Everything You Need to Know Before Watching WandaVision


For Marvel movie fans, 2020 was a complete dud. The studio’s much anticipated “Phase Four,” which was supposed to kick off with Black Widow last May, was delayed because of the coronavirus, leaving a dearth in the kind of spectacular blockbuster content that has become a staple in our pop-culture diet over the last 12 years. When WandaVision premieres on Disney+ later this week, it would have been 18 long months since we’ve paid a visit to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and we thought you might need a quick refresher before getting back into it.

(Note: We’re not counting Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., who were always doing their own (great!) thing that was mostly unrelated to what was happening on the big screen, or Hulu’s Hellstrom, which was so bad that it had absolutely no Marvel branding on it whatsoever.)


When We Last Left Our Heroes…

Here’s what’s happened so far. Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) returns in Avengers: Endgame after the remaining heroes undo the snap and she is pissed as hell at Thanos for killing Vision (Paul Bettany) and taking the Mind Stone in the previous movie. 

In Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos uses the Time Stone to bring Vision back to life before ripping the Mind Stone from his head and leaving his discoloured body for dead.
In Avengers: Endgame, Wanda and Thanos have an incredible showdown that displays just how powerful she actually is.

From the WandaVision trailer, it looks like the series will be dealing with the aftermath of Vision’s death and the psychological toll that it takes on Wanda. Based on what we’ve seen in the promotional materials so far, the series seems to take its cues from three classic story arcs from the comics, and its visual style from another more recent work. But we’ll get to that shortly.

Remember that the movies within the MCU, while based on a variety of comic books (“Civil War,” “Infinity War,” “Iron Man: Extremis,” etc), nevertheless exist within their own continuity. The stories in the various movies often drawing inspiration from the comics before taking off in their own respective directions.


Who is Wanda Maximoff?

But first, a brief history about Scarlet Witch. In the comics, Wanda, and her brother Pietro (who we also know as Quicksilver), are the children of Magneto, and the combination of being both a mutant and a mistress of magic make her one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful) superhuman in the Marvel Universe. Her mutant powers allow her to bend reality to her will, while her mastery of magic allows her to manipulate almost everything else.

The MCU version of Wanda, however, has a slightly different origin story, especially since Marvel didn’t own the movie rights to the X-Men when they cameoed the character back during the post-credits tag of Captain America: Winter Soldier.

When Wanda and Pietro Maximoff were officially introduced in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Joss Whedon rejigged their origin stories to tie into the MCU’s bigger arc involving the Infinity Stones. We learn that both siblings were experimented on by the Hydra commander Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, who was trying to use Loki’s sceptre (and the Mind Stone) to create metahumans. This gave Pietro the ability to run real fast while Wanda could engage in both hypnosis and telekinesis.

What Happens to Wanda in the Comics?

For this, you need to go all the way back to 1985, when John Byrne took over storytelling duties on the West Coast Avengers comic book and decided to slowly break Wanda’s psyche. He crafted an absolutely insane story in which we discover that Wanda’s intense longing for a “normal life” lead her mind to subconsciously manifest a reality in which she and Vision had children of their own.


“VisionQuest,” as it was known, was an incredibly controversial storyline which ended with Wanda’s memories of her children being erased by Agatha Harkness (a version of which might be the character played by Kathryn Hahn in WandaVision).

Here, in the final two pages of that story arc, Agatha explains Wanda’s fate.


Many years later, Brian Michael Bendis would revisit John Byrne’s “VisionQuest” and use it as the setup for his massive and influential run on the Avengers comics. In “Avengers Disassembled,” an unstable Wanda, her psyche torn apart by both the “death” of her children, employs her powers to destroy the Avengers. She blows up their mansion, uses her husband, Vision, as a weapon against his teammates, pitting hero against hero, eventually causing the world to turn against the superhero team, and leading to their disbanding.


