Saturday

OMU: Scarlet Witch -- Part Three

After a very harrowing year, things began to turn around for the Scarlet Witch, and the next three months of her life were so busy that they require an entire post just to describe all that occurs. The most important thing that happens to her during this period, though, is that she meets her future husband, the dark-eyed, crimson-skinned android called the Vision. Used as a pawn by the murderous robot called Ultron, the Vision initially attacked the Avengers, but was able to shake off his mental conditioning and was inducted into the group in Avengers #58. Both he and the Scarlet Witch would be mainstays of the team from this point forward. But it was partly the desire to explain their bizarre marriage that led me to write this chronology in the first place. I was also intrigued by the fact that the events in between the Scarlet Witch’s appearance in the preceding Sentinels storyline and her return to the ranks of the Avengers were never chronicled in great detail, and so afford yet another Untold Tale of the Original Marvel Universe.

Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale.) Some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.


Here, then, is the third installment of… The True History of the Scarlet Witch!


October 1964 – The airship carrying the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and the Toad soon streaks low around Wundagore Mountain. Wanda and Pietro have decided to seek out the scientist who helped them a year ago with his diathermatic treatments. Upon reaching his laboratory at the foot of the mountain, however, they find the place wrecked, his equipment utterly destroyed, and the scientist himself gone. Their inquiries in the nearby village reveal that the scientist went mad before he disappeared, not long ago. Wanda has a desperate inspiration, and decides that if science cannot help her, perhaps magic can. The Toad encourages her, saying that, as an expert on castles, he can lead her to the finest libraries of mystic knowledge in the region.

They take their new airship northeast into the Transylvanian Alps until reaching the sinister citadel known as Castle Dracula. They land in the courtyard to find the castle abandoned, the roads leading up to it having long ago become impassable. The Toad is excited to explore, but Pietro refuses to believe that the old tales of vampires have any truth to them. Finding the ancient library, Wanda pours through the dusty books and manuscripts, but finds nothing that will help her. Despite his skepticism, Quicksilver insists they leave the castle before sundown. Although discouraged, Wanda is determined to continue her search.

The Toad directs them westward, and they soon arrive at the remote Castle Mordo. They enter the sorcerer’s inner sanctum with trepidation, but it, too, is deserted. Looking around, they realize the place has been looted, and recently. They surmise that its occupant left suddenly, and no one must expect him to ever return. Many of the bookshelves are empty, the rooms ransacked. Despite hours of careful searching, Wanda finds nothing of value.

From there, they cross the mountain range south into Romania and then down to Bulgaria, stopping at the dwelling of every mystic and mage the Toad has ever read about, but none are able to offer any assistance to the weary mutants. Finally, deep in Bulgaria, they meet an ancient sorceress who seems pleased to help them, offering them her best hospitality. After the tired trio spends the night, the sorceress presents them with new costumes, their old ones having become rather threadbare. Wanda’s new costume is a pink silk leotard under a strapless red bodysuit, with short pointed red gloves and higher, simple red boots. Her new cape is longer and her headdress is slightly redesigned. Wanda is delighted with the gift, seeing it as symbolic of shedding Magneto’s influence over her. Quicksilver’s new costume is no longer green, but is a silvery-blue color with white gloves and boots. He, too, is happy with the changes. The Toad’s new clothes are similar to his old uniform, but simpler and of finer materials. Then, after allowing Wanda to peruse her collection of texts, the ancient sorceress tells them that the greatest repository of magical tomes in all of Europe is, in fact, in Transia, near the north face of Wundagore Mountain. The Toad is surprised, but she explains that the library’s existence is a closely-guarded secret. Wanda offers the sorceress her gratitude for all she has given them, and they are soon winging their way back to Transia.

Quicksilver observes that the Sentinels’ airship is nearly out of fuel, and it is unlikely they will be able to refill the tanks. They manage to reach their destination, however, and land not far from a small cottage nestled into the side of the mountain. They are greeted by a wizened mage, who says he was expecting them. He leads the trio into his library, and helps Wanda and the Toad begin their search through the ancient volumes. Soon growing bored, Quicksilver begins poking around the shelves, and to his surprise he discovers a secret panel, and behind it, a glowing book. Wanda takes the book, and, feeling strangely compelled, recites a spell previously unknown to her. To the trio’s astonishment, a muscular, savage warrior materializes in their midst and announces that his name is Arkon, and that he intends to take the Scarlet Witch as his bride. Quicksilver and the Toad attack, but one of Arkon’s lightning bolts causes the Toad to vanish in a burst of light. Explaining that his world can only be saved by the destruction of the earth, Arkon hurls another lightning bolt at the Scarlet Witch, and in a blinding flash, she disappears from the earth as well.

Wanda suddenly finds herself alone in a small outpost on an alien world. Looking outside, she sees only a barren plain stretching to the horizon in all directions, where noxious vapors rise from amongst strange, gnarled rock formations. She marvels at the alien sky, so different from Earth’s, filled as it is with planetoids and shimmering clouds of energy. A moment later, Arkon appears again in a blinding flash, and bids her welcome to his world, called Polemachus—her new home. Wanda is defiant, but Arkon persists with his intention to make her his bride. He places around her waist a belt of a gleaming metal which resembles stainless steel, closing its jewel-encrusted diamond-shaped clasp with a snap, declaring that it is a sign of their betrothal. Startled, Wanda quickly realizes the belt is locked in place and she cannot remove it. He then produces a simple meal from the larder, but Wanda refuses to eat. Arkon takes little notice of her attitude, and when he is finished he announces that he must continue with his mission, and that she will wait there until he returns to fetch her. A moment later, Wanda finds herself alone again. As the lonely hours pass, she struggles with the metal belt, but to no avail. She realizes she is in Arkon’s power, and, without her mutant abilities, there is little she can do about it. She finally falls into a fitful sleep.

