There are few places, when it comes to museums, that weighs on you more than the somber history displayed in the United States Holocaust Museum. I visited the museum soon after it first opened and many times over the years. Not since the tragedy that took place there back in 2009 did I recently return. I just had some family from out of town visit Washington, DC for a few days and I met up with them for a day trip. This was my first time going in so many years and the exhibits remain just as harrowing as when I first saw them. The stories within that place transcends time and convention as the penance that Holocaust survivors require from the world cannot ever truly be repaid. Theleast we can do is to never forget.
As I walked through the museum I was reminded of the millions of people who suffered, the mostly unknown heroes, and even some known like Oskar Schindler. Rarely has comics, with the major exception of Art Spiegelman’s epic Maus, risked exploring the subject in the light it deserves. Which brings me to one of the most interesting and complicated villains of the Marvel Universe, Magneto. As complex as Eric Killmonger was portrayed in the recent Black Panther movie, this is not the first time a villain was more than some silly obstacle. Magneto has proven in every incarnation, in the comics, the TV shows and the movies, that he, much like Killmonger, is more than a villain. He’s tragic, he also has his own sense of morality, and ultimately is as much a protagonist as an antagonist. The one part of his origin story that is pretty much glossed over and has never really been explored throughout the years is his past as a Holocaust survivor. It’s a subject both still raw and controversial. That all changed in 2009 with some help of some meticulous research and consultations with a series of experts, the team of Greg Pak and Carmine Di Giandomenico dared to tell his origin story in X-Men: Magneto – Testament.
We meet a young Max Eisenhardt, AKA Magneto, a prodigious student at his school in Germany in 1935, where him and his family try to live a peaceful life, but in a time where the Nazi Movement catches fires in a listless Germany still feeling the effects of World War I. Max also meets a young girl, who he ends up falling for, but whom finds ostracization herself in Germany, as she and her family, are also Gypsies, a group of people who faced extermination from the Nazis as well. Soon, the Eisenhardts finds living in Germany, to be a death sentence, as Jews become targeted by the new Nazi regime, through first identification, then condemnation, and eventually isolation into the “ghettos”, where their food rations were never meant to sustain them but to starve them to death. As the Nazis looked to further isolate the Jewish population, eventually they moved them to concentration camps, they put to death, those who opposed the rule, Eisenhardts being one of them, they exterminated the whole except for Max, whose powers showed for a moment, and saved his life. He would eventually be sent to Auschwitz, where he is reunited with one of his teachers, and who guides him. He is soon put to work, in the gas chambers, where thousands of men and women were exterminated day after day and he could not help not one. He is also reunited with Magda, the young Gypsy girl, who he likes and who he uses some of his leverage with a Nazi officer, to send her away from Auschwitz, to another camp, where she may survive. As World War II ends, so does Max’s stay, as the Nazi Resistance takes the camp, and frees all the prisoners. By book’s end, Max buries all remnants of his life in a marked grave, as he begins life anew, as the nightmare he lived, should never happen again.
Overall, a comic that not only educates but astounds as the persecution felt during “Shoah” stands as the moral imperative by which all evil is still compared to. The story by Greg Pak is dense, moving, and thoroughly researched. The art by Carmine Di Giandomenico is captivating and captures each moment as if they came from a movie. Altogether, a comic which gives reader another dimension to this complex character, one that makes you realize everyone has a story.
Story: Greg Pak Art: Carmine Di Giandomenico
Story: 10 Art: 9.6 Overall: 9.7 Recommendation: Buy