Scarlet Witch is a problem. I, a filthy millennial, started reading comics in the heyday of House of M and Young Avengers, which means Wanda Maximoff was introduced to me as an unstable reality-warping monster who could – and did – commit genocide with three little words. In the 16 years since Brian Bendis and Olivier Coipel, Mavel has tragically done very little to shake off this stigma. The 21st century has not been kind to the resident hex-wielding sorceress of the Avengers, as Wanda’s had her mutant heritage erased in favor of a High Evolutionary retcon no one liked, been the spark that caused the MCU’s Civil War, and raised an army of zombies in an attempt to undo her past crimes. With WandaVision currently airing on Disney+ and casting her, once again, as an apparent villain whose inability to control herself has harmed others and broken reality, I am left with one question: How the hell do you fix Wanda Maximoff?
Others here at CBH have talked about where Wanda has been and the stories that handled her properly before The Dark Times, so I won’t spend too much time going over the problems that continue to drag Wanda down. To keep things simple, I think three specific issues are lingering over any hope of redemption or a new direction for Ms. Maximoff: Her relationship with Vision, the lack of proper closure from House of M, and the complete lack of the female perspective in her stories.
Wanda and Vision are bad for each other. While the MCU’s vision of the couple had less baggage pre-WandaVision, it is hard to argue that any incarnation is free of the toxic cycles they found themselves in. After decades of marriage, divorce, heartbreak, reconciliation, and everything in between, they’ve run their course as foils for each other. Vision, himself, has had a pretty rough time in the past decade, having had a super-powered nervous breakdown in King and Walta’s Vision series and generally failing as a reliable presence for his new daughter Viv. so any attempt to rekindle his and Wanda’s romance or even a friendship, seems doomed to drag her down with him.
So many of Wanda’s darkest moments are tied to Vision in some way, either via the lingering scars of their sons-that-never-were-and-then-actually-were or just the cycle of romance and heartbreak they engaged in for decades. While some writer could, of course, write a great romantic epic about the two and prove me wrong, I can’t help but feel that total distance from each other is the only reasonable step forward. Both Vision and Wanda are toxic, hot messes, and when they come together, it is like a perfect storm of enabling and co-dependency. For either of them to hope to move beyond their baggage truly, they’ve got to stay the hell away from each other.
The second problem, the shadow of House of M, is a much taller task. I don’t want to outright pitch “Zoe’s Story for Fixing Wanda” because the X-Office has made it clear they have plans for her down the line, even if they don’t seem to be incredibly kind, and that would be a boring read. Wanda’s erasure of millions of mutants’ powers was listed right alongside such tragedies as the Mutant Massacre and the assault on Genosha, and rightfully so. It was, in no uncertain terms, genocide, and that’s something that can’t just be swept under the rug or forgiven. The first step in addressing this seems clear to me, however: make her a mutant again.
Currently labeled “The Pretender” by mutants on Krakoa, Scarlet Witch’s status as not just a human but a human who masqueraded as a mutant for so many years has earned her a special sort of ire on the island. Of course, Krakoa is also home to dozens of other monstrous mutants who spent their lives attacking their own kind: Mr. Sinister, Apocalypse, Magneto, even Exodus…and those are just the ones who sit on the Quiet Council. Reversing the retcon that erased Wanda’s lineage would force the mutant nation to test their commitment to the fresh start Krakoa provides. If even their greatest sinners and killers can find a new home in the sun on Krakoa, why can’t The Former Pretender, Wanda Maximoff? Of course, her mutant heritage wouldn’t undo the act of genocide, but it would provide a deep vein of stories to tell, both with Wanda and the reaction of Krakoan mutants and society at large.
The final problem is, of course, the easiest. Scarlet Witch has had an ongoing just once in her 50-year tenure, and a decidedly middle aged James Robinson wrote it. As for the last time she was written, in an ongoing capacity, not a guest appearance, by a woman, you would have to go back to the distant year of Nineteen-Ninety-Never. Dann Thomas co-wrote West Coast Avengers with her husband Roy in the 1990s, but given Roy’s prominence and the co-credit, it doesn’t quite fit the bill and is nearly 30 years old at this point. For a major Marvel hero and near founding Avenger, that’s a dubious record to hold.
This isn’t to say women are inherently better writers than men. I’ve read plenty of awful things penned by a lady. In Wanda’s case, however, it comes down to a matter of perspective. So many of her Big Important Stories are tied to events like pregnancy and the fallout from it, the strain on her mental health from maintaining a heroic public persona, and the expectations of her peers and father. The cis men who have dictated so much of her life will never know the real-world impact and damage that these story beats cause and end up reducing her to little more than a shallow “unstable crazy lady” stereotype that is damaging to both women and those who have a mental illness.
Giving Wanda Maximoff to a modern writer like Tini Howard or Leah Williams would provide so much raw energy to the character. It is frankly absurd it hasn’t been done yet. The idea of a woman tackling the decades of horrific trauma that Wanda has gone through under the hand of writers like John Byrne and Brian Bendis on its own is enough to get me, as a reader, excited. Factor in Wanda’s prominence via her MCU starring role, and you’ve got a hell of a hook for readers to latch onto.
Obviously, I’m just a lady with a keyboard here. While I have…several issues with Marvel Editorial as an enterprise, I have confidence in the current X-Office and the folks who are writing those books, to not throw Wanda into the gutter again. She’s the daughter of Magneto, a veteran Avenger, and the mother of the current Court Wizard/Husband of the Kree/Skrull Alliance. The fact that you can rarely find a Best Scarlet Witch story list that doesn’t feature the likes of House of M or Avengers Disassembled is a problem and a slight towards a character who truly deserves better. Hopefully, in the wake of WandaVision and the X-Men’s ascension to the top of the Marvel mountain once more, Wanda Maximoff will finally get the respect she has earned.