In “Scarlet Witch” #4, Wanda and Agatha walk the witches’ road in pursuit of the Emerald Warlock. Chris Visions’ artwork gives their mystical journey a heaping dose of moody chaos, and James Robinson writes an able — if formulaic — script. Steve Dillon and Vero Gandini, who are responsible for the scenes in Ireland, aren’t given much to do in this issue, but they do go gangbusters on that final page. Overall, though, “Scarlet Witch” still struggles to build drama, but — in its approach to chaos magic and character relationships — it feels full of possibility anyway.
Chris Visions’ rendering of the witches’ road feels wonderfully confusing and blustery. His bold, broad lines are so organic that they almost look like they’re unfurling; as a result, everyone and everything on the page seems as if it could curl or flourish away at any moment. He’s really a perfect match for a book about chaos magic. It’s difficult to create a landscape that’s nebulous but not ethereal, and Visions’ figures always have heft. The colors are a surprisingly restrained mix of more magical greens and purples with grey undertones. With all its layers and suggestions, this palette constantly suggests the reader isn’t seeing the whole picture. Personally, I’d have preferred to see some more consistency in the characters’ face shapes, but I could at least understand how it contributed to the mood.
Steve Dillon doesn’t have much to do in this issue, but the final page is stunning. The composition is really brilliant, especially considering how the framing — a backshot of the characters against a large window — is so familiar. That conclusion could have landed with much less power, but Dillon and colorist Vero Gandini create something impressively ominous.
However, some elements of the script take the momentum out of the story. Wanda’s confrontation with the Emerald Warlock is almost painfully textbook. After she asks, “What is this all about?”, he delivers a long explanation of his motives and methods, from “They captured [my mam] and exiled me n’me brothers across the sea” to “I’m drainin’ you of ye power.” The villain’s big, explanatory monologue has become such a common trope that it’s often the subject of parody, and the Warlock’s long explanation doesn’t rise far above the cliche.
Robinson also hasn’t quite figured out how to use the unexpectedness and arcane rules of magic to create tension or suspense. He has some very cool concepts in this issue, like a magical “booby trap” that uses time against its target. However, it isn’t deployed in a way that puts that cleverness to dramatic use. Wanda and Agatha’s solutions come quite fortuitously, and both women only explain the rules that they’ve bent after the solution has been presented. As a result, the reader isn’t let in on the process and doesn’t get to do any detective work, so Wanda’s escapes feel more like deus ex machine than successful problem solving.
David Aja’s “Scarlet Witch” covers have been reliably stunning, and issue #4’s “Red Riding Hood”-inspired installment is as stylish and sinister as its predecessors. Aja makes old myths look modern with his minimalist palette, and the result really fits Wanda’s character.
In sum, “Scarlet Witch” #4 has such an intriguing story hovering at its edges. The creative team clearly has some cool ideas about chaos magic in the Marvel universe; if these can be better integrated into the crescendos and denouements of the narrative, this series could become a much-loved corner of the Marvel Universe.