In the MCU, Captain Marvel is a whole lot more powerful than Scarlet Witch – but just why is that the case? The MCU doesn’t have a whole lot of female heroes – Captain Marvel is the first to headline her own movie – but the few that have been introduced are some of the most powerful in the shared universe.
In the comics, Scarlet Witch and Captain Marvel have completely different origin stories to the MCU. Wanda Maximoff has been the subject of countless different retcons; she was originally conceived as a mutant, but Jason Aaron’s Uncanny Avengers run established that she was in fact granted her powers as a result of the High Evolutionary’s genetic experimentation. More recently, James Robinson’s Scarlet Witch series changed Wanda’s origin yet again, revealing that Wanda had actually inherited her mystical abilities from her mother, and was the latest in a long line of sorceresses to claim the mantle of the Scarlet Witch.
Related: Every MCU Connection In Captain Marvel
Captain Marvel, meanwhile, gained her powers after her body was exposed to the alien energies of an exploding Kree device; she was later given a power-up when another alien race, the Brood, experimented upon her. Carol’s origin, too, has recently been retconned with the revelation that her mother was a Kree, making the superhero a hybrid with greater potential to wield cosmic power from the moment of her conception.
In the MCU, though, both have very different origin stories, both tied to Infinity Stones. And yet, they’re clearly operating on very different power levels. What’s going on?
- This Page: How Captain Marvel & Scarlet Witch Compare In The MCU To The Comics
- Page 2: Why Captain Marvel’s Infinity Stone Powers Are Stronger
In the comics, Scarlet Witch has the potential to be the single most powerful superhero on Earth. She’s a skilled sorceress and is training to be the female equivalent of Doctor Strange. Most notably, Wanda has an affinity to an elemental force known as Chaos Magic, sorcery so potent that even Stephen Strange believed it was a myth. This is because Wanda was born at Mount Wandagore, where one of the Elder Gods named Chthon had been imprisoned millennia ago; he touched her spirit with his own, granting her access to his own power. Without Chthon’s intervention, Scarlet Witch would have been a simple sorceress with a propensity for energy manipulation; but because of Chthon, she can manipulate the very fabric of reality itself. At its most basic, Wanda can generate so-called Hex Bolts, affecting probability on a localized level and blasting enemies aside. But she’s quite capable of operating on a totally different scale, rewriting reality at a whim.
This powerset was best demonstrated by the “House of M” event. Suffering from mental instability, Wanda literally created an entirely new timeline, one that replaced the normal reality. In this timeline, the people Wanda loved had all been granted their heart’s desire; given that included Magneto, who she believed to be her father, this reality was very different to the normal Marvel Universe. But the nature of Chaos Magic appears to be that it creates its own flaws, and as a result the reality was unstable, with a flaw introduced that led the Avengers and the X-Men into learning the truth. When confronted, Wanda restored the normal timeline, but in a moment’s insanity she uttered a single curse; “No more mutants.” This triggered a spell that depowered 98 percent of the world’s mutant population, and came close to rendering the entire mutant race extinct.
The comic book version of Captain Marvel is powerful, but she doesn’t operate on anything like this scale. Carol Danvers is probably one of the most efficient energy manipulators in the entire Marvel Universe, a physical powerhouse who’s able to absorb and redirect energy with ease. At her peak, she can tap into a so-called “white hole” that allows her to transform into her Binary Form, where she can go toe-to-toe with alien armadas. It’s a similar power level to the one seen in Captain Marvel – but it’s nothing like the comics’ Scarlet Witch.
Related: Marvel Already Did Captain Marvel’s Story (But Better) on Agents of SHIELD
The MCU’s versions of Scarlet Witch and Captain Marvel are both very different to the comics, and oddly enough there are distinct similarities between their MCU origins. In the case of Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers was exposed to a blast of Tesseract energy when she destroyed a Space Stone-powered engine created by the Kree Mar-Vell. Her body somehow absorbed this energy, and the Kree believed she’d have died then and there if they hadn’t infused her with their blood and turned her into a Kree-human hybrid. It’s worth noting that Captain Marvel probably doesn’t have the unlimited power of an Infinity Stone; she was only exposed to a fraction of the Tesseract’s power. But according to Marvel, it was enough to make Carol the most powerful hero in the entire MCU.
