It may be their honeymoon, but relaxation takes a backseat when Knull’s army attacks in this week’s King in Black: Wiccan and Hulkling #1.
The setup here is as simple as that: Wiccan and Hulkling are honeymooning on a Shi’ar resort world when their vacation is interrupted by a symbiote invasion. Although it’s technically an event tie-in, Wiccan and Hulkling succeeds as a standalone comic because you really don’t need to know any of the surrounding context. Without the King in Black branding, Marvel could have easily released this issue with little-to-no modification and it would still make sense. That said, you might get more out of it if you’ve been reading the parent title, but this story isn’t about Knull’s invasion—it’s about Billy Kaplan and Teddy Altman.
Marvel’s latest newlyweds have never been as present in the comics as they’ve been since Empyre last summer (and now that Billy has debuted in the MCU with his role in WandaVision, more eyes are on him than ever before). With Hulkling essentially the king of space now, it makes sense that we would be seeing them more than we have since the last run of Young Avengers ended in 2014. This is largely due to Al Ewing’s clear affection for them, having included the two in New Avengers: A.I.M., Empyre, and soon in his Guardians of the Galaxy. Part of their appeal together is just how powerful they are in contrast to their gentle demeanor: Billy is the reality warping son of Scarlet Witch, while Teddy is the half-Kree/half-Skrull son of the original Captain Marvel. They’re arguably the most visible LGBTQ representation Marvel has in the comics right now, but they also represent inherent goodness in the face of potentially corruptive power.
This issue in particular was written by Tini Howard, and she clearly shares Ewing’s enthusiasm for the couple. King in Black: Wiccan and Hulkling #1 feels like a comic written by a fan in the best way possible, which makes sense considering that it’s been close to two decades since Billy and Teddy were first introduced. Long-running comicbook companies like Marvel and DC have the unique aspect of inmates eventually running the asylum; generations of writers influenced and impacted by certain characters and stories eventually become in charge of them themselves. In this case, everything Howard incorporates into her script is precisely what Hulkling and Wiccan fans want to see them doing. Their dialogue is loving and lived-in after years of being together, and they demonstrate great synergy as tacticians when fighting. Her script stays true to who they are fundamentally, while still remembering that this is a fun superhero comic with moments of levity.
Luciano Vecchio’s art is just as crucial to selling the story here as Howard’s script. As mentioned above, this issue has the trappings of a big crisis crossover event but with an intimate relationship at its core. Vecchio can do all of the expected superhero action that an army of symbiotes in outer space calls for, but what impresses me the most about his work here is the quieter moments between Billy and Teddy. After all, this is meant to be their honeymoon, not an Avengers swap meet. There’s one Sixteen Candles-esque scene in the middle of the issue that really, really works, in big part thanks to how Vecchio renders the scene. While the overarching story of King in Black doesn’t do much for me personally, it’s moments like these that’ll stick with me as a reader largely invested in this one relationship (additional credit goes to Espen Grundetjern for coloring the issue as vibrant as one could in a comic otherwise drowning in a sea of black symbiotes).
King in Black: Wiccan and Hulkling #1
- Writer: Tini Howard
- Artist: Luciano Vecchio
- Color Artist: Espen Grundetjern
- Letterer: VC’s Ariana Maher
- Cover Artists: Jim Cheung, Alejandro Sánchez Rodríguez
- Editors: Wil Moss, Sarah Brunstad
- Publisher: Marvel Entertainment