Since the moment they were first introduced together in the pages of Young Avengers back in 2005, Teddy Altman, the shapeshifting heir to the Kree and Skrull thrones, and Billy Kaplan, the Scarlet Witch and Vision’s reincarnated son, have been inseparable, and their love for each other been obvious to everyone who meets them. Improbable as their meeting was, Billy and Teddy were one another’s person from the jump, and in the years since they departed the Young Avengers, their relationship has evolved as the two have become even more accomplished heroes.
While Billy’s gone on to come more into the magical, reality-warping power he inherited from his spiritual mother, and Teddy’s settled into his new role as emperor of the now-unified Kree and Skrull empires, the most significant development in the couple’s personal life recently was their marriage during Marvel’s 2020 Empyre event. Figuring that an apocalypse would be the perfect time for some last-minute nuptials, Hulkling and Wiccan (Teddy and Billy’s hero codenames) made sure to tie the knot once before parting ways to successfully stop the alien invasion Empyre was building to. In Empyre’s wake, Hulkling and Wiccan were able to have a proper wedding ceremony, and began building a new life together as magic space husbands who both brought a rather curious set of in-laws to their new union.
Neither Teddy nor Billy have ever had especially close relationships with their superhero parents, but there have been moments throughout the characters’ histories that felt like echoes of major moments from their progenitors’ legacies. But many of those threads seem to be coming to a head in Marvel’s new Hulkling & Wiccan comic from writer Josh Trujillo, artist Jodi Nishijima, colorist Matt Milla, and letterer Ariana Maher. Though Hulkling & Wiccan’s definitely doing something compelling with its newlyweds themselves, the comic’s also turning their personal story into part of a much larger fairytale both halves of their family know well.
Though you could spend quite a bit of time going into detail about just what all Billy and Teddy have been up to as of late, it’s simpler and just as fair to say that the boys have been downright busy with their responsibilities as heroes with allegiances to multiple hero teams throughout the Marvel Comics universe. Part of the reason that Billy and Teddy rushed to tie the knot in Empyre—aside from the fact that they might have died—was the fact that the two really haven’t had all that much of an opportunity to spend a lot of quality time together, alone.
As Hulkling & Wiccan #1 opens, you get the sense that, despite there still being big trouble going down in little Krakoa, Teddy and Billy have gotten some of that space they’ve been desperately wanting, and have been focusing on making their new home somewhere in space as comfortable as possible. As hospitable as Teddy’s royal attendants are to his and Billy’s needs, the native Earthlings can’t help but miss the company of people who really know them, which is why they decide to throw a dinner party for a few guests.
Distressing as an evening with Bobby Drake (a man child), Northstar (a moody narcissist), and Kyle (Northstar’s human husband who would be will within his right to divorce him) is, the idea excites Billy. This is partially because he’s a fan of these heroes, but also because he deeply enjoys the entire act of playing house, which becomes more telling as Hulkling & Wiccan #1 goes on. With a magically-charged reference to Scissor Sisters’ “Let’s Have a Kiki,” Wiccan summons Kyle, Northstar, and Iceman to their decidedly un-humble abode, and the group make short work of breaking out the glassware to toast being gay in space, as one does.
Wanda Maximoff’s name is never mentioned in Hulkling & Wiccan #1, but the Scarlet Witch’s presence can be felt all throughout the comic, in everything from the way Billy insists on their dinner party’s extravagance, to the way the story’s premise mirrors how Wanda and Vision absconded to New Jersey in search of marital bliss in The Vision and the Scarlet Witch. Like Wanda, you get the sense that the trappings of domesticity (or at least the presentation of them) are important to Billy—but the actual process of engaging with them is something that taxes him, mentally. In all of his excitement about the evening, there’s also a shadow of doubt looming over Billy that seems to be less about dinner, and more about something deeper, but the issue doesn’t really begin laying it all out until a bit later.
Hulkling & Wiccan #1‘s focus on a lowkey night between a group of queer colleagues and friends is a drastic shift from some of the whiz-bang, high-stakes action that’s defined Billy and Teddy’s lives lately, but it’s one that lends itself to an appreciation for how much the couple has grown since they were teenagers. Everyone has those moments in their lives when they first begin to test out what feeling like an “adult” is like, exactly, and when they look at their slightly older peers’ lives as glimpses of what might be in store for them. Throughout Hulkling & Wiccan, there’s a slight tension between the titular pair that, at times, reads like uncertainty about the new phase of their relationship they’ve entered, and Northstar and Kyle can immediately recognize the vibe.
