Avengers West Coast #56-57
Issue(s): Avengers West Coast #56, Avengers West Coast #57
John Byrne's reading of the Scarlet Witch is that she's always been "troubled" and has been always reaching out for a sense of normalcy that she never quite achieved, and his run to date has been about stripping away the fake constructs that she's put in place of a normal life, i.e. her "toaster" of a husband and her children, which, per Byrne's FAQ, are the result of a "hysterical pregnancy". This has all resulted in her becoming uninhibited and reaching advanced power levels, in a scenario very reminiscent of both the Dark Phoenix saga and Susan Richard''s torture at the hands of the Psycho Man which transformed her into Malice and ultimately resulted in the growth of her character from the Invisible Girl to the Invisible Woman. If history is repeating itself, we do seem to be at the "farce" stage this time. Of course i don't know how this would have played out if Byrne had been able to conclude his story. Vague editorial comments in the lettercols (prior to Byrne's leaving) say that Byrne had every intention of putting his toys back in the toybox when he was done. I find it hard to believe that could include restoring Scarlet Witch's husband and children, but the planned story did involve time travel, divergent realities, and the altering of probabilities, so anything's possible. Maybe this would have just been yet another "put the woman through the wringer to have her come out stronger" story, which, although cliched at this point and in my opinion completely unnecessary for this character, wouldn't have done any lasting harm.
But as things wound up (and, as best as i can see, the way things were likely to wind up even if Byrne had stayed), the Scarlet Witch being "troubled" to the point where she all but imagined her relationship with her husband and did essentially imagine her children has become her primary characteristic. This is a shame. Prior to Byrne's West Coast run, the prevailing interpretation of the Scarlet Witch was developed by Roy Thomas and then Steve Englehart, who used her and the Vision as a metaphor for interracial marriage. She did have a "troubled" youth, but she overcame that, joined the fricking Avengers, and later found the strength to love a (robot) man despite the raised eyebrows of her teammates, the objections of the brother she was once co-dependent with, and the protests of bigots. In times of stress she did revert to unhinged mutant radicalism, but even in those times the basic love for the Vision was never questioned. A good way to assess that is by the reaction of the other Avengers who, aside from Quicksilver and Hawkeye (briefly, because he had a romantic interest in the Scarlet Witch himself), quickly accepted Wanda and the Viz's relationship and treated it as normal. Never did Tony Stark or Henry Pym or any other super-scientist say that it was impossible for the Vision to be involved romantically with the Scarlet Witch. Similarly, when Steve Englehart wrote the story of Wanda's pregnancy, he explicitly had Dr. Strange come in to verify that the twins were indeed real. This basic interpretation of the Scarlet Witch's character was used by all the later Avengers writers (Roger Stern notably returned to the bigotry theme on his run) and in Bill Mantlo's first Vision & the Scarlet Witch mini-series.
John Byrne's version of the character, on the other hand, seems like it was based on a series of obtuse interpretations. It's hard to know which piece first led Byrne down the rabbit hole, but we have the hair-splitting distinction between robots and androids that led to "proving" that the Golden Age Human Torch's body could not have been used to create the Vision, and that leading to the fact that the Scarlet Witch couldn't have truly had a relationship with a "toaster", leading to the scene of the Vision being completely dismembered so we could see how much of a non-organic entity he really was, thus "proving" that the Scarlet Witch was "troubled". We also get a strange explanation for the Scarlet Witch's powers (see below) that aren't based on anything we've seen to date and even seem to contradict the explanation for her fake children.
Another questionable interpretation regards Wonder Man's secret love for the Scarlet Witch. This is more reasonable than the others, and as Michael and Shar note in the Comments, there is precedence for this, although it's been a while. For Byrne, it stems from the same idea as the "toaster" interpretation of the Vision. If the Vision couldn't actually love Wanda, how could it seem like he could? The answer is that the Vision got his brain patterns from Wonder Man. That shouldn't actually mean that the Vision was a copy of Wonder Man (in fact, we've had stories in the past with the Grim Reaper trying to figure out which one was really his brother). But per this story, it means that Wonder Man should also be in love with the Scarlet Witch; in fact the Vision's love for her was really a pale echo of his. Again using the other Avengers as a barometer, we're told that this is "true" when Byrne has the Wasp learning about and then encouraging Wonder Man's attentions towards the Scarlet Witch.
It's never been entirely clear what having a copy of Wonder Man's brain patterns meant in practice, but the characters have always been very different, so it's never felt like Vision's brain was an exact copy of Wonder Man's circa Avengers #9 (when the Avengers made the copy). Wonder Man was originally a business exec, he later became a boisterous buddy of the Beast, and an actor, and a bit of a braggart. Vision was none of these things. So maybe Wonder Man was always predisposed to liking Wanda, or maybe the Vision's unique experiences after his creation are what made him into the person that could fall in love with her. I definitely think the latter makes more sense, but John Byrne is going very strongly with the former, not just predisposed but actually nursing a long time crush on her.
