Scarlet Witch (1st series) #2

Issue Date: 
February 1994
Story Title: 
The Clutch of MADNESS!

Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning (Writers), John Higgins (Penciler), Mark McKenna (Inker), Jim Novak (Letterer), Kevin Somers (Colorist), Nel Yomtov (Editor), Tom DeFalco (Editor-in-Chief)

Brief Description: 

The Scarlet Witch battles a deranged Master Pandemonium who tells Wanda that he loves her. Though she battles well, it is some time before Wanda manages to escape Pandemonium, before falling into another part of the church and discovering some kind of ancient vault, littered with the bodies of the long-dead. Meanwhile, in Palos Verdes, a mysterious being easily takes down USAgent, Spider-Woman, War Machine and Living Lightning. The Scarlet Witch finds a book that Agatha told her about, and in it she learns the history of the Nexus Beings, and of the evil known as Lore. Wanda escapes the church and makes her way into Unity town where she sees a light in a cabin, and people inside, but it is all trickery, then she is confronted by her dear friend Spider-Woman, transformed into a hideous spider creature, Wanda is forced to defend herself, and continues to flee, until she comes to transformed versions of USAgent, War Machine and the Living Lightning, attacking gypsies and holding hostage her two “children”, which Master Pandemonium soon absorbs into his body. Wanda knows that this is wrong, and continues to run - until she comes to the edge of “nothing” - Unity is now a floating island, high above an endless ocean, just like in her dream - and now her transformed teammates are closing in on her, and she has nowhere else to run.

Full Summary: 

In the crypt of the old church in Unity, New England, Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch has come in search of the secrets of her past. She has found instead, a future full of phantoms and diabolical evil…a future that, it seems, will be all too brief! The air around her is full of swirling demon forms, the shriek of their soulless wails, the reek of their fetid maws…an infernal maelstrom invoked by a creature who is lord of such tumult - Master Pandemonium!

‘My Wanda! My witch! My love!’ the horrid uber-villain bellows with his nasty voice, ‘I have come back for you! I have come back from the brink of Hell!’ Shocked, Wanda asks how this can be, and noting his new appearance, asks how he could have changed so much, ‘I saw you die!’ she cries. The frightening Master Pandemonium replies that death is but one of the agonies Mephisto made him endure. ‘His torments scarred me soul as deeply as they twisted my body’. Master Pandemonium, whose real name is Martin Preston, snarls that the one thing which kept him sane and guided him back to Wanda was their bond of love - a bond they share through Wanda’s children!

‘My children? My CHILDREN!’ screams the Scarlet Witch as Master Pandemonium places a hand on her face. ‘How dare you? How dare you speak of them!’ Wanda shrieks, escaping her deadly foes grasp as she exclaims that her children were creations of Mephisto’s trickery, but the pain of losing them shall haunt her forever. Wanda assures Master Pandemonium that she will never forgive him for his part in that deceit. ‘You run from me? But I love you!’ Master Pandemonium exclaims, before ordering his demons to retrieve the Scarlet Witch, boasting that she will belong to him body and soul.

Meanwhile, night time at the Avengers West Compound in Palos Verdes, California - where something wicked comes this way - in the form of a mysterious woman, hovering over the Compound. In the kitchen, reserve member of the Avengers West, Miguel Santos a.k.a. the Living Lightning is watching is watching sport on the TV, though he is about to see his favorite team’s fortunes take a tumble. ‘Madre de dios!’ Miguel exclaims, knocking over a glass of water. Miguel tells himself that he is as clumsy as the Ream’s receiver, and opens a cupboard, looking for a mop - only to be shut inside, as the mysterious woman locks him in there. ‘One!’ she cries.

Back in Unity, Wanda calls out to her mentor Agatha Harkness, but getting no response, Wanda wonders what has happened, before deciding that she must escape this nightmare. Rushing through rows and rows of shelving, all lined with ancient books, Wanda exclaims that this place is a labyrinth, but that she is sure this was the way in. Wanda wonders how Pandemonium can be here, ‘The one nightmare from my past I thought I’d escaped! It’s so…overwhelming!’ Wanda thinks to herself, before suddenly a horde of demons push past some books, toppling them on Wanda and reaching out for her. Wanda boasts that although they have found her, taking her will be a different matter, and she casts her hex power at them, distorting probabilities, ectoplasm evaporates in a scorching flare of arcane smoke.

