Wednesday, March 24, 2010

MAGNETO #1-#4, November 1996-February 1997

Return of the Messiah

Credits: Peter Milligan (plot), Jorge Gonzalez (script), Kelley Jones (penciler), John Beatty (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters), Brad Vancata & GCW (colors)

Yes, it’s called Magneto, which is amusing considering the later revelation that the star was Magneto’s clone, but I guess biologically he is Magneto. Releasing this as Magneto was always a little odd, since this character didn’t view himself as Magneto and wanted to be called Joseph anyway. I’m sure Joseph wouldn’t have had the same commercial appeal, though. The creative team of Peter Milligan and Kelley Jones were mainly DC creators in the ‘90s, so I wonder what lead to them taking this assignment. As we’ve seen on some of the previous miniseries, Marvel could’ve done a lot worse, so I’m not complaining. Jones is known for his rather wacked-out interpretation of Batman, but this is more subdued. It’s reminiscent of Steve Epting’s work from this era, actually. Milligan’s plot puts the pieces in place, but Jorge Gonzalez’s script gives every character such stilted dialogue, it’s hard to care.

The story has Joseph searching the Andes, where the X-Men’s records show partial remains of Avalon have landed. There, he discovers a group of Acolytes waiting for Magneto’s return. He rejects their title of savior, but still saves them from the Humanity’s Last Stand soldiers who attack their camp. (Humanity’s Last Stand is the ruthless threat to mutantkind that never managed to make it into any of the main X-titles. They stayed on the periphery for a year until they were later absorbed into Operation: Zero Tolerance.) Joseph leaves the group and soon discovers the remains of Magneto’s private quarters. He reads Magneto’s private files and experiences every act of cruelty he committed.

Meanwhile, another group of Acolytes, lead by Exodus, hides out in the arctic. Exodus is prepared to kill Amelia Voght for treason because she opposes his dangerous plans for erecting a New Avalon. Fabian Cortez, who conveniently shows up alive and well after the “Bloodties” crossover, pleads for her life and wins. The two plots merge when Cortez finds Joseph and warns him of Exodus’ plan. He talks Joseph into taking on Magneto’s role in order to make amends for his past.

There is some intrigue here. I’m not sure how Cortez survived, if this is really even supposed to be Cortez, or what his real plan is supposed to be. Showing how exactly the Acolytes respond to Joseph is also a plot point that needed to be addressed, and this is a good place to do it. However, as I mentioned earlier, every page is just crammed with wooden, personality-less dialogue and dull captions.


Credits: Peter Milligan (plot), Jorge Gonzalez (script), Kelley Jones (penciler), John Beatty (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters), Brad Vancata (colors)

Joseph is now garbed as Magneto, and allowing Cortez to manipulate him fairly easily. Before traveling to the arctic to stop Exodus, he relents to the Acolytes and tracks down the remaining Humanity’s Last Stand soldiers. One of the soldiers dies in the fight, but not before he can condemn Joseph/Magneto for killing his brothers. I have no idea if this is intended as a retcon (Magneto’s only victims before “Fatal Attractions” that I know of are the crew of a Russian sub and Zaladane), or a reference to Magneto’s electromagnetic pulse in X-Men #25. The story is going out of its way to paint Magneto as a horrible monster, which unfortunately ignores the years of work spent making him a well-rounded character (which surely inspired the creation of Joseph in the first place). After Joseph saves the Acolytes from HLS’s nuclear attack, and builds a hi-tech jet out of the ground’s ore, they declare he truly is Magneto. Joseph decides that he wants to visit the soldier’s family before confronting Exodus, which is an understandable place for the story to go, but unfortunately creates another sidetrack from the main plot. How are we supposed to believe that Exodus’ plan is so dangerous if the protagonist seems so disinterested in actually stopping it?


Credits: Peter Milligan (plot), Jorge Gonzalez (script), Kelley Jones (penciler), John Beatty (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters), Brad Vancata (colors)

Because he’s just not in a hurry, Joseph visits the family of the deceased HLS soldier (his death scene was vague last issue, but apparently he died due to a mechanical failure in his suit). Joseph tries to comfort them, but they soon realize he’s a mutant, which creates a near-riot. Joseph returns to the Acolytes and declares that he isn’t Magneto, then changes his mind yet again when Cortez talks him back into the deception. I get that Joseph is supposed to be naive and confused, but the story often makes him seem too flakey to be taken seriously. Joseph finally reaches the arctic with his group of Acolytes, where they’re greeted by a skeptical Exodus. Joseph falls for Cortez’s manipulations and accidentally reveals himself as an imposter. Exodus declares Joseph a fraud, creating a civil war amongst the Acolytes. Cortez, because he’s so brilliant, didn’t expect this to happen; he just wanted Joseph and Exodus to eliminate each other so that he could take over the Acolytes again. Exodus sends Joseph to the Earth’s core, and Cortez pledges his allegiance to the victor. Later, an enraged Joseph emerges in Cortez’s chambers, declaring that he truly is Magneto now. Again…flakey.


Credits: Peter Milligan (plot), Jorge Gonzalez (script), Kelley Jones (penciler), John Beatty, Mark Heike, & Jim Sanders III (inkers), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters), Brad Vancata & GCW (colors)

So, now Joseph believes he really is Magneto, and he’s convincing enough for Exodus to declare a temporary truce. Humanity’s Last Stand (which I thought was a homegrown militia, but in this series is an actual military operation) sends fighter jets to attack the Acolytes. Exodus and Joseph team up to stop the jets, but even in his anger, Joseph can’t bring himself to kill the pilots. After defeating HSL, Joseph is confronted by Amelia Voght with pictures of Magneto’s family. Joseph switches personalities again and declares that he won’t allow the pain that drove Magneto infect him. Posing as Magneto one last time, he orders the Acolytes to disburse and abandon their plans for New Avalon. Joseph returns to the X-Men, just as bland as ever, and ready for more hints of an unrequited romance with Rogue.

This one went off the rails early and never managed to recover. Some of the blame goes to the ham-fisted scripting, although I’m reluctant to name Gonzalez as the culprit. Since much of the dialogue consists of characters bluntly stating things that are already clear in the artwork, or expressing the deep thoughts they’re supposed to be experiencing while processing the story’s events, I wonder if editorial dumbed things down a bit. For example, the final page has the widow of the HSL soldier reflecting on Joseph’s message of peace, which he tried to express before she went psycho on him. It’s a reasonable ending to the story, showing that Joseph’s quest for peace impacted at least one person. The actual script, however, reads: “Perhaps it is time to stop this violence…time to put an end to this cycle of hatred before it consumes the rest of my family…!” Milligan has already set this scene at night, as the woman watches her son sleep. A few words would’ve gotten the point across. Why doesn’t the script have more faith in the audience’s ability to grasp a very simple message?

A believable script would’ve been nice, but it wouldn’t solve many of the mini’s problems. Fabian Cortez is resurrected without explanation, doesn’t really have much of a plan, and just disappears at the story’s end. The Acolytes, aside from reverting back into ciphers, are incredibly dumb throughout the story. Joseph, the star of the blasted series, can’t even keep a consistent personality for more than a few pages by the end. If the story was truly about his descent into madness, that has potential (and seems more appropriate for Milligan’s style), but instead he just comes across as a sap. It’s another pointless miniseries, unless you just couldn’t wait for the resurrection of Fabian Cortez.

1 comment:

Mr. Xorn said...

I hated, hated, hated Fabian Cortez in every one of his appearances. When he started showing up on the cartoon, I checked out.

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