FOR PART 1 OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF MARVEL’S SUPERHEROINE MANTIS CLICK HERE
GIANT-SIZE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 3 ( February 1975) What Time Hath Put Asunder …
I will point out once again that the creative team at The Avengers did the best job of incorporating these short-lived “Giant Size” quarterlies into their ongoing storyline. And it certainly helped that they had a complex serial like the Celestial Madonna Saga running at the time that Marvel experimented with these Giant Size issues every 3 months.
We pick up where we left off: in the labyrinthine catacombs beneath the castle of Immortus, the ruler of the realm of Limbo. That realm exists outside of the time-stream itself, making it the ideal battleground for Kang the Conqueror’s latest attempt to possess the Avenger named Mantis, the Celestial Madonna, and through their offspring have control of all space and time.
Mantis and her fellow Avengers – Thor, Iron Man, Hawkeye and the Vision – had been battling Kang’s Legion of the Unliving. That group consisted of six supervillains that Kang plucked from the time-stream mere nanoseconds before their violent deaths. If they help him obtain Mantis and kill the rest of the Avengers he’ll let them live. If not, he’ll simply return them to meet their deaths.
Mantis, led by the Vision’s scream of agony, found him lying near death after his battle with a member of Kang’s Legion.
WHAT TIME HATH PUT ASUNDER …
Synopsis: Mantis cradles the Vision’s dying body like she did with her lover the Swordsman several days earlier when he died at Kang’s hands. The Vision cannot move his android body and is delirious with pain.
He recounts to the now-weeping Mantis how he fought the Silver Surfer’s immensely powerful old foe the Ghost – one of Kang’s Legion of the Unliving. Even the Vision’s devastating tactic of plunging his intangible arm inside the Ghost’s torso and partially solidifying it could not defeat the villain.
That soldier of Kang then used the Vision’s own tactic against him, with the result that the Vision suffered so much damage from his foe’s arm that he is near death, while the Ghost simply vanished from the area.
With his tale done the delirious Vision hallucinates that his beloved Wanda, the Scarlet Witch is the woman with him as he dies, not Mantis. Mantis redeems herself a bit more by painfully letting the Vision believe the happy but false impression.
(Wanda is really back at Avengers Mansion, still being tutored by the sorceress Agatha Harkness.)
Soon Mantis’ grief is interrupted as she is attacked from behind by Midnight, the evil half-brother of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu. Kang had plucked Midnight from his death hoping that Midnight’s martial arts skills would enable him to bring in Mantis alive to become Kang’s bride.
Mantis and Midnight do battle again, this time to the finish since their first battle was interrupted. The Vietnamese Avenger defeats the black-clad villain despite his use of weapons like Ninja Stars and nunchuku.
Again she wonders how her human weaknesses like the anger she just showed fighting Midnight qualify her to be the Celestial Madonna. Before she can pursue those thoughts she realizes the Vision’s dead body has been taken away by an unknown party.
Try though she may she cannot find the culprit in the confusing maze of tunnels and corridors. We readers get to see which member of the Legion of the Unliving absconded with the Vision’s corpse, however.
It is the Frankenstein Monster/ Should be the Hulk’s dead foe the Glob or some similar dead Hulk villain. (I’ll spare you my rant this time around.) Frank/ The Glob carries the Vision like a prize discovery, albeit one he can scarcely comprehend. Head tilting like a curious dog the creature walks along with its perplexing burden.
The Avenger Hawkeye catches sight of the Glob/ Frank lugging the Vision along and nearly succumbs to despair. “Not another Avenger dead. First the Swordsman, then Iron Man (last installment) and now the Vision. We’re dropping like flies.”
Hawkeye – in a rare example of keeping his temper in check – restrains himself from attacking the creature carrying the Vision. He counsels himself that even if he attacks the creature and wins, it still won’t bring the Vision back to life.
He tells himself that instead he must comply with Iron Man’s dying request that Hawkeye keep moving, trying to find enough Avengers still alive to make some sort of last stand against Kang and his Legion of the Unliving.
Elsewhere in the Labyrinth of Limbo, Kang the Conqueror stalks the corridors followed by three more of the villains he plucked from death’s door. Those villains:
BARON ZEMO, the ORIGINAL Baron Zemo who fought Captain America in World War Two. He had been hiding in South America like other Nazi war criminals but emerged to fight the Avengers in their early issues (1963-1964). He died in an avalanche in Avengers # 15. His son later assumed the title of Baron Zemo.
WONDER MAN aka Simon Williams, a supervillain who infiltrated the Avengers for Baron Zemo. Wonder Man died from the time-released poison/ virus that Zemo had injected him with to keep him in line. Wonder Man’s brain patterns were later used by Ultron as the basis for the Vision’s artificial intelligence.
THE ORIGINAL HUMAN TORCH, who, despite his name was an android created by Professor Horton in 1939. The original Human Torch was a hero during World War Two but in some 1960s issues of the Fantastic Four the Mad Thinker found the broken-down android and reprogrammed him as a weapon to kill Johnny Storm, the Fantastic Four member called the Human Torch. The Thinker blasted the android Torch to death when he failed.
Wonder Man complains about the endless wandering they’ve been doing through the Labyrinth of Limbo since they fought the Vision and Hawkeye and killed Iron Man. Baron Zemo makes the mistake of questioning Kang’s strategy, following which the Conqueror puts Zemo in his place in his (Kang’s) best “Man of Greatness” way.