The payoff, so to speak, for the above, happens in this controversial scene.
It's not in his FAQ, but i believe that John Byrne has said that his intention for that scene was not meant to be suggestive and that Wanda was only literally hurting the normally invulnerable Wonder Man. Some support for that is in the hex bubbles around her finger as she scrapes his chest. But i find it really hard to believe. From the Scarlet Witch's suggestive look (finger to the mouth) in the top panel, her talk of pleasing Wonder Man, her mischievous looks as she talks about how handsome Wonder Man is, the fact that Byrne chooses to not show what exactly Scarlet Witch is doing, and then finally the talk of jealousy in her conversation with USAgent, it's clear that something rape-y is going on. If it wasn't intentional it's incredibly Freudian subtext. And the idea is right there in the dialogue: she used to be this mousy inhibited girl that could never bring herself to express interest in a real man, only a machine, and now she's "free" of those inhibitions.
In between the second and third scan in that sequence above, Byrne jumps to subplots that began "A few minutes ago", so let me jump back and cover them. We start with Henry Pym deciding to check in on Tigra and running into the Golden Age Torch and Ann Raymond. He finds out that Tigra has escaped.
We then flash to Immortus, who reveals (to the audience) that he was responsible for Tigra's escape, and then back to Pym, who is visited by Quicksilver and Lockjaw after the Torch and Ann leave.
Meanwhile the Torch, looking for Tigra outside, sees a motorcade approaching the compound, and when he flies over to see what's up, he's handed a notice evicting the Avengers from the grounds. Then we go to Iron Man, who just wants to take a little break instead of flying from one extended storyline to the next, but has no such luck.
And then we go back to Pym, having skipped over his conversation with Quicksilver. He's approaching the bungalow where the Scarlet Witch is holding everyone. And suddenly he goes into a flashback giving us an unusual development in the nature of the Scarlet Witch's powers.
This strange flashback, seemingly unrelated to the current plot, is actually the basis of Byrne's upcoming plans for the Scarlet Witch, tying it in to the scenes we've been seeing of Immortus. The genesis of this seems to be based on overly fussy concerns regarding the technical details of Scarlet Witch's powers. See Byrne's FAQ for more. The basic idea is that, as Pym is learning here, Scarlet Witch's powers apparently work by reaching back into time and changing the probabilities, and Immortus sees in that an opportunity to do some clean-up (and more) for himself. As mentioned above, i find this explanation odd when combined with the story about the Scarlet Witch's children from this same run. The idea there was that the children existed only as long as the Scarlet Witch was thinking about them (as an aside, this leads to a question raised in issue #57's lettercol: was the Vision never in charge of babysitting while the Scarlet Witch was off doing something else? The explanation is that the Scarlet Witch's "spell" extended to the Vision as well). But the explanation we get here is that the Scarlet Witch's powers work retroactively, literally going back in time to change things. So why would the children require constant maintenance? The best i can offer is the distinction between the Scarlet Witch's magic powers and her mutant probability altering, with the "spell" producing her children not working the same way as her mutant powers. Although, interestingly, the only acknowledgement of Wanda's magic powers in this story is when the USAgent is trying to break out of the forcefield that the Scarlet Witch created and he thinks to himself that it could only be so strong if she's using magic to bolster it, which (if that's supposed to be accurate) suggests that her two sets of powers work in tandem.
I do have to again put in a disclaimer saying that i don't know where Byrne would have gone with this. Pym's shock seems to suggest that what we're seeing here isn't the whole story. Maybe Immortus had already done something to alter her powers, for example. But Byrne's FAQ does seem to support the idea that what's happening here is indeed correct.
With the flashback over, Pym sneaks up to Wanda's building and peers in just as Magneto is arriving.
I guess the fact that Magneto isn't totally grossed out by whatever his daughter just did should be tallied in the "not deliberately rape" column.
Pym makes his entry, and interestingly Magneto says that he's not interested in a fight.
Pym says that he's not letting Magneto leave with his teammate, but then the Scarlet Witch says that she's with Magneto of her own accord and goes into an apocalyptic rant talking about a coming war between humans and mutants. Then, in what is clearly a pre-arranged set-up (as Scarlet Witch is ranting, Pym thinks to himself, "Now! Now!"), Quicksilver runs into the room and knocks Pym out.
