She’ll Solve The Problems No One Else Can: Reviewing ‘Scarlet Witch’ #1
by Scott Redmond
It’s time for the ‘Scarlet Witch’ to reclaim her place as an A-List hero, doing what heroes do in a truly magnificent magical sort of way. Everything about this debut issue works, as the creative team showcases their love for this character and her place within the Marvel Universe, crafting a new mission and space for her that lets her stand on her own while also keeping her most important relationships intact.
After spending the better part of almost two decades weighted down with trauma, the Scarlet Witch is heroic once more. She even has her own series again, where she can do heroic and magical things to help others. Just as it should be.
Crafting a first issue is tough because it often has to hit a lot of particular checkboxes in a sense, but also just has to have the right energy to grip the reader from the word go and not let go. I’m happy to say that Scarlet Witch #1 has all that energy and manages to tick off the right number of first-issue boxes to be a delightful read. I’ve made no secret in previous reviews, namely the columns we did about The Trial of Magneto, that I’m a big Wanda fan and have not been happy with much of her use/treatment in a lot of the 2000s. For too long her sins were allowed to hang around her neck and make her a pariah in the universe at times, while many male characters that knowingly did far worse things were welcomed into the fold time and time again.
I mean come on, we start things off right away with her dispatching the pulled right out of the pages of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe forgotten antagonist called Doctor Hydro and the giant amphibious being known as Caceleon. That’s some big-time hero stuff right there, and she does it all without breaking a sweat. Right away, Steve Orlando sets up Wanda as the hero and then quickly paints her new life goal with her magic shop, and even gets us some great sibling banter/conversation as Quicksilver pops in to check on his sibling. Their voices sound quite natural and the amount of character stuff that Orlando manages to stuff in here without the book ever feeling too packed is almost unbelievable.
In service of Wanda moving forward, she’s not on some team here or looking to be part of avenging or any of that sort of stuff. In fact, the premise here is pretty simple and easy, people that need help will suddenly find themselves walking through The Last Door which brings them to Wanda so she can help. A premise like this opens the door, sorry I had to do it, to so many possible stories and reminds me very much of the type of premise one might get from some classic television where people went from city to city to help. Wanda is an A-Team of one, well not fully one since Darcy (making her comic book debut from the MCU) is there to assist (and has a secret of her own). No doubt Pietro will be around to help out now and then, like in this issue.
Doctor Hydro is a pretty deep dive, but the overall villain of this piece is less so but still kind of is in a sense. There was a time when a lot of villains were regularly used in Marvel Comics before things sort of narrowed and particular villains, those with a recognized cache, began to be used far more often (the same can be said over at the distinguished competition). Basically, your Ultrons, Dooms, Magnetos, and the like that began to feature in stories back to back, with writers wanting to give their take on them. It would have been easy to do that here, but instead, Orlando turns to Jackson Day, the Corruptor, for this story.
It works so well because of course a villain like that doing something like taking over a small town would go mostly unnoticed by the big hero groups, making it easy for there to be a way for Wanda to step in to save the day. There is also the nature of his powers, which gives us a fantastic Wanda moment that I love so much. As I noted above trauma has been around Wanda for so long, and Corruptor tries to weigh her down with it all again, but she just brushes it off and does the hero thing. Orlando easily could have avoided even referencing what Wanda has been through, but instead uses it as a good way to bolster this series’ mission statement for her as a hero.
While Orlando does Wanda justice on the writing side of things, it falls to Sara Pichelli, Elisabetta D’Amico, and Matthew Wilson to do so with the overall visuals of the issue. They knock it out of the park. Pichelli is just a fantastic artist in anything she has ever done, giving this series such a distinct, detailed, gorgeous look that is enhanced with the inks that D’Amico brings to the work. Any issue that has Quicksilver within it, even briefly, needs to have a particular energy of motion to the artwork and Pichelli has that in spades. Everything here just flows and feels real with a true weight to it, characters actually move through the world within panels and from panel to panel.
Those panels shift and change shape and size as needed, allowing Pichelli to perfectly capture the emotions and body language of every single character. We don’t need to be told how anyone is feeling because we can very much see and even feel it ourselves as we let our eyes move through the pages. No character, no matter their prevalence in the issue, feels like an empty space or is just there to take up space. This is a world that feels full and lived within, as Wanda moves through it in order to do what she can to make the world a better place.
When we do see Wanda’s abilities put into effect, they are big and bold, and magical in many cases. Chief among them is a great panel where Wanda turns a truck into water saving the driver before he can hit the ground or crashes into her. As I mentioned about other elements this is another that feels like it’s in movement, the way that the water is shown going in so many directions including already being splashed on the ground all is logical and creates a showcase for what Wanda can do.
Wilson brings a lot of that weight and depth through the colors that are added to this world, finding that beautiful mix of vivid and toned-down. Many of the elements around them such as buildings and many of the people moving through their everyday lives are very grounded toned-down colors that fit what we might see in our normal everyday life. It creates that image of this being a town that could be anywhere in Italy or the rest of the world because it feels real. Most of the more vivid pops of color are saved for the more magical and superhero elements such as Wanda and Pietro’s costumes, Corruptor, and the opening scenes.
This makes it so that those fantastical elements stand out far more from everything else, as they naturally would. If these superheroes were parading down our streets right now in the costumes as they are usually depicted on comic pages, it would be so bright and you’d notice them right away. I mean you would anyway because of their nature, but that color would surely catch the eye of even those that are engrossed in whatever their daily routine might be.
Emotions and tone are captured so well by the art and colors that Pichelli and Wilson bring to the page and are enhanced even more with the lettering that Cory Petit provides. One of the best ways to help convey those things is to set up a sort of baseline appearance to the lettering so that we instantly know what a normal level of conversation or thought might look like. Petit does that easily while making sure that those bubbles then move around the page in the most efficient and easy-to-follow way so that as we’re reading, we’re still taking in everything else connected to the words in a complete package way. It’s taking things beyond that baseline that moves lettering to the next level.
We can see on a face if someone is scared or angry or worried in some way in most cases, but we all know in real life that with our emotions our voice often changes too. To achieve that Petit drops in plenty of bolds to add emphasis to certain words, but chiefly makes sure to modulate the volume of any given bit of dialogue by expanding or shrinking the font used. Just spotting the font suddenly being smaller can tell our mind that the words are being said at a softer/quieter level than the rest of them, so we can ‘hear’ the character whispering.
Love love love when words that are powerful or important get exploded to a large colorful level in a bubble to give them that even bigger punch. We see The Last Door get a slightly bigger red namedrop on one page and then a few pages later as it actually is put to use that namedrop is huge and red and so comic booky, just as I like it. The same goes for all the big bold SFX dropping into the mix, making sure that we can perfectly envision the sound that something makes. Even if that sound isn’t something we can intrinsically recognize we still hear it in a sense.
Scarlet Witch #1 is now available from Marvel Comics.