Read this incredible essay about Magneto, Judaism, and the legacy of the Holocaust

Over at Defector, writer Asher Elbein just published one of the single best pop culture-politics crossover essays I've read in a long time. In The Judgement of Magneto, Elbein expertly analyzes the history of the Max "Erik Lensherr" Eisenhardt — better known as Magneto, the Mutant Master of Magnetism — and how the character's shifting perceptions over six decades of publication have resonated with changing sentiments around the governing of the nation of Israel and the social functionality of Holocaust remembrance.

Sure, it sounds like a lot. But Elbein handles it with an impressive deftness, using the recent Resurrection of Magneto miniseries (in which Magneto comes face-to-face with the souls of his legacy in the afterlife) as a jumping off point. From the intro:

Marvel's master of magnetism, who is also the company's most famous Jewish character, counts his many sins, tortured by the fear that he's wasted his life on a poisoned dream. The comic arrives at a fraught time. When it debuted earlier this year, Israeli bombs had been falling on Gaza for three months; 25,000 people were dead. That number has now topped 34,000, and the bombs are still falling. 

It is a low and shameful moment. It is also one that suits Magneto entirely too well—a distillation of all the ambiguities and anxieties of American Judaism as it reckons with the sacrifices made to the promise of "never again," and the increasingly fraught question of what that actually means. 

Elbein's writing here builds on something I've previously shared — a discussion with Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Spencer Ackerman, author of Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump, on why Magneto was right. But even that interview took place years before, well, our current circumstances. Or indeed, before I realized that Chris Claremont had deliberately based his interpretation of Magneto-as-Holocaust-survivor not on Malcolm X (as popularly assumed), but rather, on Menachem Begin, who was called a terrorist as leader of the far-right militant Irgun during the British Mandate of Palestine, and later became a statesman as Prime Minister of Israel.

This should go without saying, but in case it needs to be said: this essay deals with some heavy shit, not the least of which is genocide(s), both real and fictional*. Maybe you don't want to dig that deep on your X-Men lore. But I know I do, and I know this essay is going to haunt me for a long, long time.

The Judgement of Magneto [Asher Elbein / Defector]

*There are also spoilers for recent X-Men comics, which I feel like should be less important, but I also know that some people are really obsessed with spoiler culture, so there it is.

Previously: A Pulitzer Prize-winning nation security reporter explains why Magneto was right