She is awoken by Arkon, who orders her to prepare for the long journey to his capital city. After permitting her to freshen up, Arkon takes her outside and puts her on the back of a large bipedal lizard wearing a harness. He mounts the beast as well, takes the reins, and they set off across the wasteland. As they ride, Wanda insists she could never love a man who would destroy her entire world and keep her a captive against her will, but Arkon will not be swayed, saying that having a queen as beautiful as her is all he cares about. Realizing that further argument is pointless, Wanda just closes her eyes and clings to his mighty muscled frame as their scaly steed lopes along mile after mile. She inhales Arkon’s musky scent, and in many ways he reminds her of Hercules. Could she learn to love him, as he claims? She finds herself wondering. At last they reach the magnificent capital city and enter Arkon’s imperial palace, where Wanda learns Arkon has kidnapped some of Earth’s nuclear scientists to build him an atomic bomb. Arkon and his men go to persuade the scientists to be more cooperative, and Wanda is taken away by some subservient handmaidens. They take her to a wing of sumptuous living quarters and prepare a luxurious perfumed bath. Wanda slips out of her dusty costume, though the steel belt remains locked around her waist. While she bathes and eats a delicious meal, her costume is taken away and laundered. Hours pass, and after putting her clothes back on, Wanda explores the wing, noticing that brawny armed guards close off any possible avenues of escape. From a balcony, she looks out over the city, and must admit to herself that the scene is breathtaking, fantastic beyond her wildest imaginings.

Finally, Arkon enters the wing and announces that the scientists have devised a means to save Polemachus without destroying the earth, and Wanda feels a wave of relief. Her hopes of returning home are quickly dashed, however, when Arkon insists that she remains his chosen bride. He takes her to an ancient courtyard in the very heart of the palace and shows her a delicate flower clinging to the dusty stone wall. He says it is the fabled Flower of Life, meant to be picked by the Imperion’s betrothed and worn on the day of her wedding. Wanda feels overcome by the romantic futility of her situation, and begins to surrender to Arkon’s indomitable will. He is handsome, powerful, rugged, and dynamic, and the strength of his desire erodes her will to resist. She kneels and plucks the flower, reciting a poem while contemplating the simple beauty of the blossom. As she speaks, she detects the faintest hint of tenderness in Arkon’s eyes, and her heart melts. She resigns herself to her fate and accepts that she has no choice, which is incredibly freeing. As she moves in to kiss her new lord and master, a soldier suddenly bursts in to announce that the Avengers are invading the citadel. Wanda is confused and horrified by the jumble of contradictory feelings she is suddenly experiencing, but Arkon storms off to battle. From the ramparts, Wanda sees that it is indeed her erstwhile teammates come to rescue her: Quicksilver, Captain America, Goliath, Iron Man, and Thor, as well as the man in black they had seen on Magneto’s island and yet another stranger, a grim figure in a golden cape. The Avengers smash their way through Arkon’s barbarian hordes and storm the palace. Desperate, Arkon grabs a glowing globe he calls the Atom Sphere, boasting that the Avengers’ triumph will be bitter indeed when he’s destroyed their world. Wanda is horrified that he had lied to her, and she tries to pull away in utter revulsion, but he grabs her. As her rescuers burst into the chamber, Wanda begs Arkon not to kill them, but he pulls her close to him, throws down one of his lightning bolts, and in a flash Wanda finds herself next to Arkon on the roof of the Empire State Building in midtown Manhattan.

The Avengers are hot on their heels, however, and press their attack before Arkon can detonate his nuclear device. Wanda watches helplessly as Arkon shrugs off Quicksilver and his teammates, and she warns the red-faced stranger in green and gold that Arkon is unstoppable. Indeed, Arkon has nearly defeated the Avengers single-handedly when the face of his vizier appears in the clouds and announces that the crisis has been averted and the earth need no longer be destroyed. Arkon is stunned to learn that Iron Man and Thor constructed a device to replenish the life-giving energy rings surrounding Polemachus. He then announces the conflict is ended, and Wanda, confused and trembling, approaches him. Heedless of her conflicted feelings, Arkon tells Wanda that he no longer wishes to force her to marry him, and adds that crossing the dimensional barrier has no doubt restored her mutant powers. Then, he disappears in a sudden flash of light. Iron Man and Thor materialize amongst them, and though she feels she should be overjoyed, Wanda finds herself unaccountably heartbroken.

They return to Avengers Mansion, and Quicksilver announces that he and his sister are ready to rejoin the team. Captain America formally introduces them to the Black Panther and the Vision. They are also surprised to realize that Goliath is Clint Barton rather than Henry Pym. Clearly, a great deal has changed during their long absence. Wanda claims to be exhausted and goes to bed, her room having been quickly prepared for her by Jarvis. Once alone, she breaks down sobbing. She cannot comprehend how she was so ready to surrender herself body and soul to Arkon, and she feels sick at the thought of it. She suddenly finds his hypermasculinity utterly revolting, but at the same time she worries that her fear of sex will keep her from ever finding a husband. She curses Magneto for destroying her life, and wishes she had the power to kill him. This leads to a wave of guilt and shame and self-loathing. She suddenly realizes the steel belt Arkon had locked around her waist is still there, his barbaric version of an engagement ring. She will have to find a way to have it removed, she thinks, but for now it somehow brings her a small level of comfort. She drifts off to sleep feeling its cold embrace.

