Before I start my review, I have to disclose that I haven’t been reading Heroes Reborn (The 2021 edition), but I’m familiar with the Squadron Supreme of America from earlier in Jason Aaron’s Avengers run as well as their earlier appearances. However, not following Heroes Reborn won’t be a problem for fans of the merry mutants as Steve Orlando, Bernard Chang, and David Curiel conjure up a popular X-trope in Magneto and the Mutant Force #1: the dark future. Basically, Professor X is presumed dead, and a wheelchair-bound Magneto, Jubilee, Rogue, Frenzy, and Emma Frost have to beat the clock and psychically find the last bit of his consciousness to protect the mutants of the Island of M (Krakoa, but less utopian and in the Bermuda Triangle.) from the Squadron Supreme of America.
This kind of story’s been done a lot in X-Men comics over the years, but Orlando and Chang go even darker and spring some traps and twists along the way. Bernard Chang’s art and Curiel’s colors are pretty standard issue superhero comics in the outside world. However, once they get into Magneto/Professor X’s mind, panel boundaries become more fluid, and much more black is used. Chang unveils some macabre, “maybe I need a little more context for that” imagery like Professor X enacting genocide on Power Princess of the Squadron Supreme of America’s people, the Utopians. It’s the kind of violence we see from Magneto in some of his experiences, and it’s that much more jarring coming from an overtly “peaceful” figure in Charles Xavier although almost 60 years of X-Men comics show he’s definitely a manipulative and messed up guy. The different approach to layouts and storytelling during the mindscape scenes does keep Magneto and the Mutant Force visually compelling for the most part as the outside battle erupts into evil (and possibly racist) Superman and Wonder Woman versus the X-Men.
One aspect of Steve Orlando’s approach to writing that I enjoy is how he uses his knowledge of continuity and character relationships to enhance his stories, and this is evident in both his Big Two work as well as some of his creator-owned comics like Commanders in Crisis and Project Patron. My favorite continuity nod he uses in Magneto and Mutant Force is a huge spoiler, but he brings back Israeli mutant Sabra to provide security for the psychic excursion and makes the Frenzy the embodiment of rage against the oppressors of marginalized folks. Bernard Chang also draws her as a total tank wrecking weird cop versions of Fantomex when they break Emma Frost out of the Muir Island Psionic Detention Center.
However, Orlando wisely centers Magneto and the Mutant Force around the relationship between Charles Xavier and Magneto while also undercutting it and talking about how mutants need to go beyond this paradigm. He writes dialogue that could easily be recited by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen (Or James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender), but also ends up showing how mutants could thrive and not just survive by moving on instead of trying to salvage their past. I would be interested in seeing these ideas explored in a X-Book and not just an event tie-in, which is really a credit to Steve Orlando’s skill with characterization and using the one-shot format to do something bold plot-wise.
Because it’s a one-shot to an event centered around the Squadron Supreme of America, Magneto and Mutant Force #1 is hamstrung by their less than charismatic appearance, but Orlando and Chang still spin gold out of the situation by including elements of classic X-Men stories and also poking and prodding at them. Plus it features cool psychic visuals and phonetic spelling of Rogue’s Southern accents. Even if you’re not following Heroes Reborn, this comic is worth checking out for fans of stories like “Days of Future Past” (The film more so than the comic, honestly.), Age of Apocalypse, and “Here Comes Tomorrow” with a team dynamic that is classic X-Men-meets-Exiles.
Story: Steve Orlando Art: Bernard Chang
Colors: David Curiel Letters: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.2 Art: 7.2 Overall:7.7 Recommendation: Read
Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review