The Hunter Becomes the Hunted in Bunn's "Magneto"

The X-Men believe the best way to protect the super powered mutants of the Marvel Universe is to show the world that Homo Sapiens and Homo Superiors can live together, and until recently, their former arch-enemy and Magneto's views had come around in agreement with Charles Xavier's dream. Recently, though, the Master of Magnetism has once again come to the conclusion that the best way to combat anti-mutant hatred is head-on and with extreme prejudice. Thus, Professor X's greatest friend-slash-enemy began investigating crimes against mutants, eliminating those he believed responsible for harming his people.

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In the opening issues of "Magneto," writer Cullen Bunn and artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta's title character publicly put down several enemies of mutantkind, while uncovering a plot to turn homeless people into mindless mutant killing machines. These actions have caught the attention of a number of people, some of whom want to help Magneto, and others whose interests lie in hindering the outlaw mutant's cause. Below, Bunn opens up about the people hunting Magneto, what sets him apart from the rest of the Marvel Universe and where the series will head once its initial arc has wrapped.

CBR News: In "Magneto," you're writing a title character that stalks and kills criminals. Now, we, as readers, are privy to his inner monologue, which makes it easy to compare Magneto to characters like the Punisher, or Dexter Morgan. But is Magneto really like Frank Castle? We see him dish out plenty of bloody, and in many cases righteous, violence, but we also hear some of his doubts about whether or not he's walking the right path. Does this mean his time with the X-Men affected him on some level? Is Magneto completely comfortable with his murderous methods?

Cullen Bunn: I think there are definitely similarities to characters like the Punisher or Dexter, at least in terms of how the stories are presented. I think the inner monologue is important for a character like Magneto, because it's really our window into what's going on in his head. Without it, we'd just be seeing this guy killing folks (seemingly) without remorse. With it, we see that he struggles with his decisions. The thing I like about Magneto is that he is self-aware enough to know that he's walking a dangerous path, that he could become a full-blown villain (both to the humans and the mutants) with one misstep -- and he knows that misstep is coming. Despite his own beliefs, he's only human. The inner monologue helps us see that. It gets us to ask what we might do if we were in his shoes.

Did his time with the X-Men affect him? Probably. But he's still the same guy at his core. That guy isn't necessarily comfortable with murder, but he sees it as a tool he can use. There's a moment in issue #3 where we'll see Magneto make the choice between doing what he needs to do and doing what his own rage is urging him to do.

Issue #2 saw Magneto confronted by another cause that sparked an emotional response in him in the plight of the homeless and poor at Down Acres. I'm curious about what other causes might be important to Magneto besides mutants. Is the forced transformation of the people of Down Acres into crude Omega-style sentinels just as offensive to Magneto as what those Sentinels were being used for? Could he potentially find himself taking on powerful humans exploiting and murdering less fortunate humans?

I think that's a possibility, but it would take a while for Magneto to get there.

Certainly, the Omega Sentinel affair angers him, and he feels sympathy for the people who have fallen victim to this initiative. But it also angers him that they haven't stood up for themselves. Because they haven't stood up for themselves, mutants have suffered. Right now, he sees everything through the lens of how it impacts mutantkind. He's been fighting that fight for so long, he doesn't necessarily know any other way.

There will, however, be some key moments going forward that will cause him to question his stance.

Another trait I'm curious about is Magneto's sense of cunning and intelligence. We've already seen some of that in the way he hunts his prey and the strategic methods he employs to compensate for the unreliable nature of his powers. What's your sense of Magneto's intelligence, though? In the past we've seen him pull off some pretty impressive feats of super science, so how does he compare to a Tony Stark or a Reed Richards? Are you interested in exploring the character's scientific aptitude?

I'll definitely be exploring his intelligence and scientific aptitudes. As I see it, Magneto may not be on Tony Stark or Reed Richards level, but he's close. And, if anything, his single-mindedness and ruthlessness push him even closer to being on par with those science wizards. He's the guy who, once he puts his mind to something, won't give up until he sees it through.

As a villain, Magneto likely has little hidden labs all over the world, and we'll be seeing our first hints of those in issue #4. Then, in #6, we'll get another look out how dangerous his genius could potentially be.

In issue #2, we meet the S.H.I.E.L.D. team pursuing Magneto: Agents Rodriguez, Withers and Haines. Are they more detectives than they are spies? Or are they a little bit of both?

They're a little of both, I suppose, but I approach them as detectives. In the first few issues, they're lurking out there as a potential threat. As we continue into the second arc, I'll be exploring them as characters in a little more detail. One of the things I want to take a look at in this series is how Magneto (the idea as much as the man) impacts the world around him. The S.H.I.E.L.D. team members will be the same. They all have their own connections and beliefs associated with the Master of Magnetism.

Issue #2 is also where see some characters wearing "Magneto was right" shirts. In our previous interview, you mentioned that Magneto's activities would attract some new Acolytes. Are these guys in issue #2 the beginning of that group? And are they believers in the cause he's fighting for, or are people drawn to him because of the grizzly methods he employs, sort of like the followers that pop up around some serial killers and vigilantes?

The "fans" are a hint of things to come. They are, in some ways, at the very fringe of the New Acolytes. You'll be meeting a much more important player in that arena, a woman named Briar Raleigh, in issue #5. As to why they are so enamored with Magneto, I want to keep that under my hat for now. I think it's particularly insidious and strange, but it is closer to the followers who spring up in the wake of serial killers. It's not exactly that, but you're getting warm.

I know that there will be those who are upset that the Acolytes aren't super heroes. I think I've seen several folks express the desire for Colossus and Domino to join Magneto's ranks, but I also think you can see how that wouldn't fit the tone and mood of this series.

That said, there might be some super-powered types taking up Magneto's cause -- just not in the way that you imagine.

Does your initial story come to a close in issue #3 or #4, and what can you tell us about the remaining chapters? What details and teases can you offer up about issues the next arc?

The initial story wraps with issue #3, but there will be a few lingering questions and threads for Magneto to pursue.

In issue #4, we'll see Magneto pursuing a different threat to mutants, but we'll also get a deeper look at what motivates him. After issue #3, I think we'll need to see something to help validate his actions.

Then, in issues #5 and 6, we'll be meeting a new ally and see Magneto embark on a mission that will have lasting impact on who he might become before his quest is done

The solicits for issue #5 suggest that the multitude of hunters pursuing your protagonist will be joined by a character with ties to Magneto's past. Is she an established Marvel character, or a new creation?

The character in question is Briar Raleigh. She is a new creation, but she has a history that is tied to Magneto. I think she'll raise a number of questions and debate, which I'm excited for. She's a character who has a lot of information that could be helpful to Magneto, but her motivations for helping him will be a little mysterious.

Artist Javi Fernandez jumps on board for issue #4, then Gabriel Hernandez Walta returns with issue #5. What's it been like, working with these guys on the title?

They both bring their own unique style to the story, and I couldn't be happier with how these issues are looking. While they still reflect the tone of the series, I think Javi's issues skew a little more traditional, meaning there are some really big action sequences that he blows the doors off of. Gabriel, on the other hand, continues to build this really dark and brooding sensibility that I believe will become the calling card for the series.

I'm always interested in what people think of the series. I especially like to see people debating whether Magneto is a hero or villain. I'm interested in how his actions over the next several issues might cause that opinion to swing back and forth like a pendulum.

"Magneto" #3 hits stores Wednesday, May 7.

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