Wednesday, January 4, 2017

There's A New Witch In Town


The last time we looked in on the Scarlet Witch, she had accepted Agatha Harkness's offer to tutor her in the art of witchcraft, in the hope of becoming more capable in the use of her unpredictable hex power which drains her stamina and limits her effectiveness as an Avenger. Miss Harkness has already helped Wanda draw on her deeper reserves of strength, a lesson learned most vividly as Wanda succeeded in repelling an attack on the two women by the demon-servant known as Necrodamus. And when the Avengers were once again drawn into the schemes of Kang the Conqueror, Wanda demonstrated her dramatic new potential in the field, helping to put an end to Kang at least for the, er, time being.

But private tutoring or not, life goes on, and so must the Avengers. And while Miss Harkness and her pupil have sequestered themselves in a room in Avengers Mansion in order to continue Wanda's training, the other Avengers have travelled to Viet Nam to further investigate the origin of their guest, Mantis--only to fall victim to the revenge of Kang, who this time resurrects a number of dead beings to face the Avengers as the Legion of the Unliving. Yet the Avengers survive the assault--and while in Limbo, the enigmatic Immortus offers to provide them with information on the origins of both Mantis and their fellow Avenger, the Vision, by sending them on time-travelling journeys that provide greater context to the information they seek.

But Wanda and Miss Harkness have not been idle--and soon enough, Wanda is ready for her first "trial run," a practical test that will see her exercise her power in a more disciplined manner and, for the first time, allow her the chance to do so with a measure of control.


*gulp!* She's not pointing at us, is she??



We'll no doubt breathe a sigh of relief that Wanda's target is actually an inert piece of furniture--inert, that is, until Wanda's hex power is trained on it, causing it to become animated though not exactly grateful to its animator.




It's becoming clear that writer Steve Englehart is intending for the word "witchcraft" to have a much different meaning for Wanda than it obviously has for Miss Harkness, who must approach Wanda's use of her mutant ability in a different manner than if Wanda were a sorceress such as Clea, for instance. Rather than the use of spells or incantations, Wanda's power comes from within and has proven on occasion to be something to be reckoned with in the field--yet she must now learn to channel that power as opposed to simply releasing it and hoping for the best. As we can see, she still has a ways to go--but Miss Harkness can be commended for getting her this far, already opening the door for Wanda in showing her how to tap into her inner strength in order to draw on her hex power without suffering fatigue. From this point on, Wanda must learn a new way of using her abilities in a way that conforms to her intent.

Meanwhile, the Avengers are learning a few things as well--with Mantis coming to know more of the Kree priests of Pama and the race known as the Cotati, while the Vision is made aware of his ties to the android Human Torch. As for Wanda, whether or not she's making progress in her studies becomes debatable when Jarvis, the Avengers' butler, must involve her in a police inquiry and discovers that interrupting her is not in his best interest.



The disturbing development escalates after Moondragon, responding to a signal from Earth summoning Captain Marvel, arrives at Avengers Mansion and finds that the Avenger in residence has no intention of putting out the welcome mat for her.





Wanda's odd behavior and attitude aside, Englehart appears to have given a twist to Wanda's power in her "new" ability to affect organic matter (and boy, are you going to become tired of hearing the word "organic" in the issues to come); however, perhaps this "upgrade" should only be interpreted as Wanda's greater degree of control in the use of her hex power, since she was already hexing organic material (such as the bedsheets that groped Necrodamus, if we assume they were at least partly composed of cotton) well before Miss Harkness began instructing her.

As for Moondragon, she decides to join the rest of the Avengers in Viet Nam, where they've returned to assemble the final pieces of the puzzle regarding Mantis and where Moondragon will discover herself having a key role in that mystery. Back at Avengers Mansion, however, Jarvis finds that the mystery involving Wanda has only deepened, when he hears more disturbing sounds from her room--followed by her abrupt disappearance.



While Jarvis is probably grateful for the fact that at least he doesn't have to place a call to an exorcist, Wanda has unfortunately fallen victim to the dread Dormammu, who is encroaching on Earth's dimension but decides to indulge in revenge on the Scarlet Witch for her actions against him in their prior encounter. As it happens, the Vision has also found himself in Wanda's proximity, his experience with his own history having concluded--and with Wanda at the mercy of Dormammu, the Vision's mission is clear.



With Dormammu dependent on the heat of the Earth's core to bring him to full strength, he can only squander so much of his power on the Vision--and with the Vision successfully fending off Dormammu's efforts to subdue him thus far, Dormammu resorts to conscripting his captive to destroy this intruder. Strange that Dormammu doesn't simply have Umar, his sister, battle the Vision--a powerful sorceress who isn't constricted by the limitations Dormammu must face in this dimension and who is as ruthless as her brother. Though of course that would deprive the story of a battle between two lovers who, under normal circumstances, would never take arms against one another.





You may have noticed that Miss Harkness has been a no-show thus far in this domain--another omission perhaps intended to provide the Vision and Wanda with the lion's share of drama this encounter throws their way. But with Wanda now free of her enslavement to Dormammu, the tide turns--even though, against such forces, a stalemate is the best these three can hope to achieve. But it's a stalemate on Wanda's terms.





As Dormammu boasts, he only keeps a third of the conditions that Wanda imposes on him, though Wanda, the Vision, and even Miss Harkness are none the wiser. Back at Avengers Mansion, the three regroup--and as far as Miss Harkness is concerned, Wanda's symbolic baptism of fire has marked the conclusion of her instruction.



And as we know, Wanda goes on to accept the Vision's proposal of marriage, which of course is its own kind of magic.

3 comments:

Warren JB said...

"It's becoming clear that writer Steve Englehart is intending for the word "witchcraft" to have a much different meaning for Wanda than it obviously has for Miss Harkness, who must approach Wanda's use of her mutant ability in a different manner than if Wanda were a sorceress such as Clea, for instance. Rather than the use of spells or incantations, Wanda's power comes from within and has proven on occasion to be something to be reckoned with in the field--yet she must now learn to channel that power as opposed to simply releasing it and hoping for the best."

I'm trying hard not to think about how all that's supposed to work! And, like you say, that's just the beginning of the brouhaha over Wanda's powers.

Also, remind me how Dormammu managed to gain his 'dread' reputation across several dimensions? I'm starting to think that Earth survives in the 616 (if it's still called that), not because it's heroes are that powerful, but because most beings and races across the rest of the multiverse are that wimpy. (Which basically amounts to the same thing, but, y'know whaddim sayin'...)

Anonymous said...

I myself have always been confused by Wanda's powers, and how mutant power over probability (whatever that is) and witchcraft fit together.
It's like "spider-sense", which spiders don't have, or what makes the Hulk's pants stay up. It's just best not to think about it too hard.

M.P.

(maybe all these years Wanda has been using her probability powers to make the Hulk's pants stay up. If so, we all owe her a debt of thanks.)

Comicsfan said...

Dormammu would make a good subject for research, Warren, for just the reason you mention. In the case of Earth's dimension, for instance, he seems to need certain conditions to cross over and retain some measure of his full power. He needed the Evil Eye to transform our dimension, at one point; or he needed a specific ritual (at Bald Mountain) to cross over, before the Defenders interfered; or, in this story, he needed the Earth's core to sustain him. Perhaps that's where the "dread" part of his reputation comes in--referring to whether he succeeds in crossing over without any encumbrances. I really thought that it was only his vow to Strange that tied his hands in that respect--but it appears that Marvel is trying to work around that with these odd incursions.

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