Vision and the Scarlet Witch #1-4, (November 1982 – February 1983)
Written by Bill Mantlo
Pencilled by Rick Leonardi
Inked by Ian Akin, Brian Garvey
Colour by Bob Sharen (#1-3), George Roussos (#4)
Spoilers (from thirty-seven to thirty-eight years ago)
My methodology for this column is to read one book every day from my collection, and then gather my thoughts on that series, run, or storyline. For more than a year, I’ve steeped myself in Legion of Super-Heroes comics, from the late seventies through the early thousands. I felt like it was time for something different, but since most of the Marvel boxes I want to dig into are still inaccessible to me (the difficulty of long-term storage), so I decided instead to revisit a venerable team, but in its auxiliary, Californian mode.
I wasn’t quite in the mood for another team book though, so I decided instead to dig into some of its antecedent books for a little while. Then, I started thinking about how it’s Hallowe’en season, and saw an add for the upcoming Disney+ show, and realized that the stars are aligning to point me towards Vision and the Scarlet Witch.
When I was a kid, Vision was always my favourite Avenger. I thought he looked hella cool, and I liked that he didn’t have his own book and adventures. He really only existed within the context of the Avengers, and that made him more interesting to me. The Scarlet Witch, I never fully understood. Even in the 80s, before subsequent writers made the situation worse, I never could quite grasp her ever-changing history. I also found her power set confusing. Still, the idea that a synthetic person and a mutant could be happily married was something that added to both characters.
I did not buy this series off the stands, but instead tracked down these four issues, at various times, over the years as I was growing up. I think I had them all before I read the second VatSW miniseries (more on that in a future column), but I’m not sure if I’ve ever read them from start to finish, in order.
Before pulling these out of a longbox the other day, I wouldn’t have been able to remember who worked on this book, so it was a nice surprise when I saw that Bill Mantlo wrote it. He’s a writer whose work I should pay more attention to.
I’m looking forward to reading this, and hope it lives up to my expectations.
Let’s track who turned up in the title:
- Samhain (#1)
- Isbisa (IS Bishoff; #2)
- Grim Reaper (#3)
- Edwin Jarvis (#1)
- The Whizzer (Robert Frank; #1-2)
- Nuklo (#2)
- Quicksilver (Pietro Maximoff; #2, 4)
- Crystal (#2, 4)
- Luna (#2, 4)
- Wonder Man (Simon Williams; #3)
- Captain America (Steve Rogers; #3)
- Iron Man (Tony Stark; #3)
- Thor (#3)
- Hawkeye (Clint Barton; #3)
- Wasp (Janet Van Dyne; #3)
- She-Hulk (Jennifer Walters; #3)
- Magneto (#4)
- Bova (#4)
- Modred (#4)
- Medusa (#4)
- Black Bolt (#4)
- Karnak (#4)
- Gorgon (#4)
Let’s take a look at what happened in these books, with some commentary as we go:
- As this series opens, Vision and Wanda have left the Avengers, and have moved to Leonia, New Jersey, a bedroom community for professionals. They’ve bought a house, and on Hallowe’en, are out walking around the community (Wanda wears her headpiece and cape over her civilian clothes, while Vision does nothing to disguise his red skin and green cowl). Three local kids, dressed as a jack o’lantern, a goblin, and a ghost, ask them for treats, but Vision just passes his hand through one of their bags. They return home and are surprised to find Edwin Jarvis, the Avengers’ butler, there unpacking their belongings. He gives Wanda a book that Captain America sent her after his recent trip to England (it’s written in Druidic runes). The married couple embraces in the library, not noticing the pages of the book turning behind them. They remember that Jarvis was cooking their dinner, and stop making out. Wanda has taken off the skirt she was wearing over her Scarlet Witch uniform, and when Vision phases through the wall, he leaves his street clothes behind. Wanda thinks about her life, giving us a quick recap of her time with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and then the Avengers, and doesn’t notice that the book is doing stuff. Vision thinks about how his body used to belong to the original Human Torch, and how his personality is modelled on the brain-patterns of Simon Williams, who is now the superhero Wonder Man. The three kids approach the house to trick or treat, but as they do, a light comes out of Wanda’s new book, exits the house, and touches the kids, transforming them into the creatures they are dressed as. When Jarvis opens the door, they attack him. Vision tries to stop them, but as the ghost talks about serving “he who would live”, he phases through the Vision, causing him pain. A tall horned figure, carrying a scythe and calling himself Samhain, appears to Wanda in the library, and shows her how he’s existed throughout humanity’s history, although he’s trapped in the book that Cap gave her. He wants Wanda to free him, but she refuses. Jarvis comes to, realizing that Vision needs some help, as does Wanda. Vision manages to use his eyebeams to break the pumpkin on the jack o’lantern’s head, restoring him to a regular child. The ghost passes through Jarvis on its way to the library, while Vision fights the goblin. Jarvis tosses a silver serving tray at the creature, giving Vision the upper hand to defeat him. Vision rushes to Wanda, where he sees Samhain and the ghost surrounding her. He tries to phase through the ghost, and with each causing the other pain, they float up through the ceiling. Wanda notices something about Samhain, and combines her hex powers and her sorcery to push the book into the fireplace, destroying Samhain. The ghost is restored to being a young girl, so Vision flies her back to the house, where the other two kids are coming to. Vision goes to check on Wanda, and finds her rattled from the battle. They come downstairs, where Jarvis tells him the kids were fine, and had no memory of what happened. The doorbell rings, and Wanda opens it, ready to face another threat. Instead, she finds Robert Frank, who calls himself her father.
