X-MEN: MAGNETO TESTAMENT #5
Writer: Greg Pak
Art: Carmine Di Giandomenico
When this miniseries was announced I’m sure I wasn’t alone in thinking, “Oh great, yet another X-Men book!”. Marvel’s been well known for flooding the market with multiple X-related titles for many years, and unless you’re a hardcore mutant fanboy chances are you consider most of them to be eminently skippable. So it’s highly unlikely you’d perk up at the prospect of a mini that tackles the origin of Magneto, including his time in Auschwitz. Could it be anything other than crass and objectionable? Who else expected to see young Magneto unleashing his awesome powers of magnetism on some evil Nazis? I mean, that’s obviously the way Marvel would go with a project like this, right?
Oh, how wrong I was, and how utterly delighted I was to be so wrong. X-Men: Magneto Testament turned out to be so far away from an exploitative “comic book” interpretation of the Holocaust that it caught me completely off guard.
But surely, after impressing immensely with the first couple of issues, writer Greg Pak would drop the ball as he reached the conclusion of the tale, and cave in to some sort of contractual requirement that every book with ‘X-Men’ in the title must feature some kick-ass action? And maybe some explosions?!
Wrong again. Well, okay, there was an explosion in this final issue, but it’s a historically accurate explosion that could never be considered to be “cool”. Instead, like much of the five-issue long story, it’s ugly. Not ugly in the sense that Carmine Di Giandomenico magnificent artwork isn’t enormously pleasing to the eye, but ugly in the sense of an ugly truth. In other words, a look at a horrendous chapter in this planet’s recent history that should never be forgotten and never, ever repeated.
So, I came into this series expecting not much of anything; I came away feeling overwhelmed and moved by the emotional clarity and intelligence conjured up by something so simple as a mixture of words and pictures. Yes, there were only a couple of fleeting indications that this was the tale of the boy who would one day become the X-Men’s greatest nemesis, but that didn’t matter. The seeds are sown here. What does matter is that the creators didn’t dumb down their work to make it more palatable, rather they acknowledged the intellect of their audience and understood that a single image or a single sentence are sometimes all that’s needed to convey a multitude of thoughts and feelings.
It’s not an easy read, it’s not a fun read, but it’s probably the bravest thing Marvel have published over the last few years, and it’s powerful enough in both the subject matter and the telling that, although the sales figures may not have been stellar, it’s going to have a shelf life that will far exceed many of its contemporaries.
I anticipate revisiting X-Men: Magneto Testament in its entirety in the not too distant future because, while each single issue has been outstanding piece of serial storytellling, I have a feeling that, looking at it as a whole, it’s possibly something close to a masterpiece. 10/10