Byrne's use of Quicksilver in this arc is another reason i wish we could have seen this story to conclusion. Quicksilver has spent the past several years acting crazy, evil, or under the influence of mind control, depending on the writer. Byrne seems to be ignoring all of that. He has the Wasp think, "I never expected Quicksilver to come back - or to turn against us!". Which is odd considering the last two times they met, it was with Quicksilver as a bad guy. In Byrne's story the Wasp is "correct" to be surprised, in the sense that he's clearly faking his alliance with Magneto and his sister.
But we'll never see if Byrne would have addressed Quicksilver's recent past appearances.
Magneto departs with Scarlet Witch and Quickilsver, leaving the other Avengers behind. But Iron Man arrives and confronts Magneto in the sky.
Iron Man's suit is currently non-magnetic (it's gone back and forth over the years), making him invulnerable to direct applications of Magneto's powers.
But he can still be attacked by the Scarlet Witch.
Her ruthlessness troubles even Magneto.
The other Avengers are unaware of Iron Man's troubles (he survives by manually deploying a parachute, landing in someone's loft). They are back at their headquarters, forming a strategy. Pym nearly tells Janet that Quicksilver is on their side, but worries that Magneto might be monitoring them, so he stays quiet beyond saying that he only wants Quicksilver captured, not killed. To which the Wasp says, "that goes without saying".
Magneto, meanwhile, takes his children to a new Asteroid M.
The West Coast team (still sans Iron Man) trace the mutants to the asteroid. The Wasp is sent in as a scout.
Pym stays in contact with her by putting on (a duplicate of) his old cybernetic helmet.
But he soon loses contact with her, indicating that she's been knocked out. So the other Avengers make a frontal assault, but they are easily captured and tossed back out (over the objections of Wanda, who wanted to kill them).
And believe it or not, that's the end of John Byrne's Avengers West Coast run. The next two issues have fill-in teams and then Paul Ryan moves from inker to artist and Roy and Dann Thomas take over as writers. John Byrne leaves the East coast Avengers book at the same time. The explanation (from Byrne's FAQ again) is that the upcoming Immortus storyline was originally offered to Tom DeFalco as a summer crossover event. DeFalco rejected the idea, but it seems DeFalco was rejecting the idea entirely whereas John Byrne and editor Howard Mackie interpreted it as just being rejected for the summer crossover. So plans moved along and when DeFalco found out that they were still doing the story, he nixed it, and John Byrne quit. He's remained at Marvel and we'll see him on Iron Man and a new Namor series soon.
Byrne still has chops in both his writing and penciling abilities, and as i said when his run started, i'm conflicted about his work here. These are dark times across the line at Marvel, and at least from a technical competency perspective, Byrne is a bright spot. There are some faults. Some people have noted that backgrounds tend to disappear a lot more often than they used to, although i don't really notice that. More surprisingly to me is how verbose the script gets, especially considering that Byrne has complained about Claremont's verbosity and on this book has complete control of the storytelling since he is also the artist. A lot of these two issues in particular is people standing around delivering speeches. Overall i still find this to be very close to what i'd like a comic book to look like, aside from the specifics of the plot. But what's he's done with the Scarlet Witch is pretty atrocious. And even beyond that, if you look at Byrne's run and subtract Acts of Vengeance, what you have are a series of stories that focus entirely inward. It's all about revealing shocking secrets about the cast. There's no cool storylines about them fighting villains or, honestly, doing anything interesting. Even stories where there was nominally an external threat, like the Absolon College story, are really about further developing the "Dark Wanda" storyline. And Byrne was heading towards an alternate reality type story, also not something i'm really interested in. I wish he could have just developed a more standard super-villain type story, especially since the big story he'd been planning here got squashed anyway.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: This begins soon after the end of issue #55. I left issue #55 in a separate entry because there's a possibility that Avengers Spotlight #29 takes place some time during issue #55, but i've placed it after Avengers West Coast #58 (which shows the Avengers returning to Earth at the beginning of an otherwise unrelated story). See the Considerations on Avengers West Coast #55 for more.
Issue #56 has two continuity fixing back-up features that i covered in Avengers annual #18 because that's when they take place (so to speak; the second feature is really more a Jedi mind trick).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (5): showAgatha Harkness, Ann Raymond, Henry Pym, Human Torch (Golden Age), Immortus, Iron Man, Lockjaw, Magneto, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, USAgent, Vision, Wasp, Wonder Man
obligatory link to the legend that shows Wanda was originally giving Simon a bj (which became mistranslated as castration when they put her head in the panel) http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2012/05/04/comic-book-legends-revealed-365/
Posted by: kveto | April 14, 2015 3:19 PM
I'm with you on most everything here. The destruction of the Scarlet Witch was totally uncalled for. Removing one of the best marvel marriages just cause you don't like the husband is annoying. I would have liked to see how Bryne planned to play things out, tho. I'll never believe has was gonna "reset" things after he was done (how could he after showing the Vision nude?). But kudos to Roy Thomas for cleaning up this mess he was left with. That he manages to piece something together from all of this is amazing.
