READERS ARE LOVING THESE LOOKS AT THE SUPERHEROINE MANTIS. FOR PART 1 CLICK HERE
THE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 123 (May 1974) An Origin For Mantis
As our homegirl MANTIS here passionately defends her father Libra’s eccentric decision to wear hot-pants into battle, I’ll welcome you to Balladeer’s Blog’s latest installment of The Celestial Madonna Saga.
NOTE: This issue is titled AN Origin For Mantis, not THE Origin. For reasons that will become clear later Libra is not telling the full story this time around but he still fills in a LOT of background regarding his mysterious daughter.
AVENGERS ROSTER: Thor (Donald Blake, MD), Iron Man (Tony Stark), The Scarlet Witch (Wanda), The Black Panther (Prince T’Challa), The Vision (not applicable), The Swordsman (Jacques Duquesne) and MANTIS (Mantis Brandt).
AN ORIGIN FOR MANTIS
Synopsis: Our previous installment ended at the skyscraper headquarters of the international supervillain team called Zodiac. In the aftermath of the Avengers’ defeat and capture of the entire group, Libra (Gustav Brandt) revealed that the only reason he betrayed Zodiac was to save Mantis, claiming she is his daughter.
Mantis reacts furiously, accusing Libra of claiming to be her father as some cruel attempt to garner sympathy from the Avengers, possibly for a lighter prison sentence.
The argument is cut short by Iron Man, who insists that the conversation continue ONLY away from the prying ears of their deadly foes in Zodiac. The Vision concurs, all the while hiding his fear that his android brain is beginning to malfunction and that THAT is the reason for his frantic panic episodes in Taurus’ penthouse swimming pool last time around and in Dormammu’s quicksand at the end of the Avengers-Defenders War.
So, after the authorities arrive to occupy Zodiac HQ the Avengers take in their prisoners with the sole exception of Libra. After the usual post-mission press conference and such for our heroes they gather back at Avengers Mansion with Libra temporarily released in their custody.
The injured Swordsman is well enough to listen from his wheelchair as his teammates interrogate Libra. Mantis impatiently insists that she never knew any father and calls Libra a liar once more. Given the way the blind member of Zodiac handles himself in battle as well as the blind superhero Daredevil does, the Vietnamese woman even goes so far as to accuse him of FAKING his blindness.
She strips off the blindfold that serves as Libra’s mask and she plus the other Avengers are shocked and disgusted at the burns and scars that surround the empty eye sockets of Libra – Gustav Brandt. He re-ties the blindfold around his eyes and begins his tale.
He states that over two decades earlier, when he still had his sight, he was a mercenary for the French military forces in Vietnam. He loved soldiering and killing and once, when he was on leave in Saigon he met a beautiful Vietnamese woman named Lua – Mantis’ eventual mother.
After a whirlwind two month courtship the pair married each other in a church ceremony. They barely survived their wedding day when Lua’s Vietnamese brother – the Golden Triangle gangster later called Monsieur Khruul by the French – showed up with some of his men and tried to kill them both. The Asian criminal was bigoted and disapproved of Gustav and Lua’s mixed-race marriage.
The startled Avengers discuss the fact that Khruul went on to become the crime boss whose sprawling organization would later employ Mantis as a prostitute and the Swordsman as a super-powered mercenary. Libra non-committedly glides over that piece of information and resumes his story.
The resourceful Brandt and his wife Lua stayed on the run from her brother and his men. After ten months Mantis was born and the new family got lulled into remaining in one place for too long. Lua’s brother learned where they were and sent his men to kill Gustav, Lua and little Mantis as well as the villagers who had taken them in.
Khruul’s men used flame-throwers in their attack and in the battle Gustav Brandt lost his vision because of the wounds the gangsters inflicted on him. His wife – Mantis’ mother – was killed in the assault but Gustav was able to escape carrying Mantis as he stumbled blindly through the jungle.
After untold days and nights Brandt and his infant daughter happened upon a temple occupied by priests. And not just ANY priests but the Priests of Pama – as in the saying “By the great Pama,” a frequent exclamation from the Kree Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) and Carol Danvers (later to become Ms Marvel).
Much more on the Priests of Pama next time around. Libra continues his tale by saying that the priests’ heightened senses told them what kind of man he was. The Pama refused to kill and so they would not let the child Mantis be raised by a mercenary soldier. Libra was free to stay and recuperate from his wounds but his daughter was now theirs.
Over the years the priests trained him in their ways, unlocking supernatural senses in Libra that permitted him to move around even better than when he still had his eyes. They also trained him in their other-worldly martial arts.
As Mantis advanced through her childhood years the Priests of Pama also trained HER in their style of martial arts AND their heightened use of the senses. When her mutant abilities manifested themselves as she approached puberty the priests began to revere and virtually worship Mantis, but Libra was never permitted close enough to her to find out why.