“Wise men say, only fools rush in…but I cant help falling in love -” Julia Carpenter sings as she takes a shower at the West Coast Compound. ‘Mmmmm! Just what the doctor ordered! A nice hot shower!’ However, Spider-Woman is unaware that the mysterious woman who attacked Living Lightning is outside, ‘Two!’ she exclaims, watching Spider-Woman, who suddenly hears a noise beneath her. Looking down, Julia sees a spider in the drain, and reaches down for it, ‘Come on little fellow! Spider-Woman isn’t afraid of an insy-winsy -’ she doesn’t get to finish her sentence, as she screams when giant spider-like legs clamp around her in a flash of green light….

Back in Unity, Wanda continues to defend herself against her demonic foes, but they come from all around, faster than she can react. An endless swarm of demon forms, extruding from Pandemonium’s physical shape, all the while his body wastes as he unleashes ectoplasmic matter at the struggling Avenger. ‘The Witch is mine!’ Master Pandemonium shouts as he stands over the Scarlet Witch, who struggles no more, covered in the horrid demons.

Back at the Compound, the handsome Johnny Walker a.k.a. the USAgent is getting ready to have a bath, and checks the temperature. Deciding that the water is fine, Johnny smiles and taps his chin, exclaiming that he best “DX” the non-regulation stubble first. Wiping away the condensation on the mirror, Johnny seems some creatures behind him, so swiftly turns around to defend himself from the - but there is nothing there. Johnny swears that he saw something there though, when suddenly, a creature growls and lunges him, wrapping its hands around his face, while a female voice cries ‘Three!’.

Nearby in the Compound, James “Rhodey” Rhodes a.k.a. War Machine hears a crash and calls out to the USAgent, asking him if he is okay. Suddenly, a scratching noise is heard and the mysterious woman appears, ‘James? James!’ she exclaims. Rhodey looks around, ‘Who’s that? Wanda, is that you?’ he asks as the woman appears at the top of the staircase. ‘Almost…but no!’ the woman replies as she blasts War Machine with a powerful beam of energy, before declaring ‘Four!’.

Back in Unity, Master Pandemonium pulls Wanda up out of the demons, and the Scarlet Witch screams that he can send all his demon spawn after her if he must, but that he will never take her, ‘You unspeakable monster!’ Holding her by the throat, Master Pandemonium replies ‘But, my love…I have you already!’. Consciousness begins to fade, and Wanda’s hex powers lash out instinctively, shortening the odds against the great book stack suddenly toppling from a million to one - to a final certainty! ‘Come with me my love, don’t fight me anymore!’ Master Pandemonium exclaims, before the bookcase smacks him in the back, causing him to let go of the Scarlet Witch.

‘Rest easy, Pandemonium, and stay there!’ Wanda exclaims, before one of the demons breaks free, and Pandemonium boasts that he cannot be defeated with brute force. ‘So it seems’ Wanda remarks, before covering the demon with her cloak and remarking that the fallen bookcase has revealed a hidden passageway, and proceeds to take her leave, busting through the passage way, she arrives at the top of a rickety set of old stairs. ‘Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea!’ Wanda exclaims as the stairs give way and she plummets downwards into the darkness.

‘Ouch! Landed hard!’ Wanda exclaims, clutching her head, she hexes up some light to find out where she is. Probabilities shuffle and the impossibility of the air around her hand igniting into a cold flame becomes a possibility. The flickering pink light reveals a great, massive dark vault, hewn from the rock beneath the town of Unity. Cyclopean pillars the size of Douglas Fir Trees support the distant roof, and the floor is littered with the evidence of a past that is as terrifyingly remote as it is utterly alien - the remains of bodies from throughout the times lay scattered, while the air is cold and heavy with the dust of centuries.

However, the Scarlet Witch feels a chill that runs yet deeper. She edges forward in the frozen quiet, past the calcified remains of things that - impossibly - must have once lived in the place. Dust sifts as Wanda moves, while she tells herself that this is extraordinary, and no doubt this catacomb is an archaeologists dream, as nothing has been touched down here for what must be centuries.

Wanda arrives at some kind of gateway and wonders where it leads to, when suddenly, a huge stone-like creature lunges out at her, but as she passes through the gateway, it falls to the ground, motionless. Wanda realizes that her movement must have disturbed the creature’s remains, and tells herself to get a grip. She then supposes that the crypt must be special, as the creature seemed to be guarding it. Wanda casts a small hex at a candle, which proceeds to light up dozens of candles all throughout the chamber. A grotesque lectern that seems to have grown up out of the rock floor from ages past holds a very large book, and Wanda wonders if it is the one that she and Agatha came here to find.

