By reader request here’s more of Marvel Comics’ superheroine Mantis. FOR PART 1 OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF MANTIS CLICK HERE
THE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 119 (January 1974) Night of the Collector
Avengers’ Roster: THOR (Donald Blake, MD), IRON MAN (Tony Stark), CAPTAIN AMERICA (Steve Rogers), THE SCARLET WITCH (Wanda – last name unknown at the time of this story), THE BLACK PANTHER (Prince T’Challa), THE VISION (Not applicable), THE SWORDSMAN (Jacques Duquesne) and MANTIS (Name unknown at the time).
NIGHT OF THE COLLECTOR
Synopsis: The Avengers arrive back in New York after wrapping up their usual post-battle debriefing and press conference regarding their just-concluded adventure from last time around. Since the team was in Los Angeles without their Quin-Jet (if you recall Dr Strange teleported the Avengers and Defenders to LA) they borrowed an aircraft from S.H.I.E.L.D.
The eight Avengers – accompanied by Loki, helpless and insane from what happened in the Dark Dimension – land the borrowed aircraft on the roof of Avengers’ mansion and exit from it. Exhausted, the heroes forgot that the S.H.I.E.L.D. transport did not have their Quin-Jet’s setting for disarming the defense systems of Avengers Mansion.
Now, just to jam in an early action sequence, the automatic defenses of the mansion activate and attack the Avengers until the Black Panther succeeds in penetrating to the cut-off switch. The Scarlet Witch, obviously feeling feisty after her defeat of Dormammu last time, chews out her fellow Avengers for forgetting that the borrowed aircraft did not have the necessary tech.
An argument erupts, but Captain America cuts it short by turning everyone’s attention to the question of what they should do with Loki. He’s insane and helpless, and Thor tells his teammates that he can’t take Loki back to Asgard because (at that particular time) Odin had forbidden Loki to return to Asgard under ANY circumstances.
The team sets up Loki in a secured, “escape-proof” chamber in the underground levels of Avengers Mansion. Those Avengers who live in the mansion – the Scarlet Witch, the Black Panther, the Vision, the Swordsman and MANTIS – will guard and monitor him.
An undetermined amount of time goes by, be it days, weeks, maybe a month. (It’s one of those time gaps which fans who obsess over establishing a precise timeline of all the Avengers’ adventures argue over.)
At some point the Black Panther pursues with Mantis his wish to learn some of her other-worldly martial arts. T’Challa first got the idea when he and Mantis fought Dr Strange during the Avengers/ Defenders War. When Mantis proves politely reluctant to teach any of her secrets the Black Panther tries to smoke out more details on her enigmatic past in Vietnam before she met and fell in love with the Swordsman.
NOTE: T’Challa is not interested romantically in Mantis. He was involved with singer Monica Lynne at that time. This attempt on his part really is just to try to learn Mantis’ fighting techniques – her “super kung-fu” you might call it – given the way she defeated both Captain America AND Thor in battle awhile back.
At any rate, Mantis is coyly evasive about T’Challa’s other questions, too. The storytelling purpose for this bit was to return to the many mysteries surrounding Mantis, mysteries which were relegated to the background given the universe-shaking events of the past few installments.
Helping the enigmatic mutant to change the subject is the sudden empathic blast she gets, telling her that enormous danger lurks in – of all places – Rutland, VT. All of the Avengers are rounded up since Mantis has never been wrong so far on these things and they fly to Rutland in one of their Quin-Jets.
NOTE: For reasons irrelevant to this story the annual Halloween Parade in Rutland, VT was featured for several years running in various Marvel Comics titles. Action would break out of course plus Marvel staff members would incorporate themselves into the Rutland Halloween stories as innocent onlookers for cutesy in-jokes.
For instance on previous Halloweens at this parade Thor fought Loki in the battle that left Loki temporarily blinded, the Defenders once got sucked into a battle with Dormammu at the parade, the Beast fought the Juggernaut there in his solo series and the Avengers themselves had previously fought the Enchantress at a Rutland Halloween parade.
Getting back to the story the Avengers arrive in Rutland and convey their concerns to Tom Fagan, the man who runs the parade each year. Fagan – who is costumed as the Marvel figure Nighthawk – agrees to let some of the Avengers appear as themselves on a float while others fan out in the huge costumed crowds and try to blend in while looking for trouble.
Hours later when the parade is over, the Avengers from the float – Thor, Iron Man, Captain America and the Black Panther – are besieged by autograph seekers. Tom Fagan – still dressed as Nighthawk – comes to their aid, ushering them away from the crowd of fans.
Or so it seems. Once Fagan gets the four heroes away from the crowds and into the night-darkened forests surrounding Rutland he speaks in his real voice, which Thor, I.M, Cap and T’Challa recognize as belonging to the Avengers’ recurring foe the Collector (more on him momentarily).
The Collector unleashes on these Avengers four of the super-scientific/ mystical trapping devices he has acquired over time. After another action sequence the four Avengers are subdued and placed under stasis rays in the Collector’s nearby hideout.
NOTE: The Collector IS the same Collector who appeared in the first GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY movie. In the Marvel Comics Universe – at least back then – the Collector was one of the Elders of the Universe, the very first intelligent race to evolve after the Big Bang. (To keep them distinct from Galactus, the sole survivor of the PRE-Big Bang universe.)
With that kind of head-start on the rest of the universe the Elders had technology that made each one of them powerful enough to clash with Earth’s various super-teams. The hermaphroditic Elders had been around so long that only a precious few of them were still alive.
Those few each went their own way millions of years ago and specialized in certain activities or fields of study … just because these were comic books and having a motif made them appropriate comic book villains.
The Collector, of course, roamed the universe collecting relics, objects and all manner of life-forms for study and preservation. In his previous battles with the Avengers he tried to add them to his interstellar museum and this Halloween story was yet another attempt to do so.
Other surviving Elders of the Universe included the Grandmaster (featured in the 2nd Guardians of the Galaxy movie AND Thor: Ragnarok), whose schtick was games of chance with the fate of entire planets at stake, and the Gardener, who specialized in gathering and cultivating vegetation from all over the universe.
This whole background regarding the Elders of the Universe was a nice touch and was part of the terrific lore that the Marvel writers had come up with to breathe life into their fictional universe. The multitude of alien races and their fleshed-out backgrounds are up there with Doctor Who and Star Trek.
Meanwhile back in Rutland the post-parade streets are still full of raucous celebrants. Some of the partiers have figured out that the Vision and the Scarlet Witch are the real thing and not CosPlayers (even though that term wasn’t in use yet).
They swarm the pair for autographs but Wanda, still embittered at humanity for their treatment of mutants AND for the public hatred she and the Vision have endured because of their odd romance, snubs them.
The mob persists and Wanda knocks them back with her mutant hex powers. She and the Vision wind up in an argument because she is upset that the Vision has not come to feel the same resentment that she feels toward ordinary humans.
While that goes on, the Swordsman and MANTIS are far from the crowd sharing a romantic moonlit walk of their own. They talk about themselves and their relationship and the Swordsman tells her again how much he loves her for turning his life around. (This month in Chick Flick Comics!)
Mantis mentions her concern over the Vision’s panic attack in Dormammu’s quicksand. With her empathic powers she was left reeling at the intensity of his emotions, given how calm, stable and logical he normally is. That panic attack is part of a deeper issue with the Vision that will slowly become clear, just like Mantis’ assorted mysteries.
The couple stumble across the bound form of the REAL Tom Fagan. They free him and, realizing an impostor greeted them earlier, Swordsy and Mantis summon the rest of the Avengers. When the Scarlet Witch and the Vision are the only ones who come running they realize the others must have been captured.
Mantis, the Swordsman, Vision and the Scarlet Witch locate Tom Fagan’s old mansion, where the Collector is holding Cap, Thor, Iron Man and the Black Panther under stasis rays. They free the quartet and the assembled Avengers confront the Collector.
The Collector’s Villain Rant reveals that he wasn’t expecting the Avengers to show up at the parade, but he had planned on “collecting” whichever superheroes DID happen to attend, since it was traditional. He intended to use whichever superheroes he captured as bait to lure the Avengers into his clutches.
Next the Collector pulls out a pair of alien stones and slams them together, unleashing a swarm of literally thousands of large bat-like creatures. They’re bat-like as poetic license I guess, to tie in with the Halloween theme.
The Collector then tosses the stones – which if struck together again will teleport the winged creatures back to his spaceship/ museum – into a booby-trapped crawlspace in Fagan’s abandoned mansion.
The Avengers are faced with a choice – they can battle the Collector and capture him OR they can save the innocent people of Rutland from being wiped out by the night-creatures he unleashed.
While the other seven Avengers battle the bat-monsters MANTIS fights her way past the Collector and uses her powers to penetrate the booby-trapped crawl-space. The Collector escapes in his hidden spaceship, while Mantis slowly works her way through the rigged crawlspace, bending her body into all manner of contortions.
Outside the mansion the other Avengers continue dealing with the bat-creatures until Mantis reaches the two alien rocks discarded by the Collector and strikes them together again, thus teleporting the monsters away.
In the epilogue the Avengers and Tom Fagan plan to put out the word asking superheroes NOT to come to the Halloween Parade anymore, since it makes those heroes and the innocent bystanders sitting ducks for attacks. (Finally figured that out, did you?)
Also, the crazed, helpless Loki is turned over to Tom to be cared for in his old mansion. Real smart move.
NOTE: And yes, months later in issues of Thor’s comic book Loki recovers his sanity and escapes. Using the increased power he got from when Dormammu passed through him in the Dark Dimension, Loki is capable of imprisoning all the world’s super-powered beings. He imprisons all of them except Thor, his archenemy, so they can face each other.
Loki then leads renegade armies from Asgard into an attack on Washington, D.C. Eventually, just like Loki wanted, he gets to fight Thor without any other Earth heroes being able to interfere. In typical pulp fiction fashion, Loki has conveniently used up so much of the extra power he temporarily inherited from the dread Dormammu that Thor manages to defeat him and save the world. +++
I’LL COVER THE NEXT ISSUE SOON. KEEP CHECKING BACK FOR UPDATES.
FOR MY ARTICLE ON THE MAIN LIST OF CENTAUR COMICS SUPERHEROES CLICK HERE
FOR MY ARTICLE ON THE MEMBERS OF INFINITE HORIZON CLICK HERE
FOR THE AUSTRALIAN SUPERHERO PANTHEON CLICK HERE
FOR MORE SUPERHEROES CLICK HERE: Superheroes
Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.