WandaVision episode 8 featured some major revelations for Scarlet Witch’s character, including the invocation of a powerful ability from the Marvel comics – Chaos Magic. Wanda’s origin story was significantly changed from the comics when she first appeared in the MCU in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but it seems like the franchise is bringing her back to her roots. With Chaos Magic now officially part of the franchise, Scarlet Witch will likely only get stronger going forward.
The MCU versions of Wanda Maximoff and her brother Pietro/Quicksilver are similar to their comic selves in many ways, but different in some key areas. In the comics, Wanda and Pietro are introduced as mutants, and the children of Magneto. The MCU’s past lack of mutants due to Fox’s ownership of the X-Men license made that plotline impossible, so instead Wanda and Pietro were retconned to receive their powers through exposure to the Mind Stone. Now, however, it looks like there’s more to Wanda’s powers after all.
As eventually happened in the comics, the MCU is now introducing some interesting twists to explain the incredible abilities Wanda possesses. Agatha Harkness, obsessed with Wanda’s power, dives deep into her past and her psyche to uncover their img. Eventually, she learns the secret – Chaos Magic – and officially dubs Wanda the Scarlet Witch.
The origin of Chaos Magic in Marvel Comics goes back to the very formation of the Earth. In the earliest days, over a billion years ago, an ancient race of powerful beings known as the Elder Gods roamed the Earth. One of the strongest of these gods, who eventually deteriorated into vile arch-demons, was Chthon, who became the first being on Earth to harness the power of dark arcane magic. Chthon ruled Earth for a time as the God of Chaos, using his immense abilities to shape reality to his will. Eventually, however, Chthon was exiled and sealed in an alternate dimension through Mount Wundagore, located in modern eastern Europe.
Wanda Maximoff was born near Mount Wundagore, and as a result her inherent mutant abilities were amplified by Chthon’s latent power. The Elder God chose Wanda as a potential future vessel for him to inhabit (which he later does), and, therefore, her natural abilities became far stronger as she grew. Eventually, the true nature of Wanda’s powers became clear, catapulting her to becoming one of the Marvel universe’s most powerful characters.
The exact limitations of Chaos Magic aren’t rigidly defined, mostly because they’re nearly limitless. Chaos Magic primarily involves reality-altering abilities, giving the wielder the strength to create, destroy, and alter the very fabric of the universe itself. Scarlet Witch shows off this power several times in the comics, such as in the famous “House of M” storyline which has been a major inspiration for WandaVision. As a wielder of Chaos Magic and the Nexus Being of Earth-616, comics Wanda is easily one of Marvel’s most powerful characters.
Chaos Magic hasn’t been mentioned in the MCU until WandaVision episode 8, and it was previously believed that Marvel Studios had decided to take an entirely different approach with Scarlet Witch’s powers. Whether or not it was the plan all along, Wanda’s abilities have now been retconned as Chaos Magic, though it remains unclear how exactly that will manifest. No references to Chthon, Mount Wundagore, or the Elder Gods have been made, and bringing in any of them would be a pretty major shift from the previous tone of the MCU.
So far, Marvel Studios has stayed away from the more fantastical elements of the comics, preferring a sci-fi approach. More complex stories have emerged over time, bringing in concepts like time travel, the multiverse, and the Infinity Stones, but all these additions have been grounded in some sort of pseudo-scientific explanation. Even the MCU’s Doctor Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme himself, has his powers explained through their connection to alternate realities. The MCU has gotten bolder with weirder storylines over time, but it’s always hesitated to blindly invoke magic without any sort of broader context.
That could be changing, however. Agatha Harkness’s backstory clearly shows a coven of witches, and the runes and incantations she uses in her basement feel much more mystical than the MCU “magic” wielded by Doctor Strange. Agatha herself is also at least 400 years old, yet still appears essentially human. There was a time when the idea of a multiverse in the MCU seemed out of the question, but that time has come and gone. It’s possible that now, in Phase 4, some of the more fantastical elements of the comics will also be introduced
Whether or not Chthon himself is canonized, there are a few things that have already been revealed about the MCU’s Chaos Magic. When Agatha realizes the img of Wanda’s power, she says she must be the Scarlet Witch – a name that has not been used in the MCU before. WandaVision episode 8 also shows the moment Wanda was exposed to the power of the Mind Stone. In that moment, she sees a vision of what appears to be her classic outfit from the comics, silhouetted.
Two explanations seem most likely; either Scarlet Witch is an ancient, mythical figure who has reappeared via some sort of reincarnation, or Wanda is the fulfillment of a prophecy involving Chaos Magic, which references someone called the Scarlet Witch. The latter story, in particular, could easily still bring in Chthon and the Elder Gods, but it’s equally likely that the origin of Chaos Magic has been changed and tied to the Infinity Stones, rather than some demonic, primordial being.
Either way, the effect of Chaos Magic in the MCU seems to be more or less the same – changing the nature of reality itself to suit the user’s will. It remains to be seen how exactly this newfound power will impact the end of WandaVision and the rest of the MCU going forward, but it certainly has a lot of potential.