Friday, February 12, 2021

Character Spotlight: Scarlet Witch

As has been well established, I'm the guy who, in the Before Times, would answer everyone's questions after we went out to see a superhero movie. I know superhero lore like some people know... well, useful information. That being said I was the only one squeeing years ago at the end of Captain America: Winter Soldier when they revealed the Scarlet Witch, looking all creepy in her cell, moving blocks with her mind. Of course to MCU fans she is known as Wanda Maximoff, and with WandaVision's big reveal last week I think it's best to talk about her, what she's been known to do, and why we need to be excited

Be warned: There be spoilers ahead. 


From The Pages of Marvel

Scarlet Witch first appeared in The X-Men #4 in 1964. Yes, that's right, X-Men. See the first and foremost thing you need to know about her is that in the comics she is a mutant, and the second thing is that her father is a very important mutant: Magneto. At first Scarlet Witch and her brother Quicksilver were with Magneto's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, until they became disillusioned with Pop's way of thinking and split. Not convinced of Xavier's philosophy of mutant/human harmony, they decided to step away from the conflict and joined a new team of heroes: the Avengers. 

Remember class, in the comics, the Avengers and the X-Men live in the same universe, even though it barely makes any sense, but that's for a different blog. 

On the Avengers Wanda met the love of her life, Vision, the robot with the ability to phase through walls. They married and through... plot and magic... they had two children who grew up to become superheroes themselves, Speed and Wiccan. 

Over the years Scarlet Witch's comic adventures mainly dealt with her fighting for what she believed was right, and trying to come to terms with her vast powers, which will talk about in a second. If you want a full breakdown of her comic appearances check out her Wiki page here, but let's get into her power set. 

All Purpose Plot Insulation

For the most part, Scarlet Witch's powers were whatever the plot needed her to do. This was first explained by her mutant power being the ability to manipulate probability fields, meaning if the chance for a bad guy's gun to jam was 4%, she could send a hex bolt at it and increase it to 99%. She could control what happened the longer she concentrated on it, so if she wanted the gun specifically to jam she would have to take a second to concentrate, but if she just wanted gun not be a problem and threw a bolt then the gun could jam, or turn into a fish, or melt, or something else random. Eventually they said that her powers gave her control of "chaos magic", meaning that her name wasn't just a cute super hero name but that she truly was a witch. 

For a long time Scarlet Witch was seen as a character whose powers were cool but weren't that useful. She didn't have the range of other magic users like Dr. Strange, and her powers weren't as straight forward as Wolverine's, so she was delegated to fixing little things that the other characters needed. 


House of M

In another ret-con that comics are infamous for doing, they reveal that Wanda's powers are capable of warping reality itself, and that there is no such thing as "chaos magic". With her true powers unlocked she becomes a major concern for the heroes of earth, until daddy Magneto and Quicksilver guide her into creating a world where mutants are the dominant species and all the heroes have their hearts desires made reality so they won't interfere. After that doesn't work out, to no surprise to anyone, Scarlet Witch unleashes one more reality warping hex before the mainstream universe is returned, declaring "No more mutants" and turning all but a handful of mutants into regular humans. 

Beast goes on a quest to find a way to restore the mutant population, only to be told by Dr. Strange that Scarlet Witch's latest hex has been tied into the fabric of reality itself and therefore can never be undone, making mutants an endangered species. Several issues, a bunch of weird plot lines involving time travel, a baby and and the Phoenix Force and that all gets reversed eventually bringing back the mutants. 

WandaVision's Big Reveal

So what does all this have to do with WandaVision? Well first Wanda seems to have followed a similar arc to her comic book counterpart, going from a telekinetic telepath (telekinetipath?) to a reality changing powerhouse. Episode 5 gave us some interesting concepts, first that she can't resurrect the dead (presumably Vision being a robot is technically not resurrection but just good IT) and second that she is manipulating reality. Pietro appearing at the end of the episode is a huge move because it's not the Pietro from Age of Ultron but the Pietro from the X-Men franchise, recently acquired by Disney. Rumors have been swirling that WandaVision will not only tie into Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness but also be the catalyst to introduce the X-Men into the MCU, creating the complete Marvel universe. The repercussions from this could reverberate throughout the MCU and film in general for decades to come if Marvel and Disney are able to pull off the transfer, and fans of the OG Marvel universe will be squeeing in delight as team-ups and battles with their favorite heroes are brought to life on screen. 

The Thing About Magic

The interesting and challenging thing about magic users in superhero universes isn't how powerful they are but how they choose to use their powers. Characters like Scarlet Witch, Constantine and Zatanna are usually relegated to background characters out of fear that their complicated abilities may take away from the stars. Whenever these characters are given their chance to shine though, the story changes from "Do we have enough power to stop the bad guy?" to "Do we have too much power to be allowed to exist?" Scarlet Witch brings the question "If you could change the universe to however you want it to be what would you do" to its next logical step of "Should you?". When Scarlet Witch is a good guy she holds back her powers, using what she needs to get the job done, but when she's a villain, or at least an antagonist, she's doing it out of the fear of losing someone she loves. It's hard to blame her for wanting to create a world where her and Vision have the perfect TV life, but is it worth the expense of a town of people? And to bring back Pietro, is it worth merging two universes to make it possible? 


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