I remember a funny scene where a guy who looked a lot like Mark Guenwald was just about to pull a model, when Iron man fell through his roof and messed it all up.
Posted by: kveto | April 14, 2015 3:34 PM
"Wonder Man's secret love for the Vision." uh, I assume you meant the Scarlet Witch and not the Vision? LOL!! Although, that would be something no one saw coming...
Posted by: Bill | April 14, 2015 3:43 PM
Heh, thanks Bill. I guess that would make Wonder Man a narcissist, too. Fixed it.
Kveto, yeah, "Gruenwald" is showing a woman his etchings when Iron Man parachutes in.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 14, 2015 4:51 PM
This is the second time in little over a year that we had a mother changing into a crazy, more sexual dominatrix with a perverse lust for her brother-in-law after losing her family. It's kind of creepy.
Posted by: Michael | April 14, 2015 8:29 PM
Thanks, Michael. I've added a couple of scans of those scenes and it did seem like Gerry Conway especially was going that way during the period after Englehart left, but it didn't last long. I do think this was one of the more reasonable revelations from Byrne during this run, but at the same time i think Wonder Man (especially) and the Vision have evolved so much as characters even since Wonder Man's resurrection that it wasn't necessary to keep going back to the "same brain patterns" thing.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 14, 2015 9:15 PM
To me, it makes sense that Wonder Man would be attracted to the Scarlet Witch if the Vision (obviously) was. Both of them sharing the same brain pattern, it's obvious that Wanda is the kind of woman Simon would be attracted to, which the Vision was able to act upon while Simon was "dead".
Beyond that, things get muddy, as the different lives Simon and the Vision led would essentially alter their personalities, opinions, likes/dislikes, etc.. Basically, they come from the same starting point, but then veer off down different roads. Simon's attraction to Wanda could easily lessen over time, as he didn't really spend much time with her, while the Vision was a loyal husband and father.
It's all interesting to think about when I have some spare time ;)
Posted by: Bill | April 14, 2015 10:36 PM
Shooter (who followed Conway as Avengers writer) was also a proponent of a Wanda-Simon attraction.
In case the link does not work, Shooter said (about a Wanda-Simon attraction):"I wanted, for once, to have a tension unrelieved, a lust and love unrequited, a chance for dishonor disdained. I thought of Simon Williams as a man of honor."
Posted by: Shar | April 14, 2015 11:03 PM
Kveto: "The destruction of the Scarlet Witch was totally uncalled for."
Even worse, Byrne's interpretation still colors the Scarlet Witch TODAY! Modern writers have taken Byrne's ball and ran with it, with storylines doing nothing but casting Wanda as an unstable loose cannon prone to going off the rails every five minutes and using Byrne's storyline as the catalyst of their own arcs. This really is a big derailment of Wanda's character and standing among fans.
By the way I don't think I even mention the reaction of readership if an unstable man "serviced" a captive and unwilling woman in front of all her (horrified) friends. Particularly if the two started dating later on. I mean even reading this as a rather impressionable kid back in the day that scene (and Magneto's subdued, nonplussed response of "petty cruelty" as if his daughter had merely called Simon "fat" on Facebook or something) earned a big "WTF were they thinking?" reaction from me. (Although if you've seen what Byrne does with Superman, this isn't that surprising.)
Posted by: Jon Dubya | April 14, 2015 11:09 PM
Byrne's AWC mega-arc seems like a deliberate replay of his two biggest X-Men stories. This is the Dark Phoenix part, and the unpublished part would have been Days of Future Past, with Immortus having rewritten time so he conquered the 20th century as Kang, leaving the heroes facing a dystopia. It akso sounds a lot like the later Age of Apocalypse scenario, in which a mad mutant's mucking with the timestream leads to just such an outcome. Kang's dystopia would have been stopped thanks in oart to the Black Knight, who would have popped out of the dimensional bubble Thor put him in and who alone would have had knowledge of how the world was supposed to be—i.e., he'd play the role Bishop played in Age of Apocalypse.
Why would Byrne re-do his X-Men epics? To get them right, of course, without any interference from Claremont or Shooter.
