Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Marvel Marketing Pisses Me Off Again

Play along with me, readers, as I list the ways that the Avengers: Children's Crusade #5 solicit pisses me off. Can you guess all six?

Pencils & Cover by JIM CHEUNG
THE SCARLET WITCH WAR IS ON! Latveria becomes a battle-ground as Magneto battles Doctor Doom — and the Young Avengers take on the Avengers — to determine the ultimate fate of the Scarlet Witch. But the mysterious reappearance of the time-traveling Iron Lad unleashes Wanda’s reality-altering powers upon the timestream itself, changing the game, and the Marvel Universe, forever.
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

To be fair, I do like some of the things Heinberg is doing (though honestly, I think everyone so pleased with the last issue just has lowered the bar so much that if Wanda's not actively murdering people they consider it a good thing) but the way Marvel is pushing--and in other places not pushing--this series and Wanda's storyline annoys the living fuck out of me. Everywhere they tell us that Wanda is "criminally insane" and responsible for a more effective genocide than her father could have dreamed of. Every indication is that if they do bring her back, they aren't going to fix any of the real problems she caused and give her a real redemption. And everywhere I look there is no foreshadowing and hell, no reference at all to this storyline in any of the surrounding books, as though there is no intention that it will change anyone's opinion on Wanda in the future.

Now we get this solicit, which contains the following implications:

  • Battle lineups don't include Wanda, she's just the toy being fought over. For the fifth issue of the third event in the seventh fucking year, she's just a toy being fought over. I really don't see the need for a clever meta-commentary about this for a character who was an active decisionmaker from 1964-2004, with one fucking exception in the 80s so they could retcon away those kids you brought back (apparently so they can decide her fate for her).

  • "Reality-altering powers" I foolishly thought we were through with this "Wanda is a Nexus Crawler" bullshit. Billy gets magic, they have always treated it as magic, and Pietro's experience with Cthon was treated as magic too. Why are not okay with the magic explanation again? What was wrong with a soft retcon? I mean, they retconned out all the previous interaction with Dr. Strange with Disassembled? Why not just fucking forget those two pages? Or we could find out that was an imposter rather than Dr. Strange? Or mind control? Why do we have to go back to the exact problem that Bendis invented to make her unusuable as a hero to begin with?

  • Iron Lad releashes Wanda's powers upon the timestream. See Problem 1. Once again, she doesn't get to make decisions, someone else makes them for her. At issue 5, we really should be past the sort of shit that makes No More Mutants look good.

  • The cover does a thing I really hate, and it's not just a Cheung thing but something that has been bugging me on and off for years. Wanda and Pietro look like they are very different ages and different levels of attractiveness. Funny how whenever an artist does that, it's always the female twin who looks hotter and younger?

  • April? Issue 4 was out in January. You can't even keep to a bimonthly schedule here after you put this fucking special off for over two years?

  • Changing the Marvel Universe forever. I know, I've been wanting this to have a confirmed effect on the rest of the line... but they found a way to tease that and annoy me too. I would not put it past them to be serious here, and using the opportunity of another Wanda appearance to implement some M-Day or One-More-Day-style change they've been aching to shove in there. Something that, like M-Day, they plan to pin on her CRAZY Nexus Crawler powers that she can't control and can never redeem herself properly for, because they want to make it permanent. So, nothing real changes about Wanda (she's still a crazy weak woman who can't control her powers and needs her male family members to care for her) but they get to use her as an excuse for whatever shitty change they can't blame on Mephisto now.

    Shit. This is how Storm and Black Panther aren't going to be married anymore, isn't it?

  • (ETA: Okay, that last one might not be so bad, but that still won't change the first five problems with this solicit.)


    1. I can't say that I know what the heck is going on, because I've pretty much given up on Marvel, but I always rather liked Wanda...and this doesn't sound good. At All.

      Especially the part where she's just a passive creation, to be fought over...rather than having any say in her own destiny. A shame really.

    2. What's going on is I complained bitterly after 3 consecutive issues, only to be told "Oh, oh! I liked her in issue four. He writes a good Wanda in issue" Issue four features a flashback of her doing some shit, and the revelation that she actually wants to marry Doom and is not under brainwashing but voluntary amnesia. Oh, and she watches a big fight outside the castle in her wedding dress and gets pushed in the mud and her hair pulled by Wolverine until Iron Lad shows up.

      This is apparently a good portrayal because hey, she's not throwing hex bolts at all those assholes who treat her like shit, huh? At least, that's the only good thing I can think of because the reason _I_ like Wanda is that she broke a lot of stuff back in Silver Age X-men when she was pissed off, and she was a cheerful, uplifting teammate who broke a lot of stuff for the good of the team in the Lee/Heck Avengers.

      Oh, and then that solicit comes out, and there's even MORE of Wanda not doing shit.

    3. Not an excuse for the fact that they can't keep a bimonthly schedule (c'mon Cheung! What the heck are you doing with all your time?), but they are releasing a one-shot to make up for the lapse in the schedule.

    4. I saw. It's the kids, though, not my Wanda. I'll read anything for some Tommy development, but I want my Scarlet Witch: Rebirth dammit.

      Johns was more compressed than this.

    5. Okay, #6 could work if Kal was right about Steve being in the Cap uniform tying into some weird timewarp thing caused by Wanda's powers. That suggests that issue five brings the series in line with the rest of the Marvel U, and there are infinite possibilities to play with including that something in this time is what causes tge rest of Scarlet Twilight... But I'm not sure anyone working at Marvel is this clever.

