FOR PART 1 OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF MARVEL’S SUPERHEROINE MANTIS CLICK HERE
GIANT-SIZE AVENGERS Number 2 (November 1974) A Blast From The Past
Call me crazy, but since this story includes that rarest of things: a superhero death that is final I would have gone with the title Death of an Avenger instead of a cliché like A Blast From The Past.
Anyway … THINGS GET “TIMEY-WIMEY” FROM THIS POINT ON AS THE CELESTIAL MADONNA SAGA CONTINUES!
A BLAST FROM THE PAST
Synopsis: Nighttime in New York. The former Avenger Hawkeye, who has also quit the Defenders since the last time we dealt with him, opens up this installment by capturing a gang of jewel thieves.
When he turns them over to the police those cops tell Hawkeye (who probably slept the day away after a night of partying) about the day’s big news: Kang the Conqueror is back and he kidnapped the Avengers that morning. Kang boasted of his plans to wage war against the entire planet while waiting for something called “the Celestial Madonna” to reveal herself.
Hawkeye rushes off to Avengers Mansion where – even from several blocks away – he can see the incredibly bright artificial satellite called the Madonna Star still blazing away. Anxious crowds still surround the area, drawn by fears that the star means the end of the world and by rumors of some kind of “Madonna.”
Inside the mansion Hawkeye finds the Swordsman, the butler Jarvis and Pharaoh Rama Tut – Kang’s other self. (Explanation below.) The three bring Hawkeye up to date on everything from our last installment, including the increasingly tense international situation after the slaughter of Egyptian troops at the hands of Kang’s creation.
The Swordsman is clearly rattled and Jarvis updates Hawkeye on Swordsy’s on-the-edge emotional state after being dumped by Mantis and insulted by Kang. Hawkeye takes it easy on his former mentor and rival the Swordsman because of how on edge he seems. He goes out of his way to get along with Swordsy instead of their usual harsh exchanges.
However, Hawkeye DOES protest to the Swordsman that they should not trust Rama Tut since that was what Kang called himself long ago when he was mucking around in ancient, undocumented Egypt.
On top of which THIS Rama Tut looks older than Kang himself when he should look YOUNGER, since Kang assumed that identity early in his career.
EXPLANATION: Rama Tut – who for clarity’s sake I will refer to as Rama Tut II – offers musings that set everything in context. He was on his throne ruling 40th Century Earth as Kang, at some point LONG after this story’s clash between the Avengers and the Conqueror.
He was nearing 60 and was contemplating his life. All of his conquests, all his power, his history-making, even his harems of women had come to feel meaningless to him. In the end, Ravonna, the only woman he might have loved, was still trapped in a comatose state that he could not cure. (The reason is irrelevant to this already confusing story)
Of all the pointless wars he waged in his long career the MOST fruitless in the end was his long campaign to take the Celestial Madonna. Kang found himself filled with resignation and a longing to make amends for his life of warfare and of meddling with the time-stream.
He wanted to set things right, feeling that was the only way to achieve the satisfaction that had always eluded him. To that end he traveled back in time to ancient, undocumented Egypt at precisely one minute AFTER the Fantastic Four had departed the era after defeating Kang as the young Rama Tut.
*** From this point on it may help to think of Kang, Rama Tut and Rama Tut II as if they are separate “regenerations” (for Doctor Who fans) of the man. Anyway, Rama Tut II ruled his kingdom far more compassionately and sagely than his more warlike younger self.
And while doing that he was also pursuing his other agenda: cleaning up as many traces of his time-meddling as possible. He eliminated all traces of anachronistic technology that the ancient Egyptians should never have had, though memories of them passed down generation after generation and were depicted in some of their artwork. (So tell the Ancient Aliens people that it was Kang, not aliens.)
He also disassembled the time machine he had used to come back to ancient Egypt and disintegrated the parts.
Lastly, he used the technological devices that he had disguised as his Pharaoh apparel, crook, staff and head-dress to teleport himself into the sarcophagus in a hidden room of the previously constructed Pyramid of Rama Tut. Then he entered a state of suspended animation for over 5,000 years.
