The determined detectives of X-Factor have been investigating Magneto, who’s suspected in the death of the Scarlet Witch. The Avengers, among them her former husband the Vision, have come to Krakoa to take home her body, but Magneto wants her corpse to stay. Whoops — she’s alive! Whaaaaat?
The Trial of Magneto #3
Note: This review contains spoilers for The Trial of Magneto #3.
Leah Williams wrote What If: Magik Became Sorcerer Supreme, The Amazing Mary Jane, Age of X-Man: X-Tremists, and the Krakoan run of X-Factor. I would trust her to watch my cats, play with my dog, or write a mini-series based on my life, and I trust her to bring this mini-series about Magneto, the Scarlet Witch, parenthood, guilt, and resurrection to a satisfying finale. But after this mess of a third issue, it’s a near thing.
The Trial of Magneto #3 has three acts, each one exciting in itself. The first takes last issue’s fight between Magneto and pretty much everyone else (the Avengers, X-Factor) to its predictable conclusion. In the course of defending his not-really-dead daughter’s body, the Master of Magnetism made the mistake of endangering Northstar’s beau, the sweet-tempered human Kyle Jinadu. And Northstar will have none of that: he uses his speed powers to create a tidal wave and punches Magneto in the face. “Threaten my husband again,” Northstar says while making a classic brush-you-off shoulder gesture, “and I’ll show you.”
Then Kyle makes everybody dinner. It’s a vision of superhero and mutant comity but one that excludes Magneto himself. Is he guilty? Who knows? We barely see him for the rest of the comic book: it’s less a trial of Magneto (in either sense of “trial,” juridical or emotional) than a try-to-find-Magneto, or maybe a try-to-find-why-he’s-not-there.
As for the resurrected Wanda, is she Wanda? Is anyone, once resurrected, really themselves? What if they get back some, but not all, of their memories? It’s a Krakoa-wide question, one that the series Way of X took on, and one that Wanda’s kids Speed and Wiccan have to ask when they realize (thanks to telepathy) just how little of her history this restored Wanda Maximoff retains: “She doesn’t even remember her sons.” The telepath Rachel Summers can fix that, restoring Wanda’s “greatest hits” in a two-page spread of mostly well-rendered faces: a frightened Scarlet Witch, a resolute Rachel, an unsure Jean Grey, and then a pinwheel tour of Wanda’s scary history. Werneck and Delgado and Messina excel with their central image of Wanda. Imagine if you came back to life with a blank slate and then realized that some version of you had done, or suffered, all that.
That’s part one for you. Then we pause for a word from our kaiju. Three giant monsters — one like a massive eel, one like a triceratops, one like an ankylosaur crossed with a horned beetle — descend on Krakoa from the sea. “Hell-bent on destruction,” they are impervious to the combined efforts of (deep breath here) Captain America, Cyclops, Eye-Boy, Iron Man, Jean Grey, Magneto, Polaris, Rachel Summers, Synch, the Vision, the Wasp, and Laura Kinney (Wolverine). They fight. They fight some more. Cyclops decides to “evacuate all non-combatants from the island” (presumably through the Krakoan portals). It’s a big fight and it looks bad for our heroes right up until…
…The page turn, where Wanda (presumably not the same Wanda we saw on Krakoa) runs through a shifting landscape of bubbles and triangles, crystals and smoke. “This place is made of chaos magic!” she realizes, picking up a big-ass axe, and swinging it straight at an eight-arrowed Chaos Emblem imported directly from Michael Moorcock’s Melniboné, and at the white-hooded figure who stands behind it.
This fight scene– with only two characters– feels much more fun, with more emotional stakes, than the Krakoan-based fights we saw before. (Swing that axe, Wanda!) Then our antagonist removes her white hood, and the baddie who keeps trying to kill, or re-kill, this disembodied Wanda — who may or may not have killed the physical Wanda who died on Krakoa — turns out to be… a white-haired, aged-up version of Wanda herself. A display-font caption labels her “Old Lady Wanda!” She comes from the future. Or a future. Or an alternate Earth. Or maybe a chaos dimension?
Why has she been trying to kill the younger Wanda over and over? Did she kill the physical Wanda at the Gala? If so, how? If not, whodunit? What’s the relationship among astral-plane Wanda (the one with the battle axe), physical, resurrected, amnesic Wanda, and the Wanda who died? Is the second a plain old Krakoan resurrection, hatched-from-an-egg duplicate of the third? If so, what happened to her memories? If not, what happened to her? Why does this issue use its limited page count to give two whole pages to a lettered-but-not-drawn design feature around the slogan “Spin the Wheel”? And what on God’s green earth does any of this material have to do with kaiju? Also, what happened to Magneto, and if he had nothing to do with the Scarlet Witch’s death, is he acting simply out of paternal grief when he resorts to deadly violence rather than let her husband claim her body?
Rereading The Trial of Magneto #3 and looking for clues, I found few. But I’m no detective, nor am I a detective story writer. It’s possible that Williams wanted to do something more with these characters, something other than what ended up on-page here, and a big bad dumb monster fight then had to be substituted in at the last moment to fill missing comic book pages. (At least they’re cool monsters.) That’s how it feels.
It’s also possible that everything is proceeding according to plan: next issue we will learn who killed Wanda and why, and why she’s got an amnesic backup, and what Old Lady Wanda wants, and why Magneto’s hellbent on keeping the corpse, and why the immortal, carnivorous, giant eels and dinosaurs take up eight whole pages of a comic book otherwise unconnected to them. All things are possible, especially with chaos magic, and with this trustworthy writer at the helm. But for now, I am confused.