New Mutants #40
Issue(s): New Mutants #40
And this all comes at a time seemingly designed to maximize the hypocrisy, with the Sub-Mariner having recently been allowed to join the Avengers. Magneto and the Sub-Mariner aren't equally villainous (although if you count his Golden Age stories, Namor is responsible for more deaths than Magneto), but they're close enough that when added to everything else you have to wonder. I feel like if Dr. Doom joined the Fantastic Four, he'd get a fairer shake than Magneto with the X-Men. And maybe that's ok. The point is that i'd like to see it spelled out a little more why the Avengers aren't willing to trust his reformation or why his mere presence is enough to (for example) prevent Jean Grey from contacting the team to let them know she's still alive.
This issue, which has the Avengers responding to a police request because Magneto is on his way to attack the Massachusetts Academy, is an opportunity to delve into those questions a little more. And i'd say it gets us maybe a quarter way there. At least it ends with Captain America showing a little more doubt.
FYI, i'm going to be looking at the depiction of the Avengers here in a lot of detail to provide a point of comparison for two other 1986 Avengers guest-appearances in Hulk and Daredevil.
We start with the Avengers responding to the police call in their pajamas. The Black Knight says that the videocam is programmed to show the Avengers in their costumes regardless of what they are actually wearing. It would seem odd for Claremont to be adding something like that here. I have a vague recollection that this isn't the first time something like that was said. But he may just be covering for the fact that Butch Guice has drawn the Wasp sitting on monitor duty in a see-through nighty.
Note that Hercules is taking an especially hard line against Magneto. His encounters with Magneto have been pretty minimal (largely the Super-Villain Team-Up / Champions crossover) so it's hard to say that he's speaking from personal experience, so chalk that up to either Hercules just being Hercules, or maybe having heard tales of Magneto from Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch.
After getting into costume, the Avengers discuss the possibility that Magneto might be interested in students because he wants to form a new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and then they take a small plane to Hydrobase where they meet Captain Marvel and Namor and get in their Quinjet. Claremont allows for a little banter between Herc and Namor, and also has Captain Marvel provide the alternate view on Magneto, although Namor, referencing his personal experience, discounts it.
The Avengers catch up with Magneto as he is riding inside Warlock, who is shaped like the X-Men's Blackbird (although with actual bird feet). To illustrate Magneto's reformation, he is instructing Warlock not to drain the White Queen's lifeglow because "we must accomplish our mission without violence". It's at that point Hercules leaps onto the Warlock-plane armed with what appears to be a giant wine goblet (i know it's supposed to be his mace, which he hasn't used in years, but let me have this).
The force of Hercules' blow takes Warlock out of the battle, and, even though the Black Knight, in metal armor and on his floating metal horse, is at a distinct disadvantage, the Avengers in general soon have Magneto staggered.
Aside from the scene above, Sub-Mariner and Magneto don't get any real interaction time, which is too bad because it might have given Magneto an opportunity to explain how he's changed since the times he betrayed Namor (or at least remind him that during those betrayals, Namor was a villain too). And there are no references to other events that might give the Avengers specific cause to distrust Magneto, such as his long time abuse of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, his recent kidnapping of the Wasp during Secret Wars even while he was reforming, or the few occasions that he attacked the Avengers directly. As fans we can certainly build our own case against Magneto, but without a writer laying it out in a book, the Avengers come off looking like very superficial thinkers. That may serve the X-books by letting them look like the misunderstood heroes, but it shouldn't be done at the expense of the intelligence of the Avengers.
Credit to both Claremont and Guice for some great fight scenes that emphasize the Avengers' teamwork. The brute strength of Hercules and the Sub-Mariner is the deciding factor here but the other Avengers play an important supporting role and everyone gets some screen time. It's a really nicely sequenced fight.
While the fight is happening, Magma detects someone manipulating the earth, and Magik teleports away to investigate and sees the fight. She teleports away, taking Cap's shield.
Then Warlock recovers and tries to fight the Avengers, but Magneto is afraid that the robot will absorb their life energies, so he zaps him. This seemingly would have ended the fight and allowed for some communication, but that's when Magik returns with the rest of the New Mutants, wearing Hellion uniforms. They teleport Magneto away.
The Avengers don't seem to recognize the New Mutants despite the recent battle in Secret Wars II #9. The costumes are different but you'd think Magma and Wolfsbane would be pretty recognizable, at least.
And with this ending, while Wasp says that this group confirms that Magneto has a "Baby Brotherhood", Cap at least finds Magneto's actions to be unusual enough that he's doubting it. As noted in the comments for Uncanny X-Men #199, this is the second time that Claremont has included Mantis is the list of criminals-turned-Avengers (while neglecting Hawkeye; and of course none of these guys, except possibly the Swordsman, really belongs in the same category as Magneto). I'm also a little disappointed that the concluding note on this encounter is something the Avengers should have thought of before this all started, but as i said above, at least it seems like progress.
The Avengers seem to doubt the fact that they will find Magneto again, but have they forgotten that the reason that they were called out here in the first place was because Magneto was supposed to be raiding the Massachusetts Academy? Maybe we just don't see them going there and waiting around a while and seeing nothing. I wouldn't have minded seeing the Avengers interview Emma Frost; the Wasp earlier says that she almost went to Massachusetts Academy herself and knows Frost to be "a top drawer businesswoman. Brilliant... and as cold and beautiful as ice".
It's interesting that Magneto does not give up the White Queen's secret. When given the opportunity to explain himself, he just says that "It is personal." He could have said "The headmaster of the Massachusetts Academy is an evil mutant telepath and she's brainwashed some of the kids from Professor Xavier's school." but he doesn't (he says he didn't want to give up the New Mutant's secret IDs but he could have said they were just students, not mutants). We saw last issue that Magneto was infuriated with Emma, so does his decision to not rat her out to the Avengers represent just Magneto's pride, or long term thinking?
Throughout all of this, the White Queen is concerned that the former New Mutants are still showing signs of depression, even after her mental treatments last issue. And at the end of the issue, after the fight with the Avengers, Magneto and the White Queen work together to finally resolve their issues. Magneto was able to reach the students on a more personal level than Emma Frost was with her powers. With that, the New Mutants are allowed to return to Xavier's school, with Emma sending a "rivals but never enemies" message.
Don't let my griping about the Avengers' opinion of Magneto distract from the fact that this is a really nice issue. Claremont has a good handle on the Avengers, but more importantly, even though this issue is largely told from the Avengers' point of view, Claremont's job is to represent the x-characters; the sense of isolation that the New Mutants will get from seeing
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This begins soon after the end of New Mutants #39. The MCP places this between Avengers #266-267, making it the Avengers' first mission since the end of Secret Wars II.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (7): show
Fraction retconned that Emma and Namor met each other back when she was with the Club and he knew that she was a villain. That makes Namor's behavior here a bit strange.
Posted by: Michael | November 25, 2013 8:19 PM
I'm guessing Magneto didn't rat out Emma to prevent her from disclosing the New Mutants' secrets for whatever reason.
Did Mantis commit any kind of pre-Avengers crimes besides being maybe a prostitute? I suspect Claremont didn't give Englehart's stories more than a cursory glance.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | November 27, 2013 9:49 PM
The whole period when Magneto was subbing for Charles is indeed quite odd. It has a feeling of throwing things to the wall to see how well they stick. I can't help but wonder if Claremont even expected readership to accept Magneto as a reformed man quite that strongly.
I also wonder if Jim Shooter (or at least the original Secret Wars) did not throw a wrench on his plans. Charles' decision to ally himself with Magneto there shocks me to this day. It comes quite out of the left field. I don't think Uncanny X-Men #150-151 and the X-Men Graphic Novel are anything close to proper explanation for Charles' sudden change of heart.
I suppose it is all but impossible to properly explain the X-Men teaming up with the Avengers and others through so many events while also being increasingly mistrusted in their own books, so mileages will definitely vary.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | November 28, 2013 6:23 AM
The main problem I have with Magneto's "reform" and Claremont's handling of it, is that is really that of a 6th grade level. Magneto had a change of heart and wants everyone to forgive him, but at no point do we see Magneto willing to PAY for his past crimes which is what true repentance is. Instead, he wants to sweep his past behind him and move forward as if nothing happened. As a reader, this infuriated me - I thought the trial in X-Men #200 to be a joke.
Posted by: Chris | November 28, 2013 1:57 PM
Magneto as good guy was one of the jumping the shark moments in Marvel history.
I can accept Magneto trying to be good and have NO ONE else accepting it. But for the X-Men to jump all in (save for a couple of exceptions) is dumb.
Didn't Magneto leave the New X-men to die in a volcano in the Claremont/Bryne/Austin era? Didn't he sink a sub with several Russians aboard? Didn't he go on television several times announcing to the world that he plans to enslave it?
Some editor should of told Claremont to scrap this ridiculous turn for Magneto.
Posted by: A.Lloyd | March 4, 2014 5:09 PM
This wasn't a sudden change. Magneto started his heel-face turn in Uncanny X-Men #150 (the issue where he destroyed the sub). The X-Men have seen him become progressively less villainous throughout the Claremont years - from their alliance in God Loves, Man Kills onwards. It's a natural evolution of his character.
The X-Men coming to accept Magneto as an ally is at least as believable as the real world coming to accept convicted terrorist Nelson Mandela as a peacemaker.
Posted by: Stephen | March 4, 2014 5:29 PM
Stephen, I think the problem is one of perspective and explains why some comic fans absolutely love Magneto as a civil rights activist and those who loathed the idea. If you take Claremont's depiction from #150 to #196, it seems natural. If you look at Magneto's appearance since #1, the transition starting at #150 does not seem natural. It's like Hitler deciding in January 1945 that maybe Jews weren't all bad.