“Avengers Disassembled” paved the way for “House of M” in which the Avengers and the X-Men are forced to decide what to do with a Wanda whose reality-warping powers are out of control. Wolverine says what everyone is thinking, that for the world to survive, Scarlet Witch must die. But before a decision is made, Wanda is influenced by her brother, Quicksilver, to rewrite reality so that everyone gets to live in the world of their dreams.


When this false reality is finally revealed, Magneto takes the side of the Avengers and X-Men, and kills Quicksilver. Wanda, in a final fit of rage, declares “no more mutants,” depowering almost all of the Earth’s mutant population, and ensuring that no more mutants are born. She then disappears, leaving the world to manage the consequences of her genocidal decision.


But Wanda wouldn’t remain a bad guy forever. Marvel, employing some next level comic book bullshit (they claimed that Wanda was all villain-y because she was possessed by the demonic elder god Chthon), eventually backtracked all of this, and returned Scarlet Witch to the side of light.

We’re not sure how much any of this will play into WandaVision, but much like what Marvel have done previously, we have no doubt that the work of Bendis and Byrne will serve as a foundational basis for the series. Heck, they could even turn the story on its head and use the series as a way to introduce mutants into the MCU as opposed to banishing them off the face of the Earth.


What Happens to Wanda in the Movies?


Wanda’s story in the MCU is no less tragic. Her brother dies in Avengers: Age of Ultron. She accidentally kills all of those innocent people in Captain America: Civil War, which doesn’t just result in the world fearing and hating her, but leads to the Sokovia Accords and the eventual dissolution of the Avengers as we know them. And then, when she eventually finds companionship and true love in Vision, that too is ripped away from her by Thanos in his relentless quest for the Infinity Stones.

You’ll notice that while many of the narrative endpoints are similar to what happens in the comics, the story beats that get us there are quite different.

What is WandaVision About?


So here’s what we know.

We know that the series, created by Jac Schaeffer and directed by Matt Shakman, is set after the events of Avengers: Endgame. It looks like it takes place in some kind of Pleasantville-esque all American suburb in which Wanda Maximoff and Vision are happily married.

From the trailer, it appears that their suburban bliss is being constantly interrupted by some strange and unexplained force that causes them to cycle through their life as if it were taking place in a television sitcom.

Has Vision really been resurrected? Will Benedict Cumberbatch make a cameo? Is any of what is happening real? Is this a result of Wanda’s own fragile psychosis or is there some greater evil at play?

What’s more, given Elizabeth Olsen’s starring role in the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, this series might be used to set the stage for Wanda’s entry into the world of magic, and her eventually adopting the moniker of Scarlet Witch.


If You Only Read One Thing…

Before sitting down to watch WandaVision, we highly recommend that you track down and read Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s Eisner-winning series, The Vision.

In it, we see Vision move into a suburban neighbourhood in Fairfax, Virginia, with a family that he built himself, all in some misguided attempt at being more human. Just as Vision thinks he’s living the perfect life, murders start happening and it sets him down the impossible path of having to chose between his family or the rest of the world. This suburban thriller about love, and family, and the American dream has more in common with American Beauty than it does with your average superhero comic.


While this graphic novel is centred around Vision and his struggle for normalcy, it feels like a key inspiration for both the look and feel of WandaVision. From it’s Leave It to Beaver setting to its grappling of existential dilemmas, we are pretty sure that The Vision is the spiritual forebear to what we’re likely to see on TV this Friday.


WandaVision could be all of these things or none of them. However they’ve decided to tell the story of Wanda’s tragic descent into madness, we are pretty excited by just how narratively and visually inventive the series looks.

Who knew that this next era of the MCU would kick off on television and not at the movies? But with cinemas still closed, and Black Widow still (hopefully) four months away, WandaVision is our big welcome to Phase 4!

WandaVision premieres with two episodes on Friday, 15th January, exclusively on Disney+. New episodes will drop every Friday after that.

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