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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Magneto: A Testament (Book Review)

Book Review: Magneto: A Testament  (0785138234)

Publication Year: 2009

Pages: 152

Author: Greg Pak

Illustrator: Carmine Di Giandomenico

Review Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

PROS: Unique origin story, amazing graphics, historical detail

CONS:  Pacing

From the age of 7 until now, I have been a fan of the X-Men, whether it was the old-school Fox Channel version or the modern Hollywood blockbuster.  I loved the characters, the powers, and the struggle for acceptance in society (early seeds of social justice, perhaps?). While searching for another book to read on social justice, I saw Magneto: A Testament listed on GoodReads and thought this would be a unique opportunity to step back into the X-men universe.  

Magento: A Testament is a graphic novel that delves into the origin of Magneto (aka Max Einshardt) as he survives the most comprehensive genocides humanity has ever known, the Holocaust. It begins with Max (as a German Jew) and his family experiencing the initial stirrings of Nazi power and ends with Max’s daring escape as a young man “running the wire”. Along the way there are small  subplots of love, morals, and family as the fate of Jews grows progressively worse. It is a chilling tale with extraordinary historical detail and beautiful illustrations.

I enjoyed reading this tale because it was different from origin stories. Unlike other origin stories, Magneto: A Testament is not about how a mutant came to be. There are only small clues to Magneto’s future status.  Magneto: A Testament was about humanity, both the good and the bad, and how this can shape a person’s character.  Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than in the main character, Max, who has to choose among truly challenging moral dilemmas that have unpleasant consequences at almost every turn. I rooted for Max several times throughout the book. Was I actually rooting for the future Magneto?  Well, yes.

In either case, I digress……

Another intriguing aspect about Magneto was the attention and respect provided for historical detail. The detail is evident throughout the novel from the dialogue, to the illustrations, and scenes that were chosen for the story. That detail shows itself in details big and small, which provides insight into both the mind of real concentration camp members and the fictional character of Max. Reading this, I can see how Magneto developed out of such cruelty and pain. Quite a feat for a comic book-themed book!

My only complaint about Magneto was the pacing. Because the book tries to be comprehensive, the story skips around a little bit. If you are familiar with Magneto’s history, this would probably be no problem for you. I, however, was not and therefore was confused in some spots. That didn’t detract me from understanding the basic premise of the story, however, but it did leave me feeling like I was missing something. The fast pacing also means readers will need to know a little about the history of the Holocaust beforehand. Although the readers do a good job of explaining some details, readers need to be familiar in order to understand  some of the clues that are in the book.

In summary, this was a unexpectedly good g substance to it. It has substance to it. The book focused on humanity, which was a different approach than I anticipated from a hero/villain origin story, but it makes sense. There are times when you need a powerful hero like a Superman or Batman, but there are other times when you just need one kid to be your hero. In this case, you root for that one kid.