Thursday, January 23, 2014

Mother's Day

With Dr. Strange's arrival at the end of Part Three of "Chaos," the story at the center of "Avengers Disassembled," we're more than ready for a few answers. Why have the Avengers been under almost constant attack? Who or what is responsible? How were three Avengers used against their comrades? Three Avengers dead, three more injured, two critically--how many more? Who has the power to pull this off?

Dr. Strange doesn't come right out and say it--but he does point the Avengers toward the answer, and one Avenger in particular seems to have his worst fear realized:

To understand the answer that Dr. Strange is about to announce off-panel, we need to put this "chaos" into context by looking back to its catalyst. And what sets everything into motion is not so much the one behind the power itself, but rather a mere slip of the tongue during a casual conversation between the Wasp and the Scarlet Witch:

With the seed inadvertently planted into Wanda's mind, she acts to discover the truth. Her mental state already on shaky ground, she seeks out the one person who might have knowledge of a past kept hidden from her:

I think we can assume that Wanda wasn't sympathetic toward Agatha Harkness, whatever her reasons for suppressing Wanda's memories of her children, and that this meeting didn't end well for the senior citizen. Agatha left quite a trap door open for any number of people who knew about Wanda's children to stumble through. In effect, everyone with knowledge of the children would had to have been accounted for and sworn to secrecy, and agreed to never broach the subject to Wanda again. Yet, unless she had originally decided to keep the birth of her children a secret, and arranged a media blackout, and took a dozen other precautions to keep the knowledge of their birth under wraps, how was that possible?

The Avengers, though--having known Wanda as both a comrade and a friend--are full of doubts as to her being the cause of these incidents, and cannot bring themselves to believe that Wanda would be capable of this level of enmity against them. But Dr. Strange helps to put in perspective Wanda's fragile psyche, particularly after learning from the Avengers how her children, nonexistent to begin with, were lost to her.

So we know the "why" of Wanda's actions--or, rather, reactions at what she perceived as the removal of her sons from her side without her knowledge or consent, topping off years of building instability and uncertainty. But we're only given a vague idea as to the "how." Writer Brian Bendis seems to lay the blame at the door of Wanda's acquisition of what she called her "chaos magic," which provided her with yet another way of controlling the probabilities of reality. Dr. Strange denies the existence of such magic, at least by name; all that we know now is that Wanda tapped into something, though it's now been obviously amplified and refined to an incredible degree.

Thanks to a later story, though, we're privy to information which neither the Avengers nor Strange can know at this point: a meeting taking place between Wanda and Dr. Doom, soon after her angry confrontation with Agatha Harkness.

This new information would have terribly diluted the drama taking place in this last part of "Chaos," since it all but absolves Wanda of the responsibility she bears for being the cause of the death and destruction taking place here. Yet it's Bendis himself who leaves the door open for such a development, since whatever has empowered Wanda to take these actions is now relegated to a mystery that will have no answers in this story.

However, when all is said and done, Strange's interpretation of events is at least sufficient enough for the team to ask his help in seeking out Wanda and discovering the truth. But you've probably noticed one glaring omission throughout this entire explanation: Where is Wanda's brother, Pietro, while these revelations are being made? We've spotted him on the battlefield, fighting with the Avengers, so we know he's around. He would be an invaluable resource of perspective on Wanda, having been so steadfastly at her side not only during her years as an Avenger but through many of her fluctuations in power--yet he's not given one word by Bendis, nor even one panel's reaction, when he should be front and center during a meeting where his sister is being implicated in attacks which have caused massive destruction and several deaths. His absence in these scenes is conspicuous, to say the least.

Nor will you find him in the mob of Avengers which arrives at Wanda's dwelling--which Cap has decided to enter alone, in an attempt to reach Wanda without a show of force. We're all probably wondering what in the world would--could--keep Pietro from accompanying him. It seems a reasonable scene to expect--not only because they're brother and sister, but also because Pietro, Cap and Wanda (along with Hawkeye) bonded together as the first replacement team of the Avengers. But we'll discover the odd answer to Pietro's absence later. Right now, it looks like Wanda isn't interested in bonding with any Avenger at the moment:

Now that their fears have been confirmed, an angry Ms. Marvel lets her sense of betrayal get the better of her and lashes out, though Wanda sees the situation quite differently:

And while there are any number of ways Wanda's reality-altering powers could deal with the Avengers, perhaps it's the variables present in the numbers against her which make her resort to an all-out brawl which will confuse her foes as well as overwhelm them:

But the Avengers have an ace in the hole--Dr. Strange, who has his hands full with Wanda, but knows that it's the truth that she must really face:

To end the story, Magneto arrives and takes charge of Wanda, which we know in hindsight is more of a sales move than a logical one. The Avengers handing one of their own over to Magneto? Without a word of explanation as to how he might help her? What can he do--magnetize her? Why not simply have him mention that his next stop is Charles Xavier?

As this story wraps up, all we're left with are loose ends and uncertainties. Ms. Marvel makes the bold statement that the Avengers are no more--but why exactly would that be true, other than a planned reboot and a new series being launched? There's certainly no denying that they've been through the wringer. Some are injured, others are dead, their headquarters are demolished, and the U.N. has disavowed them. But the team has persevered through other crises, even when their numbers were down to just three (with one of that threesome virtually powerless)--what makes the Scarlet Witch's condition the determining factor for disbanding them? And why is their dissolution a given, instead of being agreed upon in a dramatic scene in their last issue?

For the answers, and an epilogue, we'll have to later check in on Avengers Finale, which not only explains the situation with Pietro as well as the team throwing in the towel, but provides readers with closure for this first and perhaps greatest run of the Avengers.

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