X-Men Black #1
Magneto - "The Stars, Our Destination?"
Magneto is at a café seemingly in the middle of nowhere, musing over how the world is beautiful while the people that inhabit that world can be less so. As he’s sketching away in his notebook, he captures the attention of a young waitress there – Kate, whose family has owned the café for generations. The café - called the Goldstar Café - has a wall that honors people who died to keep the country safe. Her mom is one of the people on the wall, it turns out. They bond over some Tolkien – Magneto has a book with him and Kate’s mom was a fan of Tolkien’s work – before segueing into a brief conversation about how electronics and how Kate prefers to read her stuff on electronics while Magneto prefers books.
Magneto then does a quick sketch of Kate, and when he shows it to her, she notices the tattoo that he had gotten as a child at Auschwitz. He tells her about his time there, but their conversation is cut short by a news story about a facility being built nearby to house mutant minors. Kate feels that what the government is doing – jailing kids – isn't right. When Magneto asks Kate if she’s scared because they’re talking about mutants, she tells him that mutant is just a label – jailing kids of any kind isn’t right at all. Behind them, some of the other patrons at the café discuss how liberals are being stupid about protesting the detention center. This leads to a conversation between Magneto and the patrons in which they have an obvious differing of ideologies. Kate steps in, asking them to stop the fighting, and points out that Magneto is a holocaust survivor. When they notice that Magneto is remarkably well-preserved for a holocaust survivor, they realize he might be a mutant and start to come for him. Wanting to avoid a confrontation, Magneto pays Kate and leaves.
Outside, angry at what had just transpired, Magneto gathers his powers around him but is interrupted by Kate, who has come to apologize. Kate asks Magneto if he’s a mutant, and he answers honestly, then telling her that she ought to never lose her ideals and that her mother would have been very proud of her.
The story then flashes back to a day earlier, where Magneto is in a training simulation, fighting against the classic, Claremont-era X-Men. It turns out that Magneto has been turning the safety protocols on the training simulation off, which both Nanny – Magneto's robot – and Briar Raleigh both think is a bad idea. Regardless, Briar has come to talk to Magneto about the mutant detention center, and Magneto says that he will deal with it on his own, as he is the face of the mutant resistance.
Back in the present, Magneto approaches the detention center in plainclothes, but the people at the center realize who he is and send in a Sentinel. Magneto summons his costume and fights back, ultimately discovering that the person controlling the Sentinel from within is a woman – one who really seems to dislike his kind. Something about her bravery reminds him of his lost daughter Anya, of Kitty Pryde, and of Kate. He shows the might of his power to the woman – and to the others assembled at the detention center – and tells them that though they believe him to be a monster (and they might be right) he is also a man fighting to protect his people, just as the people at the Office of National Emergency are. He then saves the children in the detention facility, lifting the entire building up and taking it with him as the agents of ONE below him promise that next time, things will be different.
Meanwhile, Magneto leaves Kate with a parting gift – a drawing of the two of them in space together, and a thank you for how she helped him restore his sense of hope.
Apocalypse - "Degeneration Part One"
Apocalypse is working with a machine called the Finch, which repairs genetic decay, replacing all the cells in a body with perfect counterparts. He’s got his fourth lab rat – labeled D – in the machine and he’s using it to create a new body for himself. The latest test subject wakes up, though, and tries to fight against the machine. Apocalypse is unable to calm the subject down and an explosion occurs – one in which he feels as though he is being torn apart.
Sometime later, Apocalypse awakens in an alien landscape, where everything seems to defy logic and nature. He also discovers that he’s bleeding, which puzzles him since he usually heals fast enough not to bleed. As he tries to get his bearings, he comes across the remnants of the Finch, which he surmises overloaded and created a dimensional rift.
Before Apocalypse can figure out how to repair it, he’s attacked by a giant green screeching thing. Apocalypse fights back as best he can, but discovers quickly that he is not what he used to be – he feels pain, his physiology won’t work as it once did. He realizes, upon defeating the monster, that he’s degenerating, turning into the one thing that he’s never wanted to be. Human.
Magneto – “The Stars, Our Destination?”
For a moment, I didn’t even realize that this was a script by Chris Claremont due to the lack of poetic, wordy caption boxes, though the fact that this is a story that deals so well with current events through a mutant metaphor should have been a tip-off as to who the writer of the story was. There are very few writers around who can write Magneto as a nuanced, complex, layered character and get to the humanity that resides beneath the hard, angry shell of a person who has been wronged by society time and again, but Claremont once again proves why he’s so good at what he does. Yes, the story itself isn’t that original, but Claremont imbues it with enough heart and enough pathos to make it work. Having been at this for a very long time, his Magneto isn’t one for grandstanding or long speeches – even when facing off against the agents of ONE – instead choosing to cut right to the chase to make his point, even if it means using his powers to make it. It’s a wise choice, because we’ve had a lot of grandstanding Magneto in the past, and by now it makes sense that he’d become someone who was more direct when it came to handling things.
One of the more important changes to Magneto here is that he doesn’t wish to see all of humanity wiped out, though. Compared to some previous versions of himself, Magneto can now see a bright future hand in hand with humans, as it witnessed by the friendship he forges with Kate, and the gift he leaves her at the end, hoping that they’ll meet among the stars one day, since she wants to be an astronaut. It’s a wonderful new layer to add to a character who has generally been militant where baseline humans are concerned. This continued growth and layering of Magneto shows that there are still a lot of interesting places to take the character, even as he regresses back to having a new Brotherhood.
Dalibor Talajic’s art in the story is serviceable – clear, clean, expressive. It’s classic comics art, nothing ground-breaking, but it serves Claremont’s script well. There’s a sort of Phil Hester quality to the art, and Dono Sanchez-Almara’s colors keep the pencils looking bright and vibrant. There are instances where the art falters some – Storm looks remarkably off-model, but then she is just a computer construct, so that could be the reason for it. The quieter moments with Kate work very well, though, as does Magneto’s scene with the captured mutants.
Apocalypse – “Degeneration Part One”
Given that this is only the first part of a series of five back-ups, there isn’t much story here – just set up, really, but it’s very good set-up. Apocalypse turning into a mortal is as compelling a story conceit as any, especially since his whole schtick is immortality. Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler do a good job of capturing Apocalypse’s voice. Arrogant, cold, scientific – and utterly surprised when things don’t go his way. It’s an alluring set up that they’ve created, and both Geraldo Borges’ pencils and Rachelle Rosenberg’s colors look great. The alien landscape they create is at once familiar and completely unfamiliar, and scenes like the panel showing Apocalypse’s birth and his horror at realizing that he’s becoming human work wonderfully well. There’s no way that the story will simply end with him becoming mortal, but one wonders what other elements will appear in the story, especially since for now, he’s utterly alone.
This book is a definite treat for fans of Chris Claremont, and the Apocalypse back-up is a nice bonus which has the promise of going to some interesting places. While not ground-breaking in any way, the lead story is a solid, timely read and well-worth a look.
X-Men Black: Masters of Magnetism and Immortality
Writing - 7/107/10
Storyline - 6/106/10
Art - 6/106/10
Color - 8/108/10
Cover Art - 7/107/10
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