Another week, another episode of Marvel’s WandaVision, and another reveal of what’s really going on in the town of WestView. This time, the Disney Plus series made some very serious callbacks to Marvel movies past.
But it also made a smaller one, specifically about Wanda Maximoff’s past, part of a pattern in the movies and the comics. Again and again through comics history, Wanda’s powers get out of control, especially when the Scarlet Witch becomes overwhelmed by the trauma of her past.
[Ed. note: This piece contains spoilers for WandaVision episode 5, “On a Very Special Episode...”]
Nearly every episode of WandaVision so far has had an advertisement in it that references some aspect of Wanda’s past, and episode 5 is no different. Except this time, the reference is to a real place.
“Lagos!” goes the tagline for some fake paper towels. “For when you made a mess you didn’t mean to.”
Lagos is the capital of Nigeria, but in the MCU it’s also a place where Wanda made a mess she didn’t mean to.
The Lagos catastrophe
It can be difficult to remember, because the movie came out in 2016 and its plot was packed with universe-rattling events, but the Lagos Catastrophe was the inciting incident of Captain America: Civil War. Yes, not the Bucky stuff or the Black Panther stuff. The movie’s first action sequence followed the Avengers — Captain America, the Falcon, Black Widow, and the Wanda aka Scarlet Witch — as they tried to stop Crossbones from stealing a biological weapon.
During the fight, the villain set off his own suicide vest, and Wanda attempted to use her telekinetic powers to contain the explosion long enough to move it away from the many bystanders in a busy marketplace. Unfortunately, she didn’t quite succeed, and the redirected blast killed 26 people. It was a bad look, and lead directly to many governments around the world calling for the Sokovia Accords, an international agreement on how to regulate the activities of people with superpowers.
In WandaVision, the Scarlet Witch seems to be uncertain of the limits of her powers once again. And in the comics, that’s one of the dominant themes of Wanda’s history. The events of Avengers Disassembled and House of M saw Wanda become increasingly distraught over the loss of her twin children, leading to a psychological breakdown. And when psychological breakdowns happen to people who can change reality with their minds, things get very strange.
But despite the centrality of Avengers Disassembled and House of M to Wanda’s comic book history, the story arcs remain controversial among Scarlet Witch fans. Neither arc is really about Wanda’s personal trauma, reducing her to a plot bomb the Avengers and the X-Men are trying to defuse before it destroys the world as they know it.
WandaVision stands a chance of telling a story about Wanda’s powers going haywire that’s actually about her, and not everyone around her.