Monday, August 6, 2018

An Affair To Misremember

In 2004, while the Avengers were going through the hell of their "Disassembled" story arc which ended their team and their book for the foreseeable future, the Captain America, Mighty Thor, and Invincible Iron Man titles were undergoing their own disassembly, in one form or another--a fair way of phrasing it, since two of those three crossover titles dealt with separate stories that only loosely tied in with the chaos that swept up the Avengers. Iron Man, for instance--overwhelmed by his responsibilities to Tony Stark's company while maintaining his roles as Secretary of Defense and as an Avenger--appeared to have gone insane, murdering key personnel at Stark Enterprises, behavior that turned out to be unconnected to his meltdown at the United Nations; while Thor, who wasn't present during the Avengers' crisis, was in Asgard dealing with the arrival of Ragnarok (the real Ragnarok this time).

But as for Captain America, well, this happened.

If you were still reading comics in 2004, Captain America and the Falcon was one of the better reads you could find on the shelves, if you were willing to pop three bucks for a single comic book. (That seems just outrageous, doesn't it? Even fourteen years later.) Scripted by Christopher Priest with art by Joe Bennett and Jack Jadson et al., it featured a number of characters that weren't just window dressing and kept the principal characters busy, while Falc's profile was raised considerably. The curve ball of Cap hooking up with the Scarlet Witch practically fit right in to all that Priest had going on in the book, though it was appropriately relegated to a minor sub-plot so that it wouldn't sap momentum from the main story.

Still, longtime Avengers readers had to have been intrigued out of curiosity if nothing else as to where the heck this was coming from. Priest opens the door to it sensibly enough by having Wanda involved in a case that Cap is working on, though readers familiar with the two characters will likely have the impression that Priest is rushing this development.

The mystery involving Wanda is still playing out in the Avengers book, so what we're seeing click here fits reasonably well into the general Disassembled plot. As for Cap, he begins experiencing waking flashbacks to his WW II days and his partnership with Bucky--not as twisted as when Dr. Faustus used the same approach to destabilize him, but no less inexplicable. There is also one important difference: In one way or another, Wanda is a vivid part of each hallucination.

The dam finally bursts when Wanda is there to help refocus Cap's attention to the present--and, all too suddenly, to something more.

The next morning (in lieu of "the morning after" in the traditional sense), it seems clear that Cap is having misgivings about the step he and Wanda have taken. Yet it becomes very clear that Wanda has no such doubts, her feelings apparently being enough to convince him it may be a step worth considering, at least for now.

Those of you who have followed these two characters throughout their long history and friendship are probably wondering how odd it is that Wanda's verbal interaction with Cap still seems to be so formal, referring to him as "Captain" rather than "Steve" even given this development between them. It could be simply a choice made by Priest--i.e., the characters as he sees them, even at this point in time--or it could be one more piece to this puzzle, if that's what we're calling it. Either way, it doesn't feel like the minor matter it's being presented as here.

When he confides in Falc, Cap is still reticent about how he feels toward Wanda, nor can he shake the suspicion that something is wrong in terms of the nature of his hallucinations. Yet their talk doesn't result in any resolution on either subject--nor would it, since this is a story still in progress.

But whatever Cap takes away from his talk with Falc does little to prepare him for the moment he resolves to settle the situation with Wanda--a moment to be faced when the two meet at the United Nations, just prior to Stark's address to the General Assembly. At the very least, Cap expected to be on the same page with Wanda regarding their feelings for each other and the next step forward; yet the response she gives is not only unexpected, but unlike the woman who spent the night on his couch and awoke to make it a very meaningful morning for both of them.

Later, when conferring with the Falcon on the case they're working on, the subject of Wanda is again broached, only this time from a different perspective. Taking into account the nature of their adversary, it's easy to jump to conclusions as to Wanda's recent behavior--only Falcon has a more cut-and-dried point of view.

It's only after the Avengers have met their end and Cap has resolved his dealings with Admr. Westbrook that he realizes the nature of Wanda's behavior. And with the Falcon lately becoming more violent and aggressive while having less regard for the law in the field, it's easy for Cap to assume that he might not have been the only one who was "tampered" with (though he'd be mistaken about that).

Though I think it's unlikely, I suppose it's possible there may be Avengers readers who have always wanted to see the possibility of this kind of relationship between Cap and Wanda explored, and perhaps Priest had the same thought; or, for the sake of a tie-in, Priest might have just taken the road that was most realistically open to him, while keeping within the framework of what the Disassembled story had planned for Wanda. In either case, the chemistry doesn't feel present from a reader's perspective, even though it was apparent from their early Avengers days that Wanda was attracted to Cap. Perhaps if we were seeing Wanda here as she was before she became unstable, it might have felt otherwise.  For what it's worth, given the new directions for both Wanda and Cap in the coming years, it's an episode that will probably never have to be resolved between the two.

This post covers events from Captain America and the Falcon #s 6-9.


Jared said...

I actual like most of the stories from this short lived series, but this just didn't work. It has been a long time since I read this, but I remember getting the impression that Priest really wanted to pursue this angle and was quickly told to turn it around by the editorial powers. Just a feel, as I have no inside information. I remember being really bothered by the fact that Wanda has been around since 1963 and is treated in this story like a girl barely out of her teens. I mean, she has been married, built a retired life from being a superhero, led the West Coast Avengers for a time, and has had a very distinguished career. Having her go crazy was fine. Having her go naive bothered me.

Priest certainly has some great achievements, but if you were to make a list of his bad Marvel Universe ideas, this might not even make the top five.

Comicsfan said...

Jared, I quite agree that Wanda's characterization was a bit off, given that (as you note) she's been around the block in many respects and didn't just step off the boat from Europe yesterday. If I were giving Priest the benefit of the doubt, I'd guess that he might have written her that way intentionally to keep with the self-image she might have had of herself in her current state of mind. For someone who had such control over reality, she didn't strike me at this time as being someone who had a firm grip on it.

As to your other point, since the Disassembled tie-in was apparently intended to be temporary (and brief), it may have been that factor which put the skids on any notion Priest may have had to shift the focus of the book to Cap/Wanda, rather than keeping it on the other characters Cap and Falc were coming into conflict with. I would imagine Priest would have raised the point with his editor (Tom Brevoort) while in the early stages of plotting, and been told at that point that the Disassembled crossover was only a crossover and nothing more. But that's just my 2¢, and some change. :)

HellRazor said...

I thought this budding relationship between Cap and Wanda was really, really interesting, and in a way, could have been a very natural evolution of these characters. Cap hadn't had a love interest this intriguing since Diamondback (it was a real tragedy that they ended that as I thought it was great).

Sadly, Marvel then went on to demolish Wanda as a character, much as they demolished her husband the Vision as a character previously, and of course Hank Pym as a character prior to that.