Secret Empire Just Set The Scarlet Witch Back In The Worst Way Imaginable

This week's issue of Secret Empire was the best in the series so far because it challenged its characters to own up to the many mistakes that led up to the event. But, in a single panel, Secret Empire also undid years of work that Marvel put into healing one of its most important and misunderstood heroes: The Scarlet Witch.

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In Nick Spencer, Leinil Francis Yu and Rod Reis' Secret Empire #4 we get our first good look at the Scarlet Witch since Secret Empire's Free Comic Book Day issue, in which Steve Rogers was inexplicably able to overpower her and every other Avenger who attempted to stop his invasion of Washington, DC.

Rather than explaining how exactly Steve was able to overpower one of the most powerful people in Marvel's comics, we're told instead that Wanda was possessed by the demonic elder god Chthon at some point off-panel and Steve convinced the demon to do his bidding.

And that's it. When Quicksilver tries to reason with the person he thinks is his sister, whomever is inhabiting her body responds that Wanda's no longer there.

Considering that this is Secret Empire, a series that's been known for its plot holes and emphasis on shock over substance, Wanda's possession is no more surprising than Steve's sudden ability to pick up Thor's hammer.

But in so casually neutralising Wanda by literally giving her body over to a demon, Secret Empire is undoing much of the important work Marvel did in rehabilitating her image in the Scarlet Witch solo series that wrapped up back in February.

Since her first appearance in 1964's X-Men #4, the Scarlet Witch has gone from being a C-list criminal with the ability to "hex" people with bad luck to being one of the most powerful Avengers in Marvel history and one of the first Romani characters to appear in comics. While it's been interesting to watch Wanda's evolution over the years, the growth of her powers coincided with a number of writers deciding that mental instability would also become one of her defining traits.

Depictions of people living with mental illness are important, yes, but in Wanda's case, she was most often depicted as having psychotic breakdowns that caused her magical, reality-warping powers to flare up dangerously. The sizable powers that made Wanda such a fascinating, sizable presence in Marvel's books eclipsed who she was as a person.

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Wanda became a mentally fractured time bomb and, for a while, the Scarlet Witch was a study in the misogynistic idea of female hysteria. House of M may have been one of Marvel's more riveting events in recent memory, but it all started because Wanda was taken advantage of by Quicksilver and Magneto during one of her episodes. In that moment, she was less a person and more of a convenient plot device.

James Robinson and Vanessa Del Ray's Scarlet Witch series was an answer to over 50 years of different writers bending and twisting Wanda into various forms to suit the needs of the stories they wanted to tell. Rather than treating Wanda's past as a series of problems for others to fix, though, Scarlet Witch focused on Wanda's personal path to mental and spiritual recovery. If in the past, Wanda was defined by her willingness to follow those around her, Scarlet Witch gave us a Wanda sure of her ability to piece herself back together by embracing and trusting herself.

Scarlet Witch was primarily a story of Wanda's personal healing, but the series' overarching b-plots centred on Wanda travelling across the globe on a journey to heal the very essence of magic. Scarlet Witch gave us a Wanda Maximoff who sought out more information about her Romani ancestry and also tackled her literal (and emotional) demons head-on in a way that the character rarely had before. By the end of the series, Wanda was re-established as one of the most formidable magical forces in Marvel's many universes, and her sense of self and stability is stronger than ever.

Which is what makes her appearance in Secret Empire so disappointing. The optics of making a Romani character do the bidding of a fascist overlord who is literally rounding up minorities and killing them are bad on their own. But also, this choice just doesn't seem well thought out.

There are few characters better suited to deal with the rewriting of reality than the Scarlet Witch, but rather than explore that element of who she is, Secret Empire instead just tossed her into hell and called it a day.


Comments

    To play devil's advocate for a moment, Wanda is far from the most powerful mutant these days. Not only did she get scaled back hard after House of M, but magic in general is faltering.

    With that being said, the last two serious events have not only seen massive changes to character personalities, but also seemingly shifted the Marvel landscape in a desperate attempt to make fans hate the old characters.

    To make such a change to a character is one thing, but to have it be an off panel afterthought just smacks of lazy writing.

    Yet another reason to avoid this event.

    I'm sure they'll reveal how Scarlet Witch was possessed at some point, just give things time and allow a little mystery for once. Just because a character has an OLD GOD possessing one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe doesn't mean it's a step backwards for the character at all.

    This whole thing read like yet another Kotaku US virtue signalling "nothing bad is ever allowed to happen to women in anything" article. When is the staff at the Australian site going to stand up to the US side of things and cut the auto-republishing of articles like this?

      Oh please. Did you even read the article? The focus is on someone dealing with mental illness and the lazy way the writers are overlooking that.

      Your whole comment read like yet another dumbass post signalling 'any time we talk about a woman, we can't look past the fact that she's a woman, because I am a man and nuanced stories about the opposite gender frighten and confuse me'. When are the staff at the Australian site going to stand up to moronic commenters cut the drivel?

    Quick, did we see at some point in the last year somebody rolling some dice? We're reaching "Darkest timeline" levels here.

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