clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Making sense of Marvel’s delightfully bizarre WandaVision trailer

The Easter eggs, clues, and comic book callbacks in the WandaVision tease.

Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

The future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe looks a lot like I Love Lucy.

During Sunday night’s Emmys broadcast, Marvel released the first official trailer for WandaVision, the upcoming Disney+ show centering on the Scarlet Witch (a.k.a. Wanda Maximoff) and her late ex-boyfriend Vision, an android. The trailer — which presents the series as a pastiche of vintage television sitcoms starring a very domestic Wanda and Vision — raises more questions than answers.

Here’s a few Qs: What the hell is going on? Why are these two superheroes, one of whom is supposed to be dead, now in Nick-at-Nite purgatory? And why does it seem as though they’re trapped and can’t leave? And who put them in there?

More complicated is figuring out how this show folds into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Marvel’s post-Endgame strategy is to have its Disney+ shows weave into the MCU. WandaVision makes for the first new MCU story following the Avengers’ final battle; after WandaVision, Scarlet Witch’s next confirmed appearance will be fighting alongside Doctor Strange in 2022’s Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. We know she’s going to get out of this sitcom abyss in time for that, but we have no clue how.

As weird as the trailer sets up the show to be, there are a few clues to pull from the comics and Easter eggs within the trailer itself that might spell out the future of Wanda and her love affair with Vision. Bigger yet, it may hide answers to some universe-building questions — like whether or not this is what brings the X-Men into the fold.

Below is a brief breakdown of the big clues and things to expect based on what we saw in the trailer.

The trailer’s comic book Easter eggs include twins, wine, and a weird witch

Given that all of Marvel’s movies and television shows draw on the deep canon of Marvel comics, there’s always some semblance of spoilers lurking about. Just Googling a character’s name leads to an archive of 50-plus years of continuous Marvel narrative about them.

The WandaVision trailer has a couple of very noteworthy comic book references. To casual fans, they might not seem like much, but they are huge Easter eggs referencing Wanda and Vision’s comic book storylines.

One big clue is that Wanda and Vision are holding what appear to be twin boys:

Wanda and Vision holding twins in WandaVision
Wanda and Vision appear to be holding twins in the first trailer for WandaVision.
Courtesy of Disney+

In the influential comic book event “House of M” — which offers many more hints for what to expect from WandaVision; we’ll get to them in a bit — Wanda imagines a reality for herself in which she has two babies. In the repercussions of “House Of M,” the babies end up reincarnated, through a very complex series of events, as two future superheroes who come to be known as the Young Avengers’ Wiccan and Speed. The appearance of twins in WandaVision could signal or reference their existence in the MCU.

And then there’s Kathryn Hahn’s character in what appears to be a witch’s hat:

Kathryn Hahn in WandaVision
My apologies to Kathryn Hahn for this unflattering picture.
Courtesy of Disney+

Though Hahn’s character is unnamed on the show’s IMDb page, she’s rumored to be playing Agatha Harkness (or “Agness,” which is a combination/code name pointing to Harkness’s real identity), a witch in the Marvel comics universe. Harkness is one of Scarlet Witch’s mentors, and she also ties into Vision’s award-winning 2015–2016 solo comic book series (written by Tom King and drawn by Gabriel Hernandez Walta), in which the android tries to live a happy suburban life. In that comic, Harkness sees a future where Vision will destroy the world; WandaVision seems to include a lot of imagery from the comic, too.

Speaking of IMDb, some comic book fans may cite Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau on the cast list as a red flag. Fans of the Captain Marvel comics know that Monica Rambeau was one of the heroes who previously held the title of Captain Marvel. In the 2019 Captain Marvel movie, though, Monica is a little girl and not yet a hero. Parris’s Rambeau does appear briefly in the trailer; she looks to be shot out of space and into reality, signaling she’s not only older than when we last saw her but also that she might have her photonic, light-manipulating powers in this iteration.