The hidden room was the one he remembered the Swordsman stumbling into back when he (Rama Tut II) was Kang and was experiencing the events of our previous installment. Naturally history repeated itself and when the Swordsman DID enter that hidden room the levers to open the sarcophagus were triggered and Rama Tut II emerged (as covered last time around.)
Rama Tut II then stopped the Swordsman from launching a hopeless frontal assault on Kang from the corridor where we left off last time. Rama Tut II then teleported himself and the Swordsman to Avengers Mansion to await Hawkeye’s arrival and now we’re back to where we were earlier in this go-round.
Rama Tut II disguises himself in a trenchcoat and hat so that his younger self (Kang) won’t have a clue who he is. He then teleports himself, Hawkeye and the Swordsman to the U.N. Building, where he knows/ remembers his younger self will strike next.
Sure enough, Kang shows up in his flying time-sphere. On board with him are the captive Mantis, Scarlet Witch and Agatha Harkness (because Kang never knew about Moon Dragon’s temporary presence in Avengers Mansion). Also inside are Kang’s three Macrobots – each one with one of the captive Avengers (Thor, Iron Man and the Vision) literally INSIDE them.
The power of each of the three Macrobot/ Avengers hybrids is many times greater than the power of the individual heroes inside, thanks to Kang’s 40th Century technology. Kang unleashes the Macrobot containing the Vision, and it runs amok in the U.N. to amp up the international crisis started by Kang last time around.
Kang the Conqueror is puzzled to see the strange man in the trenchcoat and hat (Rama Tut II) show up with Hawkeye and the Swordsman, whom Kang gave up for dead. The trio battle the Macrobot/ Vision hybrid.
The imprisoned Scarlet Witch, Mantis and Agatha Harkness watch the battle on Kang’s viewscreens. The Scarlet Witch wonders if her recent tutoring by the sorceress Agatha Harkness represented the “fulfillment” of the Celestial Madonna that Kang spoke of, making HER that Madonna. Mantis hopes the Scarlet Witch IS the Celestial Madonna so she can have the Vision to herself.
Naturally Rama Tut II knows how to defeat the Macrobot and leads Hawkeye and the Swordsman in doing so. He then opens the Macrobot and frees the imprisoned Vision, who was experiencing ANOTHER of those unexplained panic attack/ deja vu moments. (Explanation lies in near future installments.)
Kang is furious and exchanges harsh words with Mantis and the Scarlet Witch when they taunt him about this setback. Kang, in his usual Man of Greatness way, reminds himself that no military campaign is ever won in anger and simply flies off in the time-sphere for his next target.
Always mindful of strategy, Kang decides that – just in case the mysterious man helping the Avengers somehow stumbled across Kang’s plans – he will reverse the order of his next two targets. Instead of striking Moscow and THEN Peking before unleashing neutron bombs he will strike Peking NEXT.
Naturally Rama Tut II remembers that this switcheroo was what his younger self tried to pull so he teleports himself, the Vision, Hawkeye and the Swordsman to Peking. The Macrobot/ Iron Man hybrid is rampaging around and our heroes attack.
When it looks like this Macrobot may kill the Vision at one point in the fracas Mantis threatens to destroy Kang if he harms “her man” (The Vision). She and the Scarlet Witch exchange barbs, since the Vision is the Scarlet Witch’s romantic partner.
Wanda points out that if Mantis hadn’t treated her own man the Swordsman so badly he wouldn’t be teetering on the brink of a nervous breakdown like he seems to be in the battle scenes. Kang threatens the ladies to shut up and tells them the only man in their lives now is HIM since he intends to marry the Celestial Madonna, whose offspring will give him control of all time and space.
Anyway, Rama Tut II and his three Avenger allies defeat the Macrobot/ Iron Man hybrid and obliterate the Macrobot shell, freeing I.M. The enraged Kang abandons his plan to strike in Moscow next. He lands his time-sphere and unleashes the Macrobot/ Thor hybrid, determined to force the disguised man’s hand here and now.
