Magneto is a tragic figure. He is a man who has stared right into the face of ultimate evil… And he was broken into pieces by what he saw. When he healed, he healed stronger, but he never fully recovered – Cullen Bunn
Is Magneto the master of all metals? Or is he merely able to manipulate magnetic fields and bend them to his will?
Although Max Eisenhardt’s (or Erik Lenchsher as he’s more commonly known in the MCU) name sounds like he’s merely able to control the magnetic field of specific metals and his power is based solely on that ability, that’s not true. In the forty-eight years since he first appeared in X-Men #1, Magneto has proved that he can control almost every metal in the Marvel Universe.
No, you didn’t misread that last sentence, we did say almost. There is one metal that he has, on occasion, had trouble controlling, and that’s the source of Wakanda’s wealth and, according to Prince N’Jobu in 2016’s Black Panther, the strongest material in the universe, vibranium.
Magneto and vibranium have a difficult and complex relationship that has evolved and changed throughout the course of his history in the Marvel universe.
He hasn’t had to attempt to control vibranium in the MCU yet (although with the X-Men set to debut on the big screen in the wake of the forthcoming Fantastic Four film, we are sure that he will at some point in the cinematic future of the franchise). But Magento has bumped, quite literally on at least one occasion, into it in the four-color universe, and the outcome of those encounters haven’t always gone his way.
Magneto Meets The Black Panther
When Christopher Priest took charge of T’Challa’s destiny in 1998 and stayed with the book for an almost unprecedented fifty-three issues, many fans credited him with making the Black Panther cool again and reviving the fortunes of the character.
That said toward the end of his run, in issue 48, he unwittingly opened the door on an issue that caused an uproar in that same fandom, and nearly twenty years later there are still some Magneto fans who can’t let go of the past and still argue about what happened.
What did Priest do that sent comicdom into meltdown?
He threw Magneto and Black Panther into the same room. When they inevitably locked horns, Magneto discovered that he was unable to control the vibranium in T’Challa’s suit. That allowed the Black Panther to get close enough to Magneto to actually land a punch.
It might sound like nothing now, but at the time it was the four-color equivalent of someone standing up and shouting “Magneto can’t control vibranium! It’s the one metal in the universe that he can’t defend himself against.”
And given the Panther’s place in Marvel’s pantheon, that knowledge was important. It should have been enough to ensure that the Avengers, providing they had sufficient vibranium, would always be able to take Magneto down.
Things Are Not Quite What They Seem
We know what you’re thinking. We’ve seen Magneto deflect Mjolnir in Journey Into Mystery #109 and “lift” Thor’s hammer in the Ultimate universe. The hammer is made from uru, which like vibranium is an alien metal. If he can control one alien metal, why can’t he control another?
If he can make uru do his bidding, why can’t he control vibranium?
And the inconsistencies don’t stop there. How many times have we seen Magneto deflect or control Captain America’s shield with ease? So many times that Steve Rogers has literally given up trying to use it as a weapon against the Omega level mutant.
What’s in the shield? A vibranium alloy.
Then there’s Wolverine. In almost every X-Men film in the franchise that features both characters (with the exception of First Class in which their interaction was brief and to the point), Magneto uses his power to control and manipulate Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton against his will.
And in the early 90s X-Men crossover event, Fatal Attraction, Magneto literally rips the adamantium off Wolverine’s skeleton.
What is adamantium? Its base core, the thing that gives it its strength, is vibranium. That’s right folks, adamantium is a vibranium alloy, and Magento can apparently control it.
Pouring Vibranium On The Open Wound
Things finally came to a head in 2019 in the first issue of Jonathan Hickman’s X-Men.
At the start of the story, Magneto rips a metal door open. That’s par for the superpowered course, as he does that sort of thing at least once in every book that features him.
We think it’s a way for the writers to remind the audience who Magento is and what he can do. While slightly redundant, it is an effective way to introduce any new fans to the character.
However, the door he ripped apart in X-Men #1 wasn’t just any door. It was made of vibranium alloy.
Was it a way of retconning Magneto’s powers set and telling the readers that the mutant could control vibranium after all? Or was it merely a throwaway panel that didn’t, and doesn’t mean anything?
The Vibranium Answer
After researching the subject thoroughly, we finally came up with an answer to the Magento vibranium conundrum. Why does it appear that sometimes he can control the metal, and sometimes he can’t?
It’s all due to the purity of the vibranium he’s attempting to control.
The only time that Magneto has been unable to control vibranium was when he came face to face with the Black Panther.
As the King of a country rich in vibranium deposits, logically the Panther’s suit would be made from pure vibranium. That’s where Magento runs into a brick wall.
It appears that it wasn’t the vibranium in the adamantium, the door, and Cap’s shield that he was controlling. It was the other metals in the vibranium alloys that he was bending to his will.
As soon as vibranium is combined with another metal, Magneto masters it. When he’s facing pure vibranium, Magento’s mastery of metal disappears and leaves him as powerless as the homo-sapiens he despises.