New York’s rich are being murdered by less well-off members of society, who then claim to have no memory of the attacks. Suspecting witchcraft at work, the Scarlet Witch teams up with a detective to investigate the latest crime scene. Using her knowledge of hexing history, she puts down a demonic infestation, but uncovers a bigger mystery.
And… wow. Ever since the terrible Avengers Disassembled, the Scarlet Witch has been a toxic character in the Marvel Universe: at best, mentally ill, at worst, outright evil. But in a single issue writer James Robinson makes Wanda Maximoff not simply useable again, but compelling. I can see other Marvel creators queueing up to embrace his take on one of Marvel’s longest-serving heroines. Robinson redeems her by having Wanda own her recent history, then quickly move forward. He sets up her new status quote as a single woman and independent hero, a determined witty soul whose confidant is the ghost of Agatha Harkness. Wanda’s old mentor is under the impression that Wanda killed her, or perhaps is simply teasing her, but one way or another, they’re on great terms, with the tables turned in terms of who’s head witch.
This Agatha is less melodramatic than Lee and Kirby’s, something Robinson manages to have fun with, without making it feel like a heavy character reboot.
Is Robinson saying Wanda is much older than she looks, that she casts a glamour that makes everyone – including the reader – see her as a young woman? Or is that a magic mirror reflecting her emotional state.
The series will be switching artists from issue to issue, with Vanesa Del Rey setting the tone with this debut. Her Wanda is wise, sexy, with a realistically womanly physique that strays from the superhero norm. She looks fantastic as she walks the streets of a convincingly 2015 New York, the calm centre of a magical storm. Agatha also gets a subtle makeover, she’s softer looking, no longer the Victorian nanny, and it rather suits her. I look forward to lots more Agatha – perhaps she’ll even regain her corporeal form.
On this showing I’d like to see more of Detective Erikson too, a cop who escapes the cliche of being either hero-hater or superfan. Mind, the shoulderpads have to go.
Jordie Bellaire contributes colours, ensuring tones fit the emotional mood, while Cory Petit’s letters are suitably sharp. A great-looking book is topped off by David Aja’s gorgeous cover, a portrait of elegance and charm.
If you’ve been swithering as to whether to try this book, I say jump in – it’s a classic comics character, lovingly restored by terrifically talented creators.