The next morning, Wanda wriggles back into her costume, a task made more difficult by the snug steel belt. She decides to use the cape, boots, and pink leotard from one of her old spare costumes, until she can have her new outfit cleaned. She heads downstairs and finds her brother with Goliath, the Black Panther, and the Vision, discussing an urgent call the team has received from General Thaddeus Ross at Desert Base in New Mexico. They quickly board a Quinjet and are soon rocketing west. During the flight, Wanda becomes intrigued by the Vision and the two begin to talk. She learns that he is an artificial man—a “synthezoid,” as he terms it—and that is the reason for his emotionless, almost mechanical speech patterns, which send a chill down her spine. But when he speaks of the honor he felt when the Avengers accepted him into their ranks, despite his uncertain origins, Wanda wonders to herself if he truly feels such emotions or if he is merely mimicking human figures of speech.

Upon meeting with General Ross, the team learns that the Hulk is moving westward through the Mole Man’s subterranean system of tunnels and must be stopped before he reaches the San Andreas Fault. Immediately, they head northwest in an Air Force VTOL cargo jet, which carries a massive device called a gammatron bombarder, hoping to intercept the Hulk before he can trigger an earthquake. They begin setting up the machinery in a remote clearing in a forest in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The Scarlet Witch climbs to the top of one of the massive units to help direct the alignment of its opposite number. Soon they detect the Hulk directly below them, and the Vision passes down through the ground by using his power to alter his body’s density. Moments later, the Vision reappears, with the Hulk in hot pursuit. As her teammates press their attack, trying to draw the Hulk between the two units of the machine, the Scarlet Witch tries in vain to activate her mutant hex powers. She begins to fear that Arkon was wrong. However, as the Hulk grabs a helicopter and turns its whirling blades towards the Avengers, Wanda keeps trying. Suddenly, to her amazement, she feels her powers kick in and a glowing sphere of energy forms around the Hulk, causing the helicopter to inexplicably burst into flames. Then, Goliath is able to lure the Hulk into position, and the Black Panther switches on the gamma radiation. Unfortunately, instead of changing back into Bruce Banner as planned, the Hulk overcomes the energy beams, destroying the bombarder in the process. Tired of fighting, the Hulk then leaps away into the sky and is lost in the distance before the astonished Avengers can react. Though they failed to capture him, the Avengers are satisfied that they prevented a major disaster. They return to Desert Base, pick up their Quinjet, and are soon back in New York.

The Scarlet Witch spends the following two days exploring this new manifestation of her powers in the Avengers Mansion training facilities. Describing it as a “hex sphere,” she realizes that even she cannot predict what will happen within its boundaries. She is certain, however, that it is a more potent form of mutant energy than she has ever mustered previously. Wanda also convinces herself that she has neglected to seek having the steel belt removed from around her waist because she’s been training so intensely, though she is aware there are deeper motives that she cannot face. She knows it’s only a matter of time before the other Avengers realize it’s not merely decorative. Then, the team’s quiet evening is interrupted by a visit from Tony Stark, who is fighting off a hostile takeover by an unscrupulous businessman named Cornelius Van Lunt. Stark explains that the Avengers must raise $120,000 in back rent on the mansion immediately to help keep Stark Industries afloat during the crisis. And so, early the next morning, the Avengers use all available means to announce that they are for hire. Wanda and Pietro even agree to appear on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson that very evening to promote their cause. The prospect of appearing on national television makes Wanda realize that she’s being foolish in procrastinating about the belt locked around her waist. After dinner, she approaches the Black Panther and asks his help to remove it. Though the extradimensional alloy proves to be a challenge to the Panther’s technical skills, he finally manages to cut it off without injuring Wanda. She is relieved, though also somewhat sorry, and she realizes wearing it had given her a strange, secret little thrill.

Hours later, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch arrive at NBC Studios for the Carson show. After some initial banter, Quicksilver announces the team’s efforts to raise the money as quickly as possible. However, Wanda senses that her brother is growing annoyed with the host’s irreverent attitude, and is thankful when the interview abruptly ends for a commercial break. Though Wanda is keen to stay and meet the other celebrities, Pietro insists they leave immediately. The next morning, a flood of offers pours into Avengers Mansion, and the team spends hours reading the proposals, looking for something that will meet their requirements. They are shocked to find a generous offer from Cornelius Van Lunt himself. Within the hour, the team is in Van Lunt’s ornately-decorated office, where he reveals his financial attack on Stark was a ploy to gain him the services of the Avengers, and if they agree to work on certain projects of his, he will drop his attempts to bankrupt Stark. Reluctantly, the team agrees and signs the contract. And so, the very next morning the Avengers find themselves demolishing a condemned building on one of Van Lunt’s lots in the city. When the financier arrives to inspect their work, the team is annoyed to learn that Van Lunt has maneuvered to make a hefty profit on a playground the city was hoping to build on the lot anyway. Wanda is especially offended by the arrogant profiteer. They work throughout the day on a series of demeaning labors until being summoned to repair a condemned tunnel under the East River. Fearing that they are walking into a trap, Quicksilver arranges to have the Avengers’ submarine standing by near the tunnel. His suspicions are confirmed when, seconds after they sneak out of the tunnel, a series of explosive charges cause it to collapse. Now, the Avengers become convinced that Van Lunt is the mastermind behind a gang of bank robbers that Wanda’s teammates had all encountered in recent weeks, and sure enough, they find the so-called Split-Second Squad attempting to steal a shipment of gold bars. Though they make short work of the second-rate crooks, the Avengers are startled to discover the hooded leader is not Van Lunt after all, but a revenge-minded employee of his seeking to frame the tycoon. Disgusted by the whole affair, the Avengers return home.

