Review by Karl Verhoven
“Witchcraft is being tampered with, weakened” is the key line of James Robinson’s opening chapter, indicating what will occupy Scarlet Witch over this and the following two volumes, the trilogy forming a story with multiple entertaining pauses and diversions. Scarlet Witch is also being tampered with, not least for losing the ‘The’ before her name. Robinson’s uninterested in the mutant superhero persona Wanda Maximoff used for much of her career since the 1960s. Instead he’s enamoured with her far vaguer use as a practitioner of magic.
Is a story damaged by having each chapter drawn by a different artist, their styles wildly different? Sometimes, but not if planned that way, and each is able to bring a different strength. In the opening chapter Vanesa Del Ray’s looseness (sample art left) would be better were she able to create a consistent likeness for her lead character from it, but the idea of a gloomy introduction told in black, white and red sets a mood. Marco Rudy’s painted precision is completely different, yet would Del Ray have so gloriously rendered the Aegean coast? The ornate pattern on his sample art is a motif throughout his chapter, which concerns the Minotaur of legend and its labyrinth. Steve Dillon’s tidy storytelling is as proficient as ever, while Chris Visions is far closer to Del Ray’s approach, but in a messier way, which is actually suited to the confusing environment he illustrates. With Javier Pulido it’s a return to precision, but this time with delicate linework filled with the bright colours of Muntsa Vicente over a largely dialogue free exorcism.
Robinson takes Scarlet Witch on quite the European tour in search of what’s wrong, in every location providing her with interesting company, if only briefly, her constant sounding board being the ghostly presence of dead witch Agatha Harkness. She’s by turns pithy and curious, and her presence circumvents constant narrative captions as Scarlet Witch goes about her business visiting the sites of historical atrocities. It’s all very far removed from her superhero career, which may disappoint some readers, but with an open mind it’s fascinating. Robinson’s research has unearthed horrible events, with a group of nuns who’ve taken a vow of silence especially disturbing in the final chapter. It’s also pleasing to see that while taking Scarlet Witch down a relatively new path, Robinson doesn’t wipe the past clean, and an acknowledgement of historical mental problems is welcome. His reinterpretation continues in World of Witchcraft.