Before Hulkling and Wiccan became Marvel’s flagship queer couple, Northstar and Kyle held the unofficial title following their historic wedding in Astonishing X-Men #51 back in 2012. Because Northstar’s never been the most prominent X-Men feature, he and Kyle haven’t had the most on-panel appearances since wedding, but their dynamic was one of the best elements of Leah Williams’ recent X-Factor run, which took care to illustrate how and why the two men love one another across their differences. Though Jean-Paul is a smarmy asshole, and Kyle does find the whole superhero thing a bit extra more often than not, they can appreciate how they balance one another out and support each other through difficulties, and they insist that Billy and Teddy will realize the same is true of their relationship, as well.
The power to play the odd wheel out during couples’ date nights may be one of Bobby Drake’s omega-level mutant abilities, but within Hulkling & Wiccan, his presence works as an excellent reminder that marriage and domesticity aren’t the end-all, be-all for all queer people, nor should they be. Though Bobby’s jokes about the pie he brought to dinner may be a bit gauche and cringey, they work to illustrate how, even though he’s had his own romance woes since coming out, it’s all just a part of life that one has to take in stride. At this point in their lives, Northstar, Kyle, and Bobby are all far more mature and level-headed people than they probably ever could have imagined themselves becoming, and what they’re trying to impress upon Billy and Teddy is that it’s all going to work out, no matter what reservations they may have.
“Working out” can mean many things, though, and as Billy and Teddy head to their chambers to retire for the evening, the night’s topic of whether they intend to stay in space comes up once again. Genuinely happy as they both are, the boys also miss their lives on Earth, and are still coming to terms with the idea of leaving much of it all behind in order to deal the duties that come with being royals. When one of Teddy’s attendants barges into their bedroom with urgent word of a pressing matter that requires his attention, neither the king nor his consort bat an eye because they understand that sort of interruption is a part of their new normal together, but the moment does underline the uneasiness between them.
The way Billy sits in that feeling of unease is where Hulkling & Wiccan is at its most interesting, because of how it touches on a troubling idea that’s haunted Billy ever since he and Teddy first began dating. Because of Billy’s connection to the Scarlet Witch—a reality warper with a history of using her powers to make her domestic desires real—part of him has long-since wondered whether he might have unknowingly willed his relationship with Teddy into being with magic. Organically as their love developed, Billy and Teddy’s history does read a lot like ridiculous fanfiction when you lay it all out, which is true of all comic book characters. But it’s a concern he can’t shake, because of solid an explanation it would make for the charmed-ness of his life.
These are the sorts of things that Billy should probably be bringing up with Wanda herself, if the two of them had made a point of sitting down and properly bonding before she recently died at the Hellfire Gala. Wanda is one of his mothers in a fashion, but also because it’s a predicament that many magic users have likely found themselves in at one point or another in Marvel’s universe. What Billy needs as Hulkling & Wiccan #1 comes to a close is some advice from someone with first hand experience dealing with the complications that tend plague Nexus beings, and while Wanda’s indisposed, her mentor, Agatha Harkness, is not.
Had Wanda spent more time with Billy, she likely would have taught him that one should never even think about touching suspicious objects that magically seem to know more about you than they should when you first find them. She didn’t, though, which could be why Billy doesn’t think twice about picking up a handheld video game that magicks its way into his bed suddenly in a flash of scarlet smoke. Billy doesn’t know is that the gaming device was seemingly sent by none other than Agatha, but what he does know is that the game loaded on it, Possibilities, at first appears to star pixelated versions of himself and Teddy, and their cuteness is enough to make him want to hit the “start” button, causing him to pass out.
It’s unclear exactly how Agatha’s game console makes Billy wake up back in New York City, and Teddy in some far-off kingdom, in Hulkling & Wiccan’s final panels. But the way magically enhanced technology features in the comic suggests that the comic’s going to take a few notes from the house style of WandaVision. But unlike WandaVision, which focused on the Scarlet Witch and Vision being in love with one another, Billy and Teddy awake to two unknown characters with whom they appear to be very infatuated, implying that they’ve somehow forgotten that that they’re married.
This wouldn’t be the first time someone in the Billy’s family tree found themselves trapped in a magical pocket reality that can only be escaped by being honest about their feelings, and it’s likely that whatever’s going on with Billy and Teddy and their new boyfriends won’t last as the series progresses. But actually getting to a place where they can talk about whatever’s bothering them’s going to be easier said than done, especially if this reality the boys are now in proves to be one that doesn’t want them to leave.
Hulkling & Wiccan #1 is now available on Marvel Unlimited.
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