Scarlet Witch, one of comics’ most powerful and complex characters, is arguably the most underserved Avenger in all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. WandaVision, Marvel Studios’ upcoming streaming series for Disney+, aims to change all that.
The mutant offspring of Magneto in the comics, an “enhanced” member of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in the MCU, Wanda Maximoff is an exceptionally complicated, broken-not-sprained character in any medium. No better was this explored than in one of Marvel’s greatest stories, the game-changing and tragic House of M, a 2005 event comic from writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Olivier Coipel in which Wanda reshaped all of reality after the loss of her children. In her new world, mutants reigned supreme, while normal humans were second-class citizens.
Now that the X-Men are back under Marvel Studios’ roof, Wanda and the MCU seem primed to mine some of the rich drama that the House of M built. In doing so, the Disney+ show — which, when first announced, was met with puzzlement bordering on indifference by fandom — could become as important to Marvel’s live-action future as M was to its comic legacy.
“We’re going to have a lot of fun. We’re gonna get weird, get deep and finally understand Wanda Maximoff as Scarlet Witch.” That was the edict revealed from the stage of Marvel’s Hall H panel when Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige announced the overall narrative strategy behind the upcoming WandaVision series, slated for release Spring 2021 on Disney+ and set to spill into the horror-tinged Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, opening May 7, 2021 and also to feature Olsen’s Wanda.
WandaVision, set after Avengers: Endgame, aims to explore the fallout Vision’s death has on Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen). The best, and most readily available, way to deliver on that is to tell the House of M story through the MCU’s lens.
Vision (Paul Bettany) and Wanda’s relationship was, in retrospect, one of the more effective emotional storylines in Captain America: Civil War. Despite its limited screen time, directors Joe and Anthony Russo and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely picked up on that thread and weaved it through the epic action and emotional stakes of Avengers: Infinity War. While Vision and Wanda’s romance deepened largely off-screen, Vision’s death was a body blow to his partner. What small moments the two shared onscreen managed to gel into a beating heart of sorts for the final chapters of the Infinity Saga. But the fallout of Vision’s loss, and the consequences that has on a character like the MCU’s Wanda that has lost so much already (RIP her parents, her brother), was denied further exploration in Endgame, no doubt a consequence of that narrative’s sprawling, time-bending focus.
How does a superhero like Wanda, one who possesses a potentially dangerous power set, grieve a loss that profound? What are the consequences for her fellow Avengers and allies as she goes through her stages of grief? What happens to her seemingly infinite abilities when confronted with the emotional trauma of losing the one person who fully accepted her in a world of Mad Titans and Mind Stones? Given the limited info we have about the upcoming series, the answers to those questions seem to be what will fuel the show — giving the MCU a potential darker edge than fans have been keen to see dramatized. An edge that turned House of M into a classic.
While obviously Wanda will not attempt to alter reality to compensate for the children she lost exactly like she did in the comic, it’s very likely the show could take that conceit and adapt it to Wanda in a post-Vision world. That we’ll see Wanda suffer a House of M-level mental breakdown that threatens both herself and anyone (ally or enemy) within the blast zone. Anything less would be, at best, a missed opportunity. At worst? A waste.
What if WandaVision finds Wanda venturing to the edge of both her suffering and her powers to not only attempt to bend reality to her will, but also give audiences a unique opportunity to explore grief in this arena? Marvel heroes can summon epic forces out of Doctor Strange’s magic portals, they can become Giant Man and punch Thanos’ flying Leviathans out of the sky, but they can’t cheat or stop death. (Time and Soul Stone applications being the exception.) These superheroes can’t do anything other than feel the same loss and pain that befalls the humans they risk (and sometimes sacrifice) their lives to save. What does it look like for someone at Wanda’s level to deal with that? How do you fight an enemy that no one can ever truly defeat? How do you cope with one of the hardest things anyone, Avenger or mortal, has to face: acceptance?
As Avengers director Joss Whedon once said, grief isn’t something you get over. It’s something you learn to live with. And WandaVision all but seems certain to force Scarlet Witch to learn that lesson. If done right, the new series could be one of the biggest, and most satisfying, stories the MCU has ever told — and finally give Scarlet Witch and Olsen the storyline they deserve.