While Avengers: The Children's Crusade has been perennially late in its publishing schedule, it's not the worst offender of all time. However, this 9-issue miniseries from Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung has been unfolding since 2010, and it's not done yet. Back at Comic-Con, it was said that this series was slated to end around the same time as Fear Itself and X-Men: Schism, and it's still not done yet. However, the major plot points are all but wrapped up in this issue, and it may have finally achieved Heinberg's ultimate goal – the exoneration of the Scarlet Witch for all her crimes against mutantkind and the world at large.
I was one of the strongest proponents of rehabilitating the wreckage of Wanda Maximoff's status in the Marvel Universe as perpetrated by Brian Michael Bendis in both Avengers: Disassembled and House of M, and I've liked a lot of what he's done so far, but maybe it's because of how long this story has dragged out that I'm getting that dreaded feeling that this could be approaching Green Lantern: Rebirth levels of fanboy screed. I understand the perspective of Hal Jordan fans who were incensed by having one of their favorite heroes turned unceremoniously into a batshit insane supervillain and immediately wiped out of comics for years, but while Geoff Johns' Rebirth series brought him back and redeemed him, it was done in the most annoyingly fellating style that I started the series indifferent to Jordan and ended it thinking he was an overblown douchebag.
Heinberg's appreciation for Wanda is not in question, but he's somewhat avoiding falling into that trap of completely cloying worshipfulness. Here, she's contrite, mournful and miserable about what her actions have caused and how contentious all of her former friends now are when her name is mentioned. She's ready and willing to quietly die for her sins if need be. Nowhere is there a "hey, time to go punch everyone who ever speaks to me with a cross word in the face forever" style of asshole swagger like Jordan, and we're thankful for that. In fact, in the process of redeeming her, Heinberg may have rendered her even more manipulatable and meek by having Doom claim responsibility for her crimes.
Oh, that's right. Dr. Doom has claimed it was his manipulation of Wanda that resulted in the catastrophes that were pinned on her. But we'll get back to that.
At the outset of Avengers: The Children's Crusade #8, Doom has usurped Wanda's reality-altering powers (which were gained through a desperate Wanda's seeking of Doom's help to channel the power of creation itself, or "The Life Force Itself" as it was termed last issue, to restore her sons to life), and is now dressed in white, with a healed face, talking peace and benevolent dictatorship in the nicest terms he can muster. Of course, they all see through this because he's Doom (and there's a nice bit of snark from Kate Bishop in this process), and it all boils down to Wanda offering to marry him if he puts the power back where it belongs. "Victor, you are dealing with forces you cannot control." "No, I am dealing with forces YOU could not control."
One of the oddest things about A:TCC so far has been how nice and benevolent Doom has been seeming throughout, complete with even having what seems to be an honest desire to marry Wanda. But with that line, it becomes clear that Doom is still very much Doom, and by the end of things, he has not only claimed Wanda's transgressions as his victories, but that his expressions of emotion for Wanda were nothing but a means to an end. However, whether that's entirely true is up for debate – it could very well be a freshly defeated and angry Doom claiming victories and emotionlessness in the face of loss and rejection.
"Get away from me, woman," Doom says, when Wanda tries to help him after the Life Force has been taken back from him. "You are nothing. A nexus creature – a conduit to power – that's all you are. That's all you've ever been. You think YOU were powerful enough to destroy the Avengers and rid the world of its mutants? That was me. That was DOOM."
So that's the bit where suddenly, nothing is Wanda's fault anymore. At least, not the big things. "You're as weak, as trusting and as easily led as your so-called friends," Doom adds, before hiking back to Latveria. That's still on her, and it's not nearly as triumphant an outcome as Jordan's "LOVE ME, EVERYONE, FOR I AM AWESOME" return. I've been back and forth on whether that's a bit too clean a solution, even though I hated how the dirt heaped on her in the first place. But I think I like that Doom can arguably have crushed the Avengers and drastically reduced the mutant threat to his eventual rise to power, and Wanda's hardly scot free, as Cyclops makes clear in the sheer amount of lives that were destroyed thanks to 'No More Mutants.'
Where Heinberg pushes the boundaries is with Wiccan and Speed, his creations and mouthpieces, who take Cyclops and his generic threats of bringing Wanda to justice to task, basically comparing her to Magneto, who is now an X-Man, and the criminal pasts of Emma Frost, Gambit, Hawkeye, Wonder Man and all sorts of other heroes who have have reformed or been mind-controlled to do awful things, etc. Depending on your mood, this can be taken different ways. On one hand, it's a Mary Sue moment where his Young Avengers get to show off by lecturing the Avengers AND the X-Men on stuff they should already know if they were being written properly, but on the other hand, it's a satirical commentary on how improperly the Avengers and X-Men have been written – at least in regards to the Scarlet Witch debacle – for the last decade. Not to mention how improperly they will likely be written when the bulk of 2012 is devoted to YET ANOTHER slapfight between the two teams, which this series will apparently feed into even though it's completely mocked those contrivances throughout its run.
Jim Cheung's art is once again solid for the most part, but with all the characters he's juggling (and perhaps how late he is in completing the series? Just a possibility – maybe it's Heinberg's fault… or something else), the "same-face" problem is really prominent here. Plus – and this might just be me – but everybody has been "dirty" in the wake of all these big fights, but it tends to look more like everybody's pockmarked with gray spots, creating more of a gross Pig-Pen look than actual battle-weariness. A couple of minor perspective issues when fighting Giant-Sized Doom are noticeable, too, but not that big a deal. Again, pretty solid stuff overall.
There's still one more issue to go, and now that Doom and the Uber-Power have both been dealt with (although likely fraught with arguments about how Doom with ultimate power would ever be 'distratcted' by lowly superheroes he could just wish away with the sweep of his hand), we have to imagine it will be devoted to the fate of Wanda Maximoff – as well as a potential send-off to Stature, who may or may not be mortally wounded after punching Giant Doom in the mouth and paying for it. Would Heinberg really trade Scott Lang's life for his daughter's? Doubtful – Heinberg has made it clear in this series that he's weary of the 'event book' tropes, and a cheap death like this doesn't seem like it should be his play.
Hopefully, we'll see how this turns out in a timely fashion and then we can see how this whole series hangs together after reading it in once piece. Only one more issue, after all… that won't get delayed, now, will it?
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 7.9/10