Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Mental Might of... Magneto??

There was a time when Magneto, the Master of Magnetism, was content to seek out and conscript other mutants into doing his bidding and following his lead while he engaged in this scheme or that, all in the cause of bringing "homo superior" into ascendancy and ruling the world. But while his goal remained the same, his methods began to change once he became less focused on maintaining his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and began thinking along the lines of using technology to create mutants, either from existing humanoid forms or, depending on the machinery he employed, from scratch. His rationale for doing so, as was typical of his madness in those days, was less dependent on reflective thought and more on crazed action: "Home sapiens shape their world--homo superior must needs shape themselves!"

Magneto's tilt in this direction appeared to take place following his near-escape from death after battling the X-Men and the Avengers and emerging in the Savage Land, where, as "the Creator," he began mutating the savages he found there. Later, in the aftermath of his failed plan, discovered in the wreckage by the Sub-Mariner, he detoured to pursue a power play designed to use the forces of Atlantis against humanity; but after that, too, failed and he escaped capture, he got back on track when he attempted to use Black Bolt of the Inhumans to steal a government compound that would allow him to complete a device (the "Universe Machine") which would augment the process of mutant creation. The rest of the Inhuman royal family joined with Black Bolt to foil that scheme--but in his attempt to escape, Magneto detonated the government cylinder, which resulted in severe injuries that took him months to recover from.

We've seen this plan taken to the extreme when Magneto discovered presumably alien technology that led to his creation of Alpha, a godlike mutant that almost allowed him to seize power at the general assembly of the United Nations; but just over a year earlier, he had again sought atomic secrets from government scientists as part of an insane plan which would release a torrent of radiation on the entire country, killing most of the population but leaving roughly 8% alive as mutants who would fall under his command. It all takes place in a two-part Avengers story from 1973--but this time, will the Avengers and the X-Men stop him, or join him?

Scripted by Steve Englehart near the beginning of his Avengers run, the story finds Magneto at his most maniacal and ruthless. But before embarking on his plan, he had to first recover his strength completely--and he does so by capitalizing on a precautionary measure he put in place when he discovered the injured Angel in the Savage Land and healed him, while replacing his tattered uniform. That uniform, unknown to the Angel, was designed to gradually absorb the X-man's "mutant energy"; and so, when Magneto is ready to move on the Avengers, he ambushes Angel at the Xavier School and dons the unform himself, restoring his power.

But Magneto isn't through with the X-Men yet, as the Avengers learn when their communications monitor activates on its own accord and plays out a grim scene at Xavier's estate.

(I don't know, Xavier--not that I'm fond by any means of seeing a whipped dog, but you certainly seem to be resembling one.)

While Englehart is attentive to characterization in his writing, he doesn't provide much subtlety as his story proceeds, with the Avengers dropping everything to race to the rescue without giving any consideration to the possibility that they're being baited into a trap. Upon their arrival, they see hard evidence of the X-Men's downfall--but they don't yet suspect that the attack is far from over.

Yet their attempts to remove the X-Men and get them to medical care are stymied by a series of brief attacks from unseen quarters which have them scurrying to avoid harm on both themselves and their charges--attacks which include, impossibly, a small herd of nothing less than dinosaurs, directed against them by flute music initiated by an unrecognized piper.  (Kudos to Magneto for having the resources to import dinosaurs from the Savage Land.  Or Wakanda.)

But the Scarlet Witch at last puts two and two together, and identifies their true foe just before he decides to reveal himself. As for why he's gone to the trouble of manipulating the Avengers into rescuing the X-Men, there is one of their number whom he wishes to add to his mutant captives--and with some handy transportation in the form of the Avengers' aircraft, as well as two Avengers previously rendered unconscious, Magneto rightfully basks in his triumph as he makes his escape.

Just an observation, Wanda--but maybe the time to land a hex on Magneto was when he first took hold of you as if you were a sack of potatoes. (And aside from that, as an Avenger, haven't you been trained in hand-to-hand? What happens when your hexes fizzle and you're left to defend yourself on your own against a few A.I.M. thugs? What are you planning to do--surrender?)

As for that "secret power" of Magneto's, we find out more details on that once he returns to his lair and reviews the now-helpless heroes before him.

It seems appropriate to replay some thoughts made in a previous post that featured this new power of Magneto's in the form of a Marvel Trivia Question, which raised some doubt as to just how far Magneto could really make use of this ability as described:

If you're scratching your head wondering how being able to control the level of consciousness of your victim puts you in control of their actions and makes them your slaves, join the club. What Magneto's describing seems to be just a quick way to make his enemies pass out or otherwise keep them on the verge of doing so--not a way to make them succumb to his commands. But here he can make the scientists divulge information--he can send the Avengers and X-Men he's captured into battle--he can even make the Scarlet Witch dance for his entertainment.

