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By Thomas Wheeler

The Scarlet Witch has long been once of the most constant members of the Avengers, at least until recently.

Wanda Maximoff, the name given to her by the family that adopted her and her brother, Pietro, also known as Quicksilver, was a mutant with an incredible power - the ability to affect the probability of the outcome of any event. She studied the mystic arts under Agatha Harkness in the hopes of training herself to control her unusual power, and for years seemed able to do so.

More recently, though, her powers, not truly mystical in nature, and ultimately able to affect the very fabric of reality, raged out of control. Wanda's often fragile mind could no longer cope. The initial result was a horrific attack against the Avengers, that resulted in widespread destruction, the death of Ant-Man (Scott Lang), the apparent death of Hawkeye, and the apparent destruction of her former husband, the synthezoid known as The Vision. It also resulted in the temporary dissolution of the Avengers themselves, although the team has reformed with new members.

These events would pale, however, compared to what she would do next. She was taken into protective custody by her true father, the mutant known as Magneto. Magneto urged his sometimes friend, sometimes enemy Charles Xavier, founder of the X-Men and arguably the strongest telepath on Earth, to try to repair Wanda's fractured mind. What neither mutant was aware of were the efforts of Wanda's brother, Quicksilver, to have his sister use her powers to alter the Earth and make it a safe haven for all mutants.

The result was the recent "House of M" storyline, with reality rewritten, and yet not perfectly. One young mutant remembered how things were, and was able to "remind" other superbeings of their true memories. Ultimately, the "House of M" was undone, but even once the "true" reality was restored, there were consequences. Wolverine had regained all of his once-fractured memories. The mutant population of Earth, once believed to be over a million, had been reduced to hundreds, as the mutant gene was eliminated in many of them. Among the apparent victims - Magneto himself, and Wanda, who was last seen living quietly and apparently happily in a Bavarian-looking village.

The figure produced by Toy Biz as part of their latest series of MARVEL LEGENDS figures is from an earlier time, and features the Scarlet Witch in her best-known costume - an arched headpiece, a red costume and cape with pink sleeves and leggings, and red boots and gloves. Since this assortment of the Marvel Legends line has been designated the "Legendary Rider" series, the figure comes with a vehicle, which appears to be a stylized one-person hovercraft.

Some of the figures in this assortment fit the "Legendary Rider" description better than others. Thing, Vengeance, and Wolverine - okay. Taskmaster, Iron Man, and Ultron - maybe. Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man are pushing it. Frankly, so are Iron Man and Ultron. Iron Man's armor is pretty much his ride, and Ultron looks like he made off with one of the Green Goblin's gliders.

As for the Scarlet Witch, maybe it makes some kind of weird sense that a character as chaotic as her can't even find any real peace in the action figure world. It was announced right after the release of this assortment that Toy Biz was pulling the Scarlet Witch from the assortment. The existing figures would be shipped to Europe (thanks to a friend of mine across the Atlantic for sending me this one), and the Scarlet Witch would appear in a future assortment of Marvel Legends yet to be determined.

Now, in fairness, I have seen the Scarlet Witch domestically. But just once. I saw her one morning at a Target that had VERY clearly JUST put out an assortment of Marvel Legends figures, because that same display had the chase/variant Wonder Man figure, and he would've been snapped up pretty quickly (in fact, I did. Please see separate review). That same day I was at a second Target, that had an absolutely immense display of Marvel Legends figures, taking up an entire end-cap. This surprised me, since Target has never really given much emphasis to Marvel Legends in my area. That seems to be the preference of Wal-Mart, whereas Target tends to get a lot of Justice League merchandise. But here was an entire end- cap of dozens of Marvel Legends "Legendary Rider" series -- and there wasn't a Scarlet Witch in the entire display.

So, why the removal of the figure? Toy Biz's only remark is that they weren't pleased with the final result. So, I studied the figure and tried to determine what might've made them dislike the final product so much that they'd actually call for its removal from the assortment.

It's certainly not the articulation. According to the package, the figure has 31 points of articulation. That's not bad at all. I didn't open the figure, so I can't really comment for certain on this, but I suppose there's a possibility that the figure can't stand up worth a darn. The Scarlet Witch does have a cape, and rather long, backswept hair. Both of those factors are likely to make the figure a bit back-heavy, and she seems to have rather small feet. But I don't know if this would be enough for Toy Biz to remove the figure.

The body is a little plain. There's no sculpted distinction between the red bodice and the pink tights on the costume. The gloves and boots are distinctly sculpted and detailed enough, but overall, I'll admit the figure is a little plain looking. To its credit, however, it doesn't have a lot of paint-smearing on it. Toy Biz needs to get away from doing this. They REALLY stunk up the last assortment. I would've liked to have added Cyclops to my collection, but I couldn't find one that didn't look like he'd been dragged through an oil slick.

Then there's the head. It's a decent sculpt, really. But not that great. Here may be the problem. The facial features are a little plain. The hair is nicely done, but the face is very bland. I'm not saying that it needs to be all that expressive, but this one looks like she just woke up and needs some coffee.

And then we come to the one thing that, at least for me, might have done it. The one area where there IS some sprayed on paint detail, and whoever made this particular decision really should have rethought it. For some thoroughly absurd reason, the Scarlet Witch has a slight haze od red paint spritzed across her face. Not only was this pointless, but it wasn't even done very well. The end result, frankly, is a Scarlet Witch that looks like she has a case of measles!

Was this the reason for the removal of the figure? I don't know. Toy Biz is operating under the misconception that collectors want their figures stunk up with a lot of "dirtying" detail, so I doubt that would've been a factor. On the other hand, this hardly fits in that category. Maybe they thought it would. The Scarlet Witch has always had this sort of regal personality, so dirtying her up wouldn't really work. So maybe someone thought that spraying a little extra red on the figure would be a reasonable substitute, and this was the preposterous result. But that's speculation.

Would I recommend this figure? Honestly -- no, I wouldn't. For this reason -- she's almost impossible to find, which means that unless you have friends -- in Europe -- that owe you a favor or you get ridiculously lucky and walk into a store just as they're opening a case where the figure wasn't removed before shipping, you're going to end up on eBay or going through some collectors' store, and paying way over retail for this figure. And frankly -- she's not worth it.

Reportedly, Toy Biz will be putting a revised Scarlet Witch into a future assortment of Marvel Legends figures. My recommendation as such is to WAIT. The only way I would recommend this figure to anyone is (a) if they get lucky enough to snag it at retail cost or (b) if they're a total die- hard Marvel Legends collector and are bound and determined to have every single entry in the series including all the chase variants and oddities such as this, and can back up their determination with dollars. In that case -- go for it.

But I think for most of us, this initial Marvel Legends Scarlet Witch will go down as one of the rare oddities in the collection. Hopefully, she'll also go down as a lesson to Toy Biz in not over-painting their figures. But I'm not quite so optimistic about that part of it.