Magneto’s a man who walks on his own path, and that path is returning to his vigilante ways this March when Marvel launches the ongoing series Magneto. Written by Sixth Gun scribe Cullen Bunn and illustrated by Gabriel hernandez Walta, this new series sees the mutant Master of Magnetism split from Cyclops and the X-Men entirely to return to his old ways and on his own terms – and the world’s governments have much to be concerned about. As a member of Cyclops’ X-Men team Magneto was already an enemy of the state (despite working with them on some occasion), but now the prospect of Magneto back on his own has alarm bells going off and S.H.I.E.L.D. called in for a mutant manhunt.
Announced late last year, this new Magneto series sets Erik Lehnsherr on his own in the ever-changing landscape of humankind and mutantkind; but unlike on previous occasions where he’s had Professor Xavier to act as a counter-balance, this time Magneto is on his own. If you enjoyed the scenes from X-Men: First Class of Lehnsherr (played by Michael Fassbender) hunting down Nazis, Bunn says readers can expect to see that kind of action every month in Magneto. And as Bunn teases, Magneto is assembling a new army to help him meet his goals.
Marvel shared the exclusive first look at these pages from Magneto #1, and we spoke with Bunn about letting Magneto be Magneto.
Newsarama: Thanks for doing this, Cullen. Before we talk about the series, let’s talk about the man – who is Magneto to you?
Cullen Bunn: Magneto is a tragic figure. He is a man who has stared right into the face of ultimate evil… and he was broken into pieces by what he saw. When he healed, he healed stronger, but he also never fully recovered. As he sees it, the only way to combat ultimate evil is with an equal amount of evil, so that’s just what he’s doing. He’s done terrible things for the right reasons, but his own fear and hatred have blinded him to the fact that he is as much a force of terror in the world as the evils he is trying to combat.
Nrama: He’s been a villain, a hero under Cyclops’ X-Men team but now he’s on his own – what would you say Magneto’s modus operandi is here with this series?
Bunn: Because he’s operating alone and with greatly diminished powers, Magneto is relying on something that has served him well in the past—ruthlessness. He’s seeking out threats to mutants (some from the past, some from the present, and some that are potentially dangerous) and eliminating them as quickly as possible. If anything, he’s forced to be more cruel and brutal than before. These tactics will make it easy for others to paint the picture of Magneto returning to his villainous ways.
Nrama: Previously you said Magneto’s ties with the X-men are no more – so how would you describe his relationship with the X-Men, both the Cyclops and the Wolverine sects?
Bunn: Magneto believes that Cyclops and Wolverine both serve a good purpose. But he believes the help they provide only goes so far. But he wants to take out threats before they really blossom, cutting them off right from the start. That’s something he feels only he can do, and he’s best served without Cyclops or Wolverine trying to be his leader. Neither of them would approve anyway.
Nrama: Magneto has always been considered a threat by the U.S. government, both when he was a villain but also during his time with the X-Men. And now it seems S.H.I.E.L.D. is onto him – what brought this renewed attention to Magneto by S.H.I.E.L.D.?
Bunn: As our first issue kicks off, Magneto has been on his mission to take down threats to mutant kind for a little while. The bodies are starting to pile up, so to speak, and S.H.I.E.L.D. has dedicated a task force to finding and apprehending him. S.H.I.E.L.D. sees the writing on the wall—the looming danger if Magneto continues on this crusade and if—God help us—he gets full control of his powers again. Their resources are stretched thin, though, and if you were to ask Magneto, they’re not paying enough attention to him.
Nrama: Magneto’s a threat on his own, but in our previous interview you mentioned he might be recruiting new allies. Could it be the Brotherhood of Mutants, the Acolytes, or perhaps something new?
Bunn: Magneto will be gathering some allies to his cause… both intentionally and unintentionally… including a group that I’m calling the Acolytes. I’ve seen quite a bit of speculation about these new Acolytes, and I’m pretty confident that everything I’ve seen so far is way off target. The Acolytes will be nothing like you expect. Likewise, I’m hoping any other allies that join Magneto’s cause will be surprising as well.
Nrama: The cover to #2 shows Magneto fashioning a throne out of the ruins of a Sentinel – will we be seeing Magneto facing off with Sentinels in the first arc of this series?
Bunn: There is a definite Sentinels vibe to the threat in the first arc. Sentinels put such a fine point on the dangers facing mutants. But this isn’t a story of Magneto throwing down against towering robots. This is a different kind of Sentinel and a different approach to a Sentinel-focused story.
Nrama: The Magneto here isn’t in control of his powers as much as people remember him from earlier comics, or even the movies – they’ve been damaged somewhat by the Phoenix Force during Avengers Vs. X-Men. But you’re using that to show off Magneto’s human skills. How would you describe Magneto here not as a superhuman but a finely skilled human?
Bunn: Because he has such astounding mutant gifts, people tend to forget that Magneto is also a brilliant tactician, a scientific genius, a cunning spy, and a deadly hand-to-hand combatant. While he’s not powerless by any means, his diminished powers give me the chance to show off some of those other traits in interesting ways.
Nrama: Another thing different than the classic version of Magneto is his hair – or lack thereof. Magneto shaved it off to honor the passing of Professor Xavier, which leaves a striking visage – especially in that cover to Magneto #2, which in some ways evokes Xavier. What would you say to how Xavier has influenced him, both in history and in his absence now due to death?
Bunn: Xavier’s influence on Magneto is something we’ll be exploring in the series. Magneto and Xavier might have been enemies, but they were also the best of friends. Magneto admires what Xavier was trying to do. He only wishes it could have worked. Now, Magneto is haunted by Xavier’s death. Deep down, he knows that he needed Charles as a counterbalance. He feels as if they provided each other with a system of checks and balances. With Xavier gone, Magneto’s not sure that anyone else can stop him if he goes too far.
Nrama: Speaking of influences, in the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past movie we’ll see both Sir Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender reprising their roles. Do either of their portrayals influence the work you’re doing here in this comic series?
Bunn: To some degree, both portrayals have some influence on me, just as all the different portrayals of the characters in the comics leave their mark. It’s clear to me, though, that between the McKellen and Fassbender interpretations, it’s the latter that has the most impact on this series. Those early scenes in X-Men: First Class, with Erik tracking down Nazis, would fit in this comic pretty well.