The Scarlet Witch begins flicking through the pages, reading, understanding instantly a script that no human eye has ever read before. Here, it is recorded: the simply mysteries of the nexus beings. Wanda’s hands shake as she becomes aware of her own nature. One alone exists on each of the Multiverse parallel worlds, one being that is the node of each world’s mystic energy. They are as close as sisters, but no two are identical. Each has a power unique to herself: geomancy, sorcery, psychometry, hex power - and no two may exist in one dimension simultaneously. Wanda reads on, perceiving a threat hidden in the meaning of the words - hints of a dark predatory extreme in the nexus variations that finds its prey by madness and deceit!

And the name for that evil…is Lore! Suddenly, the candles blow out, Wanda supposes it was a draft, before looking around her for a way out of this mausoleum. Eventually, she finds a large window with bars on it which she can slip through, greeted by darkness and a snow covered ground. Wanda remarks that she didn’t realize she was trapped in there for so long, ‘I have to find Agatha!’ Wanda exclaims, while a phantom night swaddles the church of Unity, and Winter fog enshrouds the village below. The Scarlet Witch would rather be anywhere but here right now.

Trudging down a steep snow-covered slope, Wanda sees a light in a cottage, and hopes that they have got as phone. She runs over to the cottage once on even ground, hoping that she will now be able to get out of this miserable hole before she freezes to death - or worse. The Scarlet Witch begins banging on the cottage door, ‘Hello? Hello? Is there anyone in there?’ she calls out. Getting no answer, Wanda goes over to a window and peers inside - where she sees who she believes to be the gypsy who raised her reading to Pietro and herself. ‘Hush no, my dears, or I wont finish the story! “Well, then the spider-lady said to the captive princess ‘by web or by line, I’ll make thee mine’…”’ .

Suddenly, a hand grabs Wanda’s shoulder, and Wanda turns, her blood frozen in her veins, her stomach turns in revulsion. Abominable though the monster standing before her is, Wanda knows that it is her friend and teammate, Spider-Woman, transformed into a large spider creature. ‘By web or be line, Wanda. By web or by line…’ Julia growls, her voice distorted as she stands over the Scarlet Witch, ‘Wanda? Help me...It hurts to be this shape!’ Julia pleads, blood dripping from her eyes. ‘Help me please, take my hands…’ Julia cries. Wanda reaches out for her dear friends hands, crying, the Scarlet Witch pulls away and screams ‘Nooo!’ for she knows this is a trick. ‘You’re mine, Witch!’ Spider-Woman growls, while Wanda tells her to get away, as she is not real.

‘Madness! Permeating every inch of this foul place! There must be a release…a way out!’ Wanda exclaims as she rushes in the direction of a large fire at a gypsy camp, which she notices is being ransacked by - more of her teammates! The transformed USAgent, War Machine and Living Lightning. The transformed USAgent strikes out at some civilians, while the Living Lightning darts around in the air, and War Machine holds up two children, ‘Fee fie foe fum…I smell the blood of two little ones!’ he shouts, while Master Pandemonium watches with glee, literally sitting on the flames surrounding everyone.

However, the Scarlet Witch refuses to accept them, just as she refuses to see the twins dangling from War Machine’s hand. Her mind reels. ‘This is all wrong!’ she screams. Master Pandemonium tells Wanda that her friends are pleased to see her, as is he. ‘And behold! Our beloved children!’ Master Pandemonium cries, motioning towards the children War Machine is holding, before taking them and shoving them into his flesh. ‘They are one with us again!’ he shouts, while one of the children calls out to Wanda, ‘Mommmeeee!’ he cries, before he is completely submerged inside Master Pandemonium.

Wanda begins running away, while Pandemonium chases her, ‘Come back, my love!’ he cries. ‘NEVER!’ Wanda screams back, when suddenly, she comes to the end of the road - literally, as Unity now appears as a floating rock, high above an endless ocean. ‘Oh no!’ Wanda gasps. ‘Noooo!’ she screams, as the cliff edge yawns away into the impossible, reality and hope of escaping falling away with it. Wanda turns, only to face the nightmares at her heels - her transformed teammates, and Master Pandemonium who exclaims ‘We have her now, my avenging spawn…the Witch is mine!’.

Characters Involved: 

Scarlet Witch, Spider-Woman II, USAgent, War Machine (all Avengers West Coast)
Living Lightning (Reserve member of the Avengers West Coast)

Master Pandemonium

Children / “Billy & Tommy Maximoff”
Gypsy people

In Illustrative images:
The Scarlet Witch
Other Nexus Beings

Story Notes: 

Master Pandemonium last appeared in the classic Avengers West Coast #51-52, where the Scarlet Witch learned the true origins of her children.

This mini series takes place between Avengers West Coast #101 and #102.

Written By: