EW explains the ever-shifting history of Wanda's powers both in comics and on screen — and what it could tell us about the future of WandaVision.

By Christian Holub
February 18, 2021 at 04:31 PM EST
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Six episodes in, WandaVision has proved to be an engaging mystery show. Every time viewers think one question has been answered, another one arrives: Why does the style of Wanda's sitcom reality keep progressing across the decades? What is S.W.O.R.D. director Tyler Hayward after here? Is Vision dead or not? But the most interesting and revelatory question of all might be: What are Wanda's powers, exactly? 

WandaVision, Scarlet Witch
Credit: Marvel Studios; Marvel Comics

In the comics

This is a question whose answer has remained inconsistent throughout Marvel history. When Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were first introduced as members of Magneto's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in 1964's X-Men #4, her powers were described as a "hex" that could turn probability odds in her favor (at first the twins were just in Magneto's debt; they weren't identified as his children until later on). By pointing her fingers at someone, Wanda could make them mess up what they were doing, or drop things. So she wasn't exactly world-breaking back then, but these hexes are nevertheless the likely source of all the hexagon shapes adorning WandaVision's visuals. 

In later years, after Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver left the Brotherhood for more heroic work on the Avengers, Wanda's powers were redefined as "chaos magic." She now had access to actual magical spells that enhanced her mutant ability, and was trained by the witch Agatha Harkness (whose name, if you combined and contracted it, could maybe sound like "Agnes," the name of Kathryn Hahn's nosy neighbor on WandaVision). The biggest update, though, came in the 2000s with the game-changing comic story line Avengers: Disassembled. Here, it was revealed that Wanda actually had the mutant power to rewrite reality; hexing odds and probabilities was only a minor aspect of what she could do. 

House of M
Credit: Marvel

In the subsequent series House of M, Wanda made her biggest power play ever. With Quicksilver's guidance, she changed the entire Marvel universe to an alternate reality where Magneto had succeeded in his struggle for mutant dominance over mankind. Though she tried to make this new world secure by granting every Marvel hero their heart's desire, they eventually woke up and fought to restore normalcy. In despair, Wanda changed the world back, but with one major difference: "No more mutants." Ninety percent of Marvel's mutants (including Magneto and Quicksilver) lost their powers, becoming ordinary humans. Though almost all those mutants have since regained their powers, the event continues to haunt the X-Men, helping to inspire their recent decision to establish an independent mutant nation-state on the living island of Krakoa

Wanda remains an official enemy of the mutant state not just because of her House of M actions, but because of yet another continuity change that came about years later. During the Axis event, it was revealed that Wanda and Pietro were not mutants at all, and had never been Magneto's children. Instead they had simply been taken as babies and experimented on by a being known as the High Evolutionary, which is where they got their powers. She has since been bitterly labeled a "pretender" by Magneto.

Scarlet Witch
Credit: Marvel

This began a new status quo for Wanda in her solo Scarlet Witch comic series (written by James Robinson and illustrated by a different artist every issue). That book just straight-up turned Wanda into a spellcaster who walked the Witches' Road and sought to fight monsters and fix magical problems across the world. Magic is double-sided in a way that mutant powers are not, however, and in this version, every time Wanda used a spell, she sacrificed years of her life. Whenever she would look into a mirror, her reflection became more old and withered, The Picture of Dorian Gray-style, until this problem was fixed by the ghost of her mother (who had nothing to do with Magneto).

In the movies

As you can see, Marvel comics have defined Wanda's powers in such different ways over the years that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has followed suit, changing her capabilities from one movie to another. When she first appeared in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Wanda's powers ranged from illusions and mind control to telekinesis. The telekinesis carried over into subsequent movies like Captain America: Civil War, but the mind control was not seen again until WandaVision (though we still don't know for sure whether Wanda is the one brainwashing Westview residents; Agnes, after all, seems to understand the sitcom reality quite well). 

Image
Credit: Jay Maidment

Avengers: Infinity War was the high-water mark for Wanda's onscreen abilities. After multiple movies telling viewers how all-powerful the Infinity Stones were, the climax of Infinity War featured the incredible sight of Wanda destroying the Mind Stone with one hand while holding off the other five (in the form of Thanos' Infinity Gauntlet) with her other hand. If we take that at face value, that seems to imply that Wanda's full power is on par with the Infinity Gauntlet itself. Therefore she certainly seems capable of rewriting reality into a sitcom, but WandaVision has kept us hazy on how much of Westview events might be directed by invisible forces. 

So, what is the truth? Hopefully we find out by the end of this season. WandaVision is a unique position to finally give us a definition of Wanda's onscreen powers, and the involvement of Evan Peters' Quicksilver (rather than the Aaron Taylor-Johnson incarnation that Elizabeth Olsen's Wanda is more familiar with) suggests that the possibilities are wide open.

For years, the character rights to Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver existed in both their X-Men incarnations and their Avengers incarnations, which is why not too long ago Fox and Disney were producing competing superhero movies that each featured a version of Quicksilver. This rights divide is probably behind the Axis retcon that removed Wanda and Pietro's status as mutants; at the time, Marvel comics were really averse to publishing prominent stories about the X-Men and Fantastic Four while Fox retained the screen rights to those characters. Though Marvel comics don't seem inclined to reverse that continuity change anytime soon, the Disney-Fox deal means that WandaVision is no longer bound by those constraints and can pick any path it wants for the character.

So, is Olsen's Wanda a mutant? Peters' presence suggests that she could be; maybe WandaVision will be how the MCU starts to integrate the X-Men characters it now has the rights to. We've already been hearing that Monica Rambeau's DNA has been affected by her time in Westview. What if everyone there emerges at the end with superpowers? It could be a reversal of the House of M ending, with Wanda creating mutant abilities instead of taking them away.

On the other hand, Olsen is set to return to the movie side of the MCU in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, which suggests they could double down on Wanda's powers being magical rather than mutant as she teams up with the Sorcerer Supreme. Only time will tell. We have three episodes left of WandaVision to see where the Witches' Road takes us.

Related content:

WandaVision

Marvel’s first Disney+ series centers on Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) living in a world of domestic bliss that’s part kitschy sitcom, part trippy comic book adventure.

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