The last decade has been one of ups and downs for the Mutant Master of Magnetism. He started as an X-Man (sort of), ended up as the ruler of the entire planet (thanks to his children), lost his powers, and is now an X-Man again; that’s just the 616-Universe Magneto! He has also appeared as a lead character in all three of the X-Men movies, been featured in multiple animated television shows, and was a completely sinister bad ass in the Ultimate Universe (before that whole tidal wave silliness of course).
In the spirit of a character who’s truly experienced a unique period of growth, change, and cross-spectrum characterization, I’ve decided to compile a list of the top five Magneto moments of the last 10 years.
5 : “When will these people learn to fly?” (X-2: X-Men United)
X-2 is widely acknowledged as the best of the three X-Men movies, and that was in large part due to the story seeing the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants working together toward a common goal. Magneto is a unique character in that he’s a villain that is almost always seen in shades of gray. Some of the most successful X-Men stories of the years have been ones when Magnus and the children of Xavier were working together. Age of Apocalypse, early New Mutants, and even today in the pages of X-Men Legacy, we see this idea applied with great success.
Ian McKellen portrayed Magneto brilliantly, and while this may not have been his most eye-popping scene in the trilogy, the way it’s sarcastically delivered as Magneto saves the X-Men from a fiery crash landing death shows that not only did the creators, but McKellen himself had a fantastic idea of who this man was, and what he stood for. Realizing that in facing Stryker, he would need the X-Men’s assistance, he is glad to save them from certain doom. All at the same time, showing that with a simple flick of the hand, he could just as easily spell the teams doom.
There has not since M-Day been an event that truly felt like mutantkind faced extinction quite like Second Coming. Shortly before the crossover began, Magneto had joined the ranks of the X-Men. While many were skeptical about his sudden change of heart, Cyclops himself seemed to understand the man’s reasons. After all, the X-Men were living on an island separate from humans, and the island itself was actually just the remains of Asteroid M. Considering the circumstances, what more could Magneto have asked for in this new home?
However, in proving himself to the X-Men, Magnus sent himself into a coma, and did not awaken until the final chapter of Second Coming. When he did, he found himself the sole protector of the island of Utopia, facing dozens of the futuristic Nimrod sentinels by himself. In a brilliantly scribed scene by Mike Carey, Magneto shows the one true driving force behind his character… securing the future of mutantkind. Just as it looks like Magneto will be defeated by the Nimrods, he pulls an ace out of his sleeve, destroying the Nimrods with the very metal that largely composes the island nation.
The students who come to find him are in awe of what the man is able to do when pushed to the limit, as Magneto delivers a stirring and truly memorable line to them, “Don’t be — afraid children. The danger — has passed. Did I ever tell you — that your destiny — is to inherit the Earth?”
Ultimate Magneto was a very different animal than his 616 counterpart. While the two certainly have a similar goals, Ultimate Magneto was far more brutal and ruthless in his efforts to establish mutant dominance on planet Earth. This version of Magneto also does not tolerate failure, especially out of his own flesh and blood. No other moment shows the character’s ferocity than in Ultimate War #2.
During an attack on the Ultimates’ mansion, Magneto confronts his son Pietro about his betrayal the last time the two had met. While Pietro initially believes it was his betrayal that had upset his father, this is not the case. Erik is actually pleased that his son showed initiative and cunning for once. Instead, he is upset with the direction that Pietro took the Brotherhood of Mutants during his own absence. As punishment, he magnetically pulls the triggers of two machine guns at Pietro’s knees in a heartless attempt to cripple the speedster. What’s worse is the Scarlet Witch’s punishment, as she is forced to watch the grizzly scene, begging for mercy, and powerless against the sheer magnitude of her father’s very presence.
This was not as much a Magneto moment, but a moment that showed the effect the man can have on those around him, specifically his own children. During the House of M saga, there were several questions people had, but one thing seemed to be certain – one way or another, Magneto had been the one orchestrating events. However, in issue #7, his son Pietro is revealed to have been the one to suggest the altered reality to his sister Wanda, showing over the years just how far the father has pushed the son. Willing to sacrifice everything and everyone he’d ever cared about, making a man he’d grown to despise over the years the sovereign ruler of Earth, showed exactly what Magneto’s very ego can do to a man. Magneto’s dominating prescience had instilled the ruthless desperation in Pietro that allowed him to rationalize the drastic choices he made.
The most shocking reveal that you never saw coming, and thanks to retconning, never actually happened. The top spot on our list took place toward the end of Grant Morrison’s masterful New X-Men run, wrapping up years of subtle hits and clues in one broad stroke.
Regardless of editorial changes, the reality that the kindly, peaceful, and extremely popular Mr. Xorn was actually the X-Men’s greatest nemesis was a hard-hitting, gut-wrenching fact that shook X-Fans to their cores. Morrison had spent the bulk of his run making Magneto into a veritable god. By “killing” him in the savage Sentinel attacks within the first few issues of his run, Morrison called on the character’s memory and legacy throughout his story, and then in brilliant fashion, pulled Magneto out of his grave and showed what a god might look like in the real world. Morrison’s Magneto was a desperate, flawed messiah, pushing himself past previously established limits, forced to rely on a third-rate Brotherhood; the only legacy member being Toad, historically his most lowly and despised henchmen.
Sadly, the Mutant Master of Magnetism was denied his swan song. The characters of Xorn and Magneto were simply far too popular among fans to stay dead. A series of crude and often changing explanations have been offered for the changing of these events over the years. Magneto himself was revealed to have been alive and living on Genosha just a few months later, and Xorn was re introduced as a “twin” of the original Xorn, joining Havok’s X-Team for a few short months.
While it’s enjoyable to still see Magneto in comics today, one has to wonder how much more fitting and powerful a Magneto memorial would be on Utopia as opposed to the man himself. Furthermore, the reason for Magneto’s attack on New York in Morrison’s run was retribution for the annihilation of the mutant nation, Genosha. It’s almost laughable to think that Magneto has never sought real revenge for those attacks, or that he has fully psychologically recovered from seeing his whole world, his very life’s work, and a mutant nation that represented to him a real family completely torn down around him.
Honorable Mention: X-Men: Magneto Testament
Magneto Testament was an incredibly stirring, deeply emotional, and brilliantly told story of the true origin of Magneto. If this list were either a 616-only list, or a list of suggested Magneto reading, it would absolutely have made its way into the top five. However, most of what took place in the book could have easily been assumed through past stories or by an account of actual history itself. Anyone with a love and appreciation for the character of Magneto will love this book. However, in its very nature, it was not very ground breaking; that is, of course, not to say that it was not a story that needed to be properly told once and for all.
And that as they say is that. Should #5 have been #1? Was your favorite Magneto moment not even on the list? Feel free to chime in the comment section below to let us know.