It was HYDRA which brought two of the world’s most powerful mutants Professor X and Magneto together, and it was HYDRA that tore them apart.
Long before the formation of Professor Charles Xavier‘s Uncanny X-Men and his friend turned arch-rival Magneto‘s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, the X-Men’s greatest champions of peace and war went to battle with the most formidable terrorist organization in Marvel Comics, HYDRA.
Professor X and Magento were not always foes who fought for the soul of mutant kind on Earth. There was once a time when the two mutant leaders were close friends, putting their equally strategic minds together for the common good. In the height of the X-Men’s cosmic battle against the frightening alien lifeforms known as the Brood, a flashback story in Chris Claremont (The New Mutants, Excalibur) and Dave Cockrum (The Avengers, Howard the Duck)’s Uncanny X-Men #161 entitled “Gold Rush,” would recount the budding friendship and eventual split between the X-Men’s two most important figures. The Nazi organization Hydra has a new leader in the form of Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker and the only individuals standing in their way are two relatively unknown yet extremely powerful mutants.
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Still a closeted mutant in training, Charles Xavier is called away to a Middle Eastern rehabilitation facility as a consultant for the comatose young mutant Gabrielle Haller. Haller is an unfortunate victim who endured the Holocaust and has been unable to awaken from her unconsciousness, a result of experimentation at the hands of the Nazis. It’s at this facility where Charles would not only meet the comatose mother of his powerhouse of a child David Haller a.k.a. Legion, but another figure integral to Xavier’s future development, Magnus. No longer living with the name of Max Eisenhardt, Magnus is another survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camps, one of many terrifying byproducts of the Holocaust. Upon meeting another reserved mutant, Magnus finds a connection in Charles but quickly becomes disillusioned with Xavier’s dream of peaceful coexistence between mutants and humans, mainly due to his traumatic past experiences at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Led under former Nazi Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker, the modern HYDRA has taken the organization to a level beyond anything even their former Fuhrer Adolf Hitler could ever imagine. Having hidden information in Gabrielle’s brain that is necessary to recover some stolen gold, HYDRA kidnaps the newly-awakened Gabrielle from the rehabilitation facility. HYDRA’s attack unknowingly incites the wrath of both Xavier and Magneto. Temporarily putting aside their mutant ideals, Magnus and Xavier embark on a rescue mission to Africa for Gabrielle. Though the two are severely outnumbered, Magnus’ unbridled hatred for the Nazis takes gives him the strength needed to dismantle several HYDRA soldiers and armaments, leading to a confrontation with Von Strucker himself. Magneto nearly gives the inferior Strucker a quick death but relents and instead releases a rockslide on the villain, leaving his fate unknown for the foreseeable future.
Magnus’ brutal methods in immobilizing HYDRA is ultimately what drives a wedge between himself and Charles. With the pain and turmoil which Magnus had to endure, it’s difficult to envision another route in which Magneto would have dealt with the situation. It is a shame to see that Professor X and Magneto part ways in this manner rather than depart Africa together as a unified force. If it were not for this inevitable falling out, Professor X and Magneto could have been a formidable mutant duo that may have been mighty impressive clashing with other formidable opponents in the X-Men mythology.
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