Avengers West Coast #56 – Reviews Of Old Comics
Watching Avengers: Infinity War, I was taken with how powerful the Scarlet Witch was portrayed. This was a character shown to be powerful enough to shatter an Infinity Stone. Given that in the past two films that she’s appeared in, her powers have been shown to be primarily telekinetic and mildly telepathic, but not so powerful that she can shatter one of the six most powerful items in the universe.
This level of power is something that is not uncommon to long time comic fans. Most famously, she has completely rewritten reality in the House of M crossover event. She also stripped all but a handful of mutants of their powers at the end of that event. Writer John Byrne explored how her original power to alter probabilities in a great, albeit truncated story in Avengers West Coast collected in Darker Than Scarlet.
On his forum, John Byrne explained that Wanda’s powers worked backward through time, which brought the attention of Immortus. Immortus sought to exploit the most powerful aspect of her mutant power to change history, creating a timeline without an Avengers. This was a demonstration of how powerful Wanda could be, and that demonstration of power was the best part of what remained from the original story.
Writer/Penciller: John Byrne
Inker: Paul Ryan
Colorist: Bob Sharen
Letterer: Bill Oakley
The logic behind the Scarlet Witch’s mutant powers has always been a little hard to follow. It does stand to reason that some mutants would be extremely powerful, and even that some of those would not realize just how powerful they are. Wanda is also one of those mutants that never trained under Professor X. Wanda never explored the nature of her powers through constant practice. She never had the opportunity to control, much less understand her powers. The problem with trying to fully understand these powers is that they never quite make sense to start with.
Changing the probability of something happening involves altering a lot of the math that governs the way things work The instance that Hank Pym sets up in the flashback doesn’t fully test the probabilities and as a scientist, he should know that. Of course this is the danger for a writer to deal with science that he doesn’t fully understand. John Byrne was always good about talking with others or working around dealing with these questions. Here, he is working how other writers explained Wanda’s powers, and doing so at a time when Wanda augmented those powers by learning actual magic. For the sake of the story, this explanation works well enough. He also set the stage for Wanda to have a severed relationship with reality. Wanda becomes a selfish villain after this snap, which makes sense only if she begins understanding that her powers work in this way.
John Byrne’s artwork is sound, but Paul Ryan inking him isn’t the best fit for him. Paul Ryan’s style hearkens back to an earlier style, but it does allow enough of Byrne to shine through. At this point in his career, there was criticism of Byrne drawing panels without backgrounds. I looked at the issue and he only did that here after firmly establishing the setting. In many cases, he could have done so and didn’t. He opted to draw backgrounds and environments. I can’t fault John Byrne for trying to give a reader their money’s worth, at least in art.
He also provides value when it comes to the script. Exploring how the Scarlet Witch’s powers work is a key facet of this story. On its own, that would make for a very dense story. He also advances the plot, which I find admirable. The reveal of Quicksilver at the end doesn’t come off as much of a surprise, given that only one person with that hairstyle would show up with what can only be Lockjaw. I’m not taking away points in this review for this lack of surprise. John Byrne follows through on it in the very next issue.
The use of a green and pink subdued palette in the flashbacks is different, and works very well in setting it apart from the rest of the story. I don’t know if the ides for it came from Byrne, editor Bob Harras or colorist Bob Sharen, but Sharen did a great job with it.
This issue has been collected in Darker Than Scarlet, as I mentioned before. The individual issue should be easy to find cheaply, so do not pay too much to get a good quality copy. You can get a digital copies easily enough. I did my research using Marvel Unlimited.
Final Rating: 8.0 (out of 10)
I liked revisiting this for a sense of how powerful the Scarlet Witch can be. I now feel like I need to go read House of M for another take on how her mutant abilities affect reality.