Before this series got under way, Scarlet Witch had been making a HUGE comeback after her fall from grace in the mid-2000s. Featured heavily in Avengers vs X-Men, she went on to become a major part of Uncanny Avengers, where much of the old Wanda was rejuvenated. Where the story of Witches’ Road picks up is sometime after she (along with brother Quicksilver) learn that they are not the children of Magneto, and tells the story of her return to New York City in an effort to rebuild her life.
Throughout the collection, Wanda would face magical challenges, discovering through them that magic was broken somehow, and that it was not a natural occurrence. As her investigation continues, she is aided by the ghost of Agatha Harkness, her old teacher (hey, it’s magic!). Together, they track a magic user known as the Emerald Warlock, who is at the heart of magic’s decay. Each story features of different challenge, and unpeels another layer to who the Warlock is and what he is planning. It comes to a head in issues 3 and 4, where Wanda must enter the Witches’ Road, a dimension only witches may enter, to stop him. While on the Road, she encounters her birth mother, Natalya Maximoff (who was also known as the Scarlet Witch), along the way, leading to several emotional moments that nearly brought a tear to my eye. The Emerald Warlock is defeated in the end, Wanda proving that she was still a powerful hero despite all that had happened to her.
James Robinson really impressed me with his work in this book, especially with how well he wrote Wanda herself. Robinson delves deep into Wanda’s character, re-writing her past and even giving glimpses of what could possibly be in her future. Guilt and redemption were at the heart of these explorations, the course of Wanda’s life leading her to many dark places. From that darkness Wanda is searching for a way back to the light, and even though she’s gotten there for most part, there is still large part of her that feels like she will never get there.
The book also does a great job of explaining witchcraft to the reader and how it works within the Marvel Universe. The most important aspect of this was the idea of magic’s “cost”, something that I don’t think has been examined before. Robinson would use this idea brilliantly to show the different between Scarlet Witch and Emerald Warlock and how they treat magic. This technique was truly brilliant, and am interested to see where Robinson takes it in the future.
Before I wrap this up, I have to make a special mention for the creation of the Emerald Warlock. Wanda is a character with over fifty years of history behind her, much of that time spent as a hero, and has never once had an adversary of her own. Warlock is a brand new villain custom built for Wanda, and the contrasts could not be clearer in the story of Witches’ Road. While Wanda accepts the cost of magic, the Knight refuses it, needing to grow more powerful no matter the damage he causes. More than that, while Wanda is a caring individual seeking redemption, Knight is a sadistic killer, murdering people for a century’s old slight on his family. He is truly the opposite of Wanda, and a perfect adversary for her to battle against in the new world that Marvel has created in the last few years.
All in all, the book is beautifully written, and is a great way to introduce the Scarlet Witch to new generation of readers.