more often then not, they’re a terrible bore. At least to me. I feel like when writers are tasked with telling a Magneto tale, they often frame it so Magneto himself is the least impressive part of it. It’s always more focused on political unrest or people “reacting” to Magneto — or, in the case of the Cullen Bunn ongoing, they just dunked each issue in a vat of sleeping powder before shipping it.
Claremont, however, gives us such thoughtful looks into Magneto’s life and times — it never feels boring, he never feels like a side-character, and he’s seldom depicted as being wholly good or entirely bad. As we saw in Chapter Twelve, he overcame adversity — and managed to keep the faith that people were mostly good — until that first domino tipped, and his daughter wound up burning to death. Let’s talk a moment about his reaction there. Was it justified? Well, if you ask me, I’d probably say “yeah”. It was a situation of great stress, frustration, and loss. If you were to ask somebody else, you might get a different answer. We could go into the whole “great power, great yadda yadda” thing, but Erik was still quite naïve to the full scope of his “great power” at this point, so it might not be a road worth going down.
I think it’s more a question of “Just because you can… does that mean you should?”
We can probably all agree that ol’ Erik struck the mutie lottery when it came to getting a useful power, yes? He could be, and often is, the most dangerous mutant on the planet. As we saw in this story, he understands that. He knows how powerful he is… and can be. Sure, he gets a splitting headache every time he pushes himself, but the power remains.
Before moving on, let’s hop back to Chapter Twelve one more time. Despite the fact that he turned a bunch of dudes into smoldering skeletons at the end of that story, that “switch” didn’t flip entirely. He wasn’t immediately “Silver Age Lunatic” Magneto just yet. Instead, he collects himself… attempts to process his loss(es)… and signs up with a group called Control. This is some’a that subtle stuff I (over) romanticize during our Vignette Visits. Ya see, Erik is still able to trust. It’s not said outright, but, via his actions and his willingness to… follow orders. Control, an apt name for the organization (yes?), is sending him out to handle their business — and, since it appears they have a “common enemy” in the leftover nazis, Erik doesn’t even consider that the “fix” might be in.
I mean, I could get all precious here, and invoke the “When they came for the _____, I did nothing…” line, because honestly — I think I could get away with it. Erik allows Control to… control him, when it comes to taking out other groups. Take out the leftover Nazis? Can do. Then, the Commies? Sure… but, what about when Control comes for the “muties”? Maybe I’m overthinking it… maybe I’m trying to look smarter than I actually am. In any event, I appreciate that Magneto never seemed to consider that Homo-Superior could or would ever be targeted. It’s subtle naivete — the likes of which we do not usually associate with the Master of Magnetism.
We wrap this story with our man’s “coming of age”. He’s suffered loss after loss… the very thing that powers him is also making his life painfully uncomfortable… and, the people he’s put his trust in have just tried to blow his brains out. Not a good day to be Erik Lensherr… but a damn good day to be Magneto.
Another homerun from our Vignettes team — and another wonderful deep-dive into the “in-between days” of Magneto.