X-Men #112 (1978, August)
With this issue, the X-Men went back to being a monthly title. Which is good, because that means more issues to review. Today’s story is “Magneto Triumphant!”
Magneto has the X-Men at his mercy in the circus wagon, since he has it hurtling through the sky at high speeds. Cyclops keeps Wolverine from attacking, since his power is the only thing keeping them alive. As he explains why and how he found them, he tosses Mesmero out and lowers him safely to the ground, still unconscious. A pair of Mexican fighter pilots see this, and decide that after following him down and radioing for a helicopter, they’re going to go home and get drunk. A nice moment of levity in an otherwise very tense comic.
He brings the wagon down in an active Antarctic volcano, down into a base he has hidden down there. A mile beneath the ice cap, and covering 5 square miles. The X-Men attack, but don’t accomplish much. Beast gets hit with a static charge, which I found rather amusing. Storm unleashes a blizzard against him, but holds back a bit, giving him a chance to counter. Magneto takes them all down, except Phoenix, who starts beating him back, until she reaches her limit and falls.
The X-Men later wake up in special chairs. They’re shackled, of course. More important, he explains that the chairs reduce them to the capabilities of a six-year-old. They’re fully aware of what’s happening, but they can’t speak, can’t activate their powers, can barely even more their heads. The final page is fantastic. Panel-by-panel close-ups of each of the X-Men’s faces displaying shock and horror, and then a final close up of Magneto’s hate-filled eyes as he declares that if there’s a Hell, it can’t be worse than this.
This is a very tense, dark issue. Maybe a little exposition-heavy early on, but Claremont writes it well. You can almost hear Magneto’s voice, and it’s almost hypnotic as he talks about following Beast to the circus. It’s improved by Byrne’s art, as the sequence consistently shows Magneto draped in shadows, giving him a much more sinister feel. When he takes down the X-Men one-on-one, you can feel their growing helplessness. Storm and Phoenix do the best against him, so I suppose I’ll add another mark to the Claremazon Moment Tracker for each of them, putting them both at 5. Byrne draws their attacks with a force and ferocity that’s actually a little frightening – you can tell that these are the most powerful members of the team, and that if either of them lost control, they’d wreak massive destruction.
And, of course, Magneto’s method of dealing with them is horrific, delightfully twisted and sadistic. His explanation of the outrage he felt at being reduced to a baby is effective. So at least one good thing came out of that rather stupid story.