Besides Magneto's desire for mutant supremacy, he had all sorts of personality flaws. He both encouraged Toad to feed his megalomania and despised him, treating him (and others) awfully. He lied constantly to his friends and allies and routinely used people (constantly offering up the Scarlet Witch to whatever powerful male he needed to ally himself with). He was a thoroughly despicable person.
Granted, some of that is simply routine Silver Age over-the-top villainy, but Lee and Kirby also had more sympathetic villains that showed more noble qualities as well, and they didn't show Magneto as having those.
Magneto was not some teenager or young adult who made some mistakes or was ignorant about the world and confused. He was a grown man, later established to be very mature. I think he always knew what he was doing when he first started his villainous career in X-Men #1.
Even though I like certain aspects of this era's portrayal of Magneto, ultimately I reject it. I have no problem with Magneto seeing himself as some kind of misunderstood civil rights activist persecuted by ignorant others, but that's not what I think the character is.
Posted by: Chris | March 4, 2014 9:04 PM
Grant Morrison disagreed with Claremont's take on the character.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | March 4, 2014 11:55 PM
This was the period of some of the best writing on New Mutants, but the lack of consistent art was really frustrating at the time - it was nice that they finally settled on someone for at least a few issues.
I actually think the Avengers are characterized quite well here - Namor is accepted because if there is anyone in the MU who gets others to accept someone on simply their word, it is Captain America. My one complaint is that Namor says "There is no deadlier, more treacherous villain, on the face of the globe." Um, kinda think that Namor would think Doom is the deadliest, most treacherous villain on the face of the globe, given the number of times Doom betrayed him.
I also like the development of the Hellions as rivals rather than enemies. There'll be some nice rivalry between the two before most of the Hellions are slaughtered just after Claremont leaves the X books.
Posted by: Erik Beck | June 12, 2015 7:38 AM
If only Xavier had some connection with a member of the Avengers who were shown in this issue, something above and beyond their respective loyalties to their teams [schools, kingdoms, races] that led them into collaboration, to whom he could have sent a message that he had given control of his school to Magneto so all misunderstanding fights could be avoided in the future.
Now granted he's in far space, but he also has a collaboration with a couple of people (one of whom is even an Avenger) who actively look for messages from distant places and build technology to find them. [The Negative Zone portal and the one-dimensional alarm from JLA/Avengers respectively; I'm sure better readers can think of better examples than that] Once Xavier was healed, as of "X-Men" #201 or #202, wouldn't his first priority be to inform the Illuminati?
I think that's one of the things I hate most about the whole concept of Marvel's "Illuminati" is that it makes all the "misunderstanding fights" that are one of Marvel's hallmarks into jokes, wastes of time and energy that only gave the villains more time to further their evil plans. If we're going to think seriously about the concept of superheroes, they'd want to minimize the possibility of bombing their own troops (to use a military analogy.)
Posted by: ChrisW | December 9, 2015 8:13 PM
I've also always been bothered by what "secrets" of the New Mutants was Magneto worried about revealing? They aren't superheroes, and the mutant titles at this point were about as far away as you could get from a recognizable "secret identity" story and still be a good superhero comic. Magneto could have said that students of Xavier's school had been brainwashed by the telepathic evil mutant headmistress of the Massachusetts Academy and he'd have been 95% right without ever giving away Sam's Kentucky origins. What secret could he possibly give away? That Illyana has a connection to Limbo? Captain America already knows that.
This is a great issue, and the characters' motivations make a lot of sense overall. But what "secret" could Magneto give away that would do more damage than the truth?
Posted by: ChrisW | May 30, 2016 12:19 AM
Credit should also be given to the fact that the X-Men never really beat Magneto in any Claremont story, and granted he was holding back here, but one gets the impression that the Avengers would have had no problem pounding Magneto's face into the dust, even if he wasn't holding back. He was only saved because the New Mutants were the last-moment cavalry arriving, because Illyana could teleport. That's the only thing that saved Magneto.
Not sure how to describe it, but that's an example of what I think is "good writing," where the protagonist is defeated, in totally believable ways, by people that you completely understand why they would oppose the protagonist. The Avengers are obviously ready for Magneto. The X-Men (so far as we know) never held a single Danger Room session to prepare themselves in case he was just faking.
Posted by: ChrisW | November 30, 2016 1:41 AM
Funny the way Cap's positioned in the second to last scan, when he's supposed to be looking at the New Mutants.
Posted by: KombatGod | January 10, 2017 4:29 PM
Did your copy of this issue not show a giant mirror behind Magneto? That's what lets him see the New Mutants. ;)
Posted by: clyde | January 10, 2017 4:37 PM
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