Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Seasons Of The Witch

"Reality leaves a lot to the imagination."  -- John Lennon

There are few comics character histories more entangled than that of Wanda, better known as the Scarlet Witch. Even with that one sentence we run into a problem, because I can't even give you her last name. Her family history is entangled. Her powers are entangled. Her marital status is entangled. Her involvement with other-dimensional beings is entangled. For someone who can alter reality itself, you'd think Wanda could streamline her own existence.

Let's start with her parentage. One thing seems clear--she's the daughter of Magda, who, fearful of her husband Magneto's power, fled to Wundagore Mountain where she took her pregnancy to term and delivered twins--Wanda and her brother, Pietro. No, I can't give you Magda's last name either--probably because I'm not even sure of Magneto's. To tell you the truth, I'm not sure of Magneto's first name. At least we know it's not "Magneto." I think his first name is Magnus, though he's also been called Erik Lehnsherr. Magda, Magneto, Magnus--see how entangled we already are? Why isn't Wanda named something like "Magenta," just to make our day complete? She could be Maggie, the Magenta Witch. Aren't you glad I'm not on staff at Marvel.

So I guess Wanda doesn't really have a last name, though that surely didn't stop Marvel from trying to give her one. First we were told that she was the daughter of Golden Age heroes Bob and Madeline Frank (who became irradiated during a nuclear accident)--ergo, Wanda Frank. Then, discovering that origin was false, Wanda and Pietro travelled to Europe and discovered that they were raised as the children of a gypsy couple, the Maximoffs. So now she's Wanda Maximoff, for what it's worth. Finally, their father is revealed as Magneto. I'm guessing there are times when Wanda hopes that, too, is in error--after all, her first name doesn't begin with "Mag."

As for her powers--ye gods. Hex power. Organic power. Reality-altering power. Chaos magic. Reality-altering power again. It's going to take someone braver than I to detail this woman's power variations and levels. But I'll try to give a quick rundown. We know she started out with "hex power," which went through fluctuations and alterations during her early association with the Avengers. Then Agatha Harkness came calling and offered tutelage in joining Wanda's mutant power with actual magic, and she mainly became able to control and manipulate organic matter as well as draw on herself for extended stamina. That eventually led to her encounter with the demon Chthon, who had given her latent magical potential at birth in order to later use her as a vessel to escape his imprisonment, and who turned out to be responsible for her hex power at times losing its potency or conking out altogether.

Chthon as well as Immortus would both end up manipulating Wanda's life as well as her power over time for their own ends. And it's with Immortus where we pick up on Wanda's mood swings, which ultimately led to Wanda's transformation into--well, let's let Immortus make her intro for us:

Well, no, Immortus--you wish. More accurately, Immortus has manipulated Wanda over time so that she's now, more or less, a high-powered battery for a trio of time-beings he's made a bargain with. In return, he's granted rule of seven millennia. Wanda, it turns out, is a nexus being, which Immortus again explains for us:

Sheesh, there he goes again. What Immortus meant to say is that Wanda's new level of power will safeguard and control those futures for the time-beings whom Immortus bargained with. He's just dramatizing a bit. Immortus, as you can tell, badly wants to be the "Master of Time!" in fact as well as in name, but in this case his reach exceeds the grasp that the time-beings are allowing him.

As to how Immortus has manipulated Wanda's life, just look at all the things he's been responsible for, directly or indirectly:

As to her new level of power that she's attained, does any of this sound familiar to you?

Exactly. But in this case, the reality-altering power was, as Agatha Harkness puts it, "unnaturally bred" into Wanda by the various traumas she suffered through Immortus' machinations--not the result of the "life force" she was later infused with through her efforts with Dr. Doom to recover her children, the force which ultimately possessed her. By contrast, in the latter case Wanda was stricken with disillusionment and grief--whereas through Immortus' prodding, her disposition here was more on the vicious side:

With the Avengers on the ropes as they finally confronted Immortus, it fell to Agatha Harkness to get through to Wanda in her entranced state and implore her to reject her new power. And after repeated appeals to Wanda's love for her friends and teammates, she was finally successful:

And so Wanda's power goes back to status quo, more or less--until her chaos magic manifests later, and all hell breaks loose.  In retrospect, that later story could probably have proceeded without any "life force" to blame Wanda's state of mind on, since it's hard to believe she could just snap back to normal here when taking into account all the things she's suffered through.  Those events might have been set into motion by Immortus, but they weren't illusion or a dream state--Wanda lived through them in the natural course of her life.  But it seems to be Marvel policy that for a hero such as Wanda to continue being a hero, she would either have to suffer the consequences of her actions or else proven not to have been responsible for them.  And so the "life force" as deus ex machina.

But couldn't she have kept that cool new costume?


Doc Savage said...

Byrne shorthand: heroine gets hair cut short = assertive and evil!

Always felt Wanda was seriously effed up simply because she chose to mate with a machine. Imagine that in reality. And why would Vision even have man-parts? Or does he? Creepy as all heck. Byrne then wrecked all that anyway and have we had a usable Vision since?

Kid said...

I quite fancied Wanda when I was a lad. I wonder if she twitches her nose like Samantha?

Anonymous said...

I was never one of Byrne's biggest fans, and what he did with the Scarlet Witch reminded me of the same old clap-trap he and Caremont pulled in X-Men. Another beautiful superheroine driven mad and terrifying by her unlimited powers, like Snowbird, Rogue, or Sue Richards (or Supergirl)
Isn't it funny that really god-like male superheroes, like Dr. Manhattan or Miracleman, become more cold, calculating and remote while the women become more unstable and emotional? I liked this title, but Byrne has always rubbed me the wrong way.
I'm not saying these guys were sexists, but I think Freud would have a field day with this stuff.
I must admit, though, that Immortus' offhand comment about the limited nature of free will has always stuck with me.

Doc Savage said...

And I always fancied Samantha.

dbutler16 said...

Wanda may have been my first comic book crush, or maybe Jean Grey.
Anyway, I dislike mega retcons like this, where everything we've read about a character for the past 20 years was really part of some grande plot. Oh brother. I enjoy much of Byrne's stuff, but he made a mess out of this, methinks.

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