Magneto’s Origin Story
Magneto’s origins are some of the most fascinating in comic book history. The fact that they bear roots within the Holocaust has furthered their appeal and retellings of his younger days have appeared twice in the successful X-men film franchise. Whether due to a lack of creativity or Hollywood wanting to cement their importance, the scenes were exactly the same, shot for shot. This certifies just how much interest there is around the character’s birth and it’s no wonder that the master of magnetism constantly reappears within every adaptation of the mutant group.
Personally I am fascinated with both the Holocaust and World War Two. I find it significant in demonstrating the Dark and Light side of humanity and the lessons that we as a species learned from that time period should not be forgotten. Maus is one of my favourite graphic novels and I am eager to see how comic book characters from the fantastical exist within the same time period.
So with all that being said, let’s dive into Magneto: Testament.
The book opens in the midst of Nazi Occupation during the mid 1930’s. Max Eisenhardt is a young school boy with a gift for metal manipulation and academics. Due to the fact that he stems from Jewish heritage his achievements are often shunned and looked upon as cheating. From the off the book compellingly tells a personal story of Max and his family whilst also demonstrating historically what happened historically.
We witness the escalation of anti-semitism within Germany after Kristallnacht, the Night Of Broken Glass. Which forces the Eisenhardts to flee the country. From the off, Pak has created characters that we care for. It is hard to be unsympathetic towards the family even after the first few pages due to their unshakable bond. That’s not to say they suffer from victimisation, we still are able to admire their courage due to their groundedness. Because of their complexity and existence within our world we are able to relate with them almost instantly. However, this causes the book to be more painful than a typical comic story and the tragedies that begin to befall them have that much more impact. It would be hard to deny just how gripping it was and this reader was hooked from the opening and throughout.
I love that the book never explicitly states that Magneto has mutant powers. If you were unaware of the title then you would probably not even consider this to be an X-men comic. Due to this the story is able to be portrayed realistically. Because it’s horrors do not exist in the supernatural it makes them that much more impactful.
As Max gets sent to the concentration camp after barely surviving in the ghetto we see a completely different side to him. His family were murdered in front of his eyes and this changed him from a boy to man. It’s only through his kindness and ability to secure metal that he is able to survive. We witness the brutality that he does and it’s easy to be sympathetic to the way that Magneto would later go on to hate humanity. He has always been a compelling foe to the X-men because of how relatable his struggles are and they are showcased beautifully here.
Surviving The Concentration Camp
The climax of the story carries a wealth of despair and triumph as Max sinks to his lowest point but also achieves his greatest moment. Throughout the final chapter is a tone of helplessness that really aides to the book’s sour tone, cementing it as a work which aligns even the most skeptical to Magneto’s cause. However it is also in this chapter that I feel the book failed to capitalise. Perhaps it’s not up to me to decide whether the finale of a Holocaust centric story should be bombastic but I found the escape and lack of Vengeance to be slightly disappointing. I would have loved it if we had finally see Max become Magneto and systematically destroy his captors in the same way that they had destroyed his people. It is missing from here and is whilst it keeps the book realistic it doesn’t allow it to go out with a bang.
Magneto Testament is a truly harrowing origin story for one of comic’s most famous foes. Whilst it works brilliantly as coming of age tale in a cruel world I feel that it struggles to match up to works like Maus which centre on the same subject matter. Due to this I am unable to give it a perfect score. However, there are several enjoyable moments here that any fans of the character will enjoy. Testament really feels like personal, grounded story that should be read at least once by those fascinated by the Holocaust or the Comic Book medium.