By Ben Morse

The Scarlet Witch changed everything.

She did it when she disassembled the Avengers.

She did it when she created the House of M.

She did it when she said “No more mutants.”

She’s about to do it again.

For the past year, AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN’S CRUSADE has chronicled the Scarlet Witch’s return in an epic adventure that has drawn in all of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes as well as the X-Men, X-Factor, Magneto, Doctor Doom and more. With the pivotal issue #7 on sale Wednesday, September 21, we’ve enlisted writer Allan Heinberg to revisit the critical events and major players, as well as discuss what will happen next.

It began with a boy trying to find his mother; it may end with the Marvel Universe being thrown into upheaval once more.

In AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN’S CRUSADE #1, Wiccan of the Young Avengers found his powers elevated to levels beyond anything he’d ever experienced, supporting his theory that he and Speed may indeed be the thought-lost twin sons of The Scarlet Witch and putting Earth’s Mightiest Heroes on alert. The arrival of the boys’ supposed grandfather, Magneto, kicked off a madcap dash to Transia, Latveria and through time itself as the Young Avengers sought out the missing Wanda Maximoff as well as the truth.

Since that time, Wanda has not only been found, but revealed as the fiancée of Doctor Doom before regaining her powers and memories. Iron Lad returned and led his old teammates on a tumble through time that Stature’s deceased father, Ant-Man, ended up hitching a ride on back to the present. Most recently, the repentant Witch restored Rictor’s mutant powers, raising the possibility she could do the same on a larger scale and drawing the X-Men into the conflict.

With AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN’S CRUSADE #7 a week away and more questions sure to follow the answers contained within, we corralled writer Allan Heinberg to get us up to date. Coming back to the Young Avengers after a couple years away and after several other creators had told stories about them, what was your take on where they’d come from the last time you wrote them to the beginning of this series before you got started?

Allan Heinberg: I really enjoyed reading the continued adventures of the Young Avengers and their development in events like Civil War, Secret Invasion, Dark Reign and Siege.  By the time AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN’S CRUSADE began, the Young Avengers had definitely become better and more experienced super heroes. And their relationship to the Avengers—and to the Marvel Universe—seemed to have stabilized quite a bit.  They [didn’t have] to work so hard to prove themselves anymore, but they were definitely working to become better heroes.

But the story [artist] Jim Cheung and I wanted to tell was about Wiccan’s search for identity and, in a larger sense, about what it means to be a hero. The Scarlet Witch had been Wiccan’s hero when he was growing up, but she was clearly capable of committing grievous crimes against humanity and mutantkind, which made Wiccan start to question himself; in order to answer those questions, he needed to find The Scarlet Witch. In his mind, the Crusade is a heroic quest. But to the Avengers and the X-Men, Wiccan is clearly now a misguided youth who is capable of doing enormous damage. To them, Wiccan is now one of the bad guys. I thought it would be interesting to tell a story where there were no clear-cut good guys and bad guys, a story where even Doctor Doom is a protagonist worthy of our sympathy. Why is Wiccan so driven to find The Scarlet Witch and prove she’s his mother, yet Speed doesn’t seem to have the same drive—or does he?

Allan Heinberg: Wiccan wants to know the truth about himself. He has this gut feeling that he and Tommy are the sons of The Scarlet Witch and The Vision, and, because of how he’s wired emotionally, he won’t have any peace of mind until he discovers the truth. I think Speed wants to know the truth, too, but he’s a lot more guarded than Wiccan is. I think he’s probably every bit as sensitive as Wiccan is, but he’s learned to protect himself with humor and cynicism. He’s not going to get caught being as earnest as Wiccan is. What motivates the other members of the Young Avengers?

Allan Heinberg: They all want to be the best heroes they can be. They all want to live up to the legacy of the Avengers. And they all grew up feeling that there was something deeply wrong with each of them, so they’re forever working harder than anybody else just to be able to feel okay about themselves. In CRUSADE, they’re also motivated by their love for and trust in each other. What is the Avengers’ attitude towards the Young Avengers and vice versa as the story gets underway?

