Uncanny X-Men #304
Issue(s): Uncanny X-Men #304
Then we have the portions by Jae Lee. He's another artist whose abstract style i'll defend, but going from another artist to him and back in the same issue is very jarring.
At least his art is relegated to flashback portion.
This story opens with the Acolytes learning the truth about Fabian Cortez - that he "tried" to kill Magneto - from Exodus. They turn on him, and Exodus brings them to Avalon. But Exodus spares Cortez's life, saying that Magneto "bares no ill will... for the man's ambition". It's also implied that Cortez has the Legacy virus ("Magnus has decided that you should suffer... slowly. A victim of someone else's legacy.").
We also check in with an angsty Professor X, who is having a long distance conversation with Lilandra until her transmission gets cut off. He then opens his file on the mutant underground and activates the Magneto Protocols.
We then switch to Magneto. We learn that he survived his death thanks to the Acolyte named Chrome, who turned Magneto's wounded body into omnium before they crash landed. Chrome died, and i guess the effects of Chrome's powers eventually wore off (Magneto later said he spent "months" tending his wounds). Then we go into the Jae Lee flashback, which i could barely bring myself to read.
As Erik notes in the comments, see that Magneto's given name is said to be Eric Lensherr. Xavier will suddenly start calling him Eric later in the story. Note also that it says that Magneto "chose" the name Magnus. See X-Men Unlimited #2 for a different view on that.
Later, Kitty finds Colossus burning his paintings, and he displays no emotion when she approaches him.
Setting up for Illyana's funeral, Bishop almost tells Banshee that in the future he was the custodian of the next generation of mutants.
Around this time all books had a big insert talking about plans for upcoming titles, including Generation X.
Members of X-Force, X-Factor, and Excalibur attend the funeral. Colossus gets into an angsty yelling match, and then the funeral is crashed by Magneto and the Acolytes. Magneto says that he's there to offer sanctuary.
The fact that this is pivoting off of Illyana's death undermines the point of this conflict.
Magneto can't offer mutants protection from the Legacy Virus (can he?). And despite the way it's depicted, Illyana's death is not a condemnation of Xavier's dream. The Legacy Virus was released by a time traveling mutant from the future, not humans. Rogue brings up this point just to have it hand-waved away.
Along with this is a constant refrain listing the other X-Men who have died. But i think they oversell the problem as well. Thunderbird died of his own stupidity while fighting a super-villain. Cypher died because Magneto didn't do a good job supervising the New Mutants. Warlock's death fighting the Genoshans at least fits the theme, but Warlock wasn't even a mutant. At least the Ani-mator (who killed Cypher) was supposed to be working for The Right, so two of the four deaths can tangentially be blamed on Xavier's failure to realize his dream of mutants and humans to living together. But there's hardly enough here for Magneto to rub Xavier's nose in. Magneto also cites all the recent fights between Stryfe, Apocalypse, Mr. Sinister, etc., which again i don't see how it fits with any failure on Xavier's part (and Magneto doesn't make the case aside from what he says to Rogue above). It all feels forced, just picking out things at random because they've happened recently. As i said before, what's weird is that there was material at this time to work with (the Friends of Humanity and the resurrection of Project: Wideawake). But nothing feels like it gets any development and it really just feels like dressing to have some fight scenes.
Here's some foreshadowing of the fight between Magneto and Wolverine.
The clincher is when Bishop reveals that the energy that Magneto is using to hold most of the X-characters in place has super-charged him, and he moves in to attack Magneto (as seen in the top scan). Bishop is stopped by Colossus, who is (somehow!) convinced by Magneto's argument and asks to join him.
Xavier then finds that he is "lacking the courage, the resolve" to kill Magneto, so he mentally forces Magneto to take his Acolytes back to Avalon.
I noted in an earlier entry in the run-up to this that Colossus did get sullen during the Mutant Massacre, leading him to kill a Marauder. So there is some precedent for him not always being the gentle heart of the team. And there was "development" in this case, with all the horrible things that have been done to Colossus regarding his brother, his parents, and his sister. I mean, it's the most hackneyed brute force development possible, killing off all his family members, but it's not completely out of nowhere. I still don't feel like any of that should lead to him getting into an insane shouting match with Xavier, or joining this obviously unbalanced version of Magneto.
I feel like i'm losing my connection with a lot of these characters. I'm not sure if the creators are intentionally writing Magneto as a one dimensional loon. I don't think so. They're giving him dialogue that vaguely replicates how Claremont would write him (as opposed to, say, when Byrne wrote him as a villain). But if that's the case it's poorly written. I'd rather think that they did indeed intend for him to be insane. I know there was a theory that said that Magneto's powers are inversely proportional to his sanity. It's said in this issue that his powers have been vastly increased thanks to his "near discorporation within Earth's E.M. field". But if he's just insane, then might as well have him doing nutty stuff like he did in the Silver Age instead of giving him the trappings of the Claremontian era.