We'll see other riffs on Dark Phoenix in Harras's Avengers and DeFalco's FF in the early '90s. This Byrne effort is unfortunately by far the most significant storyline to see print in AWC.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | April 14, 2015 11:17 PM
Fnord, I'm not sure Magneto's reaction to Wanda's torture of the prisoners can really be counted as evidence one way or the other to whether or not there was anything sexual going on. He was absent when Wanda did whatever she did to Simon--he just walks in on her threatening the USAgent, and can see Wonder Man with claw marks down his chest. Anything sexual that may or may not have happened was already done before he walked in the room.
Posted by: Dermie | April 14, 2015 11:47 PM
Wanda asking USAgent if he also wants her special considerations seems to clearly indicate she used either her hand or more likely her mouth, based on her head in the original art literally going down and Simon looking down.
Likable art, terrible storyline. Byrne as a storyteller on Avengers was, sadly after his run on FF, an absolute failure. Most likely specifically because of no strong hand like Shooter's around.
This also reminds me to ask if Agatha Harkness's appearances from here on are null and void because this Witch killed her as told in Disassembled? Or sm I misremembering?
Posted by: PeterA | April 15, 2015 6:55 AM
My fix for this whole plot:
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 15, 2015 7:34 AM
@PeterA- the problem isn't you misremembering, it's Bendis's inability to explain things in plain English. In Disassembled, Fury comments that Agatha's been dead for a "long time". How long is a "long time", especially with Marvel Time? It also wasn't clear from the story if Wanda killed Agatha or found her dead. (Breevort claims it was the latter.)
Posted by: Michael | April 15, 2015 8:13 AM
And Nathan Summers was intended to be sacrificed by his mother at the climax of Inferno, part of the ages-long plan to bring Limbo to Earth.
But if Nathan's real mother is Wanda (from a certain point of view) then it makes him and her a crucial part of Ch'thon's schemes(or perhaps Ch'thon being manipulated by Mephisto.) Warping time retroactively is how Inferno was ended (and Cable showed up not too long afterwards.)
Just after Inferno is also when Doctor Strange recovered the Darkhold even though it had last been in Urthona's possession. The Darkhold is connected with Ch'thon as well, and without it, Doc had been practicing black magic.
Ch'thon had been trapped in Wundagor Mountain where the High Evolutionary worked for so many decades. We know Wanda and Pietro were born there, but Jessica Drew also grew up there. In fact [I doubt this is canon, but it's an interesting thing I've learned on this site] Viper was possessed by Ch'thon for over fifty years, and said she was Jessica's mother. She worked with the Yakuza for quite a while too, which suggests a connection to the Hand.
The High Evolutionary would also build Counter-Earth, and bestows a Soul Gem on Warlock. The Soul Gem would eventually be associated with Thanos [coming to a movie theater near you in 2018] who loves Death as much as Mephisto does.
Just before Thanos was reborn and assembled the Infinity Gauntlet [consisting of the Soul Gems] Galactus had required them to save his life after devouring the Elders of the Universe, who had been using the gems to try to kill him. This led to a big fight between him and the In-Betweener, requiring Master Order and Lord Chaos to step in. And couldn't Inferno also be seen as a conflict between Order and Chaos?
Now - with the connections between the Soul Gems and cosmic beings - it's worth noting that Galactus' second appearance in the Marvel Universe was just before the High Evolutionary's first appearance in a Lee/Kirby Thor story, which also featured Wanda and Pietro exploring Wundagor and pondering their origins.
And if all these reincarnations and time changes aren't enough, it's worth noting that Quicksilver married into a royal family created during a visit from the Kree who were attempting to recreate the Celestials' experiment, and more importantly, Wanda married the Human Torch, the very first Marvel superhero. And, again the things I learn on this website, the Human Torch's creator's stepdaughter Frankie Raye went on to become Galactus' herald.
Posted by: ChrisW | April 15, 2015 2:17 PM
Most of you guys commenting here should take a shot at comic book writing. I bet you'd make some good stories.
I liked the idea of Scarlet Witch's probability powers being based on retroactively changing the fabric of time. It explains something other than the lazy "it's magic" approach whenever we come across that is hard to explain. It's completely viable to me that Wonder Man would like Scarlet Witch since him and Vision have the same brain patterns. The differences in experiences could have changed their personalities, but who's to say that it would have change who they're attracted to?
A lot of my opinion is based on the great storylines Byrne has come up with in the past without editorial interference. His Fantastic Four plots were brilliant and every X-Men issue he was involved in with Claremont is considered a classic. When you read about the storyline's intended plot, it would have been right there with the Days of the Future past. We'd still be talking about it today and who knows, maybe movies would be coming out from Marvel Studios based on it.
I'd really like to see John Byrne write an Avengers: Legacy series (like Claremont did with the X-Men starting from 1991). This could start out with this story and see where he was going with it. I have a feeling House of M was the closest we'll see to it.
