What If... Avengers Disassembled

Background

This story is based on the "Chaos" arc from Avengers #500Avengers #503. The Scarlet Witch has been driven insane by her powers and tried to gain revenge upon the Avengers for the loss of her children, which never really existed (she "wished" them into reality).

The Avengers discover she is responsible for the recent attacks on them, and are forced to retaliate against one of their longest-serving member before she destroys reality.

At the end of the arc, Dr. Strange is forced to shut down her mind. Magneto arrives and takes her to Genosha where she will be cared for. This is where our story picks up.

Story 'What If... The Scarlet Witch Hadn't Acted Alone?'

In this reality, the Beast and Ms. Marvel sift through the remains of Avengers' mansion. Hank made a specific request to Iron Man that the site remain untouched so that he could conduct a thorough investigation into this disaster. While Carol does the heavy lifting, Hank collects various items to include in his report.

When Beast hears a clicking sound, he crouches low to the ground. He finds a rock and quickly throws it in the general direction of the sound. It turns out to be a camera, one that is owned by Spider-Man. Spidey asks why he did that. Hank replies that he thought it was a trigger or paparazzi. Ms. Marvel grabs him and states that he's acting like paparazzi at the moment. Spidey explains that he's just taking pictures for himself; he never gets to do that. Carol releases him and apologizes.

Beast then asks Spider-Man for his account of what happened, but Spidey has very little to add to what is already known. When the Kree attacked the mansion, Hawkeye died trying to take out one of their spacecraft.

At this point, Falcon arrives to take a final look and greets the trio. He begins discussing the arrival of Dr. Strange after the battle with the Kree and briefly retells how he was able to pinpoint the cause of the problem: the Scarlet Witch. When asked why Cap took the revelation harder than the other Avengers, he admits that Wanda and Steve were having an affair. Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel are shocked; Beast handles it with his usual aplomb.

Sam continues his explanation. As great as the Vision was, he was still a machine – who couldn't give Wanda children. He theorizes that when she willed two children into existence, she began losing her grip on reality. She went after Steve for the simple reason that they could have children.

Later they review Tony's perspective on the incident, trying to work out a timeline for Wanda's appearances and disappearances. They arrive at two specific points: at the U.N. Where she made Tony appear drunk before the general assembly and only later during their final confrontation where Dr. Strange was forced to shut down her mind. Tony hands Hank a card from his armor that contains everything the armor recorded and grants permission to use another Quinjet to continue his investigation.

Their next stop is Quicksilver's beach house in Greenland. After some convincing, he agrees to answer their questions. He explains that Wanda's powers alter reality and are affected by her perception of her surroundings. When she was married to the Vision, they worked with precision due to his computer-precise mind.

Their next stop is Tibet to visit Dr. Strange at his Himalayan sanctum. Strange asks what he can do for them. Ms. Marvel asks to provide some additional information about his part in the battle against Wanda. Strange has no idea what she's talking about; he's been secluded for the last five days protecting this dimension from demons. After Beast and Ms. Marvel fill him in, Strange casts a spell that allows them to view the events from yesterday. Strange quickly determines that his presence was actually another of Wanda's illusions. The timely arrival of Magneto was yet another illusion.

Strange gives them a vital piece of information: there is no difference between magic and science. His incantations are essentially mathematical formulas that simply use ancient symbology. One shared aspect of math and magic is the law of conservation. The deaths Wanda caused were used to alter reality to bring the Kree forces to Avengers' mansion. Beast and Ms. Marvel return to Avengers Tower where Hank tries to correlate the existing data into a working theory how all this fits together. The result he reaches is not to his liking. He contacts the remaining heroes to meet at the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning to explain his findings and formulate an attack plan.

In Genosha Magneto marvels at how his daughter has been able to recreate the people and buildings with the help of Captain America. The heroes arrive on Genosha and break into two teams based on their powers and begin their assault. Magneto has the entire island under surveillance and is immediately aware of their presence. He leaves to confront Wolverine's group while a smaller group lead by Cyclops attack Cap and Wanda directly. Cyclops' group is easily outmaneuvered and captures by their designated targets.

Steve and Wanda then reveal their plan to remake the world and end all the suffering; the mental breakdown was a cover. Using Wanda's chaos magic they plan on changing reality for the better. But to do such a thing they would need the noble sacrifices that a war brings. Much like the one outside. Wanda informs them that their sacrifices will help, but they have an even greater resource now: Charles Xavier. He has offered to sacrifice himself to enable Wanda to bring about a better society. He ingests some fast-acting poison (off-panel). The energy created from death powers Wanda to an unprecedented level.

Wanda turns her attention to the warring factions outside and begins an incantation. Cyclops manages to push Wanda into Rogue, who absorbs her powers in mid-spell. This causes the heroes and Magneto's army to blink out of existence.

As Cap cradles the unconscious Scarlet Witch, Tony and Sam steps forward and make a logical assumption: the suspended animation actually caused brain damage for him. He managed to influence Wanda to do all this to cover for his mental breakdown. At this point Wanda regains consciousness and begins to attack. Steve calms her down and apologizes for his part in this terrible ordeal. He asks her to find their friends and "take us where they are". They too blink out of existence.

The remaining heroes part except for Dr. Strange and Beast. Beast begins his question but Strange answers that he cannot undo this. He prepares to use the Eye of Agamotto to tap into the residual energy to view a rare occurrence: all possible outcomes had Beast not uncovered this truth. He urges Beast to leave, but he has to see this through to the end.

They watch as each reality manifests itself. Some elements remain the same, some do not. One of the common aspects that stands out in each reality: Wanda's global transformations restored Captain America's mind. Hank collapses on the floor and is left despondent.

General Comments

The whole premise was "what if the Scarlet Witch didn't act alone". By definition, this means that somebody had to help her take down the Avengers. In this scenario that was Captain America, who apparently has some type of brain damage.

I can't say that I like that idea. I don't think that Cap has a history of mental disorders or related problems, so this lacks that moment of truly inspired genius that a good "What If" story needs. I think that the Earth 616 counterparts to Steve and Wanda were having some type of personal relationship prior to her breakdown, so this is probably as good of a twist as any.

The sacrifice of Xavier is also a bit shocking. I believe that he would give his life to usher in a new age of peace between humans and mutants. However his choice to participate in such a crazed plan (altering reality by using the deaths of Earth's heroes) to bring that about is out of character. He would try to help Wanda and Cap regain their sanity instead of giving into it.

Overall Rating

3 webs Overall this was well executed. It was a nice mystery with a good plot twist. Cap proves that he is one of the supreme strategists on any planet by tricking the heroes into a gauntlet they couldn't survive.

The ending is tragically appropriate because we know that Hank was simply trying to uncover the truth and it wiped out most of that Earth's heroes. Had the left the situation alone, odds are reality would have changed for the better and they would still have a sane Captain America.

The characterization issues with Cap and Xavier bring the score down. They are merely a necessary evil to advance the story. Regardless of Cap's mental history, Xavier would not have sacrificed himself for such a ludicrous plan. The results keep the story's momentum going, but the reader is left feeling a bit confused as to why it had to happen this way.