By Kevin Mahadeo
Everyone wants to find the Scarlet Witch, but not all for the same reason. Some do it out of love. Some quest for power. And others want to quite literally meet their maker.
With their bi-monthly limited series AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN'S CRUSADE, writer Allan Heinberg and artist Jim Cheung tell a tale that features a multitude of heroes and villains all searching for the long-missing Scarlet Witch. The extremely powerful but mentally unstable former Avenger vanished after wiping out nearly the entire mutant population at the finale of House of M. However, after Wiccan of the Young Avengers—possibly one of Wanda's children—started to display powers similar to that of the Witch, the mad dash that includes everyone from the Avengers to the X-Men began.
"I have to admit, the size of the cast of CRUSADE has been challenging, but it's been immensely rewarding too, if only to see Jim Cheung's iconic renditions of so many classic Marvel Universe characters," says Heinberg. "But it has been a bit of a balancing act to try to stay on-story with Wiccan and the Scarlet Witch while at the same time giving each of the members of the Young Avengers—and the Avengers and the X-Men—their successive turns in the spotlight."
Wanda Maximoff's father, Magneto, stands as one of the biggest players in the story, and one of the most untrustworthy. Although seemingly reformed and now a member of the X-Men, the Master of Magnetism left the island of Utopia and met up with the Young Avengers almost immediately after hearing of Wiccan's quest to find the missing Wanda. However, despite the on-again, off-again villain's past, Heinberg sees Magneto's desire to reunite his family as "absolutely sincere." Granted, that doesn't mean his united family wouldn’t also prove beneficial to him.
"His reasons are both emotional and strategic," explains the writer. "He does seem to be earnestly invested in being one of the good guys at the moment, but history has shown that Magneto is absolutely not to be trusted. But what I love about Magneto is that he's the first person to tell you that, which, of course, makes you want to trust him."
Whenever Magneto walks onto the scene, expect his son Quicksilver not too far behind, particularly with the Scarlet Witch involved. The two share an arduous and antagonistic relationship, perpetuated in the past by Magneto's callous attitude toward his prodigal. Because of this, Quicksilver formed a very deep emotional bond with his sister, willing to do anything and everything to protect her.
"I do believe that Pietro's love for his sister and his desire to protect her is pure and true," insists Heinberg. "That's one of the things I love about Quicksilver: That his point of view is often so dark and so cynical, yet, when it comes to Wanda, he couldn't be more noble and loving. That said Pietro would do anything to keep his father from possessing or controlling Wanda as he once did."
Heinberg hinted that this desire to keep his sister away from Magneto might end up clouding the speedster's judgment. Readers already saw this in CHILDREN'S CRUSADE #2 when Pietro attempted to kill his father.
"I think Magneto has actually been incredibly patient with Pietro in CRUSADE," says the writer. "Pietro is the one whose understandable, long-standing anger at his father forces him to mouth off and act out. But Magneto knows he'd be better off—again, emotionally and strategically—with both Pietro and Wanda on his side. And Wiccan and Speed, for that matter. Historically, Pietro and Magneto have trouble getting on with each other because they're so much alike. In the past, Wanda's compassion, a trait Magneto and Pietro don't seem to share, has allowed her to remain close with her brother and to forgive her father again and again and again. Which is one reason why her behavior in 'Avengers: Disassembled' was so shocking."
Indeed, Wanda's actions during the "Disassembled" storyline reverberate with the Avengers even to this day causing mixed emotions. Where Magneto and Quicksilver know what they want, Wanda's one-time teammates remain unsure of what to do with their friend should they find her. As Heinberg explains, the members of the Avengers hold very conflicting opinions on the matter:
"Wolverine's desire to eliminate that threat entirely by killing Wanda has remained the same since HOUSE OF M #1. Wonder Man's desire to redeem Wanda goes to the core of his extraordinary love for her and to the debt he owes her for bringing him back to life [during] Kurt Busiek and George Perez's run on AVENGERS. And everybody else probably falls somewhere in between those two extremes. Nobody wants to have to kill Wanda, but at this point, it seems to be the only solution that makes any sense."
However, the Avengers hardly stand alone as the only team with a stake in Wanda's future. While they haven't played a major part yet, Heinberg warns to expect a certain group of merry mutants to make their presence known soon.
"When the X-Men get wind of the fact that Wanda's still alive, they are going to be every bit as torn about what to do with her as the Avengers," he hints. "I'm sure many will want to punish her, if not kill her, and many will want to see if she's at all capable of undoing the catastrophic damage she did. And if she can, then what are they doing to do with her?"
The final pages of CHILDREN’S CRUSADE #3 not only revealed Wanda's location, but also her apparent memory loss and upcoming marriage to none other than Doctor Doom.
"I don't want to give too much away, but I will say that I am very interested in the idea of Doom in love,” teases Heinberg.
Finally, despite the multitude of characters in the series, one group stands in the center of it all: Heinberg and Cheung's own creation, the Young Avengers:
"The kids absolutely love each other and have each other's backs, but the question of what to do about the Scarlet Witch is going to create a schism in the team that will lead to major, life- and team-altering changes in the Young Avengers by the time CRUSADE is over.”
AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN’S CRUSADE #4 goes on sale January 5, 2011.