The All New All Different Marvel Universe has brought about an increased number of solo titles starring female characters. There is a debate to be made if there is a market for all of these new titles. The sales numbers will answer that question in the oncoming months.
Regardless, Marvel has decided that it is time for everyone’s favorite bat shit crazy witch to have her own title. Personally, I have always been a huge fan of Scarlet Witch so I was more than happy to give this title a try. So much that not even the fact that James Robinson is the writer could dissuade me from picking up a copy of Scarlet Witch #1.
Does this title deliver a quality read or is this yet another miss from the All New All Different Marvel Universe? Let’s find out!
Words: James Robinson
Art: Vanesa Del Rey
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Story Rating: 3 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with a flashback to when the Avengers unveiled the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver as the newest members of their team.
We cut to Wanda waking up from a bad dream. It is still night. Wanda looks in the mirror and notices a few more wrinkles and some grey hair. (Uh, what? I always thought Wanda was relatively young. And does Vanesa Del Rey even know what is going on in the story when she draws her panel? Because Wanda still looks as young and vivacious as ever with no wrinkles or grey hair. Maybe it is a hallucination? I have no idea what is going on here.)
We see the ghost of Agatha Harkness appears and ask if Wanda was having a bad dream. Wanda says that there is no such thing as bad dreams. Merely visions and messages concerning the future. The two engage in some “witty” banter. Wanda says that she is not sure what her dream is trying to tell her.
Wanda then says that she senses something is out there in the city. That something is not right. We learn that Wanda just bought penthouse in the upper east side of Manhattan. Wanda says that there is something wrong with witchcraft in general.
Wanda says that she is glad that she bought her new penthouse. Agatha comments on how expensive it was. Wanda asks if Agatha expects her to life in a gingerbread house in the woods. Or maybe a gave. Agatha points out that being around lots of people may not be the best for Wanda considering her past of metal instability. Wanda responds that in the fairy tales the bad witches lie in the cabins and caves. (Zzzzzzz *Ow!* This scene put me to sleep and my iPad Pro slid out of my hands and hit my face. Damn it. The risk of reading boring comics in digital format. Nice old school floppy comics never hurt!)
Wanda goes on about how she loves the view from her penthouse. (Thrilling. Maybe HGTV will think about optioning a Scarlet Witch TV show as she starts her new career as a house flipper.) Wanda says that she can see all the various auras in the city from all the good and bad people. Agatha asks how Wanda’s coffee tastes. Wanda says it is delicious and that she wishes Agatha could try it. Agatha responds that being dead has its drawbacks. (Really? Seriously? Nine pages into the comic and nothing has happened and we have gone from talking real estate to talking coffee. Jesus. Is Brian Bendis ghost write this issue?)
We shift to the next morning. Wanda is walking through New York. She thinks how she hopes this is a start of a new life for her. She thinks about who she has had “some problems” in the past. (Ha! That’s a massive understatement!!) That she has also had some mental instability. That she has abilities since birth to break the laws of physics and scientific absolutes like levitation, transformation, teleportation and the such.
She says that it is often referred to as Chaos Magic. But, it is far from chaotic. That their power is linked to the energy of the Earth and Womankind that was revered by ancient pagan faiths and feared by men. (But only men!! Women have never feared magic or witchcraft. Ever! Not ever once in the entire history of humankind!!)
Wanda walks by some dead cats. Wanda talks about how she is feared because of her ill-use of her power. (Uh, again, massive understatement.) Wanda says that she is more than the sum of those mistakes and that she is better than that.
Wanda arrives at a crime scene and tells a cop that she is here to see Detective Erikson. The cop asks “You gotta name, sweetheart?” Wanda replies “Yes ‘buttercup’ I do. Wanda Maximoff.” (Ugh. Is it possible to have a comic starring a lead character that is female where the males are not always presented as small-minded or sexist? That was a rhetorical question. The answer is obviously “No.”)
Detective Erikson meets with Scarlet Witch and shows her the crime scene. A bus boy suddenly went on a rampage and killed two rich patrons. Erik son says that the bus boy is now claiming that does not come over him and he has no memory of killing anyone.
Wanda says that the newspaper reported two other attacks of a similar nature. That there is a magical link. Also, the reports of every cat in lower Manhattan are mysteriously dying. (That’s not a bad thing. Cats are vermin.) Wanda says that it is a virus of sorts. To explain, Wanda says that a quick history lesson is in order. (Jesus. Yes, what this interminably slow and boring read needs is a history lesson. Yippie.)
Wanda says that in Paris in the 1730’s there was a cat massacre. The starving apprentices viewed the cats as the pampered pets of their masters and a symbol of the apprentices misfortune. (Hmmm, maybe this is why I have instinctively never liked cats.) The apprentices then massacred all the cats and this was the first member of the fire of the French Revolution.
Wanda says that the cats were a sacrifice. That witches probably put that thought in the heads of the apprentices. Wanda says that a Taigheirm, as the ancient Scots called it, is the killing of cats in order to control hell and to summon a Sonneillon. A Sonneillon is the magical embodiment of envy, hate and the need to punish. That the Sonneillon ultimately incited the masses to revolution in France.
Wanda says that the cats being killed in Manhattan are being used to summon a Sonneillon. That the less fortunate are being driven out of lower Manhattan by wealthier people. The same hateful hex could take root in this climate. That the Sonneillon is taking possession of people and committing these murders.
Detective Erikson asks if Wanda knows who will be possessed next by the Sonneillon. Wanda says that she does and that the next person is Detective Erikson himself! Wanda says that Erikson was born poor and has worked his way up from the bottom and that he resents those born with a silver spoon.
Wanda then beings to perform an exorcism. We see the Sonneillon exit the Detective’s body. Wanda then begins to battle the demon. (And during this fight scene I have to give total credit to Vanesa Del Rey for not one but two butt shots of Scarlet Witch.)
During the fight Scarlet Witch feels that something is wrong with the world of Magic. Still, Scarlet Witch gathers herself and casts a spell that destroys the Sonneillon.
We cut to “later” at Wanda’s badass penthouse. Wanda tells Agatha that Witchcraft is sick and ailing. That the energy flow that exists between a witch and the world around her is being tampered with and being weakened. That the Sonneillon was just the first salvo in this attack.
Wanda asks if Agatha can feel it, too. Agatha replied that she would have been able to when she was alive before Wanda killed her. Wanda replied that it was not her. Agatha ignores Wanda by saying “Moving on.”
Wanda says that she understands the symbolism from her dream earlier. That the Avengers should stay in her past. That she is on her own. Wanda says that she intends to hunt down this threat. Wanda says that she needs to do this. For Witchcraft and for herself. Wanda says that whoever is behind this that they will know what it means to face the Scarlet Witch. End of story.
The Good: Scarlet Witch #1 was a lackluster debut issue for this new title. I wanted to love this comic. Scarlet Witch is a fantastic character with so much potential. I fully understand that repairing the long-standing damage to Wanda’s character at the hands of Bendis is a tough task. But, it is not an impossible task. Unfortunately, James Robinson and Vanesa Del Rey serve up a forgettable issue. And to do so right out of the gate usually dooms new titles.
Having said that, there are some positive aspects to Scarlet Witch #1. There is no doubt that Robinson did an excellent job making Scarlet Witch #1 extremely new reader friendly. This issue is as accessible to new readers who are unfamiliar with Wanda’s character as it is to long-standing readers who are familiar with Wanda’s character.I appreciate that Robinson went out of his way to make sure that absolutely no knowledge of Wanda’s past is necessary in order to enjoy this issue. Robinson does a fine job delivering all of the necessary back-story for Wanda’s character as well as outlining her power set.
Robinson also gets high marks for clearly stating the mission statement for this new title. The reader clearly understands what they can expect to get from this title from this point forward. Robinson places a clear objective and purpose for Wanda’s character. Wanda is on a path of redemption as well as accepting the mission to save Witchcraft. That is the long-term path of the title and the reader understands that they can expect a journey style story with magical trappings and themes.
Robinson also installed the opening story arc in short fashion. We are introduced to the immediate threat and are teased with the mystery of the person behind this attack on Witchcraft. All in all, from a purely plotting standpoint, Robinson does everything that a writer is supposed to perform on a debut issue of a new title.
Vanesa Del Rey delivers some average artwork. Del Rey’s overall tone is a great match for the darker magical based story that Robinson is delivering on this title. There are moments where Del Rey crafts some spectacular panels. Normally, I am not a fan of sketchy art that lacks details. But, when Del Rey is on target her panels evoke the proper mood for the Scarlet Witch. I also like that Del Rey is able to capture that 1970’s horror art style.
The Bad: All right, here is the rub with Scarlet Witch #1. From a technical standpoint, Robinson checked off all the boxes in the list of things that a writer absolutely must do with a debut issue. New reader friendly? Check. Clearly explain the character’s motivations? Check. Set out the mission statement for the title? Check. Give the reader a clear sense of what to expect with this title? Check. Install the opening story arc? Check. Yet, despite all of this, Scarlet Witch #1 is still a miss. Why? Because Robinson carries out all of these tasks in the most unimaginative and uninteresting fashion.
Simply put, Scarlet Witch #1 is a slow and boring read. This is absolutely not the manner in which you want to kick off the debut issue of a brand new title. It is imperative that the writer quickly grab the reader’s attention, pull them deeply into the world the writer has constructed, get the reader excited about what is going to come next and getting the reader invested in the story and the characters so that they are eager to come back for the next issue. None of that happened with Scarlet Witch #1.
Robinson delivers a dry and dull read. There is nothing special at all about this issue. There is nothing that excites the reader or fires their imagination. Robinson fails to pull the reader into Scarlet Witch’s world and captivate their attention. The setting for this title seems shallow and is not fully developed. The mission statement for this title comes across as uninspired and generic. Yes, Robinson performs some of the basic tasks a writer must deliver on a debut issue but he fails in the most important aspect of a debut issue. Robinson never gives the reason any reason to come back for more. Robinson fails to present this issue in a form and manner that entices the reader into coming back for the next issue. Scarlet Witch #1 is easily forgettable and blends into the background among the myriad of super hero titles that populate the market.
Scarlet Witch #1 is poorly paced. Robinson drags his feet and delivers a read that is way too slow to be an effective debut issue. It is imperative that debut issues hit the ground running and get off to a fast and exciting start. Instead, Robinson meanders about before getting to the meat of this issue. There is no sense of urgency to the pacing of this issue. Robinson unnecessarily burns the first six pages on just Wanda’s dream and where she is living. We then get three pages of Wanda walking to a crime scene. Walking. That’s it. It is not until page 10 that the story really begins. Even then, Robinson burns another four pages on lots of unnecessary and dry exposition before the real action in this issue starts. Then we get pages of action and two pages of wrap up and then the issue is concluded.
Now, if a writer is going to eschew action and deliver a more character focused issue that moves at a slow pace then it is imperative that the character work be nothing short of stellar. Unfortunately, Robinson fails to deliver any quality character work at all. And this is the big reason why his approach to Scarlet Witch #1 failed. Wanda’s character is flat and shallow. There is little depth or nuance to her character. Wanda comes across as an unemotional automaton rather than a fully fleshed out human. The reader has zero emotional investment at all in Wanda’s character.
Agatha Harkness’ ghost is a neat plot device that certainly has plenty of potential. However, Robinson uses Agatha in an uncreative and ordinary manner. On top of it all, Robinson fails to generate any chemistry whatsoever between Wanda and Agatha.
Robinson’s dialogue is stiff and clunky at works and simply average at best. At no point do any of the characters have much of an interesting or unique external voice. The dialogue lacks any life or excitement. The lack of energy in the dialogue continues the overall impression that Scarlet Witch #1 is devoid of any life. The entire issue feels emotionally detached from the reader.
Of course, Robinson has to shoehorn in the sexist cop and the fact that men fear Witchcraft. This bizarre compulsion to make a big deal about the sex of the main character and to present sexist and stupid male characters for the main female character to knock down is found in numerous female solo comic book. And I have absolutely no idea why. It is not interesting. It certainly is not anything new or creative. Life is not a zero-sum game. Everyone can succeed. There is no need to tear down one side in order to build up another side. It is time that writers simply treat female super heroes as heroes and not victims. Just treat female super heroes like they do male super heroes. This might help more female solo titles actually get stronger sales numbers and appeal to a larger cross-section of readers.
Del Rey’s artwork is inconsistent. Some panels are well done while others look sloppy and muddy. The lack of consistency from panel to panel is distracting and detracts from the reading experience of this issue. Del Rey appears to lose control of the general form of certain characters and objects at times. There are panels where the character’s bodies look bizarre and defy all realities of anatomy and structure. The general lack of detail also makes the artwork look rushed and incomplete at certain points. Also, Del Rey struggles with the character’s faces. All of the characters have doll eyes and look vacant and dead. The fact that Del Rey delivers characters that look more like mannequins combined with Robinson’s lifeless dialogue and lack of emotion in the story creates an issue that is cold and completely emotionally detached from the reader.
Overall: Scarlet Witch #1 was such a disappointing debut issue. I love this character and wanted to love this issue. But, the fact remains that Scarlet Witch #1 was a lifeless and boring read. There is nothing in this issue that gets the reader excited to come back for more. There is nothing in this issue that helps Scarlet Witch to stand out from the crowded racks full super hero titles. There are too many other quality titles on the market more deserving of your hard-earned money than Scarlet Witch #1.