• Total Nerd

The Scarlet Witch's Highly Confusing Powers, Explained

Even dedicated fans of Marvel Comics and the Marvel Cinematic Universe will struggle with what seems like a simple question of continuity: “What are the Scarlet Witch’s powers?” Everyone has seen what the Scarlet Witch can do - including nearly taking down Thanos single-handedly in Avengers: Endgame - but that doesn’t mean that anyone can actually define her abilities, or where they come from.

As it turns out, there’s no simple answer to the origins of the Scarlet Witch’s powers. Part of that is a result of her and her twin brother Pietro’s ever-changing backstory - full of shocking twists and far more secret parent reveals than is reasonable. A major factor in her confusing power set, however, is the fact that she’s someone who alters reality through the manipulation of chaos magic. As such, her personal history is never quite what it seems.

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  • Over Time, Her Hex Bolts Can Do Whatever The Plot Requires

    At first, the Scarlet Witch’s ill-defined and confusing powers greatly limit her effectiveness as an Avenger. However, Stan Lee and subsequent writers turned that ambiguity to their advantage.

    Over time, the capabilities of Scarlet Witch's hex bolts expand to outrageous proportions. The bolts variously cause spontaneous combustion, rapid decay, and molecular destabilization. They also serve as force fields, vacuums, and sources of unlimited energy.

    In essence, Maximoff is able to pull off whatever the plot of the current Avengers issue requires of her - an early hint that her powers might extend beyond simple hexes. 

  • The Scarlet Witch’s Real Power Is Revealed To Be The Manipulation Of Reality Through Chaos Magic

    Long into her career as an Avenger, the Scarlet Witch begins studying real magic - something that clearly exists in the Marvel Universe, as demonstrated by the likes of Doctors Strange and Doom. Maximoff begins her tutelage under Agatha Harkness - an actual witch who carries a long history of interactions with the Fantastic Four (and has purportedly been alive since at least 10,000 BC).

    Harkness reveals that Maximoff’s powers are far greater than simple luck-changing hexes, and that she is capable of manipulating reality itself. Previously, Maximoff had been unconsciously limiting the expression of her abilities to hex bolts, but the revelation of her true nature opens up scores of possibilities.

    In a tragic storyline that culminates in Avengers: West Coast #52, Maximoff explores the full scope of her reality-altering powers and the chaos magic that fuels them - and the consequences are dire.

  • No One Really Knows If Her Powers Come From Her Mother Or The High Evolutionary

    What's been made clear is that the Scarlet Witch’s reality-altering powers originate in her ability to manipulate chaos magic. Less clear is where exactly this ability comes from.

    In an Uncanny Avengers storyline that takes place shortly after Wanda and Pietro discover Magneto is not their father, the High Evolutionary - the same mad geneticist who snatched them as infants - takes credit for genetically implanting their superpowers.

    Months later, however, a Scarlet Witch solo series reveals that the twins’ true mother is Natalya Maximoff, the original Scarlet Witch who hails from a long line of sorcerers. This suggests Wanda may have had hereditary magical abilities long before the High Evolutionary got his hands on her - though it’s difficult to separate fact from fiction when discussing chaos magic.

  • She Also Gets Possessed By A Demon As A Child, Further Enhancing Her Ties To Chaos Magic

    Regardless of where Wanda Maximoff’s power originates from, it’s clear what amplified her chaos magic to almost omnipotent levels at a young age: a close encounter with the demon Chthon.

    Trapped within Wundagore Mountain, Chthon latches on to the infant Maximoff when she is taken and brought there for experimentation by the High Evolutionary. Chthon’s influence greatly strengthens Maximoff’s abilities, but also causes several of her future villainous outbursts.

    In the Avengers storyline “Nights of Wundagore,” the Scarlet Witch and her Avengers teammates confront and defeat Chthon - though it is not the last they hear of the demonic entity.