What seems most interesting for comics fans, though, may be what appears to be a big message on a bottle. There’s a brief shot of a wine bottle that bears a huge M stamp on its neck and a label that reads “Maison du Mépris”:

A “House of M” Easter egg?
Courtesy of Disney+

The translation of that label is “House of Contempt.” On the surface, it seems like contempt is a good word for how Scarlet Witch may feel toward either the reality she’s trapped in or the reality she’s left behind. It could also be a reference to the 1963 film Le Mépris by Jean-Luc Goddard, a movie often cited for its ironic telling of a story about emptiness; WandaVision, too, seems to tell a story about an over-the-top way to mask its hero’s feelings of emptiness. But the prominence of the letter M and the French word for “house” on the bottle seem to be a big wink to fans about “House of M,” the huge Scarlet Witch-centered comic book story about reality warping.

Why WandaVision looks a lot like the Marvel comic book storyline “House of M”

From what we can piece together from the trailer, Wanda and Vision are in some kind of alternate dimension. Vision is somehow alive, despite Thanos killing him in Infinity War, and has been reunited with Wanda. They’re now living their lives in a crooked, glitchy collection of jump cuts from classic television shows while Kathryn Hahn’s character torments them. (Personally, that sounds preferable to what’s going on in the real world right now.) At the same time, it’s clear the world is still functioning outside of Wanda and Vision’s reality, and some kind of government operation is apparently observing them play house together.

While the movies have yet to establish whether this is Scarlet Witch’s doing, the comic books have a precedent for this type of alternate-reality story: “House of M.”

Written in 2005 by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Olivier Coipel, “House of M” was a comic book crossover event that featured both the Avengers and the X-Men. Just prior to that event, Scarlet Witch suffers a nervous breakdown and can’t control her powers, resulting in the deaths of fellow Avengers Hawkeye, Ant-Man, and Vision. In “House of M,” Scarlet Witch is in an even worse psychological state as she deals with the grief of killing her friends and her lover. Her powers, which are connected to the fabric of reality, are also tethered to her mental state; therefore, her psychotic break poses a threat to all mankind, a trope that Marvel tends to love.

For example, in the first issue of the event, Scarlet Witch creates a reality in which she has kids and lives her very own happily ever after. I do enjoy that the reality she creates has her brother, Quicksilver, dressed in a sensible turtleneck for the occasion:

House of M, Scarlet Witch
Wanda hallucinates that she has kids in “House of M.”
Courtesy of Marvel

Professor X of X-Men fame interrupts that reality, jolting both Wanda and readers. He says everything that Wanda is experiencing is a hallucination induced by her fragile psychological state.

Professor X
Professor X is really not about the alternate reality Wanda created.
Courtesy of Marvel

He specifically tells her to “stop abusing” her powers and to put reality back to the way it was. Left unchecked, Wanda could rewrite reality into whatever she wants, or whatever she thinks she wants:

Professor X tells Wanda to stop altering reality with her powers.
Courtesy of Marvel

And the kind of bonkers thing about it all is that this happens in the first few pages of the comic book event. “House of M” goes on to explore the X-Men and Avengers discussing the morality about what to do with someone who’s capable of molding reality to her liking. Theoretically, Scarlet Witch could erase all of them from existence at any moment, and that’s a colossal threat.

But instead of wiping everyone off the planet, Scarlet Witch creates a reality in which mutants (which is what she was at the time before Marvel retconned her origin story) are the dominant race of humanity, treated as royalty and celebrities. This inverted her true reality, in which mutants are feared and hated. And when everyone realizes they’re living in Scarlet Witch’s fake reality, her psychotic break leads her to famously de-power almost the entire mutant race by saying the words, “No more mutants.”

Given what we see in the trailer and the complete lack of mutants in the MCU, it’s probably safe to say WandaVision won’t exactly follow “House of M.” Introducing mutants into the universe, creating an alternate reality for them, and then ultimately de-powering them — all while tying their fate to the upcoming Doctor Strange movie — is an impossible amount of territory to cover in a single season of television. But it’s not difficult to see how the show could borrow from the realty-warping elements of “House of M,” at least.

WandaVision looks like it borrows heavily from the comics, which means tweaking Scarlet Witch’s powers (again)

When it comes to telling Scarlet Witch’s story, the Marvel movies and the Marvel comics have never really seen eye-to-eye. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, she has telekinesis as well as mind control powers, which she uses to mess with the Avengers and, later, evacuate Sokovia. Her mind control powers are dropped (or forgotten about by the writers) after Age of Ultron, as she uses telekinesis alone in Captain America: Civil War, Infinity War, and Endgame. And based on WandaVision and what we know of Scarlet Witch’s role in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, it seems like those powers are shifting again — possibly toward the same set the hero has in the comic books.