The next day, Wanda can’t stop thinking about the metal belt Arkon had given her, and finds she feels almost naked without it. She gets a belt of scarlet leather with a large buckle and draws it tightly around her waist, and immediately feels better. She also fusses over her costume, replacing her pointed gloves with a new pair of red gauntlets. Deep down, though, she is struggling to come to terms with the feelings stirred in her while she was on Polemachus. With no one to confide in, she seeks out the Vision, finding that she at least enjoys his company, though he strikes her as cold and aloof. She begins to realize that the android does not cause her the anxiety she often feels when she’s around men. For his part, the Vision seems to welcome her presence, and does nothing to discourage the curiosity she shows towards him.

Later that evening, the Avengers hear a ruckus on the roof of the mansion and find Captain America battling the Man-Ape, an old foe of the Black Panther’s. Outnumbered, the Man-Ape manages to escape, and the Avengers ponder why he would attack Cap when the two had never met. When the Black Panther drops by to check in, he can provide no answers. However, their communications equipment suddenly crackles to life with the leering face of the Man-Ape, who issues a challenge to the Panther, and reveals that he has kidnapped the African’s hero’s friend Monica Lynne. Wanda warns T’Challa that it is obviously a trap, but he insists on answering the Man-Ape’s challenge alone. Within the hour, Wanda and her teammates are shocked to receive a second transmission from the Man-Ape, as he gloats over having defeated the Black Panther and made him a helpless prisoner. The team spends a fruitless night searching for their captured comrade and return to the mansion shortly after dawn. They are soon joined by Iron Man and Thor to plan a new strategy. Wanda suggests someone should go to the school where T’Challa teaches under the alias “Luke Charles” in order to excuse his absence. The Vision volunteers, and, after disguising himself as a normal man, he sets off. Suddenly, the Black Panther appears on the viewscreen and hurriedly reveals how he was captured by a number of the team’s foes, now banded together as the Lethal Legion: the Grim Reaper, the Swordsman, Power Man, the Living Laser, and the Man-Ape. He has time to roughly outline the villains’ plans before the transmission is cut off. Accordingly, Thor and Iron Man go to search Greenwich Village, Captain America and Quicksilver rush to the power station which services their headquarters, and Goliath and the Scarlet Witch descend to the sewer tunnels deep below the mansion.

After trudging through the dimly-lit tunnels, Wanda and Clint are suddenly dazzled by a high-intensity light beam. Before they can recover their sight, the Swordsman and Power Man attack. The Scarlet Witch manages to cast a hex sphere in the direction of Swordsman’s voice, but it only slows him down. Suddenly, the blindly-flailing Goliath smacks into Wanda with his giant-sized knee and knocks her unconscious. She awakens sometime later to find herself trapped in a huge glass tank alongside Quicksilver, Goliath, Captain America, and the Black Panther, into which is being pumped a toxic gas. The heroes play possum to lull their enemies into overconfidence until the Vision can arrive. The android’s scheme is successful, for he tricks the Grim Reaper into smashing the glass and freeing them. Then, the villains prove no match for the combined might of the Avengers, and they are quickly apprehended. Wanda is dismayed, however, when the Vision suddenly announces that he is resigning from the Avengers, saying a synthetic man has no place among flesh-and-blood people. He departs immediately, leaving his former teammates perplexed by his sudden decision.

Over the next couple of days, Wanda begins to worry that she was somehow to blame for the Vision’s sudden resignation. Could she have offended him in some way with her girlish curiosity? She had peppered him with questions about himself, all of which he patiently answered. She had learned of his apparent creation by the renegade robot Ultron-5, and also of how the Vision’s android brain patterns are based on those of a real man, the late Simon Williams, whom she remembers reading about in the Avengers’ files. She had also noticed the Vision’s tendency to brood, and to question the value of his existence. But she sensed that underneath his grim visage and cold, droning voice, he experienced the same emotions as any man. And yet, something about the artificial quality of his movements and mannerisms—a strange mechanical gracefulness—made him seem non-threatening to her. But now he is gone, and she wonders if she will ever see him again.

Then, while on a routine patrol of the city, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver happen upon a gang of hoodlums collecting protection money. During the ensuing altercation, the twins learn that the goons are working for the infamous crime syndicate called the Maggia. The thugs are quickly defeated and the police soon arrive, as well as an intrepid TV camera crew, which manages to get some footage of the superheroic siblings. Afterwards, Wanda begins to think about the problem of organized crime, and whether super-powered teams like the Avengers should do more about it. That evening, during an Avengers strategy session, the Black Panther echoes her concerns, sparking a debate among the teammates as to the best use of their resources. T’Challa challenges Captain America’s assertion that they should hunt down the bizarrely-costumed leaders of the international criminal organization Zodiac, believing that the corrupting influence of inner city crime rings and gangs is a more urgent matter. The issue becomes more complicated when the Vision suddenly enters, carrying a groggy Native American warrior who calls himself Red Wolf. Curious, the Avengers listen to Red Wolf’s story of his origins and his quest for vengeance against Cornelius Van Lunt. The Vision regrets having interfered with Red Wolf’s mission and offers to help him seek justice. Unable to come to a consensus, the Avengers split into factions, each with its own mission. Quicksilver sides with Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor in making Zodiac the top priority. The Black Panther announces that he will pursue his own course in Harlem. Goliath sides with the Vision and Red Wolf in going after Van Lunt. Finally, the Scarlet Witch, who had been in agreement with the Panther, suddenly decides to join the Vision’s group.

