Friday, January 21, 2011

Scarlet Twilight could have used a parallax view.

I've mentioned earlier that I consider Wanda Maximoff the Parallax of this decade. Think about it. She was a Silver Age hero who suffered a worldshattering tragedy that was resolved in her storyline but used by a new creative team as an excuse to turn the character into a crazed villain and reboot the franchise. She was made powerful to an unusable extent and the resulting madness was central to a universe-changing crossover where she attempted to rewrite reality to undo the tragedy. After this, she becomes a boogeyman in the superhero community, a name dropped to conjure the dark possibilities of a trusted friend turning into an enemy.

With Hal and Wanda we have a male character and a female character having served the same purpose for the company, written in an incredibly similar character arc but handled differently in some very unsettling ways. Take point of view, for instance.

Hal Jordan as the star of the solo Green Lantern title gets a story following his point of view when he loses his mind. We follow him (the issue after he has made peace with the Coast City destruction) on his attempts to rebuild his hometown, through his painful realization that he can't sustain the illusion, through his justification for needing to gain more power and lash out at his friends, through his wild rampage until the book is officially handed off to his successor Kyle. Then, once Hal's journey into madness has been properly documented through his eyes so we all know the flimsy reason that the hero we've all read and loved for thirty years is now the main villain of the series, and his successor has been chosen, the camera goes to another character. The momentous reveal of Hal's transformation to his shocked friends and teammates in a teambook comes only after the Fall of Hal Jordan has happened in his own book, following Hal as it happened and featuring scenes that showed his state of mind as it deteriorated.

Wanda Maximoff as a member of the Avengers teambook doesn't get this treatment. Her turn towards the dark side is told through other viewpoints, by the surrounding characters speculating about her mental state. Way back when they started this womb crazy mess in "Darker than Scarlet" her memory was erased, she spent time catatonic, and she lost her sanity for a bit. Agatha Harkness, Magneto, Quicksilver and the Wet Coast Avengers provided the exposition during this when they discussed Wanda. Wanda, having no memory of the trigger for this (thanks a bunch, Harkness) was not able to express this reasoning herself, she could just say Bad Girl things and be egged on by her father. It wasn't until after this story arc concluded that she regained her memory of the children and could express the pain she'd endured in her own words.

Avengers: Disassembled is even worse in this respect. It's a mystery. Wanda's turn is the big reveal at the climax. We don't even get to watch Wanda undergo this breakdown as other characters explain, the entire matter is a secret while we follow the others. And while one could argue that we saw it in Darker than Scarlet, the entire matter was resolved in the interim. This book retconned the resolution away, and didn't show the second breakdown in detail at all. Anything in between that dealt with Wanda's feelings about her children was erased so we have never gotten the Wanda POV to this story. (Or if we have, it was in a side-book that wasn't part of the crossover that somehow I and the other obsessive Wanda fangirls managed to miss completely) For the second time we don't get Wanda's point of view, and here we don't get to see her until she's completely gone. The surrounding characters explain EVERYTHING. Dr. Strange explains her powers, her mental state and the changed continuity (contradicting all prior statements he's made about the character and erasing the resolution of the trauma that triggered this breakdown), while Wanda is offstage. When they fight Wanda, all she says is a grim "Leave my children alone" a few times. We can pity her, and we can infer where she's coming from.... But we never get to see where's coming from.

We never get Wanda's viewpoint until House of M and even then the vast majority of the story is told through the viewpoints of Magneto, Wolverine, and Quicksilver. Out of eight issues we get Wanda's point of view in one scene of issue one (before Prof. X tries desperately to suppress it for her own good, of course), and a few scenes issue seven, most notably before she takes out 99% of her species. That's not really even one issue. We get Wolverine's viewpoint steadily for over five issues.

That, of course, is still much better than what we're getting from Children's Crusade, where everyone except Wanda tells the story of how Wanda lost her sanity. Iron Man, Magneto, Quicksilver, Wiccan, and Dr. Fucking Doom have all told us about Wanda's life and her mental state, while Wanda stands there clueless and powerless. We're coming on the halfway point and she's still a total amnesiac.

And yeah, there's an argument that this is all over being in a teambook rather than a solo book, that this is to preserve suspense and that sexism has nothing to do with this difference, but with this being such an important matter for the metaplot of the Marvel Universe, with Wanda's behavior being so vital to rebooting two major franchises.... Surely they could have spared an issue or two during one of these crossovers to spend some substantial time inside her head after the reveal? Walk through Wanda's delusions with her? Show how wanting her children back led to destroying her adopted family?

Disassembled was ridiculously massive. House of M had 5 full issues of "Getting the band together." Children's Crusade is on issue four and they just now got to giving Wanda lines. These stories are dragged out to an amazing degree, but when it comes to exploring the complex mind and emotions of a woman suddenly everyone's into compression and it's sufficient to have a man come in and give his expert opinion of "bitch crazy."


  1. I haven't been reading this, and I am just as glad. I can't really remember the last time that Wanda actually TOLD a story from her point of seems as though she is just being used as a tool for the REST of the characters to project their own feelings.

    But your comparison to Hal as Parallax is quite apt. I never made the connection, but it IS awfully similar. And I wouldn't even mind if it turns out that Wanda has been possessed throughout all of this...but who the heck knows WHAT is going on anymore? It's her story, but she seems almost secondary to it.

  2. " I can't really remember the last time that Wanda actually TOLD a story from her point of view..."

    I can. It was when Busiek was writing AVENGERS. Unfortunately, that was nearly 9-10 years ago. Sad, huh?

  3. Everyone is telling us All About Wanda! I'm still willing to wait another issue on Children's Crusade, though, as the first 3 issues were about finding her and the next her current situation - but I really want to see what Wanda actually thinks about the whole thing (let alone that she has two teenage sons, sort of) next issue. Heinberg, make it so!