The tale of how a young Magneto was interned in Nazi concentration camps has long been an integral part of the character, and it’s so familiar a story that it’s strange to think that it’s never actually been told in full, only hinted at over years of X-Men continuity. Greg Pak was the man assigned to tell this difficult story, and halfway through, it’s certain that despite some uneven series in the past, he’s doing a pretty good job of this one.
Telling the story of Magneto’s origin could’ve been a thankless task. Structure and tell it like a normal superhero origin, and you’d be rightly accused of insensitivity. Tell it too literally, you run the risk of making it irrelevant to the character at all. Pak has managed to walk the line precariously up until now, and after a lot of slow build, issue 3 features the first hint that yes, we are dealing with a Magneto who has superpowers here. It’s a nicely understated moment, shocking on several levels but without being gratuitous.
In this issue especially, Magneto: Testament has created a picture of a young man with all the potential for heroism, and only now do we start to see him driven down a path that’ll end in villainy. Perhaps the best element of Pak’s story is how it manages to meld the multiple interpretations of the character, offering a child who could easily grow up to become any of them. He doesn’t start out at a seething, radical supremacist, but it’s easy to understand how he could become one.
Those wondering exactly what the point of a Magneto “origin” story is, given that the specifics have been deliberately glossed over in the past need look no further than the original justification for telling Wolverine’s origin: If comics don’t do it today, Hollywood will do it tomorrow. This reasoning is only compounded by the frequent talks of a solo Magneto movie to follow up next spring’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” film. The idea is already on the table, so it needs to be done now.
Against all odds, Pak has managed to make a “Young Magneto” book read like a far better idea than it might’ve initially seemed, with tight characterisation and careful plotting. If the quality of this issue is maintained for the duration, it’ll easily become essential reading for the character.