Scarlet Witch: Witches’ Road

Scarlet Witch: Witches’ Road puts a creative spin on a long-running character in her first ongoing series.

After several turbulent years, erstwhile Avenger Wanda Maximoff settles into a role as a solo adventurer focusing on mystical threats. Wanda begins to detect that witchcraft is “broken” and, with the ghost of her mentor Agatha Harkness as her companion, begins traveling the world to investigate. Along the way she encounters mythological threats, a deadly new enemy in the form of a powerful warlock and an unexpected encounter with her own heritage.

Writer James Robinson successfully works a complex structure with Scarlet Witch. Each installment provides a complete adventure for Wanda, but also serves as a part of a larger story that Robinson brings along at a deliberate pace. The writer is doing some of his best work in ages on this book. He has a very strong take on Wanda, using her complicated past to good effect to inform who she is in the present. He shows her struggles in a dramatically engaging way and comes up with some really neat twists on her mythos, including the toll that using magic takes on her.

Witches’ Road, at its best, evokes Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, with its mix of mythology, folklore, theology and fables. Wanda provides an appealing focus for Robinson’s story, as the writer carves out a unique niche in the Marvel Universe for his heroine. Agatha’s ghost is the perfect foil, bringing some lighter elements to the proceedings. It’s a great direction for Wanda and demonstrates how effective she can be as a solo lead after decades seen mostly in a team setting.

One of the more striking aspects of Scarlet Witch is the use of a different art team for each issue. The arc collected in Witches’ Road includes contributions from Vanessa Del Rey, Jordie Bellaire, Marco Rudy, Steve Dillon, Frank Martin, Charles Visions and Javier Pulido. The styles represented vary wildly, giving each chapter a unique feel that stands out from the others. The artists bring out different shadings of Wanda’s character and approach the supernatural action in some distinctive and surprising ways. Rudy’s chapter might be most striking, with its swirling blend of images and hazy colors. Such drastic shifts in visual tone could be an issue in another series, but the episodic nature of Scarlet Witch is a good fit for this multi-artist approach. For good measure, David Aja contributes some absolutely stunning covers, all crafted from a palette of black, white and red.

While knowledge of Wanda’s history provides helpful context that enhances the depth of these stories, it’s not strictly necessary. Robinson makes Scarlet Witch friendly for newcomers, with enough allusions to her past to set the stage effectively. It’s an impressive, engaging series that injects new vitality into its veteran heroine.