- Issue two jumps back and forth a lot, opening towards the end of the story. In a high-tech medical center, we see that Vision’s left arm has been melted into slag from the elbow down, that Wanda lies unconscious on the floor, that Robert Frank, in his old Whizzer costume, lies dying on the floor, and that a man in a radiation suit draws power from Nuklo, Frank’s autstic and radioactive adult son. Before that, Frank came to the couple’s house to get their help in his plan to look after Nuklo. Wanda called Pietro, her brother, who at the time was living with the Inhumans on the moon, with his wife Crystal and infant daughter Luna. Pietro reminded Wanda that Frank was not really their father, but she hoped that Pietro could help him and Nuklo move to Attilan, so the son’s nuclear powers could be brought under control. Pietro agreed to try. Vision asked why Wanda wouldn’t tell Frank the truth – that he is not actually her and Pietro’s father, but she didn’t want to hurt the older man. Frank was excited to learn that they would help him, figuring that the court would grant him custody of his son if some ex-Avengers are with him. In the present, Vision struggles to his feet, and worries that Wanda is dead. Before, the family went to the hospital where Nuklo (so strange that this is his name) has been looked after in a giant plexi-lead bubble that helped contain his radiation. Doctor Hyams took them to see him, where Frank was happy to see his son. The doctor in charge of his care, Dr. IS Bishoff, is not happy to see Frank. He asks to speak to Frank alone. In the present, Vision wants to tell Frank that he’s not Wanda’s father. Before, Dr. Hyams explained to Wanda and Vision that Dr. Bishoff, a leader in the field of special education, helped Nuklo emerge from his autism (that’s an 80s understanding, for sure), and how Frank basically had abandoned his very dangerous child. Bishoff talked to Frank about Nuko, and as Frank explained that he and his wife Madeline were in a nuclear accident in 1949 that caused Nuklo’s in utero mutations, Bishoff put on a menacing and glowing radiation suit. Frank also explained that giving birth to Wanda and Pietro caused Madeline to die, so he left them with Bova, the cow woman on Wundagore Mountain. Bishoff explained that what happened to Frank and Madeline wasn’t an accident, but a plot to gain revenge on the All-Winners Squad. Nuklo yelled as Bishoff attacked Frank. Vision and Wanda went to see what happened, and found Bishoff, calling himself Isbisa, standing over the injured Frank. Wanda tried to help him, and when Isbisa fired at her, Vision shielded her. Frank tried to get Wanda to leave while Vision fought him, and that somehow became the time to explain to him that his twin children died with Madeline, and that Bova tried to give him Wanda and Pietro, who she was already looking after instead. He left them with her anyway, and took off. Vision and Wanda fought Isbisa, who had siphoned off most of Nuklo’s energy into his suit. Frank tried to help Nuklo and connect with him, just as Isbisa melted Vision’s arm and blasted Wanda. Frank changed into his Whizzer suit, and going against his doctor’s orders, tried to stop Isbisa himself, although that just caused him to have a heart attack. Now we’ve caught up to the present, and as Nuklo and Isbisa fight, Vision uses his eye beams to cut off his ruined arm and cauterize the wound. Wanda also recovers and uses her hex powers to destroy Isbisa’s suit. This causes the radiation he’d absorbed to flow back towards Nuklo. Vision approaches them, as Isbisa fires off all the energy he still possesses. Somehow, this drains all power out of Nuklo, turning him into a regular human, and depowers Isbisa. Robert Frank is dead though, so Wanda tells Nuklo how much his father loved him.
