Thursday, January 13, 2011

Stuck on a moment

Girls Read Comics Too is putting together a Women of Marvel Memorable Moments poll (which is still accepting nominations until Sunday), and the list is pretty good. I want to make that clear before we go on. I like this list, I like this idea, I think you shoudl all go nominate stuff and vote.

But as with all fanlists, there's a couple in there that some fans loved but that make other fans cringe because everyone has different tastes. I'm pretty sure you all know which one I'm talking about:
NO MORE MUTANTS. Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch changed the lives of every person on the planet in House of M
What really got me was the sheer number of people suggesting it in the first post. I'm sure there's a number of Wanda-fans looking at that list and going "Oh HELL no, what's WRONG with people?"

See, House of M and Avengers: Disassembled are two of the absolute worst things to ever come out of Marvel for those of us who like Wanda. It's like Emerald Twilight and Zero Hour for Hal Jordan fans, two books that are fucking based around taking a hero we love and making her fucking crazy for no reason other than someone wants to change the franchise. Wanda Maximoff is the Parallax of the last decade (a comparison I've been on about in chat that I really must elaborate on in the future), and this is basically nominating Scarlet Twilight (No, we won't be going with Crimson or Ruby Twilight, it is going to be Scarlet Twilight) for an award while Scarlet Witch: Rebirth is experiencing shipping delays.

There is something distasteful just about seeing the storyline mentioned and driving home the point that everyone read her losing her mind, every book in the entire Marvel universe was affected, and every fan and writer has had "Womb Crazy Wanda" and the results shoved down their throats for the past six years.

And of course, the first defense of nominating this storyline is, like Zatanna in Identity Crisis (another nomination I complained endless about on Twitter) it was a major decision made by a woman that changed the world. It also underscored the sheer power the character contained, and the weight of their decisions. And in this case, perhaps because I favor the Scarlet Witch over Zatanna as a character, that might actually turn me a bit.

It is also the moment most fresh in fan minds about Wanda, being her last notable appearance prior to Children's Crusade (as an amnesiac guest star she is just a shadow of her true self, and flashback/AU appearances were far under the radar), so that has an effect.

But I don't think any of that is the real reason this sticks in our minds, the real reason it won't go away even after Children's Crusade brings her back and M-Day is undone. I think the real reason is the "I've had just about as much of this shit as I can stand" effect.

In the set of stories that would fall under the umbrella of "Scarlet Twilight" (West Coast Avengers: Darker than Scarlet, Avengers: Disassembled, House of M) Wanda has been fucked over severely from all sides. Her kids have been erased from existence, and she's been told by a demon, her fellow Avengers, and now her father and her "therapist" (Yeah, I'm sure Xavier has a degree but the bastard probably mind controlled his teachers into passing him) that not only were they not what they appeared, but they didn't exist. Her trusted Mentor Agatha Harkness has meddled with her memory. The Marvel Authority on Magic, Dr. Strange, contradicted all of his prior statements about Wanda and stated that she has no magic and it's been her freaky powers all along. The Avengers take him at his word, and do nothing to investigate whether or not her behavior was caused by an external force (such as that demon that took away her children). Captain America turns her over to a father who has a history of manipulating and using his children. Her father turns her over to the world's worst therapist. She's removed from her friends (Magneto's reaction to finding Pietro at her side implies he wasn't even allowed to visit), imprisoned, drugged and subjected to invasive telepathic therapy. The X-men, a team created to protect mutants from a society that feels they are too dangerous to live because of their powers, says that she is too dangerous to live because of her powers. Her friends in the Avengers have chosen to discuss this with them. Her father tells her brother that nothing can be done to stop it. (She was watching that.) And to top it off her sense of reality, her memory, and her powers--her very genes--are rebelling against her, tearing her in different directions and have caused her to kill several teammates--including her close friend Clint and her own husband.

Through all this, all she has left is her brother--who cannot obtain an ally to help save her life--who sacrifices his own independence (as well as his relationship to his wife and daughter--both of whom where absent in M-World) to hide her in a world. For this, for giving everything that their father could possibly want to him and finding a way to do this without destroying all their friends, her brother--bringing to life a nightmare she's had since they first met Magneto--becomes a victim of her father's violent temper.

I hate House of M and the effect it had, but I honestly can't make a case that it was Bendis hating on Wanda. She is the most sympathetic character in the story, the most put-upon woman in the universe. She has gone from having a full SUPERHERO family and friends to just having one person left in the universe who is willing to fight to save her life and sanity, and when she almost loses him... she loses it.

"No More Mutants" was a horrible moment. It was sheer rage and misery. It nearly destroyed the Marvel Universe. But unlike the previous two stories (the first of which was just cruel and the second of which made NO sense and totally ignored the resolution of the first), it was a logical continuation of her story. It was born of grief, anger, pain, abandonment, disillusionment horribly out-of-character actions by the rest of the cast, and kneeling in the blood of her twin brother after her father had beaten the life out of him.

It was not a heroic moment, though you could argue that after her experience with her own powers she honestly thought everyone would be better off. It was more of a "Fuck you, I'm leaving" to her father, to the hypocritical X-men, to the New Avengers, to the world, and to whatever cruel deity had given her those awful powers. It was Wanda, after being jerked around by EVERYONE for two crossovers, finally putting her foot down.

It was not a heroic moment. It was not a positive moment. It was, however, a powerful moment.

And while we're all betting on the Phoenix as the final winner, I have to wonder what it means if it wins. Because this moment is the one that classifies the Scarlet Witch as her father's daughter. It is a very Magneto thing to react to being hurt and betrayed by taking it out on an entire species. It is a very Magneto thing to think you are doing good when you act that way. It is a very Magneto action, the sort of action that allows him to be a compelling villain that can be allied with heroes from time to time. But... it is not an action that you can attributed to someone and classify them as a hero. It's defining moment of villainy and in order to use the Scarlet Witch as a hero it will need to be undone somehow. The effects will need to be reversed, and it will likely be attributed to lingering mind control (though sadly not hair-graying mind control because that would have looked pretty cool).

At least, I sincerely hope it will be undone. I liked the X-books better with the expansive attitude of the Morrison era, and the optimism of the 90s or the Silver Age. I don't like this dying race angle. I don't like it all being Wanda's fault. I don't like Wanda as a villain, or in limbo. And honestly? I hope next time we do a poll like this it doesn't even pass the agency rule.


  1. I posted my Marvel nominations today.I was kicking myself for missing out on the DC nominations and failing to nominate Ellen Baker beating up the Mirror Master.

  2. I can't argue that it wasn't a memorable moment, though - it was Wanda saying "No more" after all that abuse that was (and, from the Avengers, still is) being heaped on her.

  3. lilacsigil -- I'm not faulting anyone for including it, even though I hate it I myself can't argue it wasn't memorable under any criteria. Basically the only way I can rationalize a positively reading is because it's one of those moments where she stands up for herself.

    I'm a little disturbed that this--the most memorable action of Wanda in recent years--is one of those points where the character has agency but the text wants to say that's a BAD thing. That's Marvel's fault. (I can't completely lay the blame on Bendis because he made it WAY too easy to read through House of M and conclude "Man, you assholes really had this coming" from how all the surrounding characters behave.)