The life and destiny of Marvel Comics' Magneto was shaped by two separate confrontations with the forces of evil and hatred. The first came during World War II when the Nazis murdered Magneto's Jewish family and tried to kill him. The boy who would become Magneto survived though and later witnessed firsthand many of the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis as a prisoner of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. The second confrontation came shortly after the war when an angry mob formed set fire to his family home after Magneto's powers manifested, resulting in the death of his daughter.
These confrontations left Magneto with a burning hatred for Nazis and people with anti-mutant agendas; a hatred that shaped his early actions as a super villain and his current crusade to eliminate the enemies of mutantkind with extreme prejudice. This September, that crusade will bring him face to with a villain who will truly make his blood boil; one who believes in both the poisonous ideals of the Nazis and the extermination of mutant kind, The Red Skull. Their battle begins in "Magneto" #9 by writer Cullen Bunn and artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta as part of the "March to Axis" storyline announced by Marvel today at Special Edition: NYC which lays the ground for Marvel's "Axis" event. CBR News spoke exclusively with Bunn about embroiling "Magneto" in "March to Axis" and what's next for one of mutantkind's most dangerous leaders.
CBR News: Cullen, before Magneto begins the "March to Axis" he has some interesting ground to cover in his solo journey. What can you tell us about "Magneto" #6-8? How do they set the stage for the "March to Axis?" How would you describe Magneto's mental state at the beginning of issue #9?
Cullen Bunn: There's a lot going on in next couple of issues of "Magneto," and it all plays into some pretty significant changes for the character. Some of those changes will have a big impact when it comes to "Axis." First up, Magneto is going after the Marauders for crimes they've committed against mutants. I'm doubtful that anyone can predict how that encounter will end. Then, Magneto is heading to Hong Kong, where he'll be running afoul of a creature bred to kill mutants. That mission will open the door to a pretty important change in Magneto's goals.
The big news of "Magneto" #9 is it kicks off a confrontation between your title character and the Red Skull. I know you've written the Skull's daughter Sin before, but is this your first time writing the original Red Skull? What do you find most interesting about the Skull in his current incarnation?
Yes, this will be my first time writing Red Skull. I've always thought the Red Skull was pretty terrifying to begin with, even when he didn't have any real powers. Now, though, he has powerful psychic abilities fueled by his malice and hatred. He's turned Charles Xavier into an abomination. He is everything Xavier was not. Everything he's doing makes my stomach turn. I channel a lot of that into the Skull here. There are some things he does in this story that are just nasty.
What's it like pitting Magneto against the Skull? Do you think either of these characters have forgotten their encounter in "Captain America" #367, part of 1990's "Acts of Vengeance" event, where Magneto left the Skull buried alive? And what can you tell us about Magneto's reaction to discovering the Skull has the brain of his deceased friend Charles Xavier and has perverted Xavier's legacy with the S-Men?
I don't think Magneto and the Skull have forgotten the "Acts of Vengeance" encounter, but neither of them are talking about it. Even if Red Skull had not taken Xavier's brain -- even if he wasn't attacking mutants -- Magneto would want to see him dead. This is a guy who has been committing the most vile atrocities for decades. He is almost an embodiment of everything Magneto stands against. When Magneto discovers what the Skull is really up to, though, he sees red. At that point, one thought crosses his mind: The Red Skull must die.
In many ways, Magneto sees killing the Red Skull as his chance to strike at his own past, to take some small step toward peace. But this mission may be even more scarring for the Master of Magnetism.
So Magneto is homicidally angry, but with his weakened power state will he be able to take the Skull and his S-Men head on? Or will he be forced to improvise? How evenly matched in terms of power are the Skull and Magneto?
This is a case in which Magneto's own pride may get the better of him. He is outclassed by the Skull and the S-Men, but he doesn't think he needs the full scope of his powers to take them out. Maybe he doesn't. We've seen Magneto's ruthless tactics yielding some pretty solid results even though his powers are weakened. That said, his intent is to stage a strike from the shadows against the Skull, taking him out nice and quick, although somewhat messily.
What else can you tell us about the plot and themes of this story? What sets Magneto's confrontation with the Skull in motion?
This story starts pretty simply for Magneto. He learns that the Skull is up to something in Genosha and he checks it out. Once he gets there, though, he is taken aback by the all-too-familiar horror he sees. His memories are cast back to a time when he was a boy and he tried to stand against another monster -- the SS officer named Hitzig. We saw him briefly in "Magneto" #2, but that was not his only interaction with young Max.
Let's talk a little more about the supporting cast in these issues. The mysterious Briar Raleigh recently offered her services as an information gatherer to Magneto. Will she play a role in Magneto's confrontation with the Skull? And in "Magneto" #5 readers saw that Briar Raleigh's injured leg came about during one of Magneto's attacks when his power was operating at max level, which left many wondering what her true agenda is in working with Magneto? Will that come to light by the time "Magneto" #9 arrives in stores, or will it be an element of the "March to Axis" storyline?
There is so much going on in issue #9 already, so we won't be seeing much of Briar in that issue. In terms of her agenda, that's a longer game. We'll be getting hints about her true nature and goals as the series progresses, but all will not be revealed for some time.
Who are some of the other important supporting players in this story? Will we see any familiar mutant faces in the Red Skull's "reeducation camps?"
While we'll be seeing some mutant prisoners in the camp, they will be new characters. One in particular -- a girl with some miraculous abilities -- will play a big role in this issue.
Let's start to wrap things up by talking about the man who'll bring those characters to life in this story, regular "Magneto" artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta. What do you think he brings to this story in particular and a character like the Red Skull?
Gabriel draws the hell out of moody, dark stories -- and this will be no exception. I think he'll play up the horror aspects of this story, which is exactly what we're going for.
Finally, the "March to Axis" tie-in concludes in "Magneto" #10, which means you'll only be a couple issues away from completing your first year on the book. How does it feel to be reaching that point? What can you tease about your plans for "Magneto" following issue #10?
It feels pretty great! I've really been floored by the support for the book, and I'm thrilled that so many people are enjoying it. With every issue, we're taking a step in a much bigger story for Magneto. I think we're heading in a really interesting direction. The question remains: Is Magneto a hero, anti-hero, or villain? And we'll answer that question as definitively as possible before we're through. Upcoming issues will see Magneto finally having it out with the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who are tracking him. He'll also finally learn the true (and possibly insidious) nature of the "fans" we've seen in earlier issues.
I want to thank readers for the support. If you've liked the tone of the story thus far, my goal is to maintain that throughout the series, even while tying into a big event like "Axis."
"Magneto" #9 arrives in September from Marvel Comics.