Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Uncanny X-Men issue #200 "The Trial of Magneto"

At this point in Chris Claremont's era--the late eighties, to be exact--things have been more complex than the usual for The Uncanny X-Men. Two iconic events have just come to pass (The Dark Phoenix Saga, issues #101-108, and Days of Future Past, issues #141-142), while certain relationships have been tested, abandoned or newly-formed among our heroes. With Jean Grey dead and gone, Scott Summers leaving the team to try and have a normal life with his now-pregnant wife Madelyne Pryor, as well as with the inclusion of the youngest member Kitty Pryde and Jean and Scott's alternate-universe-daughter Rachel Summers--something's gotta give, that's just a fact.

Add the whole 'anti-mutant' sentiment becoming more steadily rampant, and a Professor X who had just been beaten up by mutantphobes and is now about to die; and Rachel Summers becoming a new Phoenix receptor--well, it's only sensible that messy clusterfucks of only the X-Men proportion are unavoidable. Seriously, y'all should pick up Claremont's 70's-80's run because these are just some of the classic and notable storylines that helped sealed his era as the most definitive run of the X-Men.

Issue #200 released on the first day of December 1985 marks a rather eventful moment in the X-Men history, given its numerical importance, and it's a double-sized issue running on forty-one pages of thrilling action, drama and a climactic conclusion. 

In the context of all the aforementioned things in my introductory paragraph, things apparently can get shittier and this happened during a Holocaust Memorial occasion where Kitty Pryde and Magneto himself were attendees. Cue Mystique and some evil mutants wreaking some ill-fated havoc, and the apprehension of human authorities over the place where Magneto (who has chosen to reform, albeit that new unfortunate ugly purple costume--who knew not being a super-villain anymore would also mean losing his fashion sense) basically surrenders himself, claiming its time to face the music and pay for his past transgressions. Hence, the momentous The Trial of Magneto began.

This issue touched upon on some finer points concerning Magneto's character that I enjoyed being examined and analyzed. Claremont is not only credited for giving Erik Lehnsherr (Magnus, Max Eisenhardt) the personal backstory of being a Holocaust survivor, he is also responsible for fleshing out this former cookie-cutter villain of the sixties into a full-pledged riveting character readers care about and often even root for, whose internal moral struggle to lead or destroy has always been the driving force both for the noble and atrocious actions he has committed throughout his years in the active role and service of being a mutant avenger to some and an uncompromising terrorist to many. Magneto is not merely some comic book villain to hate; he's somebody you can understand and sympathize with especially for this specific timeline of Claremont's run where we get to see him acknowledge the error of his ways. Before this trial in front of the International World court with five judges appointed by different governments across the world, Magneto's road to redemption began much earlier on and arguably most prominent when he had just prevented Rachel Summers from murdering Professor X's assailants in the previous issues or so. 

He argued that he had tried rage and vengeance and it only cost the lives of thousands of mutants that were rallied against and prosecuted all because his stand as Magneto actually contributed more to the humans' blatant hatred and ignorance of their kind. Erik Lehnsherr simply wanted to try another way now, and so he vowed to obey whatever the International World court's decision will be. Coming to his defense during the trial are Gabrielle Haller, Kitty Pryde and Charles Xavier. Meanwhile, the Fenris twins (mutants who have a grudge against Magneto) are blackmailing the X-Men by committing crimes against humans and crediting their acts of destruction to them. And since the human population at that time can no longer tell the difference between the X-Men and the evil mutants, they naturally called for the blood of any mutant they can string up and execute on the spot. With the X-Men preoccupied by this sour development, Scott Summers--who had been forced to come back previously even after making a promise to his wife Madelyne that his retirement from crime-fighting is permanent--faces an awkward situation, all the while suspicious about his former mentor, Professor X, who is grasping at the straws since his powers are weakening more and more each day, yet refuses help or admittance of his pending mortality. In addition, Madelyne is about to go on labor and Kitty Pryde realizes her eyesight is failing her and she might need to get prescription glasses. 

Basically, this issue is filled with personal tragedies, big and small, and in the heart of it all is Magneto:

I really love this issue. It was stirring, powerful and well-paced. There are great moments of dialogue and confrontations in the pages that kept me turning one after the next, all the while being thoroughly excited and dreadful for all the situations overlapping and connecting with each other especially once we reached the climax of the story. The altercation between the Fenris twins and the X-Men crash-lands into the court, interrupting the trial, and shit just hits the fan in the most alarming rate. The heroes and the villains battle it on as Magneto tries and succeeds in not killing the Fenris sibs himself which truly spoke to how much of a changed man he is. Sure, he made that grand speech I posted above but it was truly this single act of compassion that demonstrated the sincerity of his redemption. And his long-time friend and adversary has acknowledged this himself in a scene that utterly destroyed me. My Cherik radar is literally hyperventilating!

In the middle of an explosion underground, the only person Erik cared to save was Charles and he pulls him out to safety and into a garden of all places where the two estranged friends have an honest and moving conversation about second chances.

While Charles is more than ready to happily die in Erik's arms, knowing that he's leaving Erik in a good place, his alien cohort Lilandra appears and promises to save Xavier, much to everyone's relief. She had to take him away though which meant that he'll be gone for a while. Regardless, I'm happy that these two dorks have once again made up. There could have been a kiss in there somewhere too (observe that one panel) but they were sadly interrupted, much to my eternal dismay. Now I don't think Erik even asked Charles for forgiveness but the professor willingly gives it anyway, even a chance for Erik to absolve himself some more by accepting the responsibility of leading the X-Men in Charles' absence. What Charles and Erik have is a cycle of screw-ups and hurt feelings (NOT AN EXAGGERATION; no one fights and tries to destroy each other's love and faith in one another like Cherik) but ultimately theirs is a relationship about growth and forgiveness, of dreams and principles. It's a strong connection formed ages ago that could never be severed which is why Erik always come back to Charles like this (to the tune of Sara Bareilles' Gravity), and why Charles unquestionably gives him another fair chance because the truth is that even after all that ocean of death and violence between them, Charles still believes that Erik's inherent goodness will prevail. TRUE LOVE ALWAYS DOES.
Erik: "Suppose I fail and betray your dream."

Charles: "Our dream. And we'll never know if you don't try."

Did you hear that, Erik? Charles still includes you in his goals of the future even though you can be such a dickhead and often forget to include him in yours. Not even Shakespeare can count the ways of how much Charles Xavier loves Erik Lehnsherr. For me, the true testament of how much you love a person is when you want them to be standing next to you when all your dreams come true and no other friendship and unrequited romance exemplify this than Cherik. So we end this masterful issue with Erik swearing, Mouline-Rouge style (That Come What May line was simply asking for that comparison) that he will try to be a better man for Charles Xavier. 

I swear, one of these days, Erik will actually fulfill that promise.


No comments:

Post a Comment