When the Scarlet Witch made a (rather expected, but nonetheless exciting) guest appearance at the Hellfire Gala at Magneto’s invitation, it seemed as if Marvel’s most melodramatic family of megalomaniacal mutants were about to begin healing the deep wounds left by the events of House of M. Wanda and her twin brother Pietro may no longer technically be mutants, but they, along with Magneto, believed themselves to be his children for years, and that familial bond has been begging new examination in the Krakoa era
But within moments of her arrival at the Hellfire Gala, Wanda was dead — apparently murdered by some unknown villain, and the night that was meant to be a celebration of the X-Men’s newly terraformed planet instead became one marked by tragedy. Picking up in the footsteps of Marvel’s murder investigation X-Factor series, X-Men: Trial of Magneto — from writer Leah Williams, artist Lucas Werneck, colorist Edgar Delgado, and letterer Clayton Cowles — examines how members of the X-Men and the Avengers are coming to grips with the news of Wanda’s death.
Both because X-Men: Trial of Magneto #1 takes places in Marvel’s 616 universe — where temporary deaths are a common occurrence in the grand scheme of things — and because Wanda Maximoff is a noted reality warper, her demise hasn’t exactly been the largest cause for alarm. Even on her own steam, Wanda’s resurrection by some means was almost a given, which is why the topic of how to bring her being broached as the issue opens isn’t surprising. What’s interesting about the proposa, which a distressed Magneto makes to the rest of the Krakoan Quiet Council, is how it would set a precedent for the world’s mutants using their technology to resurrect a non-mutant.
Under most circumstances, this wouldn’t be an option because Charlex Xavier only kept psychic backups of other mutants stored within Cerebro. Because the system was fooled by the Maximoffs’ unique genetics for so long, though, the X-Men just so happen to possess a copy of Wanda’s consciousness, albeit an outdated one. It’s disturbing to consider whether Magneto might, in a twisted act of trying to put his family back together, murder his own adoptive daughter in order to orchestrate her being brought back to life genetically altered to have an x-gene. But Magneto has done enough truly unconscionable things over the course of his career as a supervillain that the X-Men would be fools not to consider the possibility. Like all decisions of this magnitude, Wanda’s resurrection is put up to a vote, and while Kate Pryde and Nightcrawler both put their faith in Magneto, the nays have it in this case.
As the Quiet Council is busy convening, members of both X-Force (who were working security the evening of Wanda’s murder) and X-Factor (who were recently tasked with investigating mutant deaths) make quick work of sussing out the gist of what happened the night of the Hellfire Gala. Though Wanda put up a physical fight against her attacker, for some reason she didn’t use her magic, or at least that appears to be the case indicated by the crime scene. Somehow, the person who attacked her was also able to bind her hands — preventing her from wielding her non-verbal magic, presumably — and the evidence points to a metallic substance being used in the attack.
It’s always useful to keep track of who all is around and what powers they have whenever the X-Men have one of their outsized blowings up like this. The metallic substance used to bind Wanda paired with Magneto’s power set make him an obvious suspect for her murder, but the same could be said of Polaris. Other mutants like Synch — whose ability allows him to mimic the powers of other mutants around him — join the other X-Men to confront Magneto when he tries to storm away from the Quiet Council. The issue also reminds you just how reviled Wanda still was by many mutants years after she inadvertently depowered the bulk of the world’s human population. Even though she’s since apologised and earnestly tried to atone for her mistakes, mutants still fear and harbour hatred for her, and it’s easy to understand why that is.
While Trial of Magneto could easily (and still might) become the kind of outsized event comic that’s more focused on making two popular teams of characters fight one another, Williams’ script in the first issue is more interested in reestablishing who the Scarlet Witch was to different people throughout Marvel’s comics. By the time of her death, it was fair to say that Wanda was far more well thought of as an Avenger whose personal ties laid with the heroes living in New York City’s tower. When Wasp, Captain America, Iron Man, and Vision arrive at a Krakoan gate, they are unsettled by the ominous vibes and floral reminders of the Scarlet Witch. That uneasiness quickly turns to outright sorrow, however, as Xavier emerges through the gate to fill them all in. It’s a moment that highlights how much Wanda’s death emotionally devastates the Avengers, who were her family.
The quiet grief that Werneck and Delgaldo’s illustrations evoke is beautifully contrasted by the visceral, kinetic action sequence between Magneto and the new flagship X-Men team taking place elsewhere in the issue. Working together as a unit, the X-Men are a formidable force capable of keeping Magneto on his toes, and multiple moments spotlight pairs of parents and their genetic offspring all joining forces to stop a man who would like to do the same.
The fight has a different weight to it for Polaris who, like Wanda, is Magneto’s daughter and can personally speak to the kinds of sick and abusive emotional manipulation he’s capable of inflicting upon his children. As Polaris takes charge of the battle, she’s not just doing it on her sister’s behalf, but for herself, and you can hear in the accusations she hurls at her father how Trial of Magneto is very deliberately picking up some of the narrative threads cut short by X-Factor’s recent cancellation. Guilty as Magneto seems, he’s never been one for the obvious, and Trial of Magneto wouldn’t be much of an event if the most likely culprit ended up being the true bad guy all along. The issue gently lets you know that there’s more to the story to come when Quicksilver, also an Avenger, finally shows up to borrow Magneto from Polaris for a few moments during which he damn near beats the old man to death.
Magneto more than deserved every blow that his children specifically landed on him, and somewhere deep within his comatose mind, he knows that, and it torments him. After Quicksilver’s dog-walking puts Magneto down, the X-Men have no choice but to wait until Magneto’s psyche’s calmed down enough for him to be able to legitimately speak about his involvement in Wanda’s death. In that time, Quicksilver leaves the people he and his sister once fought so hard to destroy to think about what it all meant in the end. While the world might have seen the Maximoffs as members of the Evil Brotherhood of Mutants and later Avengers, to each another, they were always one another’s rocks, even in moments when their worlds were literally being torn apart.
Interestingly, Pietro handles his grief in a far more even-keeled way compared to Toad, who he chooses to drink with in Wanda’s honour along with other former members of the Brotherhood. Toad’s outburst may prove to have some larger significance down the line as the truth about Wanda’s fate is revealed but before getting into any sort of clear specifics, Trial of Magneto #1 closes out with a curious, and mesmerising sequence somewhere out in the universe where the Scarlet Witch woke up just as she’s being stabbed by a cloaked figure.
As Wanda grieves her own death in the strange and probably magical place, Trial of Magneto raises far more questions than it answers, but there’s a pointed tranquility to Wanda’s presence throughout the floral sequence that culminates in her being quite certain that she’s not exactly “dead,” per se. Wherever Wanda is, she isn’t done being in control of her fate and decisions about how to proceed next, which Magneto would likely be pleased to hear were he aware of what’s going on. Whether the rest of Marvel’s heroes think to check other planes of existence for Wanda may ultimately play a role in determining what becomes of Magneto as the story continues. But even if the heroes realise that Wanda’s probably going to be fine, that doesn’t mean Magneto’s trial is going to end well for him.
Trial of Magneto #1 is in stores now.