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X-Men #150 (1981, October)

June 10, 2013

Time for a big-ol’ double-sized issue, as the X-Men take on Magneto, in “I, Magneto . . .”

I, Magneto . . .

That’s an awesome cover.

It starts with Magneto ordering the leaders of the world to cede political control to him within a week, or he’ll kill everyone. Once his ultimatum’s delivered, Scott and Lee talk to him, and Magneto says that the trillion dollars a year spent on weapons worldwide will instead be spent on hunger, disease and poverty, bringing about a golden age for the world. Lee asks about freedom, and Magneto says more people are starving than free. Then he asks Scott about Jean, and is shocked to learn of her death. He also mentions how his entire family was killed, the first hint of his Holocaust origin.

Some missiles are launched at Magneto’s island, and he easily disarms them, then destroys the Soviet sub that launched them. Then, he creates a volcano in the Soviet city of Varykino, though slowly enough that the city is evacuated before anyone dies. Later, Scott and Lee kiss outside, and don’t notice the Blackbird flying by, and then go crazy. Storm is barely able to use her powers in time to save them. Out on the Dejah Thoris II, Xavier loses psychic contact with the team, and Peter Corbeau loses the radar contact.

The team leaves the sunken Blackbird, with Colossus in steel form, not needing to breathe. But then he suddenly turns back to flesh, and starts drowning. Lee takes a walk, and gets dragged into the drink by Wolverine. The rest of the X-Men bring Colossus up, and apply CPR. Once they revive Colossus, Scott shows up, and explains that their powers are being inhibited. Luckily, Scott has a plan.

He takes the men one way, and sends the women another way. The men go down to deal with the machine he built to manipulate the Earth’s crust. The women, meanwhile, are trying to break into Magneto’s computer centre. They find his programming book, but it’s written in another language, so Kitty can’t read it. Storm scouts around a bit, and finds Magneto sleeping in his bedroom. Back to the men, they can’t shut down Magneto’s machine, so the next option is to wreck it. Wolverine and Nightcrawler go out onto it to cut the supports. Wolverine falls off the machine, but Kurt uses his agility to save him. I get the feeling it’s the kind of moment John Byrne wouldn’t have done. But Cockrum did a lot more with Nightcrawler than Byrne ever did.

Storm is watching Magneto sleep, and sees a knife she could use to slit his throat. She struggle with the decision, and ultimately decides she can’t do it. Unfortunately, that’s when Magneto wakes up, and hurls her out of the room. Then he dresses himself by having his costume flow through the air and onto his body. It’s actually a really neat trick. Xavier sends an astral projection to battle Magneto, but gets distracted when his chair’s safety harness wraps around him, and his chair flies into the air towards Magneto’s base.

The men finish off Magneto’s machine, but then Magneto shows up and rebuilds it with a wave of his hand. He then mentions having killed Storm. He’s wrong, of course, her cape saved her when it snagged on a piece of stone. She climbs back up, and then grabs a chair and smashes one of Magneto’s computers. The thing explodes, which it probably shouldn’t have, but she’s not injured. Downstairs, Scott feels his optic blasts returning. He shuts his eyes and taunts Magneto, then lets loose a blast. Magneto’s temporarily out of the way, letting Scott free himself and the others.

The fight is pretty equal, initially. Then a huge bolt of lightning comes down. Magneto absorbs the lightning, so Storm whips up a tornado, instead. Magneto smacks her with Colossus, and then flings Colossus around the room at the others, until Xavier hits him with a psi-bolt. While the X-Men keep him busy, Scott sends Kitty to screw up his computers. Magneto realizes that Storm is lowering the air pressure in the room, hoping to keep him from breathing. He uses his magnetism to draw lightning from the air, through Storm and into himself. He’s replenishing himself while killing her, but she fights back, despite the pain. Colossus gets between the two of them, but Storm is actually on fire, so Nightcrawler teleports her out into the water.

That’s when magneto senses what Kitty’s been doing to his computer banks. He’s infuriated, and strikes out at her, then realizes she’s just a kid. He talks about how Magda had run from him after he first used his power to defend her, and to avenge their daughter. And now he mentions Auschwitz, establishing his background in the Holocaust. Storm shows up, sees the state Kitty’s in, and freaks out, ready to kill Magneto. He doesn’t resist. Storm calms down, and tries to convince him that he’s still a good man.

The X-Men have to spend the night on Magneto’s island, but Magneto himself is gone. Xavier tells Moira that the X-Men achieved a major victory, by changing Magneto’s perceptions. Kitty tries to figure out how to salvage the Blackbird, and decides to raise it using the Force. The Force turns out to be Colossus carrying the plane on his back. She gets tossed in the water, to end things on a light note.

This is a great story. It’s full of highs and lows, as the X-Men seem to win, only for Magneto to turn the tables again. The fight is exciting, full of clever strategies from both sides. I actually miss the sorts of things Storm did here. She mostly just does lightning, but she used to use her powers in much more creative ways. It was also great seeing Magneto presented so sympathetically. He’s been fully moved away from his ’60s origin as a generic crazy terrorist bastard, and now wants what he feels is best for the world. His motivation is understandable, and his goal possibly even a good one. At the same time, Scott points out some problems with it (specifically, that any utopia he creates by force will last only until his death, if that long). The reveal that he suffered through the Holocaust gives a lot more depth to him. (Speaking of which, Magneto: Testament, by Greg Pak and Carmine Di Giandomenico, was a fantastic mini-series you should check out. It’s some soul-crushing stuff, as it explores Magneto’s experiences during the Holocaust, and is based on records of what actually happened back then. It’s founded in fact, which just makes it all the more horrific. Check it out, it’s worth the read.)

I will admit, it feels a bit wrong to talk about this as the 150th issue, given the 30 issues of reprints. Still, 150 is what’s on the cover. Claremont and Cockrum made it a very memorable special. Interestingly, the 200th issue will be another Magneto story. Magneto’s sinking of the Leningrad, the Soviet sub, will be referenced a couple times over the next few years.

Great issue.

And while you’re here, I have an article on Beyond the Gamer about how comics are easy to understand. Check it out. It’s a point that I feel like comic book readers need to make, to bring in people who nervous about getting into comics. Comic book sales kinda suck these days, and the perception that comics are impossible to get into without a lot of work is one reason for that (though not necessarily the biggest reason). So if we want more people reading comics, that’s one concern we need to address.

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