Monica Rambeau: “Don’t let him make you the villain.” Wanda Maximoff: “Maybe I already am.”
The latest screen offering from Marvel Comics, WandaVision, is for the small screen, not the multiplex movie theaters which was home to the blockbuster Avengers movies. Appropriate, considering the subject matter.
Wanda Maximoff, aka The Scarlet Witch of comic book fame, is living in a artificially created television sitcom world, starting with the set of the Dick Van Dyke show. As the episodes progress, so does the style of family sitcom, reminding us that for most of our lives television was actually pretty awful.
But Wanda’s world has a dark side, and not just on the level of guest star Uncle Ned’s drinking problem. The inhabitants of Wanda’s artificially created town of Westview are not there willingly, nor are they in control of their own behavior. They’re captives to Wanda’s grief over killing her husband in one of the big screen movies, and the heaven Wanda has created for herself (complete with sitcom superhero family) is really a hell.
Outside Westview, we learn that some secret comic book government organization is trying to find out the secret of Westview, although the comic book world of government baddies has already figured it out and one of them has an ulterior motive. Innocent people may get killed instead of just having their lives ruined while they wander around in a mind-control state.
Back inside Westview, all is not well, either, as the writers couldn’t help but introduce yet another super villain who has designs on Wanda’s mystical superpowers.
Who is the real villain of the story? Wanda is a superhero in the comics, a superhero convert in the movies, and the star of our nine-part series.
But she’s no hero, no matter how much we want her to be. Wanda’s grief and her access to the power to change reality may be a character’s motivations, but they’re not excuses. There are victims to her abuse of powers, no matter how much the cliché African American superhero friend with an Asian American FBI sidekick tries to excuse what happened.
(Marvel Comics is apparently still trapped in an era of keeping minorities to sidekick roles.)
By adding the other villains around the story, the writers have retreated from any serious moral reckoning for the character they created. Instead, we’re expected to become tribal loyalists to Wanda in her fight against the supposedly unambiguous bad guys. We even get a ridiculous recreation of the family of Incredibles readying for battle.
This is supposed to make us forget that maybe the secret government agency launching a drone strike to try to kill Wanda wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
We could have been treated to a story about someone, given so much power to control others, facing what they’ve done. Instead, the writers blinked, and we’re left with all of the moral fiber of a Marvel Comic. Somebody forgot to tell them that television since The Sopranos is much better than this.
Marvel Comics should go back to the movies with its popcorn plot.