Scarlet Witch’s redemption arc! Magneto’s broody guilt! Millions of souls who died before mutantkind learned how to save work in progress! It’s all resolved as this miniseries wraps up.
Trial of Magneto #5
VC’s Clayton Cowles (letters), Edgar Delgado (colors), Lukas Werneck (artist), Leah Williams (writer)
Dec. 22, 2021
Spoilers follow for The Trial of Magneto #5
Oh, and an apparently innocent victim goes to the Krakoan slammer forever. No big deal, right?
Well, this is a hard left turn. The final issue of The Trial of Magneto has consequences for Krakoa: don’t let anybody tell you Marvel Comics only creates the illusion of change. It redeems my faith in Leah Williams, one of the two Big Two writers currently working (the other is Vita Ayala), where I’ll buy anything with their name involved. It’s a scary and maybe overdue challenge to the Krakoan model of an oppressed minority in power, making decisions that come with state power. In this case, the decision-maker isn’t just the Krakoan ruling council, but a nearly all-powerful individual, the previously vilified Scarlet Witch. Williams wraps up — with a big red bow! — one question about ethics and public policy from House of X: how long will Krakoan ceremonies vilify a shared enemy for the sake of national cohesion? And she raises another, scarier question: is Krakoa Omelas?
That one may need explanation. In Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1973 short story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” a town by that name appears to have solved all the problems of modern society: everyone’s well-fed, happy, and fulfilled. The system depends, however, on one abused child, kept in a cellar and miserable 24/7. Coming of age in Omelas means viewing, in person, this child. Most people stay in Omelas: it’s a great place to raise kids (except for that one kid), and utilitarian ethics would appear to justify the torture (whose cosmic connection to the rest of the social system remains unexplained). Some people walk away.
Krakoa is Omelas, and the kid is the supervillain who has been the butt of jokes and the lowest-status mutant for his entire comic-book life: Mortimer Toynbee, aka Toad. In a series of long, vivid horizontal panels, a soaking-wet, appalled and resentful Toad pleads guilty before the Quiet Council for the crime of attempted murder against the Scarlet Witch. He expects exile: the Scarlet Witch herself (who, after all, survived) wants him forgiven. Instead, the Quiet Council sends him where Sabretooth went, to the Hole, “a prolonged death sentence,” “crueler than capital punishment,” as the Avengers remark, while Wanda explains post facto that she’ll never stop fighting to clear him. It’s the first time Avengers guest-starring in an X-comic have ever been right about anything, and it’s hard for me to imagine Ororo, Kate and Kurt just silently going along with it, but that’s what we see on the page.
“But that’s not an allegory of anything!” you may object. “It’s just a cruel system of individual punishment!” Right so far — but that’s act one. Toad gets put away, Magneto broods, and then we get flashbacks that constitute acts two and three. Resurrected, integrated with her past, present, and future selves, and as healthy as she’s ever been, Wanda brings together Polaris, Proteus, and Legion, three second-generation mutants, children of Charles, Moira, and Magneto. Then, in a spectacularly colorful series of panels that alternate talking heads and magic lights, Wanda accepts “a little mutant magical assistance… to use this confetti I made out of time and possibilities to build Krakoans their own Elysian fields.”
By dying and coming back — arranging to be resurrected — Wanda became a figure with the power to make available mutant souls, minds, personalities who perished before Mr. Sinister and Cerebro could back them up. “No mutant can ever be lost to us again.” Moreover, “twenty million souls,” “every mutant who fell between the cracks of the resurrection protocols,” can now come back to life.
That number includes every mutant who died on Genosha, as well as John Proudstar, the first Thunderbird, who died in Giant-Size X-Men #1. And it includes the HIV-positive infant who died in Northstar’s arms in Alpha Flight #106 (1992), the egregiously silly but historically important story in which Northstar told the world, “I AM GAY!”
That infant “would have been a mutant… And… she will be a mutant now. Someday,” Jean-Paul tells his overcome and tearful husband Kyle. When she comes back the two of them will be dads (she’s already Northstar’s adopted daughter). The future dads grin and weep. Lukas Werneck’s Kyle looks ripped and big compared to a trim and elfin Northstar, a contrast I don’t think I’ve seen before (I bet they work out together).
Elsewhere in the realm of long-ago mutant dreams come true, John Proudstar gets a friendly welcome from Banshee. Exodus and Wanda and Magneto sit down with child-sized mutants (and with Wanda’s son Billy) around a campfire and recount the story of how mutantkind’s great enemy “became the Redeemer.” Colors fly. Expressive faces look up in awe and wonder.
It’s the warmest conclusion to an X-comic that I have ever seen, on par with the fireworks at the end of House of X #6 and a great deal more intimate. Lucas Werneck and Edgar Delgado turn in a magnificently inviting issue, with fluid movement and dynamic characters, even the talking heads. Facial expressions fit the characters, with smiles and tears and gritted teeth and pinched lips as appropriate. Foliage surrounds the tormented Magneto with ironic greenery; blue skies frame Kyle and Jean-Paul in their aerie. It’s a Krakoa you might want to visit (I would).
And it all depends on… Mortimer Toynbee, who seems to have been framed, or mind-controlled, since Magneto killed the Scarlet Witch herself, at her own instruction: fake murder seemed to her the only way to get Krakoa to bring her back. Why does Toad think he did it when Magneto, a flashback shows us, apparently used the murder (or “murder”) weapon? Are telepaths involved? Perhaps Charles or Emma? Has Williams withheld information about Toad’s state of mind in order to use it later in another story? That was then: this is now, it’s sunset on Krakoa, and everyone’s had a lovely day except Toad, who is now (get ready for a very bad Anglophile pun) a Toad-in-the-Hole, forever, having pled guilty (this happens in real life too) for a crime he did not do.
Welcome to Omelas. Hope you survive the experience. If not, there’s always a resurrection queue.