At dawn the next morning, Goliath, the Vision, and the Scarlet Witch load up a Quinjet for their mission out west. Once Red Wolf and his lupine companion Lobo are aboard, they lift off and set a course for Montana. Silence settles over the cabin as each occupant becomes lost in thought. Wanda ponders what prompted her sudden impulse to join this group, when she had argued the Panther’s case during the debate. Was she moved by Red Wolf’s plight, she wonders, or was there a deeper reason? Before she can explore this avenue of thought, the Quinjet comes under attack by an unknown form of jet fighter. The Vision boards the attack ship, but it is too late. The damaged Quinjet is going down in flames. In desperation, Goliath grabs the Scarlet Witch and drops her toward a large lake far below. Wanda hits the water hard, but manages to stay afloat. She tries to swim toward shore, and is carried most of the way there by a tremendous wave. Dragging herself to the edge of the water, she collapses from the effort and passes out. She is revived minutes later by the Vision, but they find themselves surrounded by Van Lunt’s gangsters. Although the Vision has nothing to fear from their machine guns, he surrenders for Wanda’s sake, and she is touched by the gesture. She begins to realize he is not as cold and uncaring as his demeanor suggests.

They allow themselves to be taken to Van Lunt’s fabulous hacienda nearby, where the unscrupulous billionaire admits having sent the attack craft to bring down the Quinjet. Holding the Scarlet Witch hostage, he forces the Vision to act as his bodyguard. She is still too weak to use her hex powers, and so the heroes can only bide their time. An hour or so later, the hacienda is approached by a mob of angry Indians, led by Goliath and Red Wolf. Having little choice, the Vision goes outside to defend Van Lunt, while his henchmen hold the Scarlet Witch at gunpoint. Then, fearing the Indians are planning to blow up the dam from which Van Lunt’s compound receives its electricity, the gangsters load Wanda into their helicopter and fly to the dam to stop them. The unarmed Indians are defenseless against the gangsters’ machine guns and several are killed before Wanda can wriggle out of the ropes binding her wrists. Once free, she unleashes a hex sphere that causes the helicopter to explode. However, the explosion causes cracks in the dam, which begins to buckle. Leaving Red Wolf locked in mortal combat with Cornelius Van Lunt, Wanda runs to warn her friends of the impending disaster. Just as she reaches the Vision and Goliath, the dam collapses and the valley is suddenly flooded. After hours of searching the area, the Avengers can find no trace of Van Lunt or Red Wolf. However, as the sun begins to set, a young man named Will Talltrees returns home, and the Avengers immediately recognize him as Red Wolf. The exhausted heroes accept the Indians’ hospitality and plan to return to New York first thing in the morning. However, when the Vision tries to check in with Avengers’ Mansion at midnight, he receives no response. Concerned, the three teammates decide to head back east at once.

It is about five o’clock in the morning, local time, when the Quinjet carrying the Scarlet Witch, the Vision, and Goliath approaches Manhattan. However, the ship’s sensors detect a force field surrounding the entire island, and they are forced to set down across the river in New Jersey. Despite their best efforts, the three heroes are unable to penetrate the mysterious barrier. A television on display in a nearby shop window soon reveals the grave nature of the situation when Aries, the masked leader of Zodiac, comes on to announce that his forces have taken all of Manhattan prisoner, and unless a ransom of one billion dollars is paid within 24 hours, the island’s entire population will be killed. The three Avengers are alarmed to see that even Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, and Quicksilver have been made helpless prisoners. For nearly two hours, they maintain their tense vigil, waiting for any word. Finally, not long after dawn, they see massive storm clouds suddenly form over the city, and then a huge lightning bolt strikes, causing a mid-air explosion. The force field instantly evaporates, and the three Avengers rush into the city. They find their teammates, joined by the Black Panther and Daredevil, mopping up the defeated mercenary army just outside Madison Square Garden. The Avengers spend the rest of the day trying to undo much of the damage caused by Zodiac, particularly the bridges and tunnels they wrecked, while the police interrogate Zodiac’s footsoldiers. From the criminals’ confessions, the Avengers learn that Cornelius Van Lunt had been financing Zodiac, and that his compound out west was where the mercenary army did its training. They had planned to invade New York on Election Day next week, but when the Scarlet Witch destroyed the dam and flooded the area, it forced Aries to put his operation into effect immediately. Still, if not for Daredevil’s help, the invasion may well have been successful. The Avengers realize that, though it seemed they had gone their separate ways, they were in fact all working different angles of the same case.

Several days later, on Halloween, the Avengers are planning on attending the annual parade in Rutland, Vermont as a charity benefit. They have also learned of a possible kidnapping plot involving the parade’s grand marshal, Professor T.W. Erwin of Miskatonic University. However, as they are getting ready to leave, the Scarlet Witch receives a telegram and suddenly announces to her teammates that she will stay behind. Once the rest of the team is gone, a woman appears at the mansion’s door and Wanda admits her into Avengers’ headquarters. The woman is dressed in a black bodysuit with armored accoutrements; she wears a flowing blue cape and carries a fearsome spear. She announces that she is the Valkyrie, and she has come to deliver Wanda from her servitude to men. The Scarlet Witch finds that the Valkyrie’s words resonate in her mind, and she immediately places her trust in the stranger. Moments later, they are joined by the Black Widow and Madame Medusa of the royal family of the Inhumans, and the Valkyrie quickly convinces them to form a new super-team called the Liberators, dedicated to the downfall of all male chauvinists. Suddenly, the Wasp appears in their midst, having returned to the city on personal business. She, too, soon rallies to the cause, and the five women set off for Rutland to battle the male heroes. They travel aboard the Valkyrie’s chariot, led by two stallions that fly as if by magic.