Posted by: Ryan | April 15, 2015 10:24 PM
@Ryan: Or did Vizh like Wanda because of Simon's brain patterns;) But I doubt Byrne's intended Immortus plot would have been up there with DoFP, as he wasn't writing on mark with AWC (and to be honest his Fantastic Four run wasn't ground-breaking but a retread of Lee & Kirby's concepts, much like Jim Lee's wanting to return to Adams & early Claremont X-Men instead of moving forward).
And Byrne's efforts to complicate Wanda's powers by making her a "Nexus Being" the way he did weren't commendable. Better to suggest her mutant powers were to make molecules unstable;)
And when did Claremont start writing an X-Men: Legacy series in 1991? He was removed from the X-titles then!
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 15, 2015 11:19 PM
Nathan, I think Ryan means X-Men Forever as opposed to X-Men: Legacy (which was the Xavier/Gambit/Rogue vehicle for a time, right?) Claremont "continued" his stories as if he hadn't left in 1991.
It didn't occur to me Byrne was retreading a lot of Lee/Kirby. I knew he wanted to go "back to the basics" but didn't he come up with a lot of good ideas for Doom, Sue, the Thing...? (and the Torch "Hero" story, was that something Lee had already done with Kirby too?)
I personally fondly remember Byrne's FF in part because it seemed fill-ins didn't exist when he was on it. It's all too rare creators try to really leave their mark on a series. Pity he left in a huff (is there a series he didn't leave in a huff? Iron Man maybe?)
Wanda's twins as Cable/Stryfe is an awesome idea by the way, talk about connecting the MU dots :)
Posted by: PeterA | April 16, 2015 2:25 AM
@PeterA: Re: Byrne, how many new concepts did he introduce in the Fantastic Four that stuck? Not that many. He wasn't the ideas machine like Kirby, and it's interesting that Claremont was writing X-Men at the time and it was seriously pumping out new concepts and characters left, right and centre as if it had become Marvel's new Fantastic Four.
Glad you like my fix of Cable & Stryfe as Wanda's twins:)
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 16, 2015 3:26 AM
@Walter: The odd thing is that scenario you described sounds like what eventually took place in Uncanny Avengers.
Also thanks for reminding me about another annoying aspect of this story. If you remember way back during Uncanny #140 Byrne, rather snotty, reflected on how Chris Claremont "would not let go" of the Dark Phoenix Saga (even though it happened all of three issues ago from that point.) Fnord12 mentions the commentary in the review of that issue if anyone wants to check. Yet WHO'S the one dredging up the decaying corpse of the Phoenix storyline? (Well Marvel Now every 3-4 years, but you know what I mean.) This also ties into Michael's general observation since that was also a story of a powerful woman corrupted into a dangerous "bad girl." Except Jean's eventually "exonerated" for that while this still haunts any portrayal of the Scarlet Witch.
Posted by: Jon Dubya | April 16, 2015 3:09 PM
@PeterA: You are correct - I meant X-Men Forver. Thanks for correcting my bad memory.
I'm sure there is something we can agree on. It had to have been a pain in the butt to be John Byrne's editor. I can imagine each editor saying something like 'oh no, not him!' as they realized he was writing his book. Or do the editors pick their writers and artists?
Posted by: Ryan | April 16, 2015 5:38 PM
Hiring the talent is definitely one of the responsibilities of the editors, but you may be right that the assistant editors, who managed the day to day interactions, felt that way.
One thing that seems to have happened with Byrne is that editors shifted the blame to the editor in chiefs. It's always hard to know who's telling the truth / remembering things correctly, but there are several stories where Byrne has claimed that Jim Shooter had such and such edict (e.g., "all stories must be completed in one issue") that Shooter claims was never the case, and Shooter speculates that he was used as a boogeyman by the editors to convince Byrne that he couldn't do something. Along the same lines, i'd love to know if Tom DeFalco has a different version of what happened with this series.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 16, 2015 5:55 PM
@Ryan: Well his primary editor after leaving DC would have been Mark Gruenwald given he was on the Avengers family of titles, and the Gru was usually a stickler for continuity so not sure why he even allowed this story!?
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 16, 2015 6:32 PM
@fnord12: I also think it is telling when Byrne refers to Wanda's twins as the outcome of a "hysterical pregnancy". That old outmoded trope of referring to it as the result of "neuroses" when such a condition can result from a tumour or endocrine dysfunction. He also appeared to have completely forgotten about Chthon here!? Convenient, that!
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 16, 2015 6:42 PM
It occurs to me that John Byrne has a recurring motif with the old "power-up the female character and then show she can't handle it" trope through his work. Hence Jean Grey becomes Dark Phoenix, Wanda goes Darker Than Scarlet here, and Susan Richards becomes Malice in Fantastic Four.
