Nuremberg, Germany, 1935. A young boy is playing with magnets.
Several paper clips are stuck on one of them. The trouble with magnets, however, is that they do not always work they way they are supposed to. Bring two together, and you can never be sure what’s going to happen. Chances are that just when you think they’re going to pull - they separate and move apart. The boy holds one of the magnets up. He thinks they are all like that. Everyone is a magnet.
Utopia, home of the Uncanny X-Men, now. Magneto, the Master of Magnetism holds his fingers as if he was holding up a magnet - something in the distance is framed by his fingers. ‘Erik, what are you doing?’ Scott “Cyclops” Summers asks his associate. Magneto turns to the X-Men’s leader and explains that it is a trick he used to do as a child. He remarks that it helps to imagine things you are afraid of being smaller than they really are. ‘Given what’s about to happen, Scott, I’d much rather face things with a little artificial courage than no courage at all’ Magneto adds. ‘So you’re scared?’ Scott asks. ‘Aren’t you?’ Magneto replies, turning away from Cyclops. There is silence, before Cyclops announces ‘Yes’.
Elsewhere in the room, gazing out the window, Shadowcat suggests ‘Maybe we were wrong. Maybe it’s not coming -’, but the White Queen declares that it is coming and they will not be able to stop it. Wolverine, Colossus and the Sub-Mariner stand nearby as the White Queen tells her colleagues that there is nothing they could have done to prevent it. One of them looks over at Magneto and Cyclops and wonders what they are talking about over there.
Cyclops continues to look Magneto, who wishes he knew what Scott was thinking. ‘How does one lead those who are finally free to possible destruction in the first few moments of their freedom?’ Magneto wonders. He tells himself that if they survive this ordeal, should mutantkind be permitted a chance to write the history of these times, then history will see Scott Summers as a great man - the leader who united the mutants and who brought them to their promised land, their Utopia. Magneto tells himself that he has known great men - such a man was his father, Jakob Eisenhardt, of Nuremberg, Germany.
Flashback, narrated present tense by Magneto:
Nuremberg, Germany, the mid 1930s. Young Max Eisenhardt stares out his window, as his father, Jakob, walks by. Several Nazi supporters have rallied outside, further down the street. Jakob Eisenhardt fought with the German Sixth Army at Ypres in October of 1914, since a battle known as “Der Kindermord Bei Ypern”, which meant ‘The Massacre of the Innocents”. Forty thousand young men died in that battle, and Jakob was blinded by mustard gas and spent five days in a field hospital. At night, under the light of flares and tracer bullets, the young men of Germany would bury their dead in mass unmarked graves. Jakob loaded many corpses into those mud-filled trenches, and perhaps left a piece of himself there, as well.
In the summer of 1916, Jakob Eisenhardt, showing no concern for his own safety, pulled a Bavarian major named Scharf to the safety of a nearby trench under heavy enemy fire. For this, he received a commendation for bravery under gratitude of his superiors. Months later, that same officer pinned the iron cross to Jakob’s lapel, and loudly proclaimed him a “Proud son of Germany”. And a proud son of Germany Jakob Eiusenhardt remained - even as his country grew to hate him simply for the accident of his birth.
‘There’s so many people. Where are they all going?’ Max asks as he looks out the window and points to a rally of Nazi supporters. Jakob explains to his son that they are going to listen to Hitler. ‘I’ve heard he’s putting on a big performance in the town square. Maybe he’s going to sing -’ Jabob suggests, but his wife, Edie, tells him not to fill their son’s head with jokes at this time. ‘Don’t be so serious, Edie. A father wants to joke sometimes with his son’ Jakob replies. Edie asks what happens when other boys ask Max why he is making fun of their Fuhrer and points out that this is not the time for Jews to be seen doing anything.
‘Nonsense. This is just a passing phase. That’s all. Hitler’s going to be voted out once the people come to their senses’ Jakob replies. But Edie points out that they do not know that. She reminds Jakob that people have been boycotting their business ever since Hitler became Chancellor. ‘And all those people being sent to the camps!’ she adds, before revealing that she hears they are planning to impose new laws at rallies this year. ‘They’re saying we’re going to be denied citizenship in our own country!’ she exclaims. Jakob hugs Edie and tells her not to worry. He announces that he believes in the greatness of this country he fought for. ‘They would never do such a thing to a man who believes in them so’.
