In the fateful climax of the 2006 miniseries “House of M,” a mentally unstable Wanda Maximoff, also known as the Scarlet Witch, used her incredible reality-altering powers to drastically reduce the mutant population of the Marvel Universe and ensure that almost no new mutants were born. In the aftermath of this mutant “Decimation,” Wanda disappeared and many believed her dead, but recently the Young Avengers and her former teammates in the Avengers discovered her to be alive.
In “Avengers: The Children’s Crusade,” a nine issue bi-monthly mini-series from the acclaimed “Young Avengers” creative team of writer Allan Heinberg and artist Jim Cheung, the two superhero teams are on separate quests to find the Scarlet Witch. The Young Avengers want to find the Scarlet Witch because two of their members, Wiccan and Speed, believe they are her reincarnated sons. On the other hand, Scarlet Witch's former comrades in the Avengers are divided about why they want to find her. Some want to take her into custody and help her while others feel that the problem of Wanda’s massive powers and growing mental instability can only be solved by lethal force. Their indecision caused the “Young Avengers” to set out on their own path to find the Scarlet Witch.
In the second issue of the series the Young Avengers joined forces with Magneto, the Scarlet Witch's father. Also accompanying them is the her brother, Quicksilver, and the Young Avengers will need the extra help to find Wanda. When Act One of “Avengers: The Children’s Crusade” came to a close in #3 readers learned the Scarlet Witch and the despotic ruler of Latveria, Doctor Doom, are now engaged. CBR News spoke with Heinberg about the series and his plans for Act Two, which begins January 5th with the release of issue #4.
CBR News: Allan, so far the search for the Scarlet Witch has generated some extreme emotions. Wanda’s family members want to rescue her. Most of her friends on the Avengers want to take her into custody and try to help her deal with her mental problems. Yet there are few Avengers that view her as too dangerous to help. What is it about Wanda that you think generates such powerful emotions? Is it simply the nature of her powers or is there something about her personality as well?
Allan Heinberg: I think Wanda's backstory is the key to the character and a large part of her appeal. After all, she and Quicksilver started out in the Marvel Universe as terrorists -- disciples of Magneto. But in the end, they had the moral fiber -- and the compassion -- not only to leave Magneto, but to prove themselves as Avengers. That transformation -- the idea that two villains from the X-Universe could not only become heroes, but that they could do so in a completely different arena of the Marvel Universe was groundbreaking at the time. Marvel Comics basically revolutionized comic book storytelling by essentially telling readers that their characters can -- and will -- change. Since then, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver have continuously and openly wrestled with the darker parts of their natures even as they strive to obey their nobler instincts. Theirs is a very human, very relatable and very compelling struggle.
The big revelation in “The Children’s Crusade” #2 was Doctor Doom's involvement and the revelation in #3 that Doom also has some strong feelings about Wanda, and in fact intends to marry her. What's it like writing Doctor Doom? What made you want to include him in this story? Is Doom only marrying Wanda because of the power he'll gain or do you think there's part of his personality that might actually care for her?
I have really enjoyed exploring the possibility of Doom in love. Especially the idea of his having fallen in love with someone who is not only his enemy, but a woman who is inarguably more powerful than he is. Love can be enormously tricky even under the best circumstances, but how is Doom going to be able to handle being subordinate to his wife? I think everyone involved in the story is questioning Doom's motives, including Doom himself.
Magneto has worked very hard to turn over a new leaf in the pages of “Uncanny X-Men” and it seems like in this series he's being confronted by a lot of his past misdeeds, especially in the way he raised his children. What's his emotional state going into #4? How important is it for him to find Wanda, and how important is it for him to reconnect with Quicksilver who clearly hates him?
Magneto is absolutely determined to rescue his daughter -- and his grandson -- at all costs. However, like Doom, Magneto's motives are always going to be questionable. Does Magneto want to find Wanda for her sake or for his own? Does he want to mend fences with her and make up for his own misdeeds? Or does he want to possess and control her? Or, more realistically, is it a bit of both? The same is true of Magneto's attitude about Quicksilver. Magneto recognizes that, in addition to restoring familial peace, any kind of alliance he forges with Pietro -- even a temporary one -- will only serve him in the future.
One character who seems to be profoundly impacted by Wanda's reemergence is Wolverine. He seems very angry and it's almost like he's acting the way he was when he first joined the X-Men; making snarky comments towards anyone who didn't agree with him. Why do you think he's acting this way? Is Wolverine simply upset over what Wanda's powers did to mutantkind or is there something more going on?
Wolverine's attitude toward the Wanda situation was actually established in "House of M" #1. After "Avengers: Disassembled," when the Avengers and the X-Men were debating what to do about Wanda, Wolverine came down very clearly on the side of eliminating her altogether. And that was before she stole his life and his memories and transported him to the World of M. After which, of course, she wiped out an entire species. I do think he's angry. I think he's absolutely haunted by what Wanda did to him -- and by what Wanda did to all of mutantkind -- but in the end, I think he thinks he's being pragmatic.
Brian Bendis hinted that Wonder Man was in direct opposition to the Avengers reforming in early issues of the current “Avengers” series. In “The Children’s Crusade” #3 you brought Wonder Man into the story and definitely implied that Simon was not happy to be in the presence of the Avengers. What can you tell us about Simon's motivation and role in future issues? How does he feel about looking for a woman who he's had a very complex and complicated relationship with?
As longtime Avengers fans know, Simon has been devoted to Wanda for many years, and now he owes his very existence to her. I don't think there's anything Simon wouldn't do for Wanda at this point, including having to deal with the Avengers, if need be.
One of the reasons why Wonder Man's relationship was so complicated with the Scarlet Witch was because of the Vision. The Vision on the Young Avengers is not exactly the Vision of old, but we have to wonder what does he make of all of this? He's been quiet, but Jim Cheung's facial expressions for the character seem to suggest that there's a lot on the new Vision's mind.
Because "Avengers: The Children's Crusade" is not strictly a Young Avengers book -- and because it has such a large cast of characters -- the Young Avengers (apart from Wiccan, whose story it is) will be taking turns in the narrative spotlight. The Vision's role in the story grows with every issue, and his relationship to the Scarlet Witch will definitely be addressed.
"The Children's Crusade" is a nine issue miniseries and you're about to launch #4, which would seem like it would be the start of the second act. In terms of plot and themes, what is Act Two of “The Children's Crusade" about?
For me, Act One was about Wiccan's (and the Young Avengers') idealism and good intentions with regard to finding the Scarlet Witch. Act Two is about what happens when their good intentions come up against the very complicated reality of the situation. Act Three is about their struggle to find a way to live with -- and take responsibility for -- the devastating consequences of their actions.
In the first three issues you introduced a lot of the major players in this story. As the story moves forward, can we expect appearances by any surprise heroes or villains? Or is the cast of the story all pretty much on the table?
At this point in the story we've met all the principal players, but there are many, many more cameos and surprise appearances in store.
How important an element is setting in this next phase of the story? It seems like all roads lead to Latveria?
We are going to be in Latveria for the next little while, but the principal setting changes rather dramatically after that.
The end of “The Children's Crusade” is still a ways off, but I imagine it's very much on your mind. Can you hint at what kind of impact this story will have on the Avengers and the Young Avengers?
Because this story was built on the incredible foundation Brian Michael Bendis created in "Avengers: Disassembled" and "House of M" (as well as its aftermath, "Decimation"), the outcome of "Avengers: The Children's Crusade" will have a profound and lasting impact on the future of the Avengers, the Young Avengers and the X-Men.