It had to happen.
In their first year, the new X-Men had fought Sentinels and Juggernaut and even killer robot duplicates of the original team.
They were bound to face their most hated, hateful foe – Magneto.
But nobody expected it would be such a resounding rout for the Master of Magnetism.
In “X-Men” No. 104, “The Gentleman’s Name is Magneto,” cover date April 1977, the new recruits are attacked on Muir Island and just barely escape with their lives.
Some backstory: When last seen, Magneto had been de-aged to a baby at the conclusion of “Defenders” No. 16 in 1974. That timeout turned out to be the best thing that happened to him and to comic readers.
In flashbacks here, Eric the Red restores Magneto to his prime and encourages him to use his powers to destroy the newest X-Men – Banshee, Storm, Wolverine, Colossus and Nightcrawler.
Magneto blasts apart the team’s vessel and then lifts the very ground they are standing on and hurls it at the Muir Island research facility. By using their powers together, the X-Men are able to blow a hole through the walls and save themselves.
These new heroes, you must remember, are older, more experienced, and yeah, let’s be honest, light years more interesting than the original team who squared off so often against Magnus and defeated him every time. Their powers are more impressive and they know how to use them.
And they are no match for Magneto, who is energized like he has never been for any battle.
“Greetings, X-Men. I bid you welcome to the site of your final battleground. You are going to die here, mutants – and not all your powers nor your skills can save you from my wrath!
“Look on me, X-Men, for I am your oldest, deadliest foe, master of the Legion of Evil Mutants – and soon to be lord of all the world!
“I – am – Magneto!”
Against one who controls metals, Wolverine and Colossus are liabilities, a danger to themselves and their teammates.
Magneto sends Wolverine flying by his claws and whips Colossus around the facility like a giant ping-pong ball against Storm and Nightcrawler.
He deflects Storm’s lightning bolts back at her. He senses the magnetic disruptions in the room and predicts where Nightcrawler will re-appear, dropping a pile of debris on him.
Only Banshee remains. He desperately engages Magneto, knowing if he falls, his team dies. Magneto toys with him a bit – and then cocoons him in a shell of metal particles.
Before Magneto can claim his victory, Cyclops arrives at the facility and pushes himself to the limit, using his force beams to keep Magneto on the defensive, giving the team a chance to escape to the beach outside.
Cyclops recognizes Eric the Red is using Magneto’s attack as a diversion so he could attack Professor Xavier. His fellow mutants are uneasy – they are running from a battle – one that they might not be able to win.
Alone in the facility, Magneto gloats. He has finally bested Xavier’s proteges.
It’s hard to imagine it now, but this re-imagined team was only about a year old – with adventures in a bi-monthly book. The characters were fresh and anything could happen.
Writer Chris Claremont was finding his footing as a writer. Here he takes advantage of Magneto’s last appearance to give him a welcome power boost and an added level of cunning. He establishes Magneto as a credible, ferocious threat to the team.
The ending – the team essentially running, for whatever reason – was surprising for its day and frustrating in all the right ways. It ratcheted up the tension for their next encounter. Dave Cockrum’s art, as always, is spectacular.
You can find this story in the Marvel Comics app and in “Marvel Masterworks: The Uncanny X-Men Vol. 2.”
Round two? Oh, Claremont would not disappoint. That next battle a year later in “X-Men” No. 112 would prove to be more of an ordeal to the team, with a cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers and a resolution that would splinter the team for months. If there was a Golden Age for the Uncanny X-Men, this was it. We just didn’t know it.