By James Robinson, Joelle Jones & Rachelle Rosenberg
This past Wednesday, as it must to all things, Marvel’s latest marquee Event, Civil War II, came to Scarlet Witch. Event tie-ins can be a messy business often side-lining the forward momentum of a title. Some series, such as Ms. Marvel, rise to the occasion, proving once again why they are so exceptional. Others like Ultimates or A-Force have had a more mixed success. One constant though across the tie-ins I have read is that the authors have been able to maintain the distinct personality of their titles, despite any editorial interference. This also applies to Scarlet Witch. Writer James Robinson crafts an engaging issue which riffs on the Event, while being at heart another chapter in Wanda Maximoff’s journey of self-growth.
For Wanda, the political is personal, as the issue’s story centers on her brother, Pietro. The narrative opens with Wanda doing yoga on her balcony, a calming ritual which is interrupted by the speedster bluster of her twin sibling. This contrast of sensibilities, aptly illustrated by artist Joelle Jones, immediately establishes the conflict. Pietro is all worked up about the current disagreement between Captain Marvel and Iron Man regarding the ethics of detaining individuals before they have committed a crime. Captain Marvel has access to an Inhuman, Ulysses, whose power is to predict the future with near certainty. Some see this as a blessing, while others are fearful for civil liberties. Already one hero has died as a result. (The issue seems to takes place prior to the recent death of Bruce Banner). Pietro is understandably angry about the current course of events and has come to collect his sister to fight by his side. Thing is, he never paused in his rush to ask if she would want to join him.
What Robinson does so well is naturally shift the discussion away from the grand moral issues that underline Civil War II. Instead, he uses the Event as a springboard to explore Pietro and Wanda’s sometimes rocky relationship. This is the first time Pietro has appeared in the series and Wanda is eager to speak of discoveries she has made about their parentage. Pietro not only expresses disinterest, but dismisses Wanda’s own interest as childish. This naturally leads to the unearthing of deeper resentments from both of them. Robinson does offer some commentary on the Event via Wanda’s declaration of neutrality (“Then consider me Switzerland”). This forceful statement of refusing to choose sides in the escalating violence not makes sense for Wanda, but leaves the reader wondering why more of Marvel’s heroes cannot be so sensible.
On a similar note, Robinson keeps the fisticuffs at a minimum. A lesser writer would have filled the pages with Maximoff on Maximoff action while the twins traded soundbite ready quips. Instead the issue consists almost entirely of conversation. Their talk may be impassioned, they may not always hear what the other one has to say, yet, it is a dialogue. Near the end, when tempers are near the boiling point, the violence does explode in a short burst, which is more effective for its brevity. Only on the final page does the reader glimpse the true pain Civil War has brought to this family.
One of the masterstrokes of Scarlet Witch has been the decision to have each issue illustrated by a different artist. Scarlet Witch has benefited from some excellent artists (as well as David Aja’s fabulous covers), whose number now includes Joelle Jones. The first page is a beautiful moment of stillness, as the silhouetted Wanda holds a yoga pose against the Manhattan skyline at dusk. Atmospheric coloring is supplied by Rachelle Rosenberg. Pietro speeds in as a figure of agitation, clearly disrupting his sister’s tranquility. Then as they settle into conversation, Jones keeps the pace flowing so that the book never feels like a bland repetition of talking heads. Here again she is assisted by Rosenberg who gradually alters the hues outside Wanda’s windows, the sky turning darker, redder as the meeting grows more fraught. When the violence breaks out Jones handles it with an equally sure hand, driving home the emotions of the moment. At the end, Jones depicts Wanda back on her balcony, now framed by the purple sky of twilight, and in a very different mental space.
When I first saw that Scarlet Witch was having a Civil War II tie-in issue, I rolled my eyes, assuming that it would be an off month for the series. Robinson proves such fears unfounded. Working with a talented team of artistic collaborators, he defies the conventions of the tie-in, in order to create an installment that fits neatly within his larger narrative. In doing so, he proves once again why this title is the solo series the Scarlet Witch has long deserved.