HOX/POX may be done, but Jonathan Hickman’s time with the X-Men is just beginning. In X-Men #1, illustrated by Lenil Francis Yu and colored by Sunny Gho, Cyclops leads a team to combat the mutant-hating Orchis’ remaining presence on Earth. An adventure-filled issue, Hickman’s premiere on the core X-Men title is significantly lighter than any of his mutant material so far, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some weighty topics to explore.
The Summers family and the Logan-Jean-Scott (polyamory-friendly) conjoined bedrooms certainly make up the meat of the issue, but the Master of Magnetism has a huge presence as the X-Men attach the Orchis’ base. As one of Krakoa’s co-founders and a heavy-hitter on the X-Men — he volunteered to take on an army of PH.D. wielding gorillas single-handedly (comics are incredible, people) — Magneto has an esteemed position in mutant society. More than just a valued member of the Quiet Council, his prominence has resulted in him being revered as an almost heavenly force, someone who is willing to fight and sacrifice himself for the wellbeing of all mutants.
Upon the team’s return to Krakoa, Magneto is immediately greeted by hordes of young, adoring fans. Cyclops, Storm and the rest of the X-Men don’t receive any cheers, but kids scream out “MAGENTO” or “MAGNETO’S BACK,” signifying just how remarkable the villain-turned-mutant-protector’s image is to Krakoan citizens. This level of reverence shown towards Magneto is in line with his comments way back in House of X #1, when he tells a United Nations delegation that they “have new gods now,” and his behavior as a benevolent yet vengeful protector of his fellow mutants certainly falls in line with that image. In response to a young mutant who wants to join Magneto on the field during their next mission, Magneto strongly asserts himself as a force of nature, something to be reckoned with — a sentiment that only encourages more loyalty and attachment to the headstrong individual.
Even though Magneto is an Omega Level Mutant while Cyclops is not, it’s clear that the Master of Magnetism respects the team leader and has no problem following his directives on the field. On Scott’s command, Magneto tears through the roof and strikes at Orchis’ gathered forces. Similarly, rather than mock Scott for his inability to blast through a Vibranium door, he reassuringly places his hand on his former enemy’s shoulder and makes himself useful to the team.
Instead of ensuring that it’s he who discovers the kidnapped Children of the Vault, or causing a fuss after Cyclops insists that the team finish their mission instead of following the escaped “posthuman,” Magneto is content to stand back and let the team operate as it must. Yes, it seems his ego is on the rise once again, as seen by his reiteration in this issue that mutants are “the only gods on this planet,” but that doesn’t mean Magneto is back to valuing himself and his own abilities over those of others.
As Polaris — the only one of Erik’s children to be physically included in Hickman’s narrative so far — points out to Scott, Erik’s new righteous goals and the admiration shown him from his fellow mutants has him acting “like he’s a young man again.” Even his bold proclamation, “Let man run from me,” shows that he is reinvigorated and eager to take on anyone who may disagree with his new nation. Magneto has always been a proud individual, someone who puts stock in his own accomplishments, but this is the first time in a while readers have seen him act so courageously. The main difference is, while before he put faith in himself and his own raw power, now it’s clear that Magneto truly believes in Krakoa’s peaceful mission and wants to see it succeed for more than just as a complement to his ego.
In a lot of ways, Magneto’s presence and symbolic positioning in this issue feels like the inevitable conclusion to his decades-long journey. Yes, he’s still capable of instilling fear in his enemies during battle, but he’s morphed into a caring, empathetic individual. As a young man, Erik was thrust into chaos during the Holocaust and has been fighting ever since. Now that he’s older and still overcoming his personal traumas, Erik doesn’t want the new youth to confront similar pain. All of his fighting — the tough stances he took — was always the name of creating some type of mutant paradise, and now it’s a reality.
Magneto is only present during X-Men #1’s first act, but the emphasis placed on children and the Summers family throughout the remainder of the story makes it hard not to think about what’s missing from Erik’s life. Sure, he seems at peace with his new existence and enjoys his relationship with Lorna, but Pietro and Wanda still haven’t been fully integrated into the story. I imagine that Magneto has a big, personal conflict coming that will throw his newfound sense of peace and security into question.
How will he react when/if his (former) daughter Wanda shows up seeking refuge on Krakoa despite the fact that she is considered one of the species’ largest ever opponents after the events of House of M? Will his image as a sacred protector of his people be tarnished if he accepts her, or will he be able to convince others that she acted compulsively due to her poor mental health? Only time will tell, but it’s clear that Hickman is slowly developing a big, emotional storyline for Magneto that will examine and potentially challenge his symbolic role in this new mutant paradise.
What did you all think of X-Men #1 and are you excited to follow the Dawn of X into all of the other series starting next week? Sound off below and make sure to check out last week’s column about Moira MacTaggert and Powers of X’s closing chapter.