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 20, 2015 9:09 AM
@ Nathan Adler - I wouldn't agree with that. Of the three, only Jean couldn't actually handle the power and those stories were co-scripted with Claremont. Wanda's breakdown is unrelated to her boost in power, but rather to the loss of her children, and Sue was actually forcefully manipulated by a malevolent entity. I can see someone making a connection, but I really think all three are very different. And personally, I think it made all three of them more interesting characters.
Posted by: Erik Beck | April 20, 2015 11:29 AM
When Byrne was interviewed in Comics Interview #86(8/90) he made the interesting comment "I got squeezed off[Avengers] just as Walt[Simonson] got squeezed off before me."
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 8, 2015 11:15 AM
I would definitely be interested in hearing Tom DeFalco's side of the story about why he apparently nixed John Byrne's story at the last minute, causing Byrne to jump ship.
I am not saying that Byrne is lying. However I have definitely noticed over the years that Byrne has an unfortunate tendency to unquestioningly regard his perception and recall of events as 100% accurate, and to accuse everyone who disagrees with his version of events as flat-out lying. Byrne appears incapable of acknowledging that maybe he misconstrued people's actions & motives, or that his memory isn't playing tricks on him. I mean, that happens to everyone. That's what the Kurasawa film Rashomon was all about.
I think it's possible that if DeFalco was asked about this, he might have a very different recollection of what occurred.
In any case, I agree with many of the other comments. When I first read Byrne's run on Avengers West Coast, I was pretty new to comics. This was the first time that I had actually followed an Avengers series on a monthly basis. At them time I enjoyed what Byrne was doing. But subsequently, when I had the opportunity to read earlier Avengers stories, I realized just how completely Byrne had demolished the years of character development that Roy Thomas, Steve Englehart and various other writers had done with the Scarlet Witch, the Vision and several other characters.
Posted by: Ben Herman | June 8, 2015 10:53 PM
Evil Wanda hardly looks like the same character. She just comes across as some random 80s ladies with short hair.
You'd think Byrne would have at least tried to give her some continuity between the two looks.
Also, was their a hairstylist and costume designer in space when the house took off, or is this just explained by her hex power, which, at this point, is like Xena blaming things on a wizard in that Simpsons episode?
Still, would have loved to see this storyline finished. Pity there's so much bad blood with Byrne and Marvel, or we could have at least had something in the vein of an X-Men Forever type story.
But I doubt Byrne's ego would allow it. Ever since Man of Steel, he's had the retcon bug, and has been incapable of writing a book for the big two unless he's allowed to overhaul continuity drastically and have it stick.
Posted by: Bob | June 9, 2015 1:42 AM
I think that Byrne's leaving the Avengers titles at this point should have been a cause of self-reflection in Marvel editorial about their policies, as he is the forth consecutive writer to leave the Avengers titles due to editorial decisions, after Roger Stern, Walt Simonson, and Steve Englehart leaving under similar circumstances. Losing four long-term employees on the same project for the same reason over three years is a sign of serious problems in any business, and given how well-regarded those four writers have been, and their overall contibutions to Marvel Comics, the powers-that-be should have reconsidered what the role of Marvel editorial was at this point.
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | June 30, 2015 5:34 PM
I'm clearly in the minority here, but I really love Byrne's run. I think it made Wanda's powers much more fascinating, and for all the problems that Bendis causes, we never would have an epic moment like "No more mutants" if not for what Byrne does here.
I also really like what he does with Wonder Man, salvaging his personality from the mess that Englehart had made it.
That, and his run was, by far, the best art that AWC ever had.
Posted by: Erik Beck | September 29, 2015 11:57 AM
Erik, I also love the run. Byrne's a divisive personality who's been known to toot his own horn so he's naturally going to be a lightning rod for criticism. That plus he made some big changes in this run and big changes always draw passionate opinions from comic fans (more often than not negative ones IMO).
Posted by: Robert | September 29, 2015 1:37 PM
Although, I do wonder how Byrne reacted to that shot in Age of Ultron of Wanda and Vision staring at each other. Was he like, No! No! No!
I do realize that Byrne was clearly a pain in the ass to work with. But I want to just scream at editors "Unless you're replacing him with George Perez, the art is gonna take a big dive!"
Posted by: Erik Beck | September 29, 2015 4:28 PM
Erik, Robert- one major problem is that this run damaged Wanda's character permanently. Erik, you mentioned "no more mutants" as epic, but the fact of the matter is that half the internet regards Wanda as an unlikable crazy murderer.
