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Credit: Marvel Comics

How everyone failed Wanda Maximoff

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Jul 10, 2020, 1:00 PM EDT

Before her recent depowering, Wanda Maximoff was one of the strongest characters within the Marvel universe. At one time, her power was so great that she was the source of several major comic events. On the surface, House of M treats Wanda the same way comic stories have treated most female characters with great power — hysterical women who have no control over their abilities. In Wanda's case, it's this and her inability to keep her desires in check. This is important because Wanda can change reality, and her giving into her desires has a more significant impact.

Avengers Disassemble is a storyline that leads into House of M, and the way the narrative pushes Wanda's loss as the driving force of her mental instability is a disservice. There are entire celebrated franchises built on the centering of men getting revenge for loved ones taken away from them, so why should it be any different for Wanda? Her desire for children comes off as a source of weakness, which is unfair given her history and what actually happens when her children are taken away from her.

Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch, has one of the more depressing and complicated comic histories. While Wanda did not start out as a mutant — she and her brother Pietro gained their powers through experimentation — it is essential to keep in mind that for the majority of her comics history, she has been identified as one. In the Marvel Universe, mutants are a marginalized group and are treated as such. Their lives are filled with varying forms of oppression, taking a mental toll on those who walk that journey. Wanda's assumed mutant identity has dramatically impacted how both she and her brother have gone through life.

Wanda and Pietro were taken from their witch mother by the High Evolutionary. Once he finished experimenting on them and found them to be of no use, he gave them over to their mother's brother and sister-in-law to raise them. They ended up fleeing from the only parents they knew when people of the town violently attacked them because of their homo superior abilities. Wanda and Pietro wandered around Europe for a great deal of time until they are sought after and subsequently saved by Magneto. They joined Magneto's Brotherhood of Mutants for a short time before ultimately leaving and finally teaming up with the Avengers. Years later, they discovered that Magneto was their father — which, in true comics fashion, they learned was false after even more time has passed. Again, Wanda has had a complicated identity and familial baggage from the beginning, and this has had an impact on the choices she's made, for better and worse.

Credit: Marvel Comics

With such a traumatic and muddled past, it's no surprise that the one thing Wanda truly desires is a "normal" life, with a husband and children. Why wouldn't someone who has mostly known chaos crave some semblance of normalcy? It just so happens that for Wanda, for her benefit and downfall, she has the power to will parts of that life into existence.

But before all that, Wanda falls in love with her Avenger teammate, a synthezoid known as the Vision. Because Vision is synthetic, and because her first responsibility is to the Avengers, Wanda must make her peace with not having children. However, she starts to recall moments of her past that include the people who she thought were her family. Those memories, coupled with her brother's impending fatherhood, cause Wanda to question if she actually is prepared to remain childless. Carol Danvers, her only good friend at the time, convinces her otherwise by reminding Wanda of all the good she does as an Avenger. But this isn't meant to last.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Eventually, the idea of having children "naturally" is brought up again, this time from Vision. Wanda is open to adopting a child due to their situation, but when her husband mentions using her powers to create life, she does just that. Keep in mind these are powers she doesn't fully control or comprehend — she's in the midst of training under Dr. Stephen Strange at the time. This lack of understanding contributes to everything going straight to literal hell — Wanda accidentally uses part of a demon's soul for the energy to create her sons.

But who cares! Finally, Wanda has her normal life with her synthezoid husband and magick children she created, and no one bats an eyelash, not even Doctor Strange. It feels as though it's treated as nothing more than a miracle because, after all, the pinnacle of success in a marginalized gendered person's life is their ability to have a child.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Sometime later, Wanda is going through and survives levels of trauma that quite frankly should make others think of her as anything but weak. Vision is dismantled, his memory is erased, and he becomes a husk of his former self. And they're still married. So, she no longer has emotional support from a life partner, and this, of course, takes a toll on their relationship. On top of the marital issues, Wanda is kidnapped and then brainwashed. When this happens, their children, Billy and Tommy, start mysteriously disappearing. Agatha Harkness, Wanda's witchcraft teacher, soon learns the true nature of their existence, and everything in this life Wanda has fought so hard for starts to barrel towards annihilation.

What Agatha found was that an imbalance was created when Wanda willed her children into existence. When Wanda is brainwashed, it affects her ability to concentrate on her children so they keep disappearing, because her focus is the only way they can exist. When Wanda first learned she was pregnant, Agatha Harkness was dead, and even the great Dr. Stephen Strange was either unable or alarmed enough to consider the pregnancy as more than just some miracle. The boys, or better described as manifestations of her will, are taken back by the demon, Mephisto.

This is a major catalyst for Wanda to go entirely off the deep end. Agatha Harkness manages to erase the twins from existence and block off the memory of them from Wanda's mind. To their credit, the members of the Avengers who are present when this goes down do voice how messed up it is, but they also keep what happened to themselves. When this decision is made, her teammates fail her in ways that surpass anything the creation of Ultron could ever mean. Unfortunately for them, what's done in the dark always finds its way to the light.

It's not until years later that Janet Van Dyne lets it some of the past slip to Wanda about her children and the truth comes back to her. She justifiably lashes out, starting with the disassembling of the Avengers.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Agatha did what she felt had to be done, but it comes at such a high cost to Wanda, a woman who wanted what was a normal life in her mind — a life that slowly dissolved right in front of her, as her husband was no longer who she married and her children were taken from her. It's honestly a miracle Wanda hadn't snapped sooner given that she's been through so much, plus possession of powers she never fully controlled thanks to putting others' needs before her own. She had obligations to her brother, her father, her husband, and the Avengers. It's quite tragic that those who were supposed to have her back when it mattered most never did. It's disappointing how little they knew her that they would be so surprised when she breaks in the way that she does.

Everyone present carried on like nothing happened, because for the Avengers, sweeping things under the rug until they become a significant problem is a protocol. They should have been concerned the moment they found out Wanda was pregnant even though it shouldn't have been possible. But instead, it was celebrated, because babies do that, no matter their origin. Wanda even wills a dead teammate back to life, and yet again, the Avengers did nothing about it.

Wanda Maximoff was failed by her own and that led directly to her mental breakdown, which ends up being detrimental not only to the Avengers but the entire world. This isn't just some woman who was too powerful for her own good, or someone who wanted children so severely that they lashed out at the world when they were taken. It's is a tragic story about a woman who needed help where none was given.

Credit: Marvel Comics

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