They soon arrive in the small town and discover the Avengers fighting the Masters of Evil: Klaw, the Melter, the Radioactive Man, and the Whirlwind. The Valkyrie is annoyed by this unforeseen development, and orders the Wasp to fly on ahead. But when the mystery woman casually refers to the Wasp as “wench,” alarm bells suddenly go off in Wanda’s mind. As the chariot lands a few blocks from the scene of the battle, the Scarlet Witch suddenly feels her head clearing, and she realizes how unnaturally easy it was for the Valkyrie to turn her against her friends. She puts two and two together and begins to suspect that the Valkyrie may be their old enemy the Enchantress in disguise. Still, Wanda decides to play along for the moment, and she helps the others defeat and capture her male teammates. Then, the Liberators take the shackled heroes, as well as Professor Erwin, to the science labs at Miskatonic. There they find the product of Erwin’s research, an untested parallel-time projector. Having achieved her goal, the Valkyrie sheds her illusory disguise and stands revealed as the Enchantress. Wanda’s hunch was correct, and, as the Asgardian sorceress casts a spell to kill the helpless men, the Scarlet Witch counters it by surrounding the villainess with a hex sphere. The Enchantress’ spell is reflected back on her, and its force smashes her backwards into the parallel-time projector. There is a tremendous explosion, and when the smoke clears, the Avengers find nothing but a smoking crater in the floor. The other women are freed from the spells that ensorcelled them, and Wanda explains that the spell on her was broken when she lost her trust in the Valkyrie. Still, she has become aware that her male teammates could use a dose of feminist enlightenment. They all return to New York, and the Wasp, the Black Widow, and Medusa go on their way.

November 1964 – Wanda is disgusted when she learns that Republican Senator Morris N. Richardson has defeated President Lyndon B. Johnson in the national election. Richardson’s campaign was laced with inflammatory anti-mutant rhetoric, and the entire mood of the country seems to be turning uglier every day. She regrets not being able to vote, both on account of her age and her Transian citizenship, but realizes she will just have to make the best of it. Pietro is even angrier, and says that if the hatred of mutants grows, they should just return to Europe. The mood is lightened some days later when the twins watch the Apollo moon landing on television. They had heard Iron Man speak about the work Stark Industries had contributed to the project, enabling it to be ready years earlier than initially thought. Wanda remembers reading in the newspapers over the summer of the numerous setbacks the project had suffered, and finds herself filled with pride over the achievement of her adopted country. She also takes the time to finally familiarize herself with the Avengers’ files on the menaces they faced during her long absence from the team, including the mysterious Collector, the murderous robot Ultron, the Asgardian monsters Ymir and Surtur, Egghead, the alien Grandmaster, and the Squadron Sinister, as well as new allies like the Black Knight and Captain Marvel. Wanda also regularly seeks out the Vision to spend time with him, which seems to irritate her brother Pietro. She realizes how the android’s level-headed manner makes him quite different from all the other men she’s known in her life.

Weeks later, the Avengers are startled when Hercules returns to the mansion, stricken by a mortal terror. Wanda is disturbed to see the mighty demi-god quaking with fear, but Hercules quickly explains that it has been induced in him as a punishment by his angry father, Zeus. He is being pursued by a dangerous entity known as the Huntsman, who is the instrument of his father’s wrath. The Avengers immediately offer to aid their former teammate, but Hercules says the risk is too great. Suddenly, the sinister Huntsman arrives on the scene, and uses his magical staff to render the Avengers helpless. Hercules, in a mad panic, smashes his way out of the mansion and disappears into the night. Once the Huntsman is gone, the Avengers mount a search, but can find no trace of either the pursuer or the pursued. Some days afterwards, Captain America, Goliath, Quicksilver, the Vision, and the Scarlet Witch sit down to an elaborate Thanksgiving dinner prepared by their faithful servant Jarvis. As the Vision passes Wanda a bowl of consomm√©, her hand brushes against his, and she feels a tingle of excitement. She blushes, but her other teammates don’t seem to notice. She tries to discern whether the Vision felt something as well and is just being discreet, but as usual she finds his grim features difficult to read.

December 1964 – Over the next couple of weeks, as things are relatively quiet around Avengers Mansion, Wanda tries to sort out her feelings toward the Vision. Could she truly be attracted to this man of synthetic flesh and artificial blood? And if so, is he even capable of returning her affection? He has often claimed that he does not possess true emotions, and yet on numerous occasions, Wanda has seen evidence to the contrary. She can find no easy answers, and, for his part, the taciturn Vision gives her very little to go on. If only he showed some flicker of tenderness toward her, she thinks, but in all the time they spend together, he remains as formal towards her as ever. Of course, it seems insane to think she is falling in love with a robot, but he seems so much more than that, and Wanda cannot deny her feelings. Above all else, he makes her feel safe.

Then, one night, Wanda wakes from a terrifying dream. Having heard her cry out, her teammates burst into her room, and Wanda, distraught, describes her nightmare, in which the Black Knight was slain by Arkon in the middle of a terrifying alien landscape. Leaving her to get dressed, the other Avengers go downstairs to ascertain whether it was just a dream. As she slips into her costume, Wanda is disturbed that she has dreamt about Arkon, after she had convinced herself she had put all that behind her. Joining her teammates, she learns that the Black Knight has indeed gone missing. Deciding they’d best not take any chances, the Avengers contact Thor for a mission back to Polemachus. While waiting for the Black Panther to return with the thunder god, Wanda worries about how she will react when she sees Arkon again.