In contrast, Scarlet Witch’s MCU origin is a little more complex. Like Captain Marvel, she gained her powers after being exposed to an Infinity Stone – in this case, the Mind Stone. The process Hydra followed is unclear, and oddly it granted Wanda and her brother Pietro completely different powers. The Marvel Studios Visual Dictionary hinted that the Mind Stone may not actually be the source of Scarlet Witch’s abilities, which may explain this. “Whether it altered her or merely unlocked something latent inside Wanda,” the book notes, “the Infinity Stone on Loki’s scepter bestowed incredible powers of the mind.” This careful wording suggests Marvel has a lot of liberty to reveal that Scarlet Witch could be a latent mutant, her powers activated by the Mind Stone. Oddly enough, though, Kevin Feige (via ComicBook) has suggested an alternative. In one interview back in 2017, he suggested that Scarlet Witch’s abilities in the MCU may actually be mystical, analogous to Doctor Strange’s but raw and untrained.
Whatever the truth may be, these two women both have a strong connection to an Infinity Stone. In Captain Marvel, the Skrulls noted that Carol Danvers’ energy signature operates on exactly the same frequency as the Tesseract, and in fact that allowed them to work with her to trace the Tesseract. Meanwhile, in Avengers: Infinity War Vision observed that Scarlet Witch’s powers have a similar “signature” to the Mind Stone; that’s why Wanda was able to destroy it. Taken together, these comments strongly suggest that the relationship between Scarlet Witch and the Mind Stone and Captain Marvel and the Tesseract is intended to be similar, if not quite analogous.
Page 2 of 2: Why Captain Marvel’s Infinity Stone Powers Are Stronger
Captain Marvel is Way More Powerful in the MCU
For all the aforementioned similarities, the MCU has handled Scarlet Witch and Captain Marvel very differently. In the case of Scarlet Witch, Wanda’s powerset has been adjusted from the comics so that she’s a potent telepath and telekinetic (although it’s notable that recent movies have increasingly treated her telekinesis as some sort of energy effect, equivalent to Wanda’s destructive Hex Bolts in the comics). Every film seen Scarlet Witch operating at a greater power level; in Avengers: Age of Ultron her telepathy overcame Thor’s mind, in Captain America: Civil War she easily defeated Vision in battle, and in Avengers: Infinity War she was able to hold off Thanos – with the power of five Infinity Stones – while simultaneously destroying the Mind Stone. Given these accomplishments, you could conclude Scarlet Witch may well be the single most powerful Avenger.
Related: Vision & The Scarlet Witch Series Can Bring Magneto To The MCU
Captain Marvel operates on a completely different scale. Her powers were initially kept in check by a Kree inhibitor, but Carol was able to overcome this by sheer force of will, and was subsequently able to manipulate energy in unprecedented ways. She was able to take to the skies and repel a Kree attack force single-handedly, destroying an entire Kree capital ship. Even more impressively, she showed no sign of needing to even catch her breath after doing so, whereas Scarlet Witch’s greatest feats left her exhausted. All this strongly suggests that, while there are similarities between Scarlet Witch and Captain Marvel, they are most certainly not the same.
So why are there such notable differences between Scarlet Witch and Captain Marvel in the MCU, when both women are tied so closely to similar power sources? There are a number of key possibilities, the most obvious being that each Infinity Stone is different, and thus each wouldn’t necessarily have the same effect. The Space Stone appears to be a limitless reservoir of cosmic energy, power that almost demands release. The Mind Stone, in contrast, is much more mysterious. What’s more, at the risk of anthropomorphizing complex cosmic phenomena, there have been hints that both these Infinity Stones possess some sort of consciousness or will, which naturally means the Stones could actually have chosen how to affect the two women.
A second possibility is simply that they could have undergone different processes. In the case of Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers’ body was exposed to an untamed explosion of Tesseract energy; Scarlet Witch was exposed to the Mind Stone under controlled conditions as part of Hydra’s experiments. One absorbed the energy of an Infinity Stone directly, the other is said to have been “altered” by one. That distinction may be similar to Scarlet Witch in the comics; Wanda would have developed to simply be a standard energy manipulator had she not been touched by Chthon.
There is one final possibility, though: that there’s a limit to how much power a member of a different race can wield before being overwhelmed by it. That would fit with Guardians of the Galaxy, where the half-Celestial Peter Quill could hold the Power Stone where others would have been disintegrated if they even touched it. If that’s the case, Scarlet Witch’s human body can only handle so much energy before burning out, explaining why she’s so exhausted after her most notable feats. But the Kree transformed Captain Marvel into a Kree-human hybrid, meaning the limits of her physiology are very different to Wanda’s. If that’s true, it can only be speculated what a full-blooded Kree would be capable of if they too absorbed Tesseract energy.
However the MCU chooses to explain it, there’s no doubting that Captain Marvel really is the most powerful hero going into Avengers: Endgame and MCU Phase 4.
More: Every Time Fury Might Have Called Captain Marvel and Why She Didn’t Show Up