      And that also leaves the other five Things That Piss Me Off unresolved, particularly Wanda not doing anything but wear pretty dresses and get oushed in the mud.

    6. It's so hard to comment on your posts when I really just want to say, "Yeah! What she said!"

      ...but, um. Yeah. What you said, Ragnell. :)

    7. I've enjoyed reading your recent entries on Wanda. I've always liked her, and consider her to be a part of the iconic Avengers lineup (and a significant figure in the world of the X-Men too) -- but there are some very serious conceptual issues with her that I doubt Children's Crusade will (or is even intended to) properly address.

      And though Bendis didn't exactly distinguish himself by depicting her the way he did, I'm not sure he's solely (or even mostly) to blame for those problems.

      IMHO, that dubious honor goes to Steve Englehart, author of Vision @ The Scarlet Witch -- the 'genius' that decided that Vizh and Wanda ought to be able to procreate.

      IMHO, as innocuous as it might initially seem, this was the decision that may have permanently derailed her as a character. Prior to that, The Scarlet Witch was (and still is in the larger pop-culture landscape) a probability manipulator who could multiply the likelihood of some random mishap occurring from .0001% to 100%.

      But zero (the chance she and Vizh could create life) times anything is *still zero*, so allowing Wanda to essentially will her kids into being retconned her into a reality manipulator -- all Byrne's wipeout of the kids and initial villainization of Wonda years later in West Coast Avengers did was do the math and acknowledge this openly.

      Busiek's later attempt to massage her into a 'Chaos Magician' was a well intentioned, but IMHO unsuccessful move. He (and successive writers) were never able to articulate what that meant and how her revised powerset functioned. IMHO, that's why the character never really connected with most of the audience post Heroes Reborn. Wanda doesn't really work as the Marvel U's Zatanna (only with even more nebulous parameters), she's always made much more sense as a mutant.

      I think all Bendis really did was notice that, and wonder what long term psychological effects the insta-vanishing of her kids (and the Vision's 'hard reset') might have had on her. I agree that it would have been a better story she'd had more apparent agency and a better developed POV (though those were hardly the only problems with Disassembled) -- but Bendis was right to realize that, in her present form, she really only made sense as a villain. Having her on the Avengers at that point would have been like making the Beyonder a member. She was so overpowered there would be no opportunity for any sort of dramatic conflict.

      I've really been enjoying Children's Crusade, but Heinberg's (in some ways admirable) insistence on dealing with the mess Wanda's continuity and powers have devolved into seems to make it unlikely that her powers and character can be rehabilitated to the point where she'd be viable as a heroic protagonist. I don't see them being able to return her to a mutant with a 'hex' powers w/o disposing of both Billy and Tommy somehow. Every moment they're on stage confirms Wanda's status as a reality warper. It's no coincidence that Coast City and just about every character material to Hal Jordan's transition into Parallax have been repaired/restored to their pre-Emerald Twilight condition. Even if the M-Day mess is remedied, Wiccan and Speed are living, breathing evidence of just how removed from the normal limitations of Marvel U heroes Wanda has become.

      If I had to place a bet, I'd bank on CC ending with Wanda somehow sacrificing herself to impose hard limits on Wiccan's 'magic' in order to prevent him from following in her tragic footsteps. The only more hopeful outcome I could see happening is her (possibly in concert with Doom, Magneto, and/or Quicksilver) somehow OMD-ifying her history *as well* as Billy and Tommy's -- and I'm not sure Heinberg has any interest or desire in invalidating his own work.

    8. @Anonymous: But Wanda didn't will her kids into existance, they were the product of magic. Which didn't retcon anything because a) before Bendis she did have some magic ability and b) there was a coven of witches involved. It was strange in the way that comics are strange but it didn't have to derail her character if Byrne hadn't decided they were actually demon babies.

      And the long term affects of her children's deaths were dealt with in other comics before Bendis. Although evidently Bendis didn't read those himself.

    9. Anon -- The Wunda from Tumblr is right. She started out with "makes bad things happen", and later learned magic as a secondary skill that she enhanced with her mutant power. Englehart made the kids with a one-of-a-kind-spell that was enhanced by Wanda's mutant power and cast by a LARGE CIRCLE of witches. This falls in pop culture magicuser rules. There's ways to increase and decrease power when your character is using magic, any power-ups can be powered down if you set up some rules. (See Paradox in Mage, or Waid's rule about sacrifice in Strange for a couple examples) Any effects of the previous power-ups can stay in continuity. That's the beauty of magic.

      Bendis is the one who made her unusable by removing the magic explanation that lets writers up and down her powers as they like, and make them flexible. HE is the one who made her so powerful they can't use her as anything other than a villain (even Byrne who pissed me off did NOT go that far). He also invalidated the Cthulu Mythos homage in Marvel Comics, Cthon, when he did this, because you can't really have Cthon without Wanda or magic Wanda without Cthon.

      Contrary to the idea that Englehart hurt her by adding magic (and I'm pretty sure it was Roy Thomas who added the magic, actually), I got a long post in me about how a return to magic can be used to save Wanda as a character, but it's late where I am. Suffice it to say, I totally disagree with everything you say other than Wanda shouldn't be Marvel's Zatanna. I like her as a different flavor of sorceress.