Marvel Pick Of The Week – December 9, 2015 [SPOILERS]


Pick Of The Week:

Scarlet Witch 1, by James Robinson, Vanesa Del Rey, and Jordie Bellaire

I wanted to give this to Secret Wars this week. That book was great, tons of action, enormous things moving across the gameboard. It was so big and loud and wonderful.

But instead, hours after finishing my stack, I can’t get Scarlet Witch out of my head. It’s not a flashy book. Nobody all that important died in it. She’s actively distancing herself from the popularity of the Avengers. But it’s a book with a clear identity, paying off the decades of character development from one of the first women in the Marvel mythos and resurrecting the best of decades past.

The Scarlet Witch started out as a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants but quickly joined the Avengers in the early 1960s, leaving for a year to pursue marriage with the Vision but eventually leading her own team of West Coast Avengers. She has had a couple of severe mental breakdowns, like that time her twins were found to be pieces of a bad guy’s soul and then absorbed onto the ends of his hands like the creepiest puppets since Ghoulies III. And there was the time when she might have killed her mentor, Agatha Harkness, and was involved in the deaths of the Vision, Ant-Man, and Hawkeye (all three of whom, it bears stating, are alive and well now). And there was the time her brother tricked her into making the whole world into a mutant paradise and then she overcompensated and attempted genocide on the mutant population. Then she was on Remender’s Uncanny Avengers team and mostly hung around the back of the panels. The years have not been kind to Wanda Maximoff.

But with this issue, she has purchased an amazing penthouse in New York from which she can watch the city and effect change by feeling out good and evil auras below. She shares her apartment with the ghost of Agatha Harkness in a relationship that has the feel of adult women in a longterm friendship who respect each other but kind of get on their nerves right now, and James Robinson manages to pull this off without going to a wacky Deadpool place. One morning, Wanda notices a ton of dead cats around the Manhattan streets, connects this to a massive sacrifice in eighteenth century France, and defeats the summoned demon. In so doing, Wanda confidently narrates that her natural abilities to break physical laws are linked to the Earth and womankind, that “Chaos magic” is a cheap way fearful men have tried to explain what she does. It’s part of a brilliant, efficient reexamination of the Witch, her misuse by male writers as a plot device, and it sets up simple but dynamic spaces to explore her over the course of the series. By connecting her back to witchcraft, the author is able to set her apart from the standard superhero book. She defeats a demon by recognizing it as Scottish and pulling up a Celtic incantation from memory, making her a much more interesting character than when she would just shoot energy at a bad guy or make a shelf collapse over him.

The book also stands out because the art gives such a grounded, gritty base. Wanda’s new costume is a simple suit with a blazer worn as a cape, but she also has a red jeweled tiara, announcing I will blend in to your world, but only so much. The overall tone from the art and the dialogue is that of a great 1970s Marvel comic, like an early Strange Tales, or one of the great recent movies about possession or moody haunted houses. This is a book that could accomodate Werewolf By Night having a cup of coffee without making it a silly gag moment. It’s horror, but it’s horror in an entirely different way from her ex-husband’s solo title. The Vision is about the tension between humanity and technology, running a fingertip along the crack in an iPhone face; this is a supernatural title with a feel like holding an old tree branch, fragrant and heavy but about to crumble. It’s a book that respects Wanda in the way she deserves, and I look forward to where this team takes her next.

Honorable Mentions:

All-New Hawkeye 2, because Clint’s logic on dog-naming is just adorable.

Amazing Spider-Man 4, because Mockingbird never really NEEDED electromagnetic fire wings, but now that she HAS them, I think they’re pretty great.

Spider-Gwen 3, because this splash page, with the amazing Rico Renzi colors and the sound effect as the lightning and the bridge made of colors, this splash page is exactly the musical aesthetic that makes this book so different from the other Spider books out there. Rock on, Gwen Stacy.

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