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WandaVision’s comic book connections, explained

Episode 3 of Marvel’s new Disney+ series brings it closer to House of M and hints at ties to S.W.O.R.D.

Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen in WandaVision.
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.

This article contains spoilers for the first three episodes of WandaVision on Disney+.

Despite its style and slapstick performances, the driving force behind WandaVision is its core mystery: Why are Wanda Maximoff and her android husband Vision stuck in a vintage sitcom set in a fictional suburb called Westview? Who is watching them? And further, who is behind all of this?

With its third episode now in the books and one-third of its season over, we have inched closer to some answers.

WandaVision’s third chapter brought us color, a Brady Bunch-ish vibe, Wanda giving birth to a set of twins, and an eerie confrontation between Wanda and the talent show manager/neighbor Geraldine she met in episode two. The latter ended with Wanda remembering her pre-Westview life and zapping Geraldine out of the fictional sitcom.

While these occurrences may feel like weird on top of weird, they actually do make sense. They are rooted in and resemble House of M, one of Wanda’s big comic book stories. Knowing what happens in House of M puts some of WandaVision’s events into context. The same goes for Geraldine’s character, who has some big ties to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Here’s all the info we have so far from WandaVision, and where I think the show may be headed.

How House of M explains WandaVision

WandaVision episode 3
Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen in WandaVision.

WandaVision’s first two episodes didn’t really make a lot of sense beyond showcasing the general unease of Wanda and Vision living in their sitcom world along with some random other characters. Driving that point home, there were a couple of moments — like Vision’s boss choking in episode one, and the mysterious toy helicopter, the beekeeper coming out of the sewer, and Dottie bleeding in episode two — that have been striking. These moments don’t fit in with the classic sitcom vibe and indicate that there’s a sinister, bigger story happening beneath the surface.

But they felt more like independent moments of shock than a continuous, connected narrative.

That changes in episode three.

At the end of the episode, Geraldine (probably not her real name) tells Wanda, who has miraculously birthed twins, that she knows what happened to Pietro — Wanda’s twin brother who died in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Geraldine’s recollection of Pietro’s death triggers Wanda, who demands to know why and how Geraldine knows anything about her non-Westview life. Wanda blasts Geraldine out of the sitcom, then out of what appears to be some kind of force field, and onto a present-day military base.

This sequence of events — the zapping, the twins, and the reveal of what appears to be an alternate reality — aligns the show with the events of a 2005 Marvel comic book crossover called House of M.

Written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Olivier Coippel, House of M features both the Avengers and the X-Men and is centered on Wanda and her emotional turmoil. She’s on the outs with the Avengers, and we find out she’s slowly going insane. While she’s experiencing a nervous breakdown, Wanda manipulates reality to give herself a set of twins and builds a happy life with Vision, which lasts until Professor X uses his telepathy to tell Wanda to stop.

House of M no. 1.

As the comic unfolds, Wanda goes unchecked and creates an entire alternate reality where all the superheroes live out odd fantasies, like Emma Frost and Cyclops marrying and living together, Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy becoming a couple, and Ms. Marvel taking the title of Captain Marvel. At first, none of the heroes know they’re living in an alternate reality of Wanda’s creation. And in the comic, once they do realize they’re in a topsy-turvy reality and proceed to make Wanda realize what’s happened, the bottom of the Marvel Universe falls out.

WandaVision isn’t a by-the-page adaptation of House of M, but they have many shared elements: Wanda’s twin boys (Billy and Tommy, who in the comic books go on to become heroes themselves). The alternate reality. Wanda’s grief over the death of her brother. And Wanda’s wrath when Geraldine confronts her with the reality she’s been trying to avoid acknowledging. And like the comic, the main tension of WandaVision seems to come from a collision between fantasy and reality and how Wanda reacts to it.

What is going on with Wanda’s powers?

What doesn’t fit as neatly into the House of M comparison are Wanda Maximoff’s powers. In the comics, thanks to multiple retcons, they’re a convoluted and complicated mix of what’s called “chaos magic” and reality warping. But those abilities don’t match up with the MCU version of Wanda, who in the last few Marvel movies has only been shown to have a powerful form of telekinesis (she used a kind of mind control in Age of Ultron and then never used it again).

Her powers seem to be evolving on WandaVision.

In the show’s first episode, Wanda burns a chicken and then tries to undo the damage. In doing so, she turns the chicken into a basket of eggs. That episode also features the wife of Vision’s boss muttering the word “chaos” — which seems designed to pique the curiosity of comic book fans because of its connection to Wanda’s comic book chaos magic.

Episode two features more of Wanda dabbling in magic, at a convenient neighborhood magic show. It also seems she is able to affect reality: When the beekeeper-looking figure emerges from the sewer, Wanda “rewinds” him out of the picture. She also seems to have made herself pregnant.

WandaVision’s third episode gets weirder and even more screwy. Wanda’s pregnancy accelerates supernaturally, and she gives birth to twins by the end of the episode. Her contractions mess with the electricity and water throughout the town of Westview. Also somehow a stork drops in, and then Wanda has the encounter with Geraldine and zaps her.

