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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Magneto: Testament

Origin stories are a tricky business. On one hand, you have the uber-fans, raving about “continuity” and ready to rip apart the slightest deviation from the “established cannon.” On the other hand, you have people who know frak-all about these characters, who are just going to be confused, angered, and annoyed if they’re expected to know what happened in “Superhero Comic #153.” And then, squarely in the middle, and least likely to be appeased, you have me and most of the rest of the population: people who are generally aware of what powers this or that character should have, but couldn’t care less what so-and-so looks like in their “Alternate Multiverse XXG” costume.

Magneto: Testament manages something incredible, given these circumstances: It tells a story that can be fully appreciated on its own, and still encourages its audience to maybe do some more reading. Say you don’t know anything about the Marvel universe? Testament is a masterfully executed tale of life and survival in Nazi-occupied Europe. For those who know a little more - like that Magneto can control metal and Gandalf played him in the movies. And if you happen to be able to name every issue where his helmet was red instead of purple, there is enough here to acknowledge that history and elevate your appreciation of the character.*

*For anyone who would really rather argue over what town Magneto was born in than appreciate the story being told, feel free to flame the comments from your parents’ basement as soon as you finish the dinner mom made. Roast beef. Eat up. Try not to get any gravy on your “Han Shot First” t-shirt.

The story told here is not one of mutants and super-villains, but rather of a different kind of genetic ”abnormality” and the evil some men used it to justify. Instead, all but the most carefully crafted instances of “powers” are swept away, clearing the way for a genuinely human story; a story where the most devastating moments come from the fact that this evil was perpetrated by men, and that those men and their actions were real. The creators convey this message through meticulously researched events and artwork ; the covers for the single issues do so with a remarkable reflection of the Schindler’s List color scheme.

Fear. Hate. Suspicion. In comic books, these are the principles and methods of the super-villains; in the world today, they are the weapons of tyrants and terrorists. Magneto: Testament answers a question that humanity has faced before, and will face again: In the face of such evil, what do you do to survive? What do you sacrifice, what do you save?

… And if you and yours were ever threatened by such again, how far would you go to stop it?

Magneto: Testament / Writer: Greg Pak / Artist: Carmine Di Giandomenico

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