There were so many things they never thought the Nazis would do. They would never round them up like dogs and send them away to their concentration camps. The Nazis would never forbid them to marry non-Jews. They would never deny them health insurance or prevent them from attending their schools. They would never impose curfews, nor beat them if they failed to observe them. Whenever Max would cry at the injustice, his father would soothe him with his optimism and his courage. “Remember who you are, little man”, he would say. “Never forget you are a proud son of your country no matter what anyone says. And if the day comes, promise me that you will live to serve all of your people. Never just the chosen few”.
Magneto remembers his father’s words, and looks at Cyclops, asking him if he has something specific to discuss. ‘Unless you just asked me to come over here and watch you fret?’ Scott looks at Magneto and apologizes, claiming that he did not mean to go AWOL on him. Scott adds that he has a lot to consider, and not as many options as he would like. ‘I understand. So what can I do for you?’ Magneto replies. Scott admits to Magneto that they have had their differences, but that this nation, or whatever they want to call it, will only be built on acceptance and tolerance. ‘We’ll have to move forward every day, Erik. Because we’re all going to be surpassed by our own children in a matter of years’.
Magneto replies that he thinks he took far too long to come to that conclusion. ‘But you didn’t ask me over here to wax lyrical about the potential of mutantkind’ he points out. ‘You’re right. As a matter of fact, I hoped I might get a little guidance’ Scott reveals. ‘Of course’ Magneto tells him. Scott looks out the window once more and informs Magneto that he has heard every piece of advice that Charles Xavier ever had to offer. ‘And it was mostly wonderful advice’ he adds, before telling Magneto that now he wants to hear from him. ‘What’s the one thing you’ve learned in all your years that I’ll need to know moving forward?’ Scott asks. Magneto smiles and replies that his best advice would have been to seek advice from those older and wiser than you. ‘But you already seem to have that covered’. Magneto adds that Cyclops never talks of the end - only of the future, and tells him that, in that respect, he reminds him very much of his father.
flashback, narrated in parts, present tense, by Magneto.
Nuremberg, 1935. ‘Get them! They’re dirty Jews!’ a small child shouted as he and several others begin to throw rocks at the Eisenhardt family. ‘Papa -’ Max cries as he looks back and sees a soldier. Jakob tells his son to shush, and to look straight ahead and keep going until they get home. As they rush towards their home, Max tells his father that they should have thrown their stones back at them, when suddenly, ‘Jakob: look!’ Edie exclaims as they see something painted on their front door - a star and the words Achtung Juden. ‘Well. A nice fresh coat of pain. Now we’ll always know which front door is ours if we ever get lost’ Jakob tells his family.
Jakob Eisenhardt retained his blind optimism, his faith in goodness of others - as the Nazis claimed ownership of his beloved country. As the National Socialist Party - led by an ugly, syphilitic Austrian - sized power all across Germany and crowed about it all their rallies in the Eisenhardts’ home town of Nuremberg. Jakob Eisenhardt was turned from a hero of Germany to a “problem” that had to be solved. The Jewish people were blamed for mistakes made by all the countries of Europe, when they forced them to sign the Treaty of Versailles. On the 9th of November, 1938, Max stared from the windows of the family home and watched the events of Kristallnacht unfold. Crystal Night was so called because the shattering of glass could be heard all across Germany as synagogues and Jewish businesses were destroyed, an act incited by Joseph Goebbels.
One year later, Max and his parents were expelled from Germany as “Filthy Jews” and sent to the Warsaw Ghetto. Max entered alongside his father, Jakob Eisenhardt of Nuremberg - a proud son of Germany and a hero of the Great War.
