Thursday, March 26, 2009

X-MEN #-1 – July 1997

I Had a Dream
Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Carlos Pacheco (penciler), Art Thibert (inker), Chris Lichtner & Aron Lusen (colors), Comicraft (lettering)

Summary: Charles Xavier returns to America for the first time since his legs were shattered. He’s staying at his father’s home with Amelia Voght, the nurse he met in the hospital. She thinks his plan to stop human/mutant conflict is insane, and Xavier responds that he can’t just wait for “him”. Elsewhere, Magneto speaks to his two newest recruits, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. They travel to the concentration camp Magneto grew up in, where they find Xavier and Amelia waiting. Xavier tries to convince Magneto to turn away from his crusade, or else more concentration camps are going to be built. Magneto claims that he could kill Xavier now, and Xavier responds that he could shut off his mind. Magneto leaves, saying that their conflict can only have one conclusion. Xavier tells Amelia that he hopes Magneto can remember the sins of the past and not repeat them.

Continuity Note: A third-person narrative caption repeatedly refers to “Erik Lensherr” as Magneto’s name as a child. This is contradicted just a few months later during Joe Kelly’s run, when it’s revealed that Erik Lensherr was a false identity Magneto adopted.

Review: After a few pages of an amusing Stan Lee framing sequence (which mainly consists of him joking about the number of mutants he can’t keep track of), the tone shifts dramatically as Scott Lobdell presents an extended conversation scene between Xavier and Magneto. I’m convinced that the X-office had no idea what to do with Magneto during the ‘90s, but this story is at least tolerable. Lobdell tries to straddle the line between Claremont’s sympathetic portrayal of the character and the original ranting psychopath Magneto from the Silver Age. In the context of modern continuity, it works pretty well, but it’s hard to imagine the Magneto who existed just prior to 1963’s X-Men #1 having anything close to a reasonable discussion with Xavier.

Claremont’s retcon explanation for Magneto’s various characterizations was that his powers caused mental instability, which is as good an explanation as any. (He also wrote a Classic X-Men backup that took place shortly before his first appearance, which had Magneto going over the edge after a woman he was involved with was needlessly killed. This was supposed to set up his mental state for his Silver Age appearances). Of course, Claremont’s attempts at making Magneto sympathetic were a part of his larger plan to have Magneto genuinely reform. Later creators seemed to like the idea of a more complex Magneto, but apparently hated the idea of him ever reforming. So, they took what they liked from Claremont’s run and ignored the rest. In essence, this remakes Magneto yet again. He’s a villain again, but he’s now able to present a somewhat justifiable point of view.

Lobdell’s interpretation doesn’t portray Magneto as insane, but instead casts him as a ruthless man who’s willing to do anything to protect mutants. This seems to be what the creative teams were going for during his ‘90s appearances, but couldn’t quite pull off (why exactly did he crash a little girl’s funeral again?). I still don’t think Lobdell writes a compelling enough Magneto to really justify a full conversation issue between him and Xavier, but the story has its moments. Showing that neither Xavier nor Magneto are willing to fight one another at this point is a nice move, and I liked the inclusion of Amelia Voght. Pacheco’s art, which has to deal with pages of conversation scenes and the restrictive grid layout of the Flashback titles, remains strong. Overall, this is a decent issue, which is more than I would expect from a ‘90s Magneto appearance.


kerry said...

I seem to remember Warren Ellis saying that Excalibur was one of the few times he's written "Lee-Kirby Style," at the insistence of his artist, Pachecho, who felt this was a more "Marvel" way of working. If that attitude carried over, the grid format may have been on Pacheco's insistence rather than the writer's, to maintain "authenticity" and fit with the Flashback theme (possibly encouraged by editorial?). Just speculating.

Matt said...

"A third-person narrative caption repeatedly refers to “Erik Lensherr” as Magneto’s name as a child. This is contradicted just a few months later during Joe Kelly’s run, when it’s revealed that Erik Lensherr was a false identity Magneto adopted."

For some reason I thought that was during the Alan Davis "Magneto War" storyline, but now that I think about it, you may be right about it being Joe Kelly. I really don't remember the Kelly/Seagle issues at all. In my mind for some reason, everything goes straight from Lobdell to Davis.

Either way, I get the impression that Marvel has chosen to ignore that revelation, because his name seems pretty well cemented as "Eric/Erik Magnus Lensherr" nowadays. Probably because the first X-Men movie -- which I recall was released very soon after the revelation that his birth name was not Eric Lensherr in the comics -- had young Magneto called "Eric" by his parents.

Jeff said...

Paul O'Brien says that Erik Lensherr was revealed to be a false identity so they could get Magneto back to being Jewish after he was referred to as a gypsy in X-Men Unlimited #2.

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