Aside from “Who would win in a fight?” nothing gets comic fans more heated than the question of whether or not superheroes should be marry. In this mini-feature, Bride-to-Be Rebecca Henely and her Maid of Honor Kayleigh Hearn take a trip down memory lane to the most significant times comic companies took the plunge and got their characters hitched! Did we like the couple? Did we like the dress? And more importantly … why did (or didn’t) the marriage last? Today we cover the double wedding of Vision and Scarlet Witch and Mantis and Swordsman.
The Couples: Wanda Maximoff and Vision/Mantis and an alien wearing Swordsman’s body
The Issue: Giant-Size Avengers #4
Published: June 10, 1975
Today: Following years of marital difficulties — including the reveal that their twin sons William and Thomas never truly existed (but now they totally do), Scarlet Witch and Vision’s marriage effectively ended after the Vision was destroyed and rebuilt. Vision is now married to Virginia, a synthezoid he created with Scarlet Witch’s brain patterns.
Mantis and Swordsman — who wasn’t actually Jacques Duquesne but a Cotati alien reviving and possessing his body — had a kid, but the kid was taken and raised by aliens. Mantis has been on many space adventures since then and Swordsman’s body was resurrected by the Chaos King. Anyway, they don’t seem to be together anymore either but there’s probably no official annulment involved. It’s not gonna get any less weird, folks!
Rebecca: First, an apology to DC fans — we promise to get to you soon — but with the scent of Halloween still in the air, Kayleigh and I wanted to take the time to look at the marriage of comics’ most prominent witchy superheroine. Wanda Maximoff has appeared in several Avengers and X-Men related media over the years, with Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany playing out the nascent stages of Scarlet Witch and Vision’s relationship in Captain America: Civil War. The couple is probably more prominent now than they have been in years.
I generally like Wanda, even considering her fall from grace in the House of M crossover when she de-powered most of the mutant population. Good or evil, Wanda is usually interesting and compelling. I don’t feel the same way about Vision on his own. I’m sure there are some great stories in the back issues I’ve missed, but he usually comes across as a pale echo of android character cliches. In the comics, their relationship has been pleasant and their dramas are weird enough that they’re not boring. In the movies, where Vision is basically Wanda’s boyfriend jailer, they’re problematic with a capital “P” but I guess compared to Steve and Sharon they have some level of buildup.
Kayleigh: Scarlet Witch is a frustrating character for me because I mainly know her through the many retcons and continuity clusterfucks that have affected her. Her ever-changing family tree, ill-defined powers, attempted genocide, and all the other times she’s been written as, sigh, dangerously, hysterically “crazy” is a lot of narrative baggage, and I don’t know if the character can be salvaged. I mostly know Vision from Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s brilliant series, but that is a very dark, existential take on the character. It’s strange and rather sad to read Giant-Size Avengers #4 and see these two at the peak of their love, before their dreams curdled into nightmares.
Rebecca: Scarlet Witch and Vision shared their wedding with people they both previously dated: Mantis and Swordsman…I know next to nothing about these two. I think I saw Swordsman show up in a couple of Kurt Busiek-written Thunderbolts and Avengers issues for a panel or two, but Mantis is completely new to me. She seems neat, but this whole relationship comes off as almost Carol Danvers and Marcus Immortus-level creepy.
Kayleigh: Mantis….is complicated. Steve Englehart went, like, full Pygmalion writing her. To prove his love, he reveals Mantis to be the Celestial Madonna, literally the most important woman in the universe and “the perfect human.” (The unkind term would be “Mary Sue.”) Her wedding to “Swordsman” is the kind of bizarre, baffling thing only a ‘70s Marvel comic could produce, since her betrothed is a sentient alien tree. A sentient alien tree that re-animates the corpse of her dead boyfriend so that they can procreate. Why aren’t the Avengers screaming at the sight of this ghoulish mockery of life?
Mantis is about to have her big breakthrough in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, played by Pom Klementieff. I expect absolutely none of this to make it into the movie, though. Unless she falls in love with Groot.
Rebecca: The marriage of Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman was a bookend to a grand superhero fight of the entire Marvel Universe. The marriage of Cyclops and Jean Grey was an indulgent, romantic celebration of the couple and their ceremony. This comic … is really not much of a marriage issue at all. It’s the culmination of two long stories involving the couples that includes the revelation of both Vision and Mantis’ origins and fights against Kang the Conqueror and the Dread Dormammu (along with his sister Umar). I feel like alcohol-induced Vegas weddings have more buildup than this one. They basically just found some flowers on the ground and had Immortus minister a ceremony of some sort.
Kayleigh: I’m sad we don’t get to talk about wedding dresses this time! But yes, for a huge Avengers double-wedding this feels like an afterthought rather than a climax. Scarlet Witch saying “Love is for souls, not bodies,” is as romantic as this issue gets.
Rebecca: I … didn’t like this story, to be completely honest. I owe a lot of X-Men comics an apology for calling them overly-complicated because this story is a mess of infodumps, time travel contrivances and superheroines acting as damsels in distress. There are fun moments with Thor and Hawkeye fighting Kang that Don Heck draws very well, and the comic does use my favorite trope in that Scarlet Witch turns temporarily evil and then snaps out of it when she remembers her love, but it’s not exactly the Dark Phoenix Saga.
Kayleigh: This is not a great comic. The story grinds to a screaming halt every time it cuts back to Mantis’s endlessly complicated backstory. Characters constantly look like they’re about to be crushed to death under the weight of Englehart’s word bubbles; panels are so densely packed with dialogue that they seem claustrophobic. Don Heck’s art is workmanlike, but with a distinct lack of imagination. The Cotati isn’t even a Kirby-esque cosmic space tree, it looks like an utterly normal tree I’d find in my backyard. Still, that makes it even better when Swordsman says one of the most shockingly bad lines in comics history: “Woman, have you not seen that you are to marry that tree?”
Rebecca: Scarlet Witch and Vision have an odd place in Marvel’s list of great couples, and I feel like this issue reflects that weirdness. Their culmination of their love story and marriage deserved half of a Giant-Sized issue, and yet they feel like an afterthought in what’s supposed to be the happiest day of their lives. They seem like a strong couple here, but I wonder if the not-very-thoughtful touch that writer Steve Englehart and artist Heck bring to this story are indicative of how their relationship perhaps wasn’t and still isn’t one of Marvel Comics’ great emotional bedrocks. They’re basically engines for drama, and this is just a bump on a long, complicated road.
Kayleigh: I can see the appeal of Vision and Scarlet Witch’s relationship. They were outsiders who found each other, and the story of a witch marrying an android sends a colorful “love conquers all!” message to superhero fans. But like Cyclops and Jean Grey, their love story is perhaps overshadowed by loss and tragedy–as I write this, their most recent interaction is in Vision #11, where Wanda tries to talk Vision out of committing murder, and he tells her she never understood him, before knocking her out. They were recently called “Marvel’s Most Fucked-Up Superhero Romance” by io9–a hyperbolic ranking, definitely, but it shows how fictional relationships, and our perceptions of them, change over the years as new stories are being told. Unfortunately, Giant-Size Avengers #4 isn’t the epic love story this couple probably deserved–and if you weren’t already an ardent shipper, this wedding issue probably won’t convert you. It hardly casts a spell.