Since their incarnation, the X-Men have been an allegorical representation of the dangers of prejudicial beliefs and actions. Fittingly it is a metaphor that has evolved throughout the years to reflect the current social and political climate.of the time. With X-Men: Black-Magento #1 that evolution continues as Magneto seeks to take out an internment camp that is holding mutant children due to recent fears that resurfaced regarding mutants.
Returning to tell this story is legendary X-Men scribe Chris Claremont that is best known for telling some of the best X-Men stories of all time. As of late most of Claremont’s work has not garnered nearly the same level of acclaim, but this is one of the better examples of what he can do right with the X-Men world. Rather than coming off as Claremont trying to redo what he has done in the past, his style subdued favoring character over massive plotting or spectacle.
It helps that Magneto is such a layered and complex villain. Easily one of the best characters ever produced by comics. X-Men: Black touches upon what makes him so compelling by showcasing his dichotomous relationship with society. Being a survivor of the Holocaust he has experienced a level of horror most would dream to be unimaginable. This has lead him on this quest against the tyranny of humanity and this need to protect the innocent, which brings him to the town of San Fernando to liberate a detention center holding mutant youth.
Cleary there is a direct correlation between this and similar activities occurring in the actual United States with migrant children. As mentioned, if there is any comic that is fitting to tell this story it is the X-Men. A book that is always been about the consistent and challenging fight for standing up for ideals. Considering that this was an opportunity where the narrative could have dove deeper than it does. Magento’s past is one where his extreme views have let him down a dark path that could have been utilized to show what happens when fear and hate win. How he is at times as guilty as those he is now fighting against. That is also coupled with an interaction between Erik and locals that comes off as a stereotypical view of small-town folk. Although those moments where a tad sloppy the general concept is handled quite well.
The heart of this story comes from a conversation between Erik and a teenage girl at a local diner. There is an honest and genuine back and forth between them that allows the parental side of Magneto to show through. It is a daring choice to start a new series starring X-Men greatest foe with a scene that feels more like a moment from a Richard Linklater indie film. For some wanting a more straightforward action based comic, there may be some disappointment. So far this series seems more interested in the ideological conflict in an ever-changing world than an exercise in a villain’s might and strength.
Dalibor Talajic is a different choice from your typical X-Men artist. Talajic has worked with Marvel previously, however, this is one of the few times his style completely clicks with the story being told. His figure design has a more realistic aesthetic to it as Magneto has a gentle look that more resembles a conventional grandfather than the leader of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. With this being a more tone down tale it works well, but for your average reader, it could take some time to adjust to. Also, his facial rendering is not always consistent. The girl Magento strikes up a conversation with looks much older than the story presents her as at times. Considering there are multiple inkers on this project it could be a result of that.
The X-Men: Black books also include a backup Apocalypse story by Zac Thompson, Lonnie Nadler, and Geraldo Borge. With only a few pages dedicated to it trying to form a complete opinion is challenging. Unlike the Wolverine one page inserts they did recently this give some context of where this story is headed, and even with limited page space enough intrigued was establish to garner excitement of where this story might go next. Based on what has occurred so far one would assume it will lead to significant ramifications in the upcoming Uncanny X-Men relaunch.
X-Men: Black-Magneto #1 is a unique specimen of a book. One that makes a lot of bold choices that may not sit well with some fans; from the more subdued storytelling to the choice of art, to even the commentary being approached. Not all those bold choices fully payoff but X-Men fans that have relished the series ability to be a consistent reflection of our ever-changing world will have plenty to dive into.
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Dalibor Talajic
Inkers: Roberto Poggi & Belardino Brabo
Colorist: Dono Sánchez-Almara
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna