In a medium where long-lived superhero characters experience rollercoaster rides of highs and lows throughout their careers, few have experienced such lows the Scarlet Witch. Even ascendant as part of the avant-garde in the The fourth phase of the Marvel Movieverseher last appearance in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness proves disappointing Just like in the comics, putting Wanda on the altar of madness is a trope that their creators just can’t avoid.
The surprising “twist” of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness— insofar as you can really have a twist in 20 minutes into a movie that’s still running for another two hours — is that Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff isn’t the avenging ally Stephen Strange thinks he’s getting when America Chavez multiversal on his proverbial lands doorstep. Instead, Wanda is the play’s villain, corrupted both by the Darkhold’s use of dark magic and by her own mental trauma, plagued by the loss of the sons she conjured up for herself in the town of Westview. New Jersey – Products themselves created by Wanda’s continued grief at the loss of the man she loved, the synthezoid vision.
Suffice it to say, the reaction to her place as the MCU’s newest villain was…mixed to say the least. According to WandaVision presented her grief both destructive and somehow understandable – insofar as one can understand a reality-warping sorceress who rules an entire town of people against their will so that she can play the housewife of the 1950s –Multiverse of Madness catapults Wanda into a terribly villainous status quo, a killer of opportunity and a relentless, unstoppable force willing to do anything the chance to get their children back. The madness of the film’s title is less about the cross-reality road trip Doctor Strange and his allies undertake to stop them and more about Wanda herself, who has been driven to this unknown, terrifying place and, up to this point, has always been seen as a wayward one and insane evil comes for her to realize the magnitude of what she has done in her insanity, and for it to be punished with self-sacrifice rather than rehabilitation.
Take on one of the most powerful, prominent and popular female characters the MCU at this point, making her angry, especially after a (not entirely flawless) attempt to make Wanda’s grief more contained WandaVision. But that’s not just because she’s a fallen heroine who was given the “heroine can’t wield power, driving insane” storyline, but because it’s a trope that has defined and influenced the Scarlet Witch for years, was adapted into the Marvel Cinematic Universe long before it even came out. “Well, first of all, it’s true who the comic book version of the character is and what she’s doing in the comics.” Multiverse of Madness and Loki Writer Michael Waldron said in an interview with about the decision to make Wanda the main villain of the film Rolling Stone in this week. “That was always the goal for Wanda in the MCU, even when I inherited the film. The only question was When would it happen?”
That seeming inevitability that Waldron believes in – that Wanda Maximoff must simply become this corrupt, insane evil – is a shadow that has haunted the character for decades of her comic history and has now been brought to the MCU as well. From the days of their fascination under Cthon and the forces of the Darkhold at Mount Wundagore (the Multiverse of Madness himself pulls on) in the pages of avenger #187, to the infamous “No More Mutants” by house m— and that complex mutant legacy that lingered beyond and is only recently beginning to heal in the pages of Attempt by Magneto—Time and time again, Wanda’s story has evolved into a dark force within her or within her reach that turns her not just into something evil, but into a woman driven insane by her inability to control her. And most of the time this goes hand in hand with forcing the character to do it face the trauma losing her children Billy and Tommy, and her husband the vision.
We really see it for the first time in Darker than Scarlet, in the 1990s pages West Coast Avenger #56 when Wanda, who has been corrupted into a villainous version of herself by her father Magneto, lashes out in anger at her former allies for the loss of her family – it is telling that the problem with captive Agatha Harkness, US agent, Wasp, begins. and Wonder Man all pondering that Wanda has gone mad with grief and even more so that this is the story where we first learn that Wanda’s hex powers don’t alter probability but distort reality itself. Time and again, the connection between the scope of Wanda’s superpower and her apparent lack of willpower to control it is made in the comics at the lowest points in their lives, who are constantly forced to grapple with the trauma of losing Billy and Tommy anew . It infamously happens decades later in 2004 Avenger disassembledwith Agatha Harkness’ The equally infamous way of keeping Wanda docile – erasing her memory of her children – breaks down, and Wanda just can’t seem to help but mentally unravel herself and turn to evil once more.
And then of course there is the most famous of them all, house m Just a year later, when Wanda wakes up in response to the assembled X-Men and Avengers trying to stop her destructive madness, warping all of reality to create an idealized world where she will always have her children by her side had. Though Wanda acts less out of a malicious impulse here outwardly than she is an overwhelming plot device, house m still closes with one of she the most terrible deeds in the comics, the near-extinction of the mutant race when theydrives all but about 200 of the species – a darkness that has only just begun to be addressed in the current Krakoan era of X-Comics. And even then, Wanda (who, thanks to cinematic ambitions, is induced retcons no more mutant these days) had up Attempt by Magneto was seen as the metaphysical boogeywoman for the resurgent mutant species, the “Great Pretender”, who were attempting to oppress their species.
Power and Wanda’s apparent capacity for evil went hand in hand for the character through generations of stories, time and time again reducing one of the most prominent female Avengers of the team’s entire existence to a deranged being who must be confronted and controlled for fear that her powers will do more harm than help. And now with Multiverse of Madness, the MCU has addressed this very issue with its own take on Wanda Maximoff. But was that really necessary? Had to when WandaVision previously, by grappling with the idea himself, he managed to present a Scarlet Witch who was, at least understandably, more sympathetic than the bloodthirsty villain we are confronted with Multiverse of Madness?
We will see how the MCU sees the Scarlet Witch going forward – even if Multiverse of Madness ends her arc with an apparent sacrifice, death (obvious or otherwise) rarely lasts in the world of superhero movies. But whether the MCU is trying to push Wanda down a rehabilitating path, one question will always remain for fans of her character: Does it really always have to be this way?
Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Wonder and war of stars What’s next for the releases DC Universe in Film and TVand everything you need to know about it house of the dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.