Every marriage has its ups and downs, as couples deal with insecurities, unspoken fears, and even the occasional magic artifact that warps reality as we know it. Ok, maybe not that last one so much, but in the Marvel universe, magical interference is fairly commonplace in superhero marriages. The latest victims of such a plot device are young newlyweds Teddy Altman and Billy Kaplan, otherwise known as Hulkling & Wiccan.
Set in the far reaches of space, this one-shot finds our heroes enjoying a quiet dinner party with a few of the 616’s LBGTQ+ community, namely Northstar and husband Kyle, as well as Iceman. Despite it being a dinner party IN SPACE involving Iceman, things go surprisingly well, although Billy and Teddy’s disagreement about a more permanent residence awakens some deep-seeded insecurities. This awakening is the catalyst for a reality-warping event that separates the two, creating parallel scenarios in which they are both in different relationships with no memory of one another, while an unseen enemy watches from the distance. Will love conquer all, or will one of Marvel’s greatest power-couples end in tragedy?
Taking place not long after their nuptials during 2020’s “Empyre,” Hulkling & Wiccan is a fun and heartfelt parable about compromise and confronting one’s insecurities. Writer Josh Trujillo clearly has a lot of love for the former Young Avengers and successfully grounds the characters, despite their respective cosmic and magical backgrounds. He absolutely gets these characters and successfully nails their voice and personality. The story clips along at a good pace and the dialogue sounds natural, apart from one groan-inducing line delivered by one of their guests early on. It’s also surprisingly accessible, despite its ties to the aforementioned “Empyre” storyline. If you haven’t kept up with the starcrossed lovers’ shenanigans since their Young Avengers days, you’ll get caught up pretty quickly.
The art by Jodi Nishijima and colorist Matt Milla is top-notch. Nishijima’ s character designs are a perfect blend of manga and stylized realism. More than once, I found myself recognizing people I know in the features and expressions of even the more fantastic-looking characters. Their depiction of Northstar stands out as a man I can only describe as smoldering. Seriously, this guy could turn me. The fashion is also fabulous, as our characters, particularly Hulkling, don outfits that look straight out of the Hellfire Gala.
If this one-shot has any shortcomings, it’s in the conversion from digital-to-print. Originally published as a scrolling digital series on Marvel Unlimited’s Infinity Comics platform, the art often appears faded or even blurry, especially in contrast to the sharp and distinct lettering by VC’s Ariana Maher. It’s a small gripe and certainly doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the book, but it’s certainly an area that could be improved as more digital pieces make their way to print.