Wanda Maximoff begins her latest run, a five-issue mini-series, taking on a long-forgotten Marvel villain.
Having shown Dr Hydro who’s the boss, Wanda waves away the regalia of the Scarlet Witch as she returns to her new venture, the Emporium magic shop. After greeting assistant Darcy, an uninvited – but not entirely unwelcome – guest arrives.
Wanda explains that her new venture is her way of balancing past mistakes – she can guide people in the use of small spells, but if they’re in big trouble, there’s The Last Door.
And soon, the door opens, bringing an Italian woman whose town has been taken over by another obscure Marvel bad guy.
The Corruptor! Now there’s a deep cut, an old Nova adversary, if memory serves. Here, rather than played as originally, with his chemical sweat turning folk dark, he’s presented as a Purple Man stand-in, apparently no longer needing to touch people to turn them. Could be writer Steve Orlando wanted to use Killgrave, but he’s busy elsewhere. Regardless, the Corrupter is about as much of a threat to Wanda as was Dr Hydro, her sorcerous ability and knowledge making her very much his mistress. Wanda’s sheer power, and the vague nature of any limits on it, could make for a series without drama, but I trust Orlando to come up with the goods. This very issue he introduces something that can resist her powers, let’s see where that goes. And the Corrupter’s taunts show she can be caught off guard.
The vibe of this series nicely chimes with that of James Robertson’s superb Scarlet Witch series of a few years back, with the emphasis on Wanda as a sane centre in the worlds of mystical madness rather than a massively powerful, horribly unstable magical banana skin. The interplay with brother Pietro – who’s also had his moments of megalomania – is an unexpected delight, and there’s a mystery around shop assistant Darcy that bears watching. Given how the excellent art of Sara Pichelli portrays her, I’m assuming this is the gal from the Thor films and WandaVision TV show played by Kat Dennings. Let’s hope legendary lothario Quicksilver doesn’t make a play for her – she would crush him beneath her booted heel.
The issue closes with someone else coming through Marvel’s very own Doorway to Nightmare, and they’re going to make for some emotional fireworks.
I hope enough people enjoy and make a noise about this debut that more folk try it, because Orlando has a real knack for doing something new while cheering old fans with ancient character drops, and Pichelli’s expressive art makes Wanda’s world a welcoming one… just look at Pietro’s face throughout, and the modern spin she gives his traditional Clea cut.
Pichelli gets an inking assist from Elisabetta D’Amico while colourist Matthew Wilson finds a fine balance between naturalistic and mystical. Cory Petit letters, because of course he does, and he does a splendid job. Anthony Gambino is behind the sharp production design.
The only thing I’m not mad keen on here is the way Wanda’s hair now does a Starfire, her curls turning into a special effect that apologises for the lack of a cape. Just give Wanda her cloak back, I say. The costume tweaks are courtesy of cover artist Russell Dauterman, and showcased on a much-appreciated feature page. I like her look overall, it’s just the starfield perm that jars.
A question. Orlando tells us Wanda has relocated to ‘Lotkill, New York’. I’m OK with that not being a real place – I’m a DC fan – but I fear I’m missing a reference. Anybody?
Like Hank Pym, Wanda is a character often dragged down by ‘her’ mistakes, that is, the unfortunate decisions of the writers. Here she gets as much of a clean slate as is possible in a comic universe determined to acknowledge 60 years of history, and the result is an engrossing, great-looking comic book. Give it a try.