Suddenly, the mansion is rocked by a mysterious shockwave, and the Avengers are stunned to discover the entire building has been transported to Arkon’s extradimensional world. As they leap into battle against Arkon’s barbarian hordes, the heroes discover their powers have unaccountably failed them. The reason becomes clear when they see the sneering face of the Enchantress. The Scarlet Witch tries to generate a hex sphere, but is overcome by the sorceress’s spells and collapses into unconsciousness. When she revives hours later, she finds herself and her teammates encased in strange cocoons of energy. Before them stand Arkon and the Enchantress, and an ensorcelled Black Knight, gloating over the heroes’ defeat. With heartfelt sincerity, Arkon offers to spare Wanda’s life if she will agree to become his queen. She is relieved that she feels nothing towards Arkon but utter disgust. She throws his offer back in his face and refuses even to look at him. Arkon is enraged, and the captive Avengers are dragged away to a dungeon high in a cold stone tower. There, they find the energy cocoons have dissolved into a glowing aura that saps their wills. Wanda can’t help but feel overcome with hopelessness, convinced that Arkon and his legions are invincible. After a while, the Black Panther suddenly appears outside the window and helps them overcome the effects of the soul-deadening energy. At once, the Avengers smash their way out of the dungeon and rush to aid Thor, who is taking on Arkon and his army single-handedly. Hopelessly outnumbered, the Avengers are on the brink of defeat when the Scarlet Witch attempts to surround Arkon with a hex sphere. The Enchantress counters with one of her most powerful spells. Though the hex sphere is destroyed, the effort causes the Enchantress to lose her hold over the Black Knight. He immediately switches sides and, realizing the Avengers have turned the tide, the Enchantress cuts her losses and disappears. Once he sees he was manipulated by the beautiful sorceress, Arkon declares an end to the fighting. The Avengers are in no mood for his arrogant bluster, however, and they turn to go. Wanda leaves Arkon with some cutting remarks to remember her by. They find the mansion again and Thor whips up a magical vortex that sweeps them all back to Earth.

Unfortunately, the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, the Vision, and Goliath find themselves materializing back in their familiar metropolis only as intangible phantoms, invisible to all except each other. Then, they are horrified to discover the sun has apparently gone supernova, and they are witnessing the earth’s final moments. Quicksilver notices a newspaper at his feet, and by the date on the page, he realizes they have somehow slipped several weeks into the future. Out of sheer desperation, Wanda surrounds the group with a hex sphere, pouring all her strength into it. There is a blinding flash, accompanied by a painful jolt, and everything is suddenly normal again. They rush to a newsstand and confirm that they are in the proper time. With a sigh of relief that it is indeed mid-December, they return to their headquarters. Still, things don’t feel quite right, and their fears are confirmed when the mansion turns out to belong to a completely different super-group called the Squadron Supreme. Somehow, the Avengers have landed in a parallel universe.

As the two teams argue, the Avengers learn of the imminent launch of a solar orbiter, which the Vision deduces must be the cause of the sun’s impending destruction. Therefore, the Avengers resolve to stop the launch at all costs, a decision that leads them into combat with the Squadron’s Nighthawk, American Eagle, Tom Thumb, Hawkeye, and Lady Lark. Although the displaced heroes are nearly defeated, they rally at the last and overcome their opponents. Taking the unconscious Nighthawk with them, the Avengers fly to the launch site aboard one of the Squadron’s airships. En route, they convince Nighthawk of the dire crisis his world faces, and he agrees to help abort the launch. Arriving moments before lift-off, the Avengers encounter Nighthawk’s teammates Hyperion, Doctor Spectrum, and the Whizzer, but have no time to convince them of the danger before they initiate the launch. However, the Scarlet Witch manages to surround the rocket with a hex sphere, causing it to misfire. Taking advantage of the delay, the Avengers make their case, and the Squadron members are willing to hear them out. During the discussion, the Avengers learn that the seemingly-innocuous solar rocket was designed by that world’s greatest scientific genius, a hideously-deformed ten-year-old mutant boy nicknamed “Brain Child.” Fearing this freakish youngster may be dangerously embittered, the Avengers and the Squadron Supreme jet out to his island stronghold to investigate.

Upon arrival at Brain Child’s isolated citadel, the heroes are immediately attacked by the boy’s high-tech defensive systems, while over a loudspeaker, the genocidal genius admits that it was his intention to cause the sun to go supernova, thus destroying the earth and himself with it. The heroes decide to pair off in an attempt to breach the citadel’s defenses, and the Scarlet Witch is teamed with Nighthawk. Together, they discover an undefended access tunnel and slip inside the complex, only to encounter a hulking android guardian. The unspeaking brute easily defeats Nighthawk, and then fires an eerie ray from its eyes that encircles the Scarlet Witch before she can cast a hex sphere. Suddenly, Wanda feels her memory slipping away, and within moments she is wandering through the strange complex in a daze. Try as she might, she cannot remember where she is or what she is doing there. Suddenly, the entire building dissolves into nothingness, and Wanda’s mind immediately clears. Finding herself outside on the barren island, she sees her teammates and the Squadron members nearby, as well as a defeated Brain Child, who is crying like a baby. Doctor Spectrum uses his mysterious “power prism” to undo the now-amnesiac boy’s mutations, rendering him normal in appearance. Before the Avengers can celebrate their victory, however, they find themselves swept up in a nimbus of energy, which carries them home to Avengers Mansion, where they are greeted by Thor, Iron Man, and the Black Panther, whose tireless efforts to rescue them have finally succeeded.

