Monday, February 26, 2018

Only The Strong Survive!

Following the Paris trial of the mutant known throughout the world as Magneto, the villain set aside his villainy for a time and became Headmaster of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters while Charles Xavier was off-world recovering from wounds he received during a brutal street mugging. It was a period of time when stories explored the character of Magneto as a less driven, less ruthless man whose tunnel vision had only allowed him to pursue an agenda that would force the human race to either recognize and submit to the race of homo superior, or suffer the consequences. With his new responsibilities as Headmaster, Magneto was forced to temper his hostility toward humans and instead work with both the X-Men and the school's young charges, the New Mutants, redirecting his energies towards their welfare while attempting to prove to heroes like the Avengers that he was a changed man.

Yet once Magneto had settled into his new role, there were no doubt a few of us who were surprised to see how quickly "changed" eventually came to mean "tamed," a word that was once considered unthinkable in association with the Master of Magnetism.

Ms. Hunter refers to a storyline where the New Mutants were missing and presumed dead by some; yet you've never seem a calmer Headmaster, nor a calmer former archcriminal whose reprisals had at one time been both immediate and terrifying.

Eventually, however, the honeymoon was over--thanks in part to the actions of the brutal Marauders, whose killing spree prompted Magneto to take a more proactive posture in safeguarding mutants, even to the point of forging an alliance with the Hellfire Club (on Storm's advice) and being elected as its new White King. Yet both Magneto and the Club's Black King, Sebastian Shaw, are ambitious, willful men who are accustomed to asserting their authority--and when the Marauders destroy Xavier's school, and the New Mutants refuse to have anything more to do with either Magneto or the Hellfire Club, Shaw seizes the opportunity to rid himself of Magneto, whom he feels has nothing left to bring to the Club's table.

But the rise of the Magneto of old is what truly begins to unfold here.

To Shaw, who tends to view the world in terms of assets and resources, Magneto is now a man without either--and so he wastes no time in moving to unseat him from the Club's inner circle, the Lords Cardinal. Of course, when it comes to the Hellfire Club, actions often end up speaking louder than words.

Yet we learn that Magneto has been playing a bigger game than either the Club or the X-Men realize. A lot of groundwork is being laid here for the character's re-evolution, by retconning past events and actions that recast Magneto in a light which shifts him from a man who sought to turn over a new leaf to someone who came to see that peace was not the way to ensure the safety and supremacy of mutants.

Shaw, who has always successfully worked behind the scenes among the powerful and the wealthy to further his agenda, is obviously still opposed to Magneto's ways of dealing with the humans as well as the plethora of mutant factions that are cropping up. Where Shaw sees the advantages in cementing the Club's associations with each, Magneto sees only an inevitable conflict that they must be prepared for. And if they fail to do so--well, when it comes to bringing this particular conflict to an end, Magneto has a way of making his point.

Magneto, naturally, protects himself from the metal debris--but while Shaw is forced to capitulate, he insists on a vote to oust Magneto from the inner circle, adding the condition that if Magneto stays, Shaw will leave. Unfortunately for the Black King, both Emma Frost and Selene, the two other Lords Cardinal, side with Magneto--and the matter is settled, with Shaw departing in a huff and mouthing strong words of warning for what Magneto's vision portends. For his part, Magneto believes that only by taking the initiative and building a position of strength will he be able to safeguard mutantkind through the war that he believes is coming; but in predicting that Magneto's zeal and bigotry will only end up contributing to the persecution of mutants, Shaw becomes yet another to note aspects to Magneto's character that even Magneto's clear vision refuses to see.

For more perspective on what we've seen of Magneto here, you might care to have a look at Brian Cronin's excellent rundown on the hows and whys of Magneto's association with the Hellfire Club, and just how things were left with the character as far as the path he would follow from here on.

New Mutants #75

Script: Louise Simonson
Pencils: John Byrne
Inks: Bob McLeod
Letterer: Joe Rosen


George Chambers said...

Am I the only one who thinks that Shaw shouldn't last five seconds against Magneto one-on-one?

So typical... as soon as a villain becomes a hero (or even an anti-hero) they always get nerfed.

Comicsfan said...

Shaw does do a good imitation of a sitting duck while Magneto floats in safety and can strike at will from a distance, I agree, George. I suspect that Magneto could have dealt with Shaw soon enough, but delayed in order to make his points and possibly bring Shaw over to his point of view. Also, the Hellfire Club members seem to be sticklers for protocol (even Selene adheres to it, which is astonishing), and the vote for Magneto being removed was still pending.

Jared said...

At this point, New Mutants was a waste of a title that only seems to exist to finish off plot points Claremont didn't have room for in X-Men or Simonson didn't get to in X-Factor.

I like the battle between Magneto and Shaw. This is a good comeback issue for him after being the NM headmaster for a few years. The next couple of years of Magneto stories were very strong after returning to villainy. He was the best part of Acts of Vengeance and had a great Avengers West Coast story on top of the two best Jim Lee X-Men Stories.

Comicsfan said...

Agreed, Jared, I enjoyed Magneto's appearances in AWC and AOV quite a bit.

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