Scarlet Witch is much more powerful in the source material than she is in the movies. Granted, the history of her powers is much more confusing in the comic books than in the movies, possibly explaining why the MCU turned her power set into something much simpler, like limiting her to moving stuff with her mind.

Instead of leaving her with mind control and telekinesis, comic-book Scarlet Witch has powers that can warp reality (more on this in a bit) and tap into actual, mystical magic. In books like the recent Strange Academywhere Doctor Strange and his faculty teach teenage wizards, sorceresses, warlocks, etc., at a magic school — Scarlet Witch is established as one of the most adept magic-users in the Marvel comic book universe.

And her magic, usually defined as “chaos magic,” makes her one of the Marvel universe’s most powerful characters, as seen when she goes toe-to-toe with the cosmic Phoenix Force in 2012’s Avengers vs. X-Men. In that comic, the Phoenix is all about restoring order, and Scarlet Witch’s power is about chaos and disruption:

The Scarlet Witch takes on Phoenix-powered X-Men in Avengers vs. X-Men.
Courtesy of Marvel

The origin of these powers is muddled, thanks to various retcons throughout the comics, but her original powers were related to manipulating probability — hence her affinity for “chaos magic.”

Scarlet Witch makes stuff fall with a “probability hex.”
Courtesy of Marvel

Some writers took this to mean that if Scarlet Witch had the power to manipulate probability, then she would also have the power to warp reality. That’s what’s seemingly happening in the WandaVision trailer, as Wanda and Vision find themselves trapped in a sitcom dimension.

Maybe this alternate reality is a taste of Wanda’s true powers, and she’s processing her grief through vintage sitcoms because, growing up in war-torn Sokovia, the only form of happiness she knows is television? Maybe she’s being manipulated by whomever Kathryn Hahn is playing? Or maybe this is a way of bringing Vision and other characters back into the MCU? And maybe those other characters are ... the X-Men?

The biggest question: Is WandaVision going to give us mutants?

All of this leads us to wonder: Will Scarlet Witch’s powers be the thing that finally manifests mutants and the X-Men in the MCU?

There’s a two-part impetus behind the question. The first part of the equation is Scarlet Witch and the mutants’ close connection to “House of M.” It’s a mutant story, and its protagonists and consequences directly affected the mutants of Marvel’s comic book world.

The second, and possibly more important part, is that weaving Marvel’s mutants into the MCU seems like a difficult but increasingly likely task.

Up until Disney’s acquisition of Fox in 2019, Marvel wasn’t able to use the X-Men and their related villains because of Fox’s long-held film rights to the characters. With all those characters now under one roof, Marvel now has the chance to unite the X-Men with the MCU characters. If it wants to introduce the X-Men into the MCU, Marvel will have to figure out a storyline in which mutants are either created within the MCU or are logically introduced to our existing heroes (such as something like S.H.I.E.L.D. secretly monitoring mutants all along).

Scarlet Witch altering reality in WandaVision and then subsequently dealing with multiple realities in her team-up with Doctor Strange presents a convenient way to introduce them. For what it’s worth, Scarlet Witch as a gateway for mutants in the MCU could’ve made even more sense had the comics not retconned her original backstory. Before Marvel shook everything up, the comics originally presented Scarlet Witch and her twin brother Quicksilver as Magneto’s mutant children. X-Men readers remember Magneto as Charles Xavier’s best friend and toughest mutant enemy.

I wouldn’t be opposed to that kind of introduction. I’m a big X-Men fan and would love to see my favorite characters on the big screen again.

That said, I’d also be quite content with WandaVision not introducing any of that stuff and just giving us a better glimpse into the Scarlet Witch character than we’ve ever had. Ever since their introduction, Scarlet Witch and Vision have been used more for subplots than figuring into the Avengers story as main characters. With the Disney+ story, they finally have a delightfully bizarre-looking story to themselves. It’s finally an opportunity to get to know the characters on their own terms. And there’s plenty to have fun with there, even if it doesn’t include the X-Men.