Magneto still pretends to himself that he has forgotten how his father and mother died at the hands of the Nazis - he was too beaten and tired to even register it one day - they were simply dead, and he was alone. Magneto remembers being sent in a boxcar to a place near Oswiecm in Poland, and this, he knew, was a destination. The Vernichtungslager - extermination camp - at Auschwitz-Birkenau was the epitome of Hell on Earth. Here, men, women and children were murdered and brutalized with terrifying efficiency as a part of the Nazi’s so-called “final solution to the Jewish problem”.
As a young and fit teenager Max was forced to act as a sonderkommando - their job was the disposal of the bodies of those that died in the gas chambers. The victims were told they were to be showered and deloused to prepare them for work in the camp - but they were being sent instead to their deaths. This is where Max finally became just like his father - burying bodies in a trench.
Flashback, narrated in parts, present tense, by Magneto:
‘We’re all magnets’ Magneto thinks to himself. ‘Sometimes we push and sometimes we pull’. Life pulled Magneto to a girl named Magda, and together, they escaped the hell of Birkenau in hopes of a new life. Magda and Max went to live in the Ukraine, and she was half of everything he held dear - all that remained for him in this world. The other half was their beautiful daughter, Anya. Yet, at that time, Max was beginning to feel a scraping across his nerve endings - an emergence of a frustrated power inside him - a jolt of bioelectric energy that rattled his teeth.
When the worst inevitably came, Max’s nerves screeched like burning violin strings and ozone seemed to fill the air. As he watched his daughter burn to death in his home, he felt the pull of every metal object around for miles around him - his nerve endings became a red-hot knife. He pointed that knife towards any and all human beings who would hate him for a simple quirk of his genetic code - turning the farming equipment against the attackers that prevented him from reaching his burning daughter.
In Auschwitz, Magneto had watched many Jews walk to their deaths with a sense of inevitability and a complete and utter loss of hope. When you have lost hope you never talk about the future. Now, he had the means to change things. Now he would talk of the future like his father before him. He had a purpose - he was armed with power he never had before - flanked by power on all sides - drunk with power.
Cape Citadel Air Force Base, Florida. ‘He’s coming this way! Fall back!’ a soldier shouts as Magneto approaches. They unleash fire upon him, but he deflects it with ease. Magneto suddenly downs a jet, while a soldier shouts ‘Whoever this person is, I want him looking down the barrel of an M270 in the next five minutes!’ A soldier tells his commander that there is a negative on that, as the intruder just knocked one of their raptors out of the sky. ‘I don’t care what he did! I care about what we can do to him!’ the commander shouts. The officer tells his commander that he cannot comply with that order - as the whole board is fried. ‘We’re flying blind out here!’ he exclaims.
Magneto looks upwards at an approaching jet which soon lands, as Magneto topples a nearby tank. Five youngsters emerge from the jet - Cyclops. Marvel Girl. Beast. Angel. Iceman. ‘Children, Charles?’ Magneto calls out. Charles Xavier appears behind his students, the X-Men, and replies ‘Always a jump ahead of the gun and a step too far, Erik!’ before asking ‘Why, when we could have pooled our resources and worked together to prevent bloodshed?’ Magneto takes to the air, hovering over everyone, he raises a tank. Angel soars upwards as well, while Magneto asks ‘With you calling the shots, Charles? So that mutantkind simply waits for its master to feed it the occasional bone?’
Magneto tells Charles that changing things his way is like watching a chess tournament - lots of strategy for very little of consequence. ‘This is not the way, Erik!’ Charles shouts, while attempting to use his telepathic power on Magneto. ‘You want humanity to hate and fear us, just to provide justification for this lifelong fool’s errand you’ve chosen?’ Charles asks. Magneto touches his helmet and replies that he doesn’t want them to hate us, as they are no longer important enough for him to care. Magneto then thrusts the tank forward, but Marvel Girl stops it mid-air with her telekinesis, although she tells the Professor that she cannot hold Magneto off, as he is too powerful.
The tank cuts Iceman’s ice-sled in half, while Xavier telepathically tells Jean to stay calm, to breathe and concentrate. Xavier telepathically orders Angel to move directly towards the target and maintain evasive pattern delta-alpha-seven, while Cyclops and Marvel Girl will pull fire. Iceman announces that he will take left flank. ‘Last one to slap the crazy guy around the head is a rotten egg!’ the young mutant calls out. ‘Five bucks, Bobby: You in’ the Beast asks as he bounds forward. Iceman replies that he is in.
