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Magneto #1

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Magneto #1

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Any time a well-established character suddenly gets his or her own on-going series, you have to ask "Why?"

In the case of Magneto, I want the answer to be "In order to give Gabriel Hernandez Walta steady, mainstream work". Walta (The Veil) is a master of dark imagery and effective construction. He's the sort of artist Marvel and DC should be going out of their way to find work for. So far, he's done his best stuff with independent publishers in limited series, so it's exciting to see the fearful witnesses and tightly-wound killers he's so good at portraying in a book featuring one the world's most dangerous mutants and high-profile terrorists.

Of course, lately Magneto's been a member of the X-Men, defending the Earth rather menacing it. So, again, why does Magneto have his own title? I'm afraid the answer is his marketability.

This is the man who used to routinely require the combined might of the X-Men to stop him, who possessed the power to halt the rotation of the Earth. Now, he's a man hanging out in Kansas hunting down people one-by-one. Though he's still targeting people who have endangered the mutant race, even the Punisher thinks in bigger terms than seeking people out one at a time in a cafe. Magneto seemed to be a title launched without a story prepared, so what we get is literally one of the most iconic villains of American culture spending his days intimidating motel maids.

I wish I was making up the "Hey, hey, hey... you forgot your tip" scene.

Whether this small-scale noirish approach was something writer Cullen Bunn (the upcoming Sinestro) brought to the table, or the original vision of Marvel isn't immediately apparent. But the obvious truth is it doesn't work. Even as this story escalates into Magneto fighting advanced Sentinels (and how many times have we seen that story?), it will feel weird that all this started with Magneto driving to farm country and hang out in dark motel rooms.

None of this is to decry Bunn's writing. His strong voice keeps Magneto the commanding figure he needs to be to feel like this book isn't just "Magento" in name only, and I'm certainly interested in where he'll take the character. And to restate, Walta's visual storytelling alone makes the book worth owning. It just may take some time for readers to warm up to this fish-out-of-water scenario.

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