While this third and final Macrobot battles Rama Tut II, Hawkeye, the Swordsman and Iron Man, the Vision penetrates Kang’s time-sphere and frees the captive Mantis, Wanda and Agatha Harkness with the solar rays he shoots from his eyes.
The Scarlet Witch and Mantis attack the Macrobot/ Thor hybrid while continuing their bickering. Hawkeye expresses surprise at how fiercely Wanda is using her mutant hex-spheres thanks to her training from Miss Harkness. Mantis attacks the Macrobot with her otherworldly martial arts and Iron Man, the Vision, Hawkeye and the Swordsman join in the attack.
The Scarlet Witch uses her hex powers to snare a passing meteor and bring it crashing down on the Macrobot, destroying it, but leaving Thor alive. Iron Man exclaims that if Wanda has this much more control over her hex powers after just one night of training from Agatha he’d hate to see her after a WEEK. (Iron Man and the others don’t yet know that what was just one night for them was really countless hours in the mystically sealed room where the teaching took place.)
Rama Tut II moves in to free Thor from inside the Macrobot as he freed the Vision earlier and finally he and Kang come face to face. Kang uses the weaponry of his high-tech armor to blast away Rama Tut II’s disguise.
He is shocked to see that it is himself – older, but dressed as his younger Rama Tut persona. For his part Rama Tut II is experiencing these events for the SECOND time. The first time when he was Kang and now as Rama Tut II. He states that he dreaded this confrontation and feared to go through with it, but he knew that if he didn’t then the fate of the Celestial Madonna would be on his head.
Kang’s two selves (Kang and Rama Tut II) meet in battle, with Kang’s high-tech armor against Rama Tut II’s technology disguised as Egyptian Pharaoh regalia. Time ruptures because of the paradoxical nature of the clash. The rupture soon passes but while it lasted time itself became visible to the naked eye.
All assembled could see Mantis filling the future, blotting out all else, making it clear that SHE is the Celestial Madonna. Kang’s exultation over at last knowing the Madonna’s identity fuels him as he defeats Rama Tut II and stands over him demanding to know why he himself would come back in time in disguise to thwart his own ambitions.
Rama Tut II tells Kang what we readers already know and adds the fact that, though in the immediate future Kang will try again and again to obtain the Celestial Madonna it will not come to pass. The Madonna HAD to be kept from Kang’s hands.
Kang is outraged that he himself will one day come to this place and time as Rama Tut II to bring about his own defeat. He insists that now that he knows of this he will NEVER let it happen.
Rama Tut II repeats that Kang cannot avoid it. Future events will inexorably lead him to be in his place one day. Kang replies that if he cannot have the Celestial Madonna then no one will and he tries to kill Mantis with energy blasts.
The Swordsman, still devoted to Mantis after all this, saves Mantis from the blast and then dies himself at Kang’s hands. Thor, Iron Man, the Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, the Vision and Mantis look at the dying Swordsman in horror.
Rama Tut II renews his own attack on Kang, causing them both to fall back into the time-sphere. As the two scuffle Rama Tut II causes the time-sphere to activate and the device teleports away with Kang’s two selves on board. (Their destination will be made known to us in the next installment or so as the Celestial Madonna Saga continues.)
The Avengers all note that, despite Mantis’ recent callousness toward the Swordsman she is in agony as she holds his dying form. The two exchange tender talk as tears stream down Mantis’ cheeks. She tells the Swordsman that she is deeply sorry for the wrongs she has done to him. She wants him to pull through so she can make it all up to him.
The Swordsman (Jacques Duquesne) dies in her arms, and the other Avengers speak words of goodbye to their fallen comrade.
NOTE: The Swordsman actually stayed dead, and in the 1990s Marvel Comics had his son – that he had by a woman he knew before he met Mantis – take up his father’s costume and high-tech Makluan sword as the new Swordsman. Now THAT’S the way to do it! Let the original character remain dead with dignity and have someone else take up their mantle.
Next time around the mysteries of the Celestial Madonna are explored even more deeply with the fate of all time and space at stake. FOR THAT NEXT PART CLICK HERE.
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
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