A Beginner’s Guide to: Scarlet Witch, or Wanda Maximoff
*Spoilers ahead for Avengers: Age of Ultron and some comic books.*
So you’ve seen Avengers: Age of Ultron and realised how amazing the Maximoff twins are, and now you want to find out more about them! There’s already a great guide to Quicksilver on our site, but now that he’s uh, out of action, let’s look at Scarlet Witch.
Wanda’s big screen debut was warmly received by the general public, which is brilliant, because that makes entirely more than one woman on the MCU’s superhero roster. Amazing! Props to Marvel! Major sarcasm!
You can tell I’m not a fan of the egregious lack of superheroines in the MCU (not that DC is better, of course. They might actually be worse.) Now that they’ve killed Janet Van Dyne (an original Avenger) pretty much by omission in Ant-Man, and pushed Captain Marvel further down the list, Scarlet Witch and Black Widow are holding down the fort.
There were a lot of misgivings about the Scarlet Witch’s transferal from comic book page to cinema, and they weren’t entirely unfounded. For one, she’s a major player in both X-Men and Avengers. In addition, Wanda Maximoff’s powers aren’t your run-of-the-mill superstrength/flying/superspeed powers (sorry Pietro). Rather, she has the ability to manipulate probabilities and warp reality, which ties into her use of Chaos magic. How do they describe Pietro and Wanda in the film? “He’s fast and she’s weird.” Not inaccurate, but Wanda’s powers are at times, literally reality-bending, which makes her one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel universe. So you can see why I like her.
As Allison details in her Primer on Quicksilver, the twins debuted in X-Men as part of Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. At the time, they didn’t know they were Magneto’s kids, which kept them loyal to the Brotherhood for a time until they switched sides to join the Avengers. Apart from the change in Wanda’s powers, the biggest change from comic book to screen is that they’ve gone from being Romani Jewish mutants (incredibly persecuted minorities) to being Nazi employees. Colour me unimpressed.
As a sidenote, Avengers & X-Men: Axis retconned their relationship to Magneto. Everyone, including me, are basically sticking our fingers in our ears and refusing to accept it. Because it’s terrible.
Wanda had a relationship with Vision, eventually having twin boys (both now in the Young Avengers) before being mind-wiped (the whole thing was pretty problematic), which looks like it might happen in the MCU. But since we’re dealing with a Bruce Banner/Natasha Romanoff pairing, it’s possible that all bets are off when it comes to romantic entanglements in the MCU.
Her powers are so powerful, she creates an entire alternate reality in House of M, where mutants are the majority and humans are the minority – the aftermath involves more memory wipes for Wanda. You may have noticed she gets screwed around a lot – I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that Wanda is possibly one of the most screwed around characters in the Marvel Universe. Some if it is because she’s so strong, it’s hard to know what to do with her, but it’s still well, pretty shit.
In Ultimates, the universe which the MCU is somewhat based on, Wanda and Pietro also have a somewhat incestuous relationship, but it’s unlikely that will happen in the MCU – most writers prefer characterising their relationship as a very close, protective sibling bond, rather than an incestuous one.
Now for reading recommendations. The Scarlet Witch has been around since 1964, and has gone through plenty since then. They all link through to Amazon, but consider checking out your local comic book store for them!
Essential Classic X-Men, Vol. 1: Classic Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, with all the rollicking good times associated with the Silver Age of comic books. Wanda is introduced in this volume but isn’t front and centre just yet. Still, if you want to be thorough, this is where it all starts.
Avengers: The Vision and the Scarlet Witch: Wanda’s biggest relationship with Vision relates to a lot of what she goes through after that, and this series by Rick Leonardi and Bill Mantlo has Wanda a lot of Wanda. There’s plenty of sitcom-type hijinks as they try small town living, but find their super lives intruding. This four-issue series was very popular, which led to a second Vision and Scarlet Witch series called A Year in the Life. Roy Howell and Steve Englehart have a great time, with family members and plenty of other superheroes popping by.
House of M: If you’re thorough, you might want to check out Avengers Disassembled before you do House of M – a lot of Scarlet Witch’s brilliance is contained in Avengers Disassembled and House of M. There are wildly varying opinions on Brian Michael Bendis and David Finch’s take on Wanda – specifically, what they do to her and how she constantly gets screwed around and driven mad.
Finally, if you’re looking for something even more modern, try Avengers: The Children Crusade. Allan Heinberg (who also did a killer Wonder Woman run) and Jim Cheung do a great job at basically showing how incredible Wanda Maximoff is.