I guess it's also worth noting what a difference the art makes. The X-Force chapter of this crossover was also written by Nicieza, but the conversation between Cannonball and Magneto felt fairly measured. Magneto seemed nutty, but not to the extreme that he is in this story, where he, and every character here, is posed in an open-mouth, tense-muscled squat.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: This is part three of Fatal Attractions. The next part is in X-Men #25, but that leads directly into Wolverine #75 where Wolverine loses his adamantium, and doesn't necessarily continue directly from here, so other Wolverine appearances can go prior to that.
Crossover: Fatal Attractions
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (12): show
I'll echo Paul O'Brien and say Lobdell should've played to his strengths: do another subdued little story, no figthing, lots of dialogue, with Magneto turning up in a suit to pay his respects at the funeral of one of his former students.
Posted by: berend | November 17, 2016 3:04 PM
A point for HSR for the first appearance of the name Eric Lensherr? That name suddenly sprung out of nowhere in the flashback and then Xavier actually calls him Eric, after, you know, never calling him that in the previous 30 years. Yet, it has definitely stuck, as the films have made clear. It was weird to suddenly have Magneto have my first name. I'm not supposed to be Magneto! My parents are Thomas and Martha. I'm supposed to be Batman!
Aside from that, I knew this crossover was the end for me. They had just killed one of my favorite characters the issue before and they had brought back Magneto, something I swore that if they did, it would make me quit. I got the final issue of the crossover and didn't buy a new comic again until Kitty fell through the floor having fun with Peter in Astonishing over a decade later.
Posted by: Erik Beck | November 17, 2016 3:16 PM
I'm with Erik. The nonchalant introduction of "Eric Lensherr" was jarring. As if the Prof knew it all along? Come on!
I had always collected the X-books over all else. Loved 'em. But then things spiraled out of control after Inferno, and I quit collecting sometime after Acts of Vengeance. I missed it, and I came back with X-Cutioner's Song. But this was the issue that did me in, too. As fnord says, the connection to the characters was gone. Colossus joining up with a ridiculous parody of Magneto was the absolute last straw.
When I found out a few months later what happened with Wolverine over the rest of the crossover, I was really glad I'd quit.
That said, with greater emotional distance now, I am finding it interesting to look at all this again from a "historical" perspective.
Posted by: Matt | November 17, 2016 4:34 PM
It was not a hoax! It was not a dream! Thunderbird died in X-Men #95.
Posted by: Andrew | November 17, 2016 5:10 PM
Erik, i don't think it's worth a point, but i've added a note about that. Thanks. Also see the comment about his middle name.
Posted by: fnord12 | November 17, 2016 5:26 PM
If you want to take a little break from 93 and jump straight to Heroes Reborn era, none of us will hold it against you. Buseik, Waid,PAD still on Hulk, even The X-books had some interesting stuff going on with Joe Kelly, Steve Seagle, and Joe Casey.
Posted by: gfsdf gfbd | November 17, 2016 6:44 PM
"It's possible that we have a number of artists because it's a "jam" issue to celebrate the X-Men's 30th anniversary, but the inclusion of Chris Sprouse suggests otherwise."- It's because the issue was 8 weeks late.
Posted by: Michael | November 17, 2016 11:09 PM
The rewriting of this issue also screwed up X-Men Unlimited 2, which, thanks to the delays, came out BEFORE X-Men 304- Valerie Cooper and Gyrich talk like Magneto hasn't tried to kill any humans yet.
Posted by: Michael | November 17, 2016 11:11 PM
@Michael: Thanks for the behind-the-scenes info. I really have to disagree with how Bob Harras ordered Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza to handle the character of Magneto. Fortunately after years of misuse the character has been much better used in recent times. In particular, Cullen Bunn has done some good work with Magneto.
Posted by: Ben Herman | November 18, 2016 9:06 AM
The funny thing is that "Eric Lensherr" isn't Magneto's real name either. And yet even years after it was revealed that it was an alias, people (and certainly most media adaptations) continue to call him "Eric" (hasn't it also been "Erik" though? I could have sworn I've seen some comics where it was spelled that way.)
Posted by: Jon Dubya | November 20, 2016 3:35 PM
I'd already stopped reading X-Men comics a couple of years ago, so I'm not familiar with this story... I find it curious that Grant Morrison was criticised for "regressing" Magneto into a megalomaniac loon during his X-Men run (even though there was an actual in-story explanation for his behaviour, a lot of people just seemed to have missed it), if the same thing had already been done to him 10 year before. Maybe some of those critics were people like me, who hadn't read X-Men beyond Claremont's run and only returned to it in the '00s, so their last memory of Magneto was the reformed anti-hero, not the crazy villain?