Allan Heinberg: When the story begins, the Avengers and the Young Avengers are on fine terms.  That is, until Wiccan commits a Scarlet Witch-like act at the very beginning of CRUSADE #1.  At that point, the Avengers see Wiccan and by extension the Young Avengers as a potential threat that needs to be contained. Who stands on what side of the Avengers as far as how to deal with Wanda and why?

Allan Heinberg: I took my cues from Avengers history and specifically from the aftermaths of Brian Bendis’ “Avengers Disassembled” and “House of M” storylines with David Finch and Olivier Coipel, respectively. Ms. Marvel and Wolverine were both very anti-Wanda. Captain America was very compassionate toward her. Iron Man, Luke Cage, and Spider-Man were all somewhere in between. How do Magneto and subsequently Quicksilver arriving alter the story and the kids’ mission?

Allan Heinberg: Their participation in the crusade definitely ups the stakes for all of them. It’s no longer just Wiccan’s personal mission anymore; it’s a high-stakes, potentially universe-shattering, Maximoff family event. For the Young Avengers, it means they’re suddenly out of their depth. They are teenage heroes arguing and bargaining with—and perhaps being manipulated by—a former mutant terrorist and mass murderer. For Wiccan, it’s the confirmation he’s always wanted that he is indeed part of the Maximoff family, for better or worse.  It’s very much a case of “Be careful what you wish for.” What’s the Avengers’ reasoning for bringing in Wonder Man and what’s his motivation?

Allan Heinberg: The Avengers bring Wonder Man in because he’s one of the last vestiges of Wanda’s magic signature that still remains. He was dead, and Wanda brought him back to life, so his energy is, in a sense, her energy. The Avengers thought they could use Wonder Man to help them track down The Scarlet Witch. As for Wonder Man, he’s always thought that Wanda deserved better than she got at the hands of the Avengers. I think he will always love her and want to help her, no matter what she’s done.  As a former “villain” himself, I don’t think anyone has more understanding or compassion for Wanda than Wonder Man does. How does their trip through time affect the Young Avengers?

Allan Heinberg: Their trip through time only happens because Iron Lad rejoins the team—which will have a big impact on the Young Avengers. Their time travel also restores Wanda’s memory and her powers, allowing her to become The Scarlet Witch once again. And it allows Cassie Lang to pull her father, Scott “Ant-Man” Lang, out of the timestream before his death, essentially bringing him back to life—which was always Cassie’s goal in finding Wanda. Why did you want to bring back Scott Lang?

Allan Heinberg: It made sense to me that Cassie would want to find Wanda to bring her father back to life. After all, everyone else Wanda killed is now alive again, so why not Scott Lang? And their reunion scene was just something I couldn’t resist. And then, truth be told, I just couldn’t bring myself to separate them after that. It would have been too manipulative and too hard on Cassie. I wanted her to get her dad back, but to then have to deal with the complications of that. Why do Hawkeye, Jessica Jones and Beast help the kids and Wanda rather than turn them in to the Avengers or X-Men?

Allan Heinberg: They were always going to keep them at Avengers Mansion, but if there was even a chance that Wanda could restore the mutants who lost their powers on M-Day, then they were willing to assist. At that point, it wasn’t about Wanda and the kids; it was about the future of the mutant race. Where did you come up with the idea to involve X-Factor in the story?

Allan Heinberg: I love Peter David’s X-FACTOR. I love the characters, the voices, the relationships. I love the storytelling. It’s a very funny, very joyful, very loving book. I can’t recommend it highly enough. So, once the X-Office gave us permission to allow Wanda to re-power mutants, I knew I wanted to feature Rictor and X-Factor. And Peter David was unbelievably generous in letting us work with those characters. I only wish we’d had room to feature Monet and Terry and Layla and Rahne and Longshot. Why was Rictor the one to get his powers back?

Allan Heinberg: Because I love him. What does the arrival of the X-Men mean for the final part of the story?

Allan Heinberg: It means all hell is about to break loose between the Avengers and the X-Men. And X-Factor. And the Young Avengers.

Keep joining us all week long for more with Allan Heinberg as we gear up for AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN’S CRUSADE #7!

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