The defining characteristics of Marvel Comics' Magneto are his mutant powers and his unwavering dedication to protect and liberate his fellow Children of the Atom, which means Magneto is neither hero nor villain; he's whatever he feels his people need him to be. Recently he decided he could best serve mutantkind by striking down its enemies with great vengeance and furious anger; a belief which led him to cross paths with the villainous Red Skull, who had embarked upon a campaign of mutant genocide.
That encounter, which set the stage for Marvel's "Avengers & X-Men: AXIS" event, ended with Magneto unwittingly putting the world in peril by murdering the Red Skull and unleashing the malevolent psychic entity known as the Red Onslaught. In "Magneto" #11, writer Cullen Bunn and artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta kicked off the series' "AXIS" tie-in arc by chronicling the Master of Magnetism's assemblage of a team of super villains to take on the Red Onslaught. CBR News spoke with Bunn about those villains, Magneto's reaction to unleashing the Red Onslaught, and his relationship with mysterious ally Briar Raleigh.
CBR News: Cullen, you open "Magneto" #11 with your protagonist wrestling with the guilt he feels over the creation of Onslaught and the rise of the Red Onslaught. Briar Raleigh then shows him a video that reassures him what he does keeps mutants safe. Can you talk a little more about how seeing Briar's video affected Magneto and how he views himself? Is he back to walking the path of vengeance and murder he embarked on at the beginning of this series or will this spin him off in a different direction?
Cullen Bunn: For Magneto, the path between heroism and villainy is a tightrope. He's able to move from one side of that rope to the other, but he's found that he gets the most bang for his buck on the villainy side. One of the things I've always wanted to explore in this series though is how Magneto is seen -- by the population as a whole, by mutants, and in his own eyes. For most, he is a terrorist and a monster. For others, he is a hero, even when he's cutting loose and laying waste to his surroundings. Magneto has wondered from time to time if the end really justifies the means. He's doubted himself. That message from Briar may be the reassurance he needs. But you'll still be seeing a slightly different approach for Magneto after "AXIS" wraps up.
Readers know Briar's leg injury was caused by Magneto years earlier,â€¨but Magneto does not, leaving many wondering about her motivations in issue #11 for cheering him up and affectionately referring to him as "her guy." Has working with Magneto affected Briar's attitudes toward him at all? And will we soon find out more about what exactly she hopes to get out of her relationship with him?
Briar's motivations must remain a mystery for now, but we will be exploring her attitude and relationship to Magneto in a little more detail in issue #13. I don't think many people will be expecting where we're heading with her story. Why she is so fascinated with Magneto may even creep a few readers out. But she does have a goal in mind when she offers Magneto support and encouragement. All will be revealed. Will Magneto appreciate what she's been up to? Probably not.
After Briar's sort of pep talk, Magneto goes out and puts together a band of villains to battle the Red Onslaught and his Stark Sentinels. Can you talk about why he chose these particular characters for his makeshift band? And I noticed we did not see his recruitment of Jack O' Lantern. Why was that?
Ah, Jack O'Lantern!
The omission of his recruitment was sort of an unfortunate happenstance of writing an event tie-in while the event still had a few moving pieces. In one early stage, good ol' Jack was definitely slated for recruitment, so I wrote the script with that in mind. Then, there was some discussion that Jack wasn't going to be in the event, but Hobgoblin would be. So -- I tweaked the script accordingly. As art was coming in for the issue, I learned that both Jack and Hobgoblin would be included. The art for those pages was done and there wasn't much time to tweak it, so editorial made the call to add Jack to the final page.
As for why Magneto chose that crew, I knew (for the most part) which villains would be showing up in "AXIS," so that was my guideline. As he drew them together, though, I wanted to provide at least a little motivation as to why those characters were his picks. In some cases, they were villains he had interaction with before. In others, they might have just been lowlifes who were easy to find at the moment.
Magneto putting together a team has me wondering about your sense of the character's role within larger groups. Magneto has been part of both heroic and villainous teams in the past, even though he's certainly been powerful enough to work alone. Why do you think that is? What does group membership give Magneto?
My take on Magneto's teams is that they are all -- even the X-Men -- a means to an end for him. Working with a team gives him some increased reach, and even when he is not the leader, the influence of his leadership can be felt. He knows how to pull a puppet's strings.
That said, there's something else that being in a team gives him. Being a member of a team gives him a sense of connection and belonging. It helps him to understand mutants all the better. It reminds him why he fights.
Let's move into your plans for Magneto in this next issue. What can you tell us about this issue and how it ties into the main action of "AXIS?" What are some of the things you'll follow and address in "Magneto" #12?
I am so excited about "Magneto" #12! Yes, it is an "AXIS" tie-in, and it reflects some of the action and events of that series. But despite the crazy action of the issue, it also allowed me to do some things that I've wanted to do from the beginning. I think readers will also like it, because we're going to be seeing interaction between Magneto and Charles Xavier, not only during their time together (with Gabrielle Haller) in Haifa, but in the here and now! The final pages of this issue hint at a new direction for Magneto, a new base of operations, and a new foe for him to face.
Will we see more of Magneto's interactions with Rogue in issue #12? And what's your sense of their current relationship? What do you think she means to Magneto?
I have more to say about Rogue and Magneto, but you will not be seeing that in issue #12. In fact, it will likely be a while before you see the two of them interacting again in this series. For Magneto, Rogue represents a life that Magneto has denied himself. By doing what he thinks he must to protect his people, he alienates her. She is yet another sacrifice that Magneto believes he must make.
Artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta and colorist Jordie Bellaire have done the majority of the art on Magneto and they've given the book an almost signature look. It feels like they created a world for Magneto that is dark, grimy and gritty, but also hauntingly beautiful in a way. Is that what you were aiming for?
The mood and visual tone of the series was very important to Gabriel, Jordie and I from the very beginning. We really went back and forth on that a lot in the early days. It's great to collaborate so closely with them. All of the artists on the series -- such as Javier Fernandez and Roland Boschi -- have helped it stand out from other books on the shelves. Everyone is invested in making the story better.
I remember getting an e-mail from Jordie early on in the process. She knew where we were going with some of the characters in the long run and wanted to make sure she was putting color clues in the first few issues. These are moments that still haven't appeared in the book, but we're already connecting the dots on a color level!
We already touched on issue #13 when we spoke about Briar, so let's start to wrap things up by talking about your completion of Magneto's first year. In this market, moving beyond issue #12 is a pretty big feat. How does it feel to be working on your second year of "Magneto?"
Yeah, these days 12 issues is considered a successful run, so it's great to know that the series is going beyond that point. Working with a character with such a long history -- who is beloved by so many readers -- I wasn't sure what the reaction would be to this darker approach to the Master of Magnetism. I've been blown away by the response, though. It's really great to see people connecting in such a way to this story.â€¨â€¨Finally, what sort of hints and teases can you offer up about your plans for this second year of "Magneto?" What's the forecast for him in 2015?
I've mapped out what will essentially be the second year of the book, and I can't wait for readers to see what I have in store. Bits and pieces that have been revealed over the course of the first 12 issues are going to start coming together in a bigger way. The Marauders who have been "cooking" in a secret lab? Here they come. Magneto's use of Mutant Growth Hormone? It'll be really important. The S.H.I.E.L.D. agents chasing Magneto? They might get their man. There are many plot points that I'm going to connect in a big way over the next several issues.â€¨I want to thank the readers for their support. There are some big moments to come! Stick with us!
"Magneto" #12 goes on sale November 19 from Marvel Comics.