Page 45 Review by Stephen
"I've had some problems in the past.
"My life has been a minefield of missteps, mistakes and - I'll be the first to admit - even some mental instability.
"But I am more than the sum of those mistakes and I am better than that.
"And I resolve to put things right."
A surprisingly spandex-free, site-specific series, its international, geographical locations are stunningly well served by each of the artists with deliciously disparate styles.
Following the films there are flocks of new Scarlet Witch fans actively asking for her key appearances on our shop floor. I'll be helping you out at the bottom of this review, but rest assured that this is a book itself is a perfectly accessible entry point which wends its own way, free both from convoluted Marvel history and Wanda's own past, though the ghost of Agatha Harkness, as arch as ever, may well intrigue.
It's an occult detective series during the course of which Wanda Maximoff follows a trail of broken or corrupted magic from New York to the Greek island of Santorini, thence to an Ireland whose fallow fields are as beleaguered by arable plague as they were during the mid-19th Century during the Potato Famine. The series is site-specific, as I say, its writer James Robinson focussing on each country's legend, lore and often all too awful history.
The first volume finishes in the bucolic back roads of Spain where a vineyard, built on the site of an ancient nunnery whose inhabitants had taken a solemn vow of silence. Accused by their own religion of witchcraft during the Spanish Inquisition, their unfaltering devotion to God led not one of them to break their most sacred vow, even in their defence. They were burned or buried underground, chained to walls of their very own crypt. But now it's been broken into by labourers employed to extend the vineyard's cellar space and they all became possessed of a fearful madness. The very church which caused this human catastrophe was summoned to perform an exorcism, but an exorcism requires words and anyone who speaks inside the walls suffers the same fate.
Cue master class in silent storytelling by one Javier Pulido and some elegant forms and impressive spot-blacks worthy of Gilbert Hernandez.
It's not quite HELLBLAZER but please believe that - as written by Robinson - Wanda is not without her wits, tricking her way to against-all-odds success at least once. Robinson knows that nebulous spell-casting to win the day makes for zero dramatic tension. There has to be a certain degree of logic: there have to laws as well as lores to contend with and be obeyed, bent or broken.
And here is the thing: within Jason Aaron's equally accessible, current DOCTOR STRANGE it has been established that - just like Newton's Laws of Physics - for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. For every spell cast there is a price to be paid.
For every spell that Wanda's now casting a price is being paid. For the moment it's only glanced in a distorted mirror like a peak into Dorian Gray's hidden attic, but her soul is aging rapidly. Plus, as long-term readers already know, sanity was never her strong point, either.
Coloured by Jordie Bellaire, Vanesa Del Rey's opening chapter in greys, greens and reds is as haunting as you could wish for. Even on the daytime streets of Manhattan it remains ethereal, Maximoff striding between two worlds, the mundane grey of one and the sorcerous scarlet of the other cleverly combined on the page in her garb. New York at night is a dream, lit up not by neon, but by the colour-coded impressions of its denizen's souls.
Fast-forward to Greece and Marco Rudy's painting presents you with both midnight hues punctuating once more by blood-red and with majestic daytime vistas of the island's white-washed walls of its hillside town gleaming and beaming in the full summer sun against the Mediterranean blue of its cool ocean waters. Marco's maze-like, circular and segmented panels are no random choice for we are in the modern lair of the Minotaur as Wanda strives to puzzle out its nocturnal activities then navigate her way to their core.
Steve Dillon's depiction is much more contemporary and chic, especially within the Irish airport, Maximoff striding down its functional thoroughfares in a long-coat/rain-coat affair buttoned at the belly. But it's abruptly broken when Chris Visions steps in with something a little more... ancestral.
Hahaha SPOILERS! We no longer do spoilers around here, nor have we for years.
We did once, which makes my AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED review one of the worst I have ever written. Please do not read it if you're interested in picking up that book. But if you want the ultimate, all-encompassing background on Wanda Maximoff - if you're not satisfied with this as your entry point - it will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about the troubled woman and her oh so chequered past with a passion I poured in, perhaps too liberally! I originally wrote it as an introduction to Bendis's subsequent NEW AVENGERS run which lasted almost a decade.
I promised you other recommended Scarlet-Witch reading above, and this is it:
AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED and its immediate sequel, HOUSE OF M
MARVEL MASTERWORKS: AVENGERS VOL 2 purely as background
ULTIMATES SEASON ONE and ULTIMATES SEASON TWO which are my two favourite superhero books of all time.
KNIGHTS OF WUNDAGORE and the sequel to AVENGERS: VISION QUEST are, at the time of typing, out of print. Not my fault, I'm not the publisher. Sorrreee!