On the show, Wanda’s powers seem to extend beyond her MCU telekinesis and align with her reality-warping comic book powers. Those powers could further connect the story to House of M. But a thing to keep in mind is that we don’t know the full context of Wanda’s powers or whether they’re “real” of something that’s happening in Wanda’s imagination — whatever that means on a show that’s constantly playing with reality.

The odd commercials are a reminder that WandaVision is about Wanda’s grief

The commercial breaks in WandaVision aren’t typical ads. They’re stylish old-timey interludes that go along with the sitcom theme. But there’s a little twist — the three advertisers we’ve seen so far are Stark, Strucker, and Hydra. Those three people/organizations factor hugely in the MCU. They also happen to represent three pain points for Wanda Maximoff: Stark’s bombs killed her family; Strucker experimented on her and Pietro, and belonged to the evil Hydra organization that went toe to toe with the Avengers.

These links drive the show back to the possibility that we’re witnessing a manifestation of Wanda’s trauma and grief over the loss of Pietro in Age of Ultron and the loss of Vision in Infinity War.

What happened to Geraldine?

Teyonah Parris as Geraldine/Monica Rambeau in WandaVision.

This is a bit of a spoiler, but Geraldine, Wanda’s neighbor who gets transported into the cabinet at the end of the magic show in episode two, isn’t who she says she is. The actress who plays Geraldine is Teyonah Parris, who has given interviews about how she’s playing a character named Monica Rambeau.

If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Monica Rambeau is the daughter of Maria Rambeau — Carol Danvers’s best friend in the 2019 Captain Marvel movie. In that film, Monica is a little girl who idolizes Carol. The movie is set in the ’90s, which makes Monica an adult in the present day.

Monica Rambeau is significant not just for her Captain Marvel roots (in the comic books she held the title of Captain Marvel before Carol), but because in the comics she’s also a superhero in her own right. Rambeau has the power to change into different energy forms like visible light or electricity or radiation. Changing into a different energy form allows her to take on the properties of that energy and travel, say, at the speed of light:

Monica Rambeau in Ultimates no. 1.
Kenneth Rocafort/Marvel

We don’t yet know if Rambeau has these powers on WandaVision, but there’s reason to believe she does. Monica wears a necklace displaying what appears to be the symbol for the Sentient World Observation and Response Department, a.k.a. S.W.O.R.D., a.k.a the new organization that Nick Fury is ostensibly creating with the Skrulls in the post-credits scene of 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home.

In the comics, S.W.O.R.D. is the space counterpart of S.H.I.E.L.D. and deals with cosmic threats. S.W.O.R.D. appears to be observing Wanda — there’s a S.W.O.R.D. symbol on the helicopter she finds in episode two — so if Rambeau is affiliated with the organization, that would likely mean Monica has been recruited by Fury (they know each other from Captain Marvel) to watch over Wanda.

Are Agnes and Wanda’s neighbors part of S.W.O.R.D. or something else?

The trickiest element of WandaVision for me is the question of who Wanda and Vision’s various neighbors are and what exactly everyone is doing in Westview. Kathryn Hahn’s Agnes seems to be the most peculiar one, as she seems to be guiding Wanda through this sitcom world and appears to be, without explanation, Wanda’s best friend. The popular theory prior to WandaVision’s debut was that Hahn is playing Agatha Harkness and that “Agnes” is a code for her full name. There’s further evidence of Agnes being Agatha in episode two, where we learn that Agnes has a bunny named Señor Scratchy; in the comics, Agatha has a son named Nicholas Scratch.

Harkness is a witch, and in the comics, she is one of Wanda’s mentors. Harkness 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. The book’s imagery is not unlike that of WandaVision.

While Agatha is an ally in the comic books, it’s still unclear if Agnes is definitely Agatha (though the clues seem to indicate it), or if she has the same role on WandaVision.

But Agnes does say something fascinating in episode three. After Wanda gives birth, Agnes talks to Vision outside Wanda and Vision’s home and tells him that Geraldine is not like the rest of their Westview neighbors. She says this while Geraldine and Wanda are inside having the unnerving interaction about Pietro.

This may mean that Geraldine is part of S.W.O.R.D. since she has that necklace. If that’s the case, it suggests the rest of the neighbors are not part of S.W.O.R.D. It may also mean that Geraldine is the only one in Westview who knows about the reality that Wanda comes from, and no one else does. And if that’s the case, then what’s the deal with everybody else?

Once we find that out, it might solve WandaVision’s other big question of who is behind the show’s larger machinations. In episode two, a voice on the radio asks Wanda, “Who did this to you?” The question implies that Wanda doesn’t know she’s trapped in the sitcom world and that an unknown someone is pulling the strings.

It could be Agnes. It could be a villain we’ve yet to meet. It could be a villain whom Agnes was called in to help with. Whatever the case may be, the more we find out about Wanda’s neighbors, and Agnes in particular, the closer we’ll get to unlocking the mystery.