The fact that Magneto must keep his attention focused on his mental puppets in order to direct them to any extent is a welcome twist that makes him vulnerable to a certain degree--though as we'll see, when he is focused, his pawns are remarkably effective in using their respective abilities.

Back at Avengers Mansion, our assemblers have returned from a detour to San Francisco to pick up some reinforcements--and it's Daredevil who puts them on the right track in determining Magneto's next target.

Since the meeting of the A.E.C. takes place that evening, and we're told it's only fifty miles from New York City, it's frankly astonishing that the Avengers aren't already in place to repel Magneto's attack*; instead, by the time they arrive, he's already herding his captives into his ship. But in the process, it's clear that his new strike force of both X-Men and Avengers can deliver when it comes to his goals.**

*It's equally astonishing that the meeting location is handily available to be found in the newspaper, given that the A.E.C. decided to move their meeting to a different location as a precaution against a suspected attack.  Why then blab about the new meeting site to the Daily Bugle?

**Isn't it strange that Magneto didn't include Xavier among his new slaves, making his group even more powerful? To say nothing of the fact that he could have managed all of the heroes more easily, by limiting his control to Xavier and using him as a conduit to mentally control the others.

Again, Magneto is able to escape, this time with even more captives. Fortunately, the Avengers' resident tracker is able to recall a clue that might yield their foe's location; but it seems that one Avenger is M.I.A.

Since the Avengers are unaware of the details surrounding Magneto's apparent control of three of their members in addition to the X-Men, it would be reasonable of them to assume that the Vision has somehow also been conscripted by the villain--which would normally make it paramount for them to discover just how Magneto is doing all of this. Wouldn't you think that topic would have been a priority at their strategy meeting back at the mansion? As of now, the Avengers are working completely in the dark, while their forces have been whittled down to two (supplemented by the Black Widow and Daredevil)--yet still there's been no word mentioned on the subject, by anyone?

In Magneto's hideout, however, plenty of words are being exchanged between Magneto and his hapless guests--though given his new power, their resistance is likely to lead to a one-way conversation before long.

Yet for once, the Avengers' initiative pans out, and, even outnumbered as they are, they launch their assault against Magneto and his combined forces. The struggle is fierce, and at its climax it appears that Magneto might have no opposition to speak of when the dust settles--but this time the surprise is on him, as the wolf in his fold seizes the opportunity to act.

Magneto would resurface (literally, considering how the Avengers saw to his disposition) in The Defenders, to proceed with his plans with Alpha--while Daredevil gets a surprise of his own, when he declines the Avengers' offer of membership only to be dumbfounded when the Widow accepts the same offer. The two coldly agree to separate temporarily, with DD returning to San Francisco to celebrate his 100th issue--while the Avengers' newest member joins them in repelling the attack of the Lion God in the following issue, a situation where they're no doubt all glad to be in control of their faculties once more.

The Avengers #s 110-111

Script: Steve Englehart
Pencils: Don Heck
Inks: Frank Giacoia and Mike Esposito
Letterers: Shelly Leferman and John Costanza


Tiboldt said...

I would suggest that the Vision's "possession" ability is a mistaken interpretation of scenes in earlier comics. At one point Vish was in the habit of wearing a human-looking mask and clothes to allow him to move among the public and then using his intangibility to quickly exit the disguise when called into action. In #79 he disguised himself as Power Man and the panel where he reveals himself could easily be misconstrued.

By the way, the opening panel of Avengers #111, where Magneto is commanding the Scarlet Witch to dance for him with the line "Dance, my blank-eyed beauty!" is the first thing I thought of when their actual relationship was revealed years later.

So Speaks Galactus! said...

I absolutely love that cover of issue #110, It's probably my favorite cover in all of Marvel Comics; and that's a bold statement considering there's like six decades of Mighty Marvel!

Big Murr said...

The early, early days, Magneto and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants went looking for Namor as a possible mutant ally. For reconnaissance, Magneto goes ahead in an astral form, for he is "the second most powerful mutant mind on Earth" (the first being Xavier).

When I first read this convoluted blood flow gimmick, my young mind wondered what happened to the mighty psionic power. Was it ever retconned or explained or something?

Comicsfan said...

I seem to recall your making a similar comment along the same lines, Murray--though maybe that's just my own mental powers finally coming into their own. (And it's about time!)

Big Murr said...

Your mental powers of Memory are far better developed than mine!

Of course, it was six years ago.

And on a blog where we revisit the grand old days of comic books, I guess we can revisit/re-use old posts? Maybe?

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