- Simon Williams, Wonder Man, rides the Path train to New Jersey in his red leather leisure suit jacket and matching boots. When the train stalls in its tunnel, he gets out and pulls it. He arrives at the hospital where the last issue took place, and finds Wanda sitting with the Avengers (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, She-Hulk, and the Wasp) as a doctor examines Vision. Wanda explains what happened with Isbisa and the Whizzer, and says that after the battle, Vision collapsed. The doctor joins them, and explains that Vision is in shock after his injury, and is in something like a coma (I don’t know how a medical doctor is able to diagnosis a “synthozoid”, especially with Tony Stark in the room, but there it is). The doctor says that he needs Simon’s help. Vision dreams, and sees the original Human Torch and his creator, Phineas Horton. The doctor hooks Vision and Simon to a machine that will transfer some of Simon’s energy into Vision, to help replenish him. The doctor needs help from Thor’s hammer to get a needle into Simon’s arm. Of course, we are reminded that Vision has Simon’s brain patterns. In Vision’s dream, he sees Horton attacked by Ultron-5, and Vision imagines his arm being melted in their fight. Vision starts to writhe on the transfusion table, while Simon starts to feel a little weaker. The Avengers have left, and Wanda watches alone through an observation window, not seeing a shadowy figure approach the door. Vision sees Ultron-5 hurt the original Torch before cutting open Vision’s head and trying to cram a brain into it. Simon starts to feel confused. The Grim Reaper, Simon’s brother who has a scythe at the end of his right arm, sneaks up on Wanda and knocks her out with chloroform. He bursts into the transfusion room and blasts the doctor, while talking about how he wants Simon and Vision to die, so he can avenge his actual brother, Simon (yes, this is confusing, especially since we don’t know how he knew they were in the hospital). In the dream, Simon appears in his earliest Wonder Man outfit, and attacks Ultron-5. He is blasted by the robot. In reality, Grim Reaper prepares to scythe Vision, who sort of wakes up and begins to fight him. The Reaper wrecks the transfusion machine, and they continue to fight over the now-unconscious Simon. In the dream, Vision continues to fight Ultron-5, and the burned body of Simon returns to life. At the same time, in reality, Simon wakes up and surprises his brother. Simon is still weak, and is not able to fight as the Grim Reaper prepares to kill him. Vision puts his arm through the Reaper, and knocks him out. Vision goes to Simon as the Grim Reaper recovers. Simon can’t speak, but tries to warn Vision that the Reaper is approaching him, and in the dream, the same scene plays out, only with Ultron-5. In both dream and reality, Vision turns and fights the villain, putting a stop to them both. Wanda comes to, and goes into the trashed transfusion room, where she finds Vision helping Simon to stand.
- A lone person that the narrative box calls “the White Pilgrim”, due to his all-white clothing, makes his way to a cottage on Wundagore Mountain. The cottage belongs to Bova, the “new woman” evolved by the High Evolutionary from a cow. The Pilgrim asks for shelter from a storm, and she invites him in. Inside, we see that she is caring for the former villain Modred, who now has the mind of a small child. Out of nowhere, Bova begins to talk about how she once gave shelter to a pregnant woman named Magda, who was fleeing from her husband, who had power she feared. When the Pilgrim learns that the children Magda bore lived, even though she did not, he flies into a rage and starts using his power to take apart the cottage. He reveals himself as Magda’s husband (and although Magneto is on the cover of this issue, and the Pilgrim is using magnetic powers, I don’t think we are intended to recognize who this is yet), and demands to know the names of the children. He has to use his powers to alter Bova’s blood flow to force her to tell him, and he gets even angrier when he learns they are named Wanda and Pietro. He tears the rest of her cottage apart, and then flies off. Bova implores Modred to remember enough of his magic powers to warn Wanda and Pietro of what has happened; he sends energy into the night sky. At the same time, we move to the moon, where an Avengers Quinjet sets down. Wanda and Vision emerge from it, greeted by Pietro, Black Bolt, Medusa, and Gorgon, of the Inhumans. It’s assumed they are there to meet Pietro’s infant daughter, and they are, but they are also there to see if the Inhumans can cure Vision’s arm. By the next day, he’s completely restored (all off-screen), and they decide it’s a good time to go meet their niece. Pietro takes them to their home, where they visit with Crystal and Vision holds Luna. There’s a real sense of love in the room, as Pietro lets go of earlier misgivings he had of Vision. As this goes on, the White Pilgrim arrives on the moon, in an “energy corona” that lets him travel through space and also remain invisible as he walks through Attilan. He finds his way to Crystal and Pietro’s house, and seals it behind a magnetic barrier. The Royal Family notices, but aren’t able to breach the barrier. Inside, the Maximoff family also notice what happened, and are surprised by the appearance of the White Pilgrim, who reveals himself to be Magneto (I think we are supposed to be surprised too). Pietro moves to fight Magneto, backed by Wanda’s hex powers. There’s a lot of anger and speechifying, as Magneto recovers from Pietro’s attack and seals Vision in metal, while claiming he won’t hurt him since he’s married to Wanda. Vision questions why that would matter to him. Wanda and Crystal use their abilities, but Pietro worries that his daughter is at risk, and plunges a handy flagpole (from his living room) into Magneto’s shoulder. Magneto is surprised at being hurt, and moves to counterattack, until Crystal yells at them all to stop fighting because they are frightening Luna. At this, Magneto removes his helmet and goes to look at the child. He reveals that Luna is his granddaughter, shocking everyone. Wanda immediately points out how much Pietro and Magneto look alike, and Magneto replies that Wanda looks just like her mother, Magda. He explains that because he was persecuted by Nazis during World War II, he was angry, and used his powers in a way that frightened Magda, causing her to flee. He says that he’s had a hard life, but has been reevaluating his values, and now, knowing that his granddaughter is “a normal human child” (despite having a mutant father and Inhuman mother), he thinks that the human race might be okay. He asks that Wanda and Pietro accept him. A tearful Wanda asks what they should all do now, and that’s how the series ends.
