Hear ye, hear ye, The Mutants’ Court is now in session! This column is dedicated to covering the massive events of Marvel’s X-Men line with Comicon’s resident X-perts, Scott Redmond and Tony Thornley!
This week we have the third issue of X-Men: The Trial of Magneto by Leah Williams, Lucas Werneck, David Messina, Edgar Delgado, and Clayton Cowles where Wanda is back (or is she?), Kaijus are attacking, and the Avengers and X-Men get pretty chummy.
Also, fair warning now, this is an in-depth discussion of the issue. That does mean there be spoilers ahead!
Scott Redmond: So, here we are three issues into this big murder mystery mystical event story and some stuff happens. That short summary I put above wasn’t meant to be so short but honestly, this issue feels like the equivalent of a really nice looking meal that has some good taste to it but despite finishing the whole plate you are very much hungry afterward. I’m down with the Avengers and X-Men finally being pals again and not sniping/fighting one another (about time) and there are some interesting beats but it’s hard not to see this issue as a stalling one in the sense of the obligatory fight scene/leap the story forward to reach the conclusion type issue. More and more this feels like it would have been a smaller, likely far more focused arc of X-Factor that instead got the oversized event treatment. How did you feel about this one?
Tony Thornley: I liked this issue quite a bit, but this felt a bit like something I talk about often- a mid-story transition issue. A few plot points got set up, a fight happens, there are some character beats (hello Jean-Paul) and there are maybe… two?… major plot advancements.
I did enjoy the relationship drama, both between the Avengers and the X-Men, and between this younger, more naive version of Wanda and… well… everyone. Billy’s sudden appearance was a surprise, but in general, that’s probably the part of the issue that worked the best.
Scott: I totally didn’t even think about the sudden Billy!
As usual, the art team does a very solid job with this series, though there aren’t as many ‘out there’ visuals for them to play with this time. There are a few like Wanda’s memory return (we’ll come back to that soon) or some of the Kaiju fights, or the mystical realm that Wanda seems trapped in but overall it’s pretty much some standard talking and fight scenes. But they make them work which always helps. While the Kaijus came out of nowhere in a sense, Messina really pulls off the fight scenes and I almost could swear these Kaiju just walked off the set of Pacific Rim to fight the X-Men/Avengers. Cowles definitely had fun with the speech bubbles for the Kaiju alongside all the other lettering work. Oh and speaking of Northstar, the visuals that came into play with the use of his speed powers and the way they set up the panels leading up to his arrival were truly something else, in a good way.
Tony: JP was the star of the show this issue. I really hope he walked out of this series with a highly increased profile. Williams has been his main writer for about three years now, and the depth and growth she’s added to his character has transformed him from “flying Quicksilver” to a heroic figure that you can believe as a leader and a superhero.
Scott: So, this issue does a lot but doesn’t do a lot at the same time with the overall storyline. After being a major focus of the last two issues, he is in the title, after all, Magneto took a very awkward backseat in this issue and was almost a non-presence. Sure he was there and got beat on by Northstar, and helped with the fight, but after what we got the last two issues that just felt so bizarre. Especially since in many ways, Wanda was just as much a passive bystander for most of the issue.
We find out that just as Charles mentioned, Wanda’s backups aren’t recent so we get a Wanda that apparently is from way back Avengers where she was with Vision but well before their kids and other things. That’s until Rachel and Jean decide to give her back her memories and give her the “greatest hits” which is all the trauma and terrible things that a slew of writers have forced upon Wanda over the decades. This felt really gross in a way because Wanda has been mistreated and had some of the worst trauma and issues pushed upon her over and over and never gotten a chance to move past or redeem as many other characters get weekly.
Also, the whole backup thing makes little to no sense because the Maximoff twins were believed to be mutants by everyone (including Xavier and Magneto) all the way up till 2014. Therefore they should have backups of them that are closer to that point rather than some dusty old one from the way back when.
Tony: Yeah, that’s what I was thinking too, which makes me wonder if it’s a clue. If this is truly Wanda from pre-Dark Witch in her Wacko days (before anyone says anything- Wacko was the common nickname for the West Coast Avengers from that era), then is it not anything to do with Magneto or Krakoa? Is the threat from that point in Wanda’s life? I mean, Wanda’s slow decline as a character started with John Byrne’s depiction of her at that point in her history. We could be getting a massive retcon reestablishing a more pure and heroic Wanda by doing that.
But then, the scene in the mystic grove seems to back that up. Wanda feels like part of herself has been torn away. It hints that it could be because of her resurrection. However, look at when the kaiju showed up. It wasn’t immediately after Wanda reappeared. It was when Rachel and Jean played her trauma. She lives some of the worst moments of her life, and suddenly these undefeatable giant monsters show up mid-telepathic upload.
Are the kaiju literal personifications of her trauma?
Scott: That is a very good question, perhaps a defense against what is being done to her here after she was reverted backward? It’s so hard to say with Wanda because while she’s a pretty big character when it comes to Marvel things, the vast majority of uses of her end up centering on trauma of some kind. If Williams manages to play this all out and find a way to put that all under wraps and finally bring us back a Wanda that is not defined by more than the trauma inflicted upon her by all the male writers of the past that would be pretty awesome. I’m very much team heroic Wanda.
Also have to wonder, what’s up with Old Wanda? Was she the ‘killer’ all along in some fashion or just part of how Wanda’s mind is coping with what has occurred or something more?
Tony: Williams is extremely good at taking trauma and turning it into a character trait that’s more than just drama. Look at how she handled that in What If…? Magik from a few years ago or Shatterstar and Siryn’s stories in X-Factor. If this story is intended to evolve Wanda beyond her past traumas and her boogeyman status on Krakoa, then she’s laid out the pieces, and now just needs to put them in the puzzle.
As for Old Wanda… If the White Hot Room is a timeless place for the Phoenixes to gather, is that what the mystic grove is for Wanda? Her equivalent?
And here’s where I think the issue fell short- it continued giving us questions, without any indication or clues towards the answers. Really, at this point, I’m feeling that the most likely culprit is Chthon, a demonic entity that has haunted Wanda since at least those Dark Witch days in West Coast Avengers. However, outside of Magneto and Hope obviously being under the influence of an outside entity between this issue and last, we’ve got no indication of who or what it is.
Scott: I would heavily agree with that assessment of the shortfall. This seems like an issue that comes up quite a bit with some comic series trying to tackle mysteries that are spread across many issues. Not sure if it’s just a pacing issue or if having to check certain superhero/big two comic book boxes (action, etc) gets in the way, or just trying to shoot for more issues than you have plot. Maybe something else, but we definitely just keep getting more questions upon questions. Hopefully, answers start to appear before we reach the last pages of the final issue.
Final thoughts on this issue?
Tony: Generally- solid issue, with not much plot, and pretty art. I’m very curious where Williams will take the next two issues, especially when Magneto continues to be the only viable suspect being presented. I guess we’ll see though.
Scott: Very much agreed. Fingers crossed for something big and shaking next issue that starts to put those pieces into place. We shall see indeed.
So that wraps us up this week, with two issues to go to wrap everything up, but we’ll be back in next week to talk about the second issue of Inferno where a whole other set of mysteries and character returns are going down!