Marvel Pick Of The Week – January 13, 2016 [SPOILERS]


Pick Of The Week:

Scarlet Witch 2, by James Robinson and Marco Rudy

Last month, James Robinson resurrected long-damaged Marvel legend Scarlet Witch with a horror-procedural fusion reminiscent of the best horror from the 1970s. He saw Wanda Maximoff as a woman with an innate understanding of magic, meaning a connection to the female, the natural, and the spiritual. After working a case in New York, she learned that witchcraft itself was somehow broken, and this issue sees her pursuit of that break.

To do this, Wanda takes a trip to Greece to consult with Hekate, once the goddess of magic but now happily retired and serving up grilled goat and tzatziki to her cafe patrons. Hekate admits that something’s a little off, but as long as the Scarlet Witch is in town, it would be great if she could look into the resurrection of the Minotaur that’s been murdering people at night. She uses herself as bait, but when he attacks, she quickly learns that he is not who he seems, and whoever broke witchcraft has even bigger things up his sleeve.

The story itself was terrific, a scary story with complete independence from any surrounding issues, but what made this the Pick Of The Week is the brilliant way the writer, the artist, and the cover artist take the theme of labyrinths and so thoroughly realize it. For starters, that stunning David Aja cover is a map of a few Greek islands, but from arm’s length, it is also the Scarlet Witch’s lips, nose, eyes, and tiara. The disorientation of the perspective perfectly prepares the reader for the complicated journey beneath this page. This idea is carried out in Marco Rudy’s page layouts. Almost every page is off-center, and very few layouts repeat – it’s subtle, but it’s very disturbing and wrenches the eye around seeking a symmetry that won’t happen. Conversation scenes and street fights alike take place across panels arranged like looping paths on a circular maze, and when Hekate gives Wanda the background on the Minotaur attacks, the pages melt into oozing liquid and cubist caricatures. Most pages have at least one panel in black and white. As upsetting as the experience is, it’s always completely legible – this is book first and a gimmick second, and Marco Rudy deserves a significantly higher profile than he’s getting.

James Robinson takes the theme of mazes and journeys even further, as the Witch reveals she has been taking antidepressants for a while. It’s no secret that her behavior has been erratic for the last few years, and in this issue, she seeks to understand if this is the result of biological mental illness or perhaps feedback from the break in the magic to which she is so bonded. In my day job, I am a psychiatrist, and this struggle around finding an explanation for guilt and shame plays out on my couch daily. I hope Wanda’s mental state will improve when she mends witchcraft in the same way I hope my clients just need to talk through a loss and set a better boundary with toxic relatives – but I still have the prescription pad next to my chair.

Marvel has quickly made the new Scarlet Witch series into a standout horror-meets-detective series showcasing some of the most original visual talent in the publishing line.

Honorable Mentions:

All-New All-Different Avengers 3, because we have seen many versions of a team coming together, but never has it been this charming.

Mighty Thor 3, because the idea of Thor having to fight a bunch of versions of Loki is a perfect counterpoint to the amazing Thors miniseries. I’m not a big Loki fan, but I’d read Lokis.

Captain America: Sam Wilson 5, because the flashback of Diamondback’s transition from happy to widow to stripper may be the saddest short story since the opening montage of Up.

Illuminati 3, because I just live for these awesome sound effects.

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