The artist Vanesa del Rey is best known for her work with Boom ! Studios on the HIT series in 2013 (on which she’s working with Bryce Carlson), then on the HIT : 1957 series (2015-), still with the author Bryce Carlson. With Boom ! Studios, Vanesa del Rey also designed the six issues of the limited series The Empty Man (2014) wrote by Cullen Bunn (the author of the new Uncanny X-Men series). Her first work for the Marvel editions dates from 2014, for the 11th issue of Wolverine and the X-Men, alongside many artists such as Robbi Rodriguez (Spider-Gwen), Ben Caldwell (Prez) and even the author Jason Latour (Wolverine & the X-Men, Spider-Gwen). Her newest work for Boom ! Studios on The Last Contract has just been released a few days ago.
The first issue of the new series Scarlet Witch opens on a memory of Wanda. She and her twin brother, Pietro, are introduced to the crowd by Captain America as new members of the Avengers (in Avengers #16 in May 1965). I’m particularly fond of how Vanesa del Rey drew the original costumes of Wanda and Pietro, like if we were still in 1965. After a short time among the Brotherhood of Magneto, the twins joins the team of the mightiest heroes on Earth. Though it is a happy memory (people cheering, the journalists relaying the information on TV), I can’t shake the feeling that this is most definitely a bitter-sweet memory. Yes, Wanda is an Avengers now, she’s on the bright side, but she had lived tough adventures with the Avengers as well. Maybe if she hadn’t joined the Avengers, and stayed with Magneto, everything that she had caused never had happened (Avengers Dissembled, House of M, Decimation) ? Or maybe she would have done worse under Magneto’s influence ? We can’t decide which team would have been best for her. The most disturbing element of this page is the shadows cast by the four Avengers on the stage. They aren’t well drawn, rather quickly sketched which give them this particularly terrifying aspect. They look like evil spirits, unleashed on Earth by some powerful creature – maybe Wanda – in order to devour our world. They are the dark side of every heroes. Strangely enough, with the lights of the projectors, Hawkeye’s shadow practically merge with Quicksilver’s, letting only three shadows on the stage : Captain’s, Wanda’s and Pietro’s. Wanda’s shadow is in the middle, surrounded by two of the most important men’s shadow in her life : Captain America who trusted her enough to invite her join the Avengers, and her twin brother Pietro. Her shadow is a symbol that the Scarlet Witch will be the star of this series – besides, she’s the only woman on stage.
This memory could have been a dream, a bad one it seems. Wanda is first seen awakening in her king size bed, alone, panting. On the next panels, she’s seen looking at her in a mirror. Her reflection is wrinkled and grey-haired. Is Wanda covering up the effects of old age on her with magic ? If so, then is she also covering up the age of everyone in the Marvel universe ? Since the time passes differently between our universe and the Marvel’s, the characters of the comic-books doens’t age at the same pace as we do. The question of the age of the Marvel character has been answered many times by retcon origins : for example, Tony Stark has not been hurt in Viet-Nam, but in Afghanistan. But what does it mean when Wanda looks at her in her mirror and see an old lady ? Is she seeing someone else in this mirror ? This mystery goes along with Wanda’s powers. Thanks to this page, we are introduces inside Wanda’s intimacy, and we discover that she’s attached to her memory. On her nightstand stands the photo of her introduction as an Avengers, many years ago. This photo occupies a the exact center of the page. It’s the point around wich everything on the page is ordered.
The next page I’d like to talk about represents the Scarlet Witch in action, practicing an exorcism. As Wanda’s magic is chaotic, so is this page’s composition. There isn’t any visible panels, the page is like a full one. If I liked the previous page, I’m a huge fan of this one : Vanesa Del Rey successfully succeded in depicting the chaotic nature of Wanda’s powers. Her powers are surrounding herself and the inspector Eriksen. There is no background, only magic like a pervasive fog. And finally, the close-up on Wanda’s face on the bottom of the page is just … magical. She appears like the mistress of the witchcraft, the most powerful sorceress on Earth.
Back to her home after Eriksen’s exorcism, Wanda seems to be ready to embrace her own career as the Scarlet Witch, and put behind her her past as an Avenger. The three panels give a rythm to the page, and step by step we have a closer look on Wanda. She’s first seen talking to the ghost of Agatha Harkness, then on a close-up to her face, to end in a full view of her body. Her tiara, by its color red and its details, is the element that immediately drives our attention. It’s an iconic piece of the Scarlet Witch’s costume. Despite her new resolution, she couldn’t get reed of everything that she was : her keeping her tiara is a reminder of her past as an Avengers, just like the photo on her nightstand does.
I’ve discovered Vanesa del Rey with this first issue of Scarlet Witch, and I was immediately conquered by her style. It reminds me of Gabriel Hernandez Walta‘s own style, particularly when he was working on Magneto (2014-2015). But maybe it’s only because the same colorist, Jordie Bellaire, has worked on both series ? Anyway, Vanesa del Rey’s work is expressive, with a strong use of the lines which gives the Scarlet Witch its own atmosphere, almost magical.