Posted by: Tuomas | November 21, 2016 3:16 AM
Well, the response to this story was pretty damning, and between it and the Morrison run there have been plenty of positive portrayals of Magneto. He was the Professor X figure in Age of Apocalypse and Joseph was supposed to be a good, de-aged Magneto at first. Even in the Magneto War/The Twelve/Genosha peroid he was more of a conflicted, sort-off noble villain, who teamed up with the X-Men on several occasions, and not the complete loon Morrison portrayed him as.
Also, the fact that Magneto was influenced by Sublime was never clearly stated: you had to infer it from what happened to Beast in the future timeline, but the revelation that the Kick drug was actually Sublime came more than half a year since the revelation that Xorn was Magneto. I guess people find it hard to backpaddle after spending so many months lambasting something. And yeah, maybe people just missed it. Both Chuck Austin and Josh Whedon completely missed the Ernst-Cassandra Nova connection as well. Grant's writing may have been too subtle for its own good (although personally I really like a story like that, which rewards paying close attention to details)
Posted by: Berend | November 21, 2016 3:51 AM
Guys, I know it's tempting, but fnord prefers that comments be about the comic that is being reviewed, or at least mostly. He will get to Morrison eventually.
Posted by: Andrew | November 21, 2016 6:31 AM
All excellent discussion of this issue...the second scan is also JRjr. Paul Smith was going through a weird period, only to regain his touch on Leave It To Chance.
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | November 25, 2016 12:48 PM
The X-Men Animated Series did a much better job of balancing Xavier and Magneto's viewpoints, with the first season probably being written between X-Men 1-3 and Fatal Attractions. Magneto was more of a wildcard that alternately aided and fought the X-Men instead of, well, this.
Posted by: iLegion | November 25, 2016 6:20 PM
Regarding Collosus joining Magneto: keep in mind that on top of his whole family dying, Peter did receive a severe head injury while battling the X-Cutioner. It's possible he wasn't in his right mind when he decided to join the Acolytes.
Posted by: Matthew | January 12, 2017 7:57 PM
I actually didn't have that many problems with this issue as I read through it. I think that Magneto's insane behavior makes sense when you consider a couple of things:
1) The hopeful worldview that he had attempted to embrace to honor his friendship with Xavier has been heading downhill for a very long time. From his inability to protect the New Mutants sufficiently to his attempts to create a haven for mutants, first in the savage land and then on Asteroid M, which both failed horribly, to his being shot out of the sky by a (some might say reasonably) fearful world, plenty of things have conspired to convince a man who barely embraced the dream in the first place that it was unachievable and that humans will always hate and fear mutants.
2) His powers were at an all-time high, which is established to make him insane. I don't think that the fact that he still resembles the character that Claremont built through the years contradicts this; rather, the reason he isn't doing things as loony as the silver age is that this isn't the silver age. Comics of that era were written in an entirely different style, and, let's just be honest, with a much lower expectation for the intelligence of the reader on average, since they were aimed at children. The insanity was just a retcon - Magneto behaved the way he did in the silver age because that's how Stan Lee wrote a villain. It's not odd to think that a modern take on Magneto's insanity would be at least a LITTLE more nuanced.
Posted by: Ghost | July 1, 2018 4:23 AM
I ran out of space in the previous comment, so this is a continuance of that.
All that said, this issue does have awful pacing. I could believe that Magneto would behave this way, but I think it is a poor decision to have him behave this way so abruptly. He shows up at the funeral and immediately threatens to kill the entire planet? In the words of Ron Burgandy, "Well, THAT escalated quickly." They could have built up to it. A lot of the threatening dialogue and blunt manifestos about Magneto and Xavier's conflicting methods that are uttered here probably could have been saved for the showdown in X-Men 25, and then that issue wouldn't have felt so belabored (from a dialogue standpoint).
Also, Magneto as he is presented in X-Men 25 seems more like the Magneto we have come to know - far over the line now, but a significant step back from his behavior in this issue - which just feels backwards. So while I was okay with this issue as I read it (apart from the pacing I actually enjoyed it), it does stick out like a sore thumb when you take the event as a whole. Just more proof that Lobdell was not adept at writing issues that require more than character development.
Posted by: Ghost | July 1, 2018 4:35 AM
Maybe it would have been wiser to have Nicieza writing both X-Men titles and Lobdell doing... well, not X-Force, because his strengths don't fit that book either, but something else. It just makes more sense to have the two X-Men titles written by the same author, as opposed to having X-Men and X-Force written by the same author and Uncanny written by someone else. Coordination between titles about the same group of people would seem to be more important than coordination between two groups of different, but related people.
Posted by: Ghost | July 1, 2018 4:39 AM
To be fair to Lobdell, like I said above, supposedly Harras had him rewrite the issue to make Magneto more evil. Harras's tendencies to make changes like that caused problems no matter who was writing- the implication that Norman Osborn kidnapped Peter's and MJ's baby, and MJ's death, being the two most glaring examples from the Spider books.
Posted by: Michael | July 1, 2018 9:05 AM
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