Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Scanned Thoughts: Magneto #2
There are certain breeds of assholes that do varying degrees of damage. At the bottom of the pecking order are the assholes who never repay loans, drive really slow in the fast lane, hook up with beautiful women only when they’re drunk, and watch Bill O’Riley like it’s actually news. But at the top of that order is a different kind of asshole. This is the kind of guy who takes that same ruthlessness and uses is to get shit done. They’ll run over a few people, give the finger to anyone else who gets in their way, and not bat an eye every step of the way. But if they do all this and the end result is a few Nazis die, a bus full of children are saved, or Glen Beck starts crying uncontrollably, then that puts this breed of asshole on a different level. Magneto has been an asshole for most of his existence. And to be fair, he has plenty of reasons to act that way. Since his return to the X-books in the pages of Uncanny X-men, he’s not quite the asshole he used to be. But now that he’s got his own solo series where he’s hunting down mutant-hating douche-bags like escaped Nazis, he’s back to his roots. Magneto #2 offers some insight into how an asshole like Magneto can still get shit done. He may not be a very nice guy, but he’ll accomplish more than every hippie who ever lived before breakfast.
Magneto already accomplished plenty in the previous issue. He tracked down a suspected mutant murderer to a local jailhouse with the intention of doing to him what a hungry Vladimir Putin does to wounded bears. But this plan went to shit when he found out that this wannabe mutant-hater turned out to be an Omega Sentinel. That meant less bloody dismemberment and more property damage. It got the job done and showed Magneto that he was going to have to kill far more people than he thought. But for the poor bastards that got in his way, they’re going to need plenty of therapy and a shit-load of duct tape.
As the locals are assessing the damage and interviewing traumatized witnesses that will probably need a ton of weed to function from now on, a few SHIELD agents show up. This acts as a nice interplay between the events in this series and the events in Uncanny X-men. SHIELD has already been going after Cyclops as their most wanted fugitive, but Magneto is a close number two. And when he goes on a killing spree in some small town in California, that gets their attention. I still think it’s pretty fucked up that SHIELD is focusing so much on Cyclops, a hero who killed one person while under the influence of a cosmic force, while only dedicating a fraction of the energy to Magneto, a long-time villain who is as casual about killing people as I am about my weed use. But I digress. The point of this scene here is to show that Magneto’s mini-rampage isn’t going unnoticed and SHIELD is going to pursue his ass.
That being said, they’re way fucking behind because they don’t show up again at all in this issue. Magneto has already slipped away and is hot on the trail of whoever was behind unleashing the Omega Sentinel. Before he got to the slaughtering, Magneto found out that the man who murdered that mutant was turned into an Omega Sentinel against his will. And he happened to come from a place that few people give a sliver of horse shit about. It shows that in addition to deserving a molten steel enema, the people he’s dealing with are as smart as they are immoral. Makes me think they’re probably funded by Goldman Sachs.
This is what leads Magneto to a tent city. It’s actually pretty appropriate and Magneto himself points this out. There’s some great inner monologue here as he looks around at these people and sees them in a context very different from what is probably shown on Fox News. He sees these people as desperate and destitute, having been outcast by society and left to fend for themselves. They’re basically the people that society has screwed over to the point where they’re without hope and just trying to survive. That makes them tragedies worthy of a Lifetime movie, but it also makes them vulnerable as hell. And whereas Dr. Doom would only see insects dressed in human flesh, Magneto sees a familiar sight.
This leads to an extensive flashback that explores a defining part of Magneto’s life that often gets lost behind the goofy helmets and righteous slaughter. Before he was Magneto, he was a poor Polish boy running from Nazi oppressors. And on one rainy night in 1942, he teamed up with a couple of other poor boys to smuggle food for their hungry families. It’s a similar situation to the people in the tent cities, but this one involves Nazis. That makes it at least a billion times worse by default.
Now I normally have a low tolerance for flashbacks in the same way I have a low tolerance for someone who steals my weed. But every so often, a flashback actually works to make the events in the present more meaningful. It’s almost as rare as Al Sharpton not playing the race card on an issue, but when it does happen it’s a beautiful thing. It’s not as entertaining as seeing Magneto horribly maim Nazis with a billion rusty nails. And it doesn’t have to be. It just has to fit the moment.
Back in the present, Magneto isn’t running from Nazis. But he’s still in a neighborhood that’s about as friendly and welcoming as the Vatican is to Richard Dawkins. So when some old guy actually approaches Magneto with open arms and good manners, that immediately raises some red flags. Magneto probably knows as I well as I do that a friendly face in a rough part of town is either trying to sell drugs, steal wallets, or doing recruiting for a religious cult. All are potentially dangerous, but Magneto is a dangerous guy so he goes with it. He’s still searching for more information on who is turning people into Omega Sentinels and if he has to risk hearing a sermon about Xenu, then that’s an okay price to pay.
The old man is polite at first. He invites Magneto into his tent. He even offers him food which doesn’t appear to be laced with meth or codeine. That alone should put Magneto’s concerns at ease somewhat. But this is Magneto. Manners only go so far with him in the sense they’ll only delay the horrible maiming he’ll inflict if he doesn’t get what he wants. He basically tells the old man to cut the crap and tell him about the guy from this tent city that got turned into an Omega Sentinel. Lucky for this polite old man, he doesn’t say anything that will get him maimed.