Posted by: Michael | September 29, 2015 8:21 PM
Michael - I would argue that that's not Byrne's fault. He made a character choice. But if her character is "damaged", it's not because of what Byrne did here, but because writers for the last 25 years have decided to follow Byrne's example and go with that. It's clearly resonated with writers because they continue to write her like that.
I can understand where you (and others) are coming from though. I certainly hate the way Cyclops has been written lately, first with the affair with Emma and now with the ridiculousness of the past few years that made me throw Avengers vs X-Men against a wall for how much I hated it.
Posted by: Erik Beck | September 29, 2015 9:06 PM
Wanda was not permanently damaged. Kurt Busiek did a very good job with her in his Avengers run. I think other writers should use Busiek's version of the character and avoid the Byrne one.
Posted by: Steven | September 30, 2015 12:52 PM
"Byrne's efforts to complicate Wanda's powers by making her a 'Nexus Being' the way he did weren't commendable. Better to suggest her mutant powers were to make molecules unstable."
Agreed -- even if that would've made Wanda the superheroic equivalent of the old British comics character 'Wear-'Em-Out Wilf':
Posted by: Oliver_C | May 10, 2016 10:36 AM
This is a relatively unimportant point, but in one of the scans above, we see a flashback in which Hank Pym asked Wanda to use her hex power on a titanium steel bar, which he had put under a specified stress load of 400 pounds of pressure. The titanium bar shattered into a large number of sharp fragments of various sizes, with a "PLANG" sound effect. Both Wanda and Hank seemed to be situated within a few feet of the bar when it shattered. Wanda seemed surprised, but Hank didn't. Nevertheless, both characters raised their left arms, as if to shield their eyes from the fragments.
Apparently Wanda's power must work in some mysterious, unknown way, or both characters would have been left bleeding from multiple steel fragments, which would have normally been expected to pierce their skins deeply, probably even imbedding themselves in their bones, if not actually fracturing them severely. Hank is supposed to be a super-scientist, and he should have known that would happen. He admitted that he didn't know exactly how Wanda's power was going to work.
So how could he have possibly predicted that neither of them would be harmed by his reckless experiment? It doesn't make a lick of sense. Oh well. Because comics, I guess.xD
Also, Hank surmised that Wanda's power had affected history itself, insofar as his scan of the bar, made an hour previously, had been changed to show the "new" flaws induced by her hex. So why had his memory of the scan not also been changed?
Posted by: Holt | November 18, 2017 11:43 AM
I can't stand it when writers try to play up how "unpredictable" and "dangerous" Wanda's powers are. For example, Byrne had her afraid to use them on the Vision in issue 45 for fear of killing him. There's been plenty of times when Wanda used her powers when there were other alternatives- for example, in Avengers 238, she uses her hex power to trigger the sprinklers on a bigoted landlord. She wasn't worried that for example, that her powers might collapse the ceiling on him and he might get hurt. Or in Vision and the Scarlet Witch 1, when the Guardsman tries to stop her from seeing the Vision, who's been arrested for trying to take over the world, she hexes his armor- she wasn't worried that it might explode and kill him. Wanda has to have SOME way of controlling her hexes so people don't get permanently injured or she looks like a sociopath.
Posted by: Michael | November 18, 2017 12:56 PM
To those wondering, the Handbooks officially confirm Wanda as "sexually assaulting" Wonder Man here (in Wonder Man's entry at least).
Posted by: AF | November 18, 2017 2:02 PM
I only recently learned about this arc after I bought copies of the Acts of Vengeance Omnibus and the Avengers by John Byrne Omnibus. Byrne claims that Scarlet Witch was one of his favorite characters when he was merely a comics reader and, it seems that his intent was to take her to a pre-1980s or maybe even pre-1970s status. But I don't know how completely shattering your "favorite" character's psyche is supposed to make her more stable or compelling. It's like his go-to scenario was to pull out the "Dark Phoenix" playbook one more time but to do it completely his way.
Posted by: Jonathon | November 18, 2017 2:22 PM
@ Michael, Giving it more thought, I agree, and in the flashback, both Hank and Wanda seemed pretty confident that they wouldn't get hurt. Even though they shielded their eyes, it was kind of like a reflex reaction. But the writer fails to explain just why Hank should be so confident, and it seems inconsistent with the context, in which Hank claims that he doesn't really know how her powers work. Even the results of his own experiment take him by surprise. This might make more sense with other writers who portray Hank as being unhinged, but it doesn't make sense with Byrne, who seems to have more confidence in Hank's professionalism, and Byrne is, as you note, one of the writers who portray Wanda's powers as being dangerous and unpredictable. Hank Pym has long been a favorite character of mine, but his portrayals by various writers are pretty uneven.
Posted by: Holt | November 18, 2017 3:37 PM
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