As the 2014 / 2015 AXIS event rumbled on, X-Men fans were shocked at one particular twist – namely, the revelation that Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch weren’t Magneto’s children! Now, with the release of Scarlet Witch #1, it’s pretty clear why Marvel did this. The goal was to reinvent the Scarlet Witch.
Why did the Scarlet Witch need to be reinvented?
In reality, Marvel faced several long-standing problems with the Scarlet Witch. The first problem was that she was damaged goods – at the start of the twenty-first century, she was used in some pretty devastating ways. In Avengers Disassembled, she was Brian Bendis’ chosen plot device to bring the Avengers to an end, preparing the ground for his launch of New Avengers. Not long later, she became a plot device once again – dramatically reducing the number of mutants in the Marvel Universe. For this act of near-genocide, she will pretty much never be forgiven by X-Men fans.
Marvel made an attempt to lessen the impact of these actions in the excellent Children’s Crusade miniseries, which revealed that the Scarlet Witch had been possessed by a demon that had amplified her powers. They then tried to put her in a heroic role during AvX, but fans just didn’t seem ready for that yet.
The second problem, though, is one that is only noticeable after the launch of the Scarlet Witch’s own series. When Marvel Studios released the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, the comics were caught flat-footed by its success; they’re still getting the Marvel Cosmic range in order now. A similar problem could easily occur if (when?) Doctor Strange proves a success in late 2016. Marvel’s mystic range is sadly diminished, with sorcerers pretty much out of favour. Marvel seem determined to get the mystic range back in order before that movie comes out.
Unfortunately, the mystic range is problematic in a way that the cosmic range is not. Of Marvel’s high-ranking sorcerers, Doctor Strange himself is the logical front-runner; others, such as Brother Voodoo, have failed to find traction. Worse still, their most prominent sorcerer after Doctor Strange – the Scarlet Witch – has been traditionally associated with her mutant identity.
So we come to Marvel’s solution. First of all, Marvel have launched a high-profile Doctor Strange series, featuring the talents of Jason Aaron (who hit a home-run on Mighty Thor) and the talented Chris Bachalo. The first arc has established a band of sorcerers who are close to Strange, and I expect them all to get significant attention over the coming months.
As regards the Scarlet Witch, Marvel began to recast her in the AXIS event. There, it was revealed that she was not actually a mutant, and her identity was cut away from Magneto. She was revealed, instead, to have been a scientific experiment – but realistically, any origin would have done, as Marvel simply wanted to make her a sorceress who wasn’t a mutant. Now, in Scarlet Witch #1, we see the result. James Robinson none-too-subtly reinvents the Scarlet Witch’s powers:
For the record, by the way, the dead cats are a plot point. James Robinson abandons Chaos Magic, and replaces the description of the Scarlet Witch’s power with a very simple word: witchcraft. It’s pretty heavy-handed, and ignores a Mighty Avengers plot where Chthon mocked the Avengers for not believing in Chaos Magic, but it makes sense.
I have to admit that Scarlet Witch traverses untested grounds. Although Marvel gave it a strong nudge with the Uncanny Avengers annual essentially being a teaser to the new villain, the Emerald Warlock, they’re also gambling on a series with no fixed artist. It will be interesting to see how this works out.
The AXIS revelation may have annoyed many X-Men fans, but realistically, no X-Men fans were ever going to pick up the Scarlet Witch series; after all, most have never forgiven her for the Decimation. By the time Doctor Strange comes out, I reckon Marvel are hoping this series will be firmly established, and everyone will have forgotten that moment of controversy.