Really, that’s how the series ends.
I’m not sure I understand the purpose behind this series. Each issue is a done-in-one story that, after the first, works to somewhat clarify the incredibly complicated backstories of Wanda and Vision, but I think that by the end, things are even more confusing.
So, first we establish that Wanda and Vision are going to be living in their own place in New Jersey, and have left the Avengers. Fine. Except only this issue shows them living there, and it is disconnected from the rest of the miniseries, except for the last page. In the second issue, The Whizzer, who believes he is Wanda and Pietro’s father, despite having never had anything to do with their lives, wants Wanda to help him regain custody of his other, adult, child, who is a nuclear powerhouse, and “autistic”, and only has a superhero name. Except, an old enemy of the Whizzer’s has been spending years and years of his life helping Nuklo, the son, to emerge from his autism, as part of a very elaborate plot to steal his energy and kill the absentee father who only now has come looking for him. Got it. After that fight, in which the Vision is hurt, it’s determined by a medical doctor who also apparently knows how to operate on decades-old synthozoid bodies that have been repurposed as modern-day superheroes, that the only way to save him would be a transfusion of ionic energy from the person whom his brain-patterns are based on. Right. So after all their superhero friends leave, which is before the procedure is proven to work, the crazed and estranged brother of that brain-pattern donor comes to kill both Wonder Man and Vision, because he misses his brother (and somehow knew they’d be there). During the fight, the Vision also has a cathartic imaginary battle with his own father figure. After that, the Vision is okay, except that he is still missing an arm, so they head off to the moon, where it gets fixed easily, and where one of the Marvel Universe’s biggest villains, Magneto, comes to reveal that he has learned that Wanda and Pietro, who used to work for him, are his children, but we don’t know how he knew they were there. And, after all is revealed, the story just ends.
Reading that recap, it’s hard to argue that this is a coherent, or good, miniseries. I know that the format was new at this time, but I’m not sure what Bill Mantlo was really wanting to do with this. I’m also not sure where the Magneto part of this story led next, chronologically. I know that the story of Wanda and Pietro’s parentage has only gotten more confusing over the years, with Rick Remender recently insisting that they were created by the High Evolutionary, and their ties to Magneto being apparently severed. These two characters have been through worse than that, what with Wanda being driven mad by John Byrne in Avengers West Coast, and then being treated even worse by Brian Michael Bendis, as she Disassembled the Avengers, and then caused the House of M stuff. Pietro also got put through the wringer over the years, to the extent that their lives in this series feel almost ideal. I suppose this is the start of the long rehabilitation of Magneto, as he went from being a pretty one-note villain to a much more complex and interesting character. I’d always thought that it was mostly Chris Claremont who did this in Uncanny X-Men, so it’s cool to remember that Mantlo had some small role to play in that as well.
So yeah, this is a weird book. In addition to the lack of an overarching plot, I thought it odd that Mantlo kept referring to Vision as a synthozoid, whereas I always remembered him being called a synthezoid (which my spellcheck actually accepts).
Vision is not given a lot of personality in this series, and I found myself never quite buying the love between the two characters. I’m not even sure I could buy their relationship as an example of codependency, which is what it became later on in their time together.
One thing I did like in this book is the art, by Rick Leonardi and Akin & Garvey. These issues are among Leonardi’s first published books at Marvel, and had I not looked at the credits, I never would have guessed it was his work. It seems he was heavily influenced by Michael Golden at this stage in his life, and I would have guessed that’s who drew these issues. Later on, Leonardi developed a more angular and distinctive style, which I also really liked. These issues look great though.
I’ve never been a fan of Wanda’s outfit, and the way some of her hair falls in front of her headpiece. It often drives me nuts (I’ll probably mention it again when I read the second V&SW series), but it didn’t bother me all that much here.
I read this series as a foundational piece to a longer run. Next time around, I’m going to look at another antecedent series, featuring another Avenger who never got much solo time.
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If you’d like to read this series, you can follow these links for a trade that includes it.
Avengers: Vision and the Scarlet Witch
Tags: Marvel, Retro Reviews, Vision and the Scarlet Witch, WandaVision