Wanda joins her teammates in the living room for some much-needed relaxation, and Jarvis serves up tea and coffee. Iron Man notices the Black Panther is brooding about something, and the African Avenger claims it is a case of simple homesickness. The conversation leads the Vision to again ruminate about his own artificiality, and Wanda quickly changes the subject by asking the Panther to describe his homeland to them. T’Challa accepts her request and relates in detail the story of how he first became the Black Panther, and Chief of all the Wakandas. Finally, he reveals that his somber mood is the result of his having received word that his faithful old regent, who has ruled Wakanda during his absences ever since the death of T’Challa’s father, has finally died. Therefore, the Black Panther must now decide whether his destiny lies with the Avengers or in his remote African homeland. With that, T’Challa excuses himself and leaves the mansion to be alone to think. The weary Avengers decide to call it a night, and Wanda soon slips into her bed. As she drifts off to sleep, she finds herself thinking about how the Vision had demonstrated his natural leadership abilities on the Squadron Supreme’s Earth, and she largely credits him with saving that world. How could such a man not be worthy of her love?

A week or so later, the Avengers receive a request from the United Nations to be on call in case of any trouble while the U.N. tests an experimental weather-controlling machine on a small island in the Caribbean. However, the team is already scheduled to appear on a Christmas charity TV program at the same time. While Thor, Iron Man, and Goliath remain on monitor duty, the Scarlet Witch joins her other teammates at the TV studio. When she returns that evening, she learns that the three Avengers were indeed called to action—against the Sub-Mariner, the Silver Surfer, and the Hulk—but the situation was resolved amicably. Shortly afterwards, Wanda celebrates her first Christmas Day at Avengers Mansion, and participates in the team’s annual charity benefit, at which she meets Captain America’s new partner, the Falcon.


Notes:

October 1964 – The airship reaches Transia on October 1st, the day after the Sentinels were defeated. Actually, the means by which Wanda, Pietro, and the Toad traveled from the Sentinels’ base in upstate New York to Central Europe was never explained, but since the X-Men took one of the Sentinels’ airships, it stands to reason that the former Avengers did so as well. Returning to the laboratory of the unnamed scientist seen in Avengers #32 is a logical first course of action, and seems a reasonable speculation. Since the story demands that he can’t be there to help them, I’m thinking that he was driven insane by the demon Chthon so that Wanda would have little choice but to seek a magical, rather than scientific, solution to her problem.

The trio’s visits to the Transylvanian castles of Dracula and Baron Mordo were not described in the comics, but these are certainly two of the premiere repositories of mystical tomes in the region. Since these events take place about a year or so before Tomb of Dracula #1, they have little to fear from the Lord of Vampires, who is still in a coffin in the cellar with a wooden stake through his heart. Mordo’s castle has been ransacked following his sudden banishment to an otherdimensional limbo in Strange Tales #162. They have good timing, though, since he will return shortly.

The hospitable sorceress is speculation on my part to explain where the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver got their new costumes, which was never revealed in the comics. She also serves as a counterpoint to the creepy Gandalf-type they meet at their next stop, as seen in Avengers #75. It is in that issue that we learn of their encounter with Arkon, and of Wanda being teleported to Polemachus.

Although the origin and purpose of the fancy belt the Scarlet Witch is seen wearing in Avengers #76 and Hulk #128 is never explained in the comics, she seems to have picked it up while on Polemachus. It disappears at some point during Avengers #77, but due to the poses Wanda is drawn in, it is impossible to determine exactly when. The mystery of this minor detail inspired me to come up with an explanation that added an interesting new dimension to the story, and sheds light on Wanda’s rather bizarre behavior towards Arkon.

It is in Avengers #77 that the team must deal with the convoluted machinations of Cornelius Van Lunt and “Kronus,” leader of the hapless Split-Second Squad. Although Tony Stark says the Avengers’ rent for the luxurious Fifth Avenue mansion is $2000 a month, I believe this amount is incorrect. Using the total sum—$120,000—and dividing by the number of months the Avengers have occupied the mansion on my timeline (24), we see that the monthly rent is a more-realistic $5000 a month. Of course the team doesn’t actually have to pay this amount, but it is probably what Stark deducts from his taxes as his charitable donation to the do-gooding team. It’s worthwhile to note that the Avengers have been operating for two years at this point.

The Avengers battle the Lethal Legion in Avengers #78–79. I believe the Vision’s sudden decision to quit the team is a result of his realizing that he is attracted to the Scarlet Witch, which results in a serious case of cold feet. After all, the Vision has always suffered from low self-esteem. Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch’s tussle with the Maggia mobsters is seen via the news crew’s film footage in Avengers #83. Next, the adventure out west with Red Wolf is chronicled in Avengers #80–81, with Zodiac’s invasion of Manhattan following immediately in the next issue. The ball-busting Liberators debut in Avengers #83, in Roy Thomas’s ode to the controversial “Women’s Lib” movement of the day. It is also one of several “Rutland, Vermont Halloween Parade” stories published around that time, in which various denizens of the Marvel Bullpen make cameo appearances.

November 1964 – For the full story on Morris N. Richardson, see OMU: POTUS -- Part Three. Hercules returns to the mansion briefly in a bizarre little story published in Ka-Zar Quarterly #1. The quiet dinner-table scene is presented in flashback in Avengers #280.

December 1964 – The Avengers’ return to Polemachus, their subsequent encounter with the Squadron Supreme, and the revelation of the Black Panther’s origin span Avengers #84–87. Finally, their battle with the so-called “Titans Three”—a precursor of the Defenders—occurs in Sub-Mariner #35.


Jump To: Secrets of the Scarlet Witch -- Part Four


Next Issue: The Golden Age!


No comments:

Post a Comment