Why is Marvel Pretending Its Heroes Don’t Know Each Other?

SPOILER WARNING for Darkhold Alpha #1!
Over the past several decades, Marvel Comics has introduced fans to thousands of new heroes and villains, and it seems like Spider-Man is having trouble remembering them all, and more specifically, Scarlet Witch. This isn’t entirely surprising considering the number of people he’s interacted with throughout his extensive history. Still, Peter Parker would certainly remember meeting a famous hero like the Scarlet Witch, right? According to a new series, this isn’t the case, as the wall-crawler acts like he doesn’t know Wanda Maximoff at all.

Though Spidey and the Scarlet Witch don’t cross paths too often, they’ve interacted more than enough times for the Web-Slinger to know who she is. For example, 1983’s Marvel Fanfare #6, by Mike W. Barr, Sandy Plunkett, Philip Craig Russell, and Jim Novak, sees the two heroes team up to take on the villainous sorcerer Xandu, with Spidey recognizing Wanda from past encounters and saying, “How’s your hubby, the Vision…” in the issue’s opening pages. More recently, though, Marvel’s House of M event should cause Wanda to stick out in Peter’s memory. After all, the new reality that resulted from Wanda’s mental breakdown caused Spidey to suffer some serious trauma, as she managed to bring Uncle Ben and Gwen Stacy back from the dead, only for them to disappear once again after everything went back to normal. After an excruciating experience like that, Spider-Man should easily recall who the Scarlet Witch is, but Darkhold Alpha #1 suggests that the two are practically strangers.

After Doctor Doom awakens the Elder God, Chthon, in Steve Orlando, Cian Tormey, Jesus Aburtov, and Clayton Cowles’ Darkhold Alpha #1, Scarlet Witch is forced to work with the Latverian ruler in hopes of stopping the ancient deity. While Doom decides to challenge the demonic foe head-on, however, Wanda decides to form a team of “Darkhold Defenders,” hoping that they will be able to repeat one of Chthon’s historic defeats. Her squad consists of Iron Man, Blade, Wasp, Black Bolt, and Spider-Man, who are all whisked away from their ongoing adventures and teleported directly to her. Immediately upon seeing the Scarlet Witch, Spidey asks, “Didn’t… you date a robot?”
Although it’s glossed over, fans are left to wonder why Spidey has seemingly forgotten Wanda. As mentioned, Spider-Man has had more than a few run-ins with the Scarlet Witch, so his question here is totally bizarre. In fact, other details suggest the story is firmly ensconced in Marvel canon. Victorious, a trusted subject of Doctor Doom who was introduced in 2018, is present; Tony is partnered with Hellcat, a new development in his current line of comics; and Doom and Wanda outright acknowledge the Children’s Crusade storyline wherein Doom stole Wanda’s powers. Considering all this information, Spider-Man should not only be fully aware of who Wanda is, but he should also know who Vision is, that calling Vision a robot (as opposed to a synthezoid) is offensive, that Wanda and Vision have faced prejudice because of Vision’s nature while together, that Wanda was married to Vision, and that their relationship ended because Wanda’s breakdown led to Vision’s brutal destruction and eventually the events of House of M.

Ultimately, the reason for Spidey’s sudden memory loss comes down to writing. Occasionally, comics writers will simply pretend that heroes don’t have decades worth of continuity and connectivity between them. This can absolutely be a useful writing device, but in a comic where continuity is clearly in play, it feels especially egregious and serves as a discordant note in an otherwise fine story. Hopefully, Marvel will steer away from this sort of inconsistency in the future, because if readers are to assume Spider-Man remembers his own life, then his question to Scarlet Witch just comes across as mean.

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