Wednesday, 30 November 2011

UXM #150: "I, Magneto!"

(The prices we will pay.)


It's issue #150 (kicking off the nineteenth year of X-mania, no less), and that means: time for action! Magneto is on the war path, international incident style!  He's got a holoprojector, and he's using it to lay out terms to the world leaders of 1980.  Reagan!  Thatcher!  Brezhnev!  Hua Guofeng (I think)!  King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, probably!  Kenyatta, who's so scared of Magneto's plans for Kenya he's come back from the grave to cower in person!  All of them must abandon their weapons and accept Magneto as their benevolent dictator.

And why?  Because that way all the money they save can be used to feed and clothe their own people.  That's... well, that's not an entirely terrible idea, in theory.  It seems we've finally begun the era of Magneto as lethally dangerous antagonist, rather than cackling villain (he also mentions for the first time the murder of his entire family in Europe, though the specifics are still left out).  Even Cyclops - held hostage by Magneto on the island, his powers inhibited by his "host's" machines - admits that it might actually be a net positive for the planet, at least until Magneto dies.  And whatever you might think about his methods, Magneto's basic point - that freedom isn't much of a concern to him considering less people are actually free than are starving to death or being consumed by disease - isn't exactly easy to refute.

Of course, there's the standard irony here - Magneto lambastes the leaders of the world for being willing (and perhaps even eager) to allow the possibility of a global nuclear holocaust, and decides to put an end to it by threatening any country that disobeys him with the obliteration of its cities.  Sure, Magneto uses some freaky tectonic-shifting weapon to get the desired results, rather than an H-bomb, and he does have enough sense to allow those who live in his first targeted metropolis to escape before he razes it to the ground, but even so, "Give up the ability to destroy your cities or I'll destroy your cities" doesn't strike me as the most ruthlessly logical of positions.  No wonder the Russians try to fill his face full of nuclear missiles, which of course just pisses him off, and causes him to sink the Leningrad, with a death toll of over one hundred.

In response to the attack, Magneto destroys the Russian city of Varykino (last mentioned in Doctor Zhivago), and in yet another attack of comic book coincidence, the resulting magnetic field causes the returning X-Jet to crash into the Atlantic Ocean near to the island.  Storm manages to blunt their landing just enough to keep them alive, and they use emergency breathing apparatus to make it to Magneto's island, where they too come under the effects of his power-nullifier.  On the plus side, they do at least find Cyclops and Lee, and the former fills them in on what's going on.

It's time to take on Magneto again, then, and this time without any powers to make life easier.  Of course, that's almost a perverse kind of advantage, in this situation.  Whether there's anything to be said for Magneto's mutant uber alles philosophy or not, it's clearly blinded him to the possibility that anyone who can't shoot lasers from their eyes or call down bolts of lightning on command could possibly do anything to harm him.

The team splits into two - Storm, Kitty and Lee head to Magneto's computer suite to see what damage they can do, and Cyclops leads everyone else into the bowels of the island to wreck the tectonic machine.  Team Sausagefest make a decent fist of wrecking the mechanisms below, but Kitty's not even begun wreaking hacker hell on the computer systems before Ororo discovers Magneto's bedroom and, being unable to kill him, allows him to awake and toss Storm out of the window.  When Xavier, still on board Corbeau's boat, tries to join the fight, Magneto grabs him with his power and drags him to the island.

Mags then takes his captives downstairs, intending to use them as hostages to secure the X-Men's good behaviour.  Things look pretty cut and dried at this point, especially when he rebuilds his earthquake device almost immediately, but he's underestimated Storm, who's still alive, kicking, and very much able to smash up a series of computer banks.  The resulting damage destroys the power nullifier, and the battle is back on.

Ultimately, the X-Men fail once more to defeat Magneto.  Instead, he beats himself, by attacking Kitty, who he believes he's killed.  It's interesting to watch his response: he's horrified that he's murdered a child, but it's by no means clear whether or not he'd have the same response - or any response at all - if that child had been human rather than mutant.  Magneto chokes out a confession that he's become exactly what he hates, and flees, but we're left to guess whether he means he's become the same kind of callow butcher as dwells within the ranks of the humans he hates, or if he simply means he's a member of the underage-mutant murderers club as well.

Either way, this is definitely my favourite of Claremont's double-sized issues, and a fitting storyline for the 150th issue.  As well as being entertaining on its own merits, it represents a clear line between the comparatively simple, two-tone tales Claremont has told up to now, and the more complex and involved stories that will follow.


This story takes place over the course of a few hours.

Kitty is still wearing her ridiculous costume from last issue (though the stripy socks and roller-skates are mercifully missing).  This, combined with the fact that she's aboard the Blackbird, and there's no mention of a mission explaining why the team is in the air, suggests that this issue begins as the X-Men are flying back from their Antarctic expedition.  Presumably Xavier took his own jet to Florida and started searching for Scott whilst his team was in the Southern Hemisphere; there's certainly no indication as to how long they've been out there looking.


Monday 8th of March, 1983.



Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.66 standard years.

(Shadowcat is 22 years old).

Also an X-Man, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Contemporary Events

The American House Foreign Affairs Committee endorses a freezing of the nuclear arsenals of the US and USSR.  On the same day, President Reagan describes the USSR as an "evil empire."

Standout Line

"Search throughout my homeland, you will find none who bear my name... Speak not to me of grief, boy."

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