‘Hehh. Oh dear, oh dear…’ Magneto utters, as he forces several metal beams into the Beast, knocking him back into Iceman. ‘Hank! Look out!’ Iceman exclaims. Angel dives towards Magneto, who glances up and informs him that the little vanity “X” on his uniform is comprised of metallic fibers - and an instant later, Angel is blown backwards through the air. Magneto thinks to himself that this is bombastic fun - such sport. He secretly chose to hate Cyclops and his repulsive little friends - Cyclops was the sonderkommando that Magneto once was, forced to do the dirty work of others. ‘Professor, I can’t…I can’t stop all of it!’ Jean calls out as she attempts to hold Magneto’s force at bay.
Charles tells Jean not to give in to the sheer volume. ‘Stopping one object is the same as stopping them all’ he explains, before Jean passes out. For Magneto, it felt good to bully someone - as opposed to being bullied for a change. To exact retribution. It felt just and fair to act the part of a loose cannon for once in his life. And all of a sudden, Cyclops was there, in front of Magneto. Cannon fodder. ‘I think you’re probably too young and too stupid to be scared. So I’m going to kill you to teach you a lesson’ Magneto warns the young mutant. ‘Give it your best shot!’ Cyclops shouts as he unleashes a powerful optic blast, but Magneto throws a force field around himself.
“Give it your best shot”, Magneto recalls, and decides that it was hardly the comeback of the century. But, then again, Cyclops was hardly much more than a snot-nosed little punk in his opinion. That was until those ten-trillion-volt-generator eyes of his almost knocked Magneto out of his bots. Magneto remembers his opinion changed, he remembers looking into Cyclops’ eyes - the truth was that this was his first glimpse into a very different future from the one he had intended. Magneto tells himself that he is not ashamed to admit that the first time he looked into Cyclops’ eyes, it was he who blinked first.
‘We’re all magnets. Some are just more powerful than others’ Magneto tells Cyclops. ‘Excuse me?’ Scott asks. Magneto looks at Scott and replies that he was wrong, just as foolish old men always seem to be wrong in the end. ‘I found myself attracted to the wrong things’. Magneto informs Scott that the best advice he can give him is not to be a slave to passion, as he has been. ‘Don’t ever be a slave to anything’ he tells him. ‘Thank you, Erik. I mean it’ Scott replies. ‘Yes, well…I’ve been thinking: If we get through all of this I’m going to take the name I took as a child. It would be fitting, I think, for my friends to call me Max, as my parents did’ Magneto reveals. ‘Of course’ Cyclops tells him. Scott asks Magneto to tell the Professor to come and see him.
Magneto walks along the edge of the room and passes Professor Charles Xavier. ‘He’s all yours’ Magneto tells his old friend. Magneto joins the others - Namor, Colossus, the White Queen, Shadowcat, Wolverine, Doctor Nemesis, Rogue and Storm. ‘We could make a stand here. There’s enough of us to hold back the first wave…’ someone calls out. ‘What good is that going to do? Holding it back is just delaying the inevitable’ another points out. Someone else suggests that nothing is inevitable, and that no one said they are delaying anything. ‘Besides, even if we could try to evacuate we’re already past that point. We have to give Scott time to make the best decision’.
Magneto tells the others that Cyclops will be with them presently, and that he apologizes to them on Cyclops behalf. ‘As I’m sure you’re all aware, this is a moment of monumental gravity’. Shadowcat asks Magneto if the Professor said what he wanted them to do, but Magneto replies ‘Not yet, I’m afraid. Don’t blame the messenger’. Magneto looks back at Cyclops and Charles, and decides that he won’t thank Cyclops for what he has done, or for what he is about to do, as thanks are not enough. ‘Instead, let me thank you on behalf of Jakob Eisenhardt of Nuremberg: a good Jew and a true hero of Germany’. And as Cyclops stares out the window, Magneto sees not Cyclops’ reflection, but the reflection of his proud father.