However, he does say something that adds some complications to Magneto’s mission. Apparently, some random guys who aren’t Mormons looking for converts have been coming to this tent city and recruiting people with jobs. It seemed like a perfectly generous thing to do for a bunch of desperate and destitute people. Then they noticed that the people who get these jobs never come back and are never heard from again. Either these jobs are making them filthy fucking rich while they lounge around a pool in Bali or something really horrible has happened to them. And in a community devoid of hope, it’s usually wise to assume the latter.
This takes us back to the flashback to 1942 Poland, a time and place that couldn’t be shittier for poor and destitute boys like Magneto. In trying to smuggle food for their families, he and the two other boys are caught by a couple of Nazi soldiers. Magneto and one of the boys, Levi, manage to hide in a wall. But the other gets cornered and since this isn’t a Call of Duty game, he’s pretty fucked. He basically has no choice but to admit that he has been stealing food that could otherwise be used to feed Hitler’s armies as they kill and torture everyone they invade. And in Nazi Germany, that’s a pretty serious crime.
But it’s not enough to put this poor boy in a difficult position. These are Nazis. They take douche-baggery to a disgusting level. They suspect this kid has friends that he’s working with. So they offer him a deal so that he’s not quite as fucked. If he gives them the names of his friends, he gets to go home and even gets to keep the food he stole. By Nazi standards, that’s a pretty sweet deal. Doing so means Magneto and Levi would be both betrayed and fucked, but he gets to eat and so does his family. For a hungry young boy, it’s too easy a decision.
That’s where that Nazi douche-baggery comes in. Even though the boy gives the Nazis what they want, they don’t hold up their end of the bargain. Apparently, making a deal with a Nazi is a lot like making a deal with Tony Soprano when he’s on a meth binge. As soon as the boy gives them what they want, the Nazis shoot the poor boy in the head. And that, my friends, is what separates Nazis from traditional douche-bags. I hope I don’t need to emphasize this point any further because that would require more blow than I have on hand at the moment.
Back in the present, this flashback gains even greater context. Magneto continues to muse at how desperation makes people vulnerable. And if someone is a Nazi-level douche-bag, they’ll find a way to exploit that vulnerability. It’s tragic, but true. Just ask any impoverished Native American. But Magneto, even with broken powers, isn’t vulnerable. Hell, he’s the very opposite of vulnerable. And once he learns about these sick fucks who are turning these vulnerable people into Omega Sentinels, he waits around the tent city until night for them to arrive. When they show up, he welcomes them the same way lion welcomes a wounded zebra.
The battle that follows isn’t much of a battle. It’s nowhere near as destructive or as flashy as Magneto’s battle with the Omega Sentinel in the previous issue. And in a book that hasn’t had a lot of action, that’s somewhat of a drag. It’s still brutal as hell. He puts some rusty nails to good use and uses these sick bastards as a walking pin cushions. It’s pretty one-sided. It’s basically yet another demonstration of how Magneto can be pretty damn ruthless if he’s sufficiently pissed. It’s a point that has already been made before, but I guess it’s worth belaboring.
It would have been okay if he just stopped at maiming these people. But Magneto wouldn’t be Magneto if he didn’t go the extra mile. This is where that flashback scene really gives the story the added impact. Magneto keeps one of the assholes alive and turns a gun on him, demanding that he give him more information about this sick program that turns people into mutant-killing Omega Sentinels. The man, who already has over a dozen nails stabbing him all over his body, tells him everything. There’s only so much honor and loyalty a man can manage when he’s got a gun to his head and rusty nails in his face.
But like the Nazi from the flashback, Magneto doesn’t keep his end of the deal. He fucking kills the guy after he tells him everything. This alone wouldn’t be too surprising given Magneto’s casual attitude towards righteous slaughter. But it’s the presence of the flashback that really gives this moment the right impact. It’s one of those rare moments where a flashback makes what happens in the present more awesome. I don’t know when I’ll ever be able to say that again so I think we should all cherish this like the last can of beer in a six-pack.
This issue and this series as a whole seems to have one primary goal, which is to remind readers who may have gotten drunk off Matt Fraction’s Uncanny X-men run that Magneto is not a hero. He’s not a villain either. But even by the post-Justin Bieber standards of today, he’s not a nice person. However, unlike Justin Bieber, Magneto’s cold murderous rage has meaning to it. He doesn’t kill, maim, and manipulate people because it gives him a raging boner. He does it because he has a mission. He has taken it upon himself to royally fuck up anyone who tries to fuck with the mutant race and not by handing them over to the police either. And unlike the first issue, this issue added some additional depths to Magneto’s motivations by flashing back to his life as a victim of Nazi oppression. It made the way he maimed those assholes who attacked the tent city all the more powerful. It’s that impact that makes me smile and sick to my stomach that leads me to give Magneto #2 an 8 out of 10. This is the Magneto that the X-men comics have been missing since flip phones were still in style. Even though it involves Magneto horribly murdering people in ways that would make vegans vomit uncontrollably, it’s still a beautiful thing. Nuff said!