The members of the Pama Priesthood seemed to be preparing his daughter for some special role in life but – kept at a distance as he was – he eventually lost interest. Ultimately he fled the temple and used his heightened senses and otherworldly martial arts to build a criminal empire of his own stretching from parts of southeast Asia to Hawaii.
When the international crime cartel Zodiac was formed they recruited him and rechristened him Libra. He had never looked back until the night of the battle atop the World Trade Center Towers, when he recognized Mantis even as the Avengers and Zodiac fought each other.
Mantis has been fuming through the entire account and Libra at last goes too far when he assures Mantis that despite all the power, money and women that his criminal career brought him he never fell in love with another woman after her mother.
Mantis is furious and insists she remembers NONE of this. She tries to attack Libra but the Avengers attempt to restrain her. The Vietnamese Avenger uses her otherworldly martial arts to hold her own against Thor (again), the Vision, Iron Man and the Black Panther. She also overcomes the Scarlet Witch, who compassionately refrained from using her mutant hex powers on Mantis.
When Mantis at last breaks free of the scrum with her teammates she reaches Libra, who demonstrates his own mastery of Pama martial arts by bringing his daughter to the floor. He threatens to hold her there until she agrees to stop attacking him.
Mantis wonders why her romantic partner the Swordsman has not yet come to her aid and that is when she, Libra and the Avengers notice his empty wheelchair. They all hear the sound of one of their Quin-Jets taking off from the roof of the mansion and realize the Swordsman is piloting it.
Iron Man raises the Swordsman on the radio and demands to know what he’s doing. The Swordsman furiously replies that he is going after Monsieur Khruul to make him pay for killing Mantis’ mother. Iron Man warns him against going through with this but the Swordsman just cuts off the radio.
With the head-start the Swordsman has neither Thor, Iron Man nor the Vision can fly fast enough to overtake him. They need to board another Quin-Jet, but unfortunately they have not yet replaced the two that were destroyed in French Polynesia and in Bolivia. Their only other Quin-Jet at the moment is the one in south New Jersey, where it was left when they fell into Taurus’ rocket-ship death trap.
The Scarlet Witch lets loose with another of her tirades about how disgusted she is with human beings because of the way they make mistakes like this. The other Avengers once again bridle at this pompous attitude, Iron Man most of all.
He snaps back at Wanda and flies off to retrieve the aircraft from New Jersey. He will then fly back to the mansion and pick up the other Avengers and be on the way to Vietnam.
Cut to much later as the Swordsman lands in Saigon and attacks Monsieur Khruul’s headquarters. He fights his way to Khruul’s office, shooting off his mouth about why he is angry at the drug lord.
Monsieur Khruul sics his new personal bodyguards on the Swordsman. This being a comic book, those bodyguards are men costumed in armor like warriors from Vietnam in the 1100s or so. They are all huge men and wield battle lances that they use like fighters in Kung Fu movies. The blunt end of the lances shoot bullets machine-gun style when needed.
Khruul tells the Swordsman that he also uses designer drugs on these bodyguards to make them virtually impervious to pain. They must have their limbs broken to disable them.
At first the Swordsman does well against the army of bodyguards, using his agility and his high-tech sword which shoots fire rays, electrical blasts and concussive power blasts. Eventually numbers and his already-injured state tell the tale and he is overcome. Khruul does not want him killed immediately. He wants information about his niece and plans to torture that info out of the Swordsman.
Later, the Avengers and Libra arrive in the other Quin-Jet. Mantis is still angry that Libra is accompanying them but Thor makes it clear that he will remain with them until they determine the truth about his claims.
At Monsieur Khruul’s HQ our heroes find the damage from the Swordsman’s battle with the crimelord’s men. They also find the battered and bloodied Swordsman himself, left alive for now until Khruul and his men can determine if the info tortured out of Duquesne was accurate.
The Avengers free him and leave the Scarlet Witch there with him to look after him and use her Avengers’ pull to get him medical aid. The Swordsman told them that Mantis’ uncle seemed especially interested in the temple of the Priests of Pama and headed out with all his men to that temple.
Thor, Iron Man, the Black Panther, the Vision and Mantis let Libra lead them to the Pama temple. Once there they see Khruul’s costumed army standing over the slaughtered bodies of all the priests.
The Avengers attack Khruul’s men and defeat all of them. For character bits during the fracas Iron Man internally reflects that it was in Vietnam that he first became Iron Man while the Black Panther expresses regal disgust that these priests who meant no one any harm were butchered.
Only Monsieur Khruul himself remains on the loose in the temple, still searching for the treasure he was certain the Priests of Pama MUST have been guarding in their labyrinthine sub-basement. While searching for him the Avengers and Libra hear Khruul scream in agony.
They find him sprawled and bloody, lying across an altar in one of the dungeons. His body has been slashed to ribbons and as he dies he repeats the words of his killer: “Beware the Star Stalker.”
Our heroes have no idea who or what the Star Stalker is but we readers can see that being – a red, dragon-like monster lurking just above the oblivious Avengers, poised to attack them. +++
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.