Kang, after all, conquered ALL of 40th Century Earth and reminds the Baron that he owes Kang simply for being alive right now. Shrewdly sensing subversion forming in Zemo’s nefarious mind, Kang dispatches Wonder Man and the Human (Android) Torch to find and kill the Vision, since Kang considers Vizh his greatest rival for Mantis.
Wonder Man and the Torch trek off to carry out their task. Baron Zemo tries to talk Kang into taking him on as a full partner but the Conqueror slaps him down hard, even calling him his slave. Zemo is furious but Kang slaps his face and reminds him he can return the Baron to the moment of his death if he refuses to obey. Zemo shudders and falls silent.
Cut to Thor, who has been pursuing Frank/ The Glob since they fought last time around, but lost him in the maze of corridors. Soon Thor comes across the dead body of Iron Man, who has been his closest, dearest friend on the team since it was founded.
Grief and sadness quickly give way to (literally) berserker rage as Thor vows revenge on Kang and his Legion. Thor is so frenzied in his Hulk-like rage that he succeeds in smashing a couple of the super-dense Limbo-Stones in the walls and floor of the Labyrinth. (OR, more likely, it’s a continuity error since his hammer-blows caused nothing but a few cracks in our last installment)
Meanwhile, back on Earth, at Avengers Mansion, crowds continue to line the streets around that mansion because of the Madonna Star which still shines brightly overhead. Many still cite the artificial satellite as a sign that the end of the world is near. And it may well be true if Kang gets his hands on the Celestial Madonna.
Paniced whispers are in the air, too, over the very public disappearance of the Avengers in Vietnam when Kang teleported them to Limbo. Police officers push their way through the throng to reach the mansion’s door. The cops ring Jarvis, the butler, and put the Commissioner on visi-phone with him.
The Commissioner tells Jarvis that Libra, Mantis’ criminal father, has escaped from prison. Libra had been a model prisoner the whole time until he vanished a few nights ago. The cops are afraid Libra may try to bust out his fellow members of the supervillain team called Zodiac.
Despite the warnings from Agatha Harkness and the Scarlet Witch to leave them alone to continue Wanda’s training, Jarvis feels he should tell Wanda about Libra’s escape. He knocks on the door but is soon ordered away by the macabre sound of the Scarlet Witch’s seemingly possessed voice from the other side of the door. Jarvis retreats in terror.
Back in the Labyrinth of Limbo, Wonder Man and the Original Human Torch continue searching for the Vision but fall to tensely bickering over Wonder Man’s callous attitude toward destroying the Vision, who is “just” a robot in Wonder Man’s opinion.
The pair run into Frankenstein/ The Glob, still carrying the Vision’s body around with him. Surprisingly, it turns out the Vision is still breathing, but barely. Wonder Man moves in to destroy the Vision once and for all but Frank/ The Glob considers the Vision HIS toy (or whatever) and drives Wonder Man back.
Wondy angrily storms off to find Kang so he can finish off the Vision. Meanwhile the curious Original Human Torch talks gently to Frank/ The Glob and the creature lets him examine the Vision’s body on a nearby stone slab. After a thorough once-over the Human Torch expresses shock and surprise for an unknown reason.
Elsewhere, Kang grows tired of hearing Baron Zemo rant and rave about how much he’d like to kill Captain America if he was with the Avengers that Kang grabbed. The Conqueror shuts him up and sends him back to the throne room of Immortus to make sure none of the Avengers have discovered the captive Rama Tut II and Immortus.
Kang, in his always-entertaining Man of Greatness way, ponders other strategies he might have used instead of plucking these villains from the time-stream. But, as he loftily reminds himself, a TRUE conqueror can work with any tools at hand.
Eventually Kang’s musings are interrupted by the arrival of the still-berserk Thor who snarls at Kang that he is going to kill him for slaying Iron Man. Kang’s futuristic armor as always, is chock-full of energy weapons and other items that normally make him more than Thor’s equal, but the thunder god’s Hulk-like frenzy is fueling him to new heights.
Thor’s strength, uru hammer and lightning blasts have Kang on the defensive. The Conqueror expresses apprehension that things may turn out the way Rama Tut II predicted. He again states that he WILL have the Celestial Madonna and through her the offspring which will give him the power he craves.
Thor keeps on attacking no matter how much Kang’s ray-blasts injure him. Thor screams that Kang is about to face his ordained fate, but Wonder Man arrives and attacks the thunder god. The pair fight each other, until Kang orders Wonder Man to follow him and block Thor’s path.
Wonder Man pulls down a support column and some of the corridor collapses in Thor’s path while Kang and Wondy run off to find other members of the Legion of the Unliving. Thor, still crazed with anger over Iron Man’s death, begins pounding his way through the wreckage.
Meanwhile, Hawkeye happens upon Immortus’ throne room, where Kang has him and Rama Tut II imprisoned in transparent cells which nullify their high-tech weaponry. Rama Tut II fills Hawkeye in on how he and Immortus came to be Kang’s captives and how the Conqueror continues to fight his destiny.
Hawkeye is told that he can free the two of them by pushing the button on the arm of Immortus’ throne on the other side of the room. Hawkeye is suspicious since Rama Tut II is Kang’s future self, but admits that he DID help stop Kang and his Macrobots recently.
Hawkeye decides to press the button to free the pair but before he can, Baron Zemo shows up and attacks him. A furious battle erupts, with Hawkeye’s rigged arrows against Zemo’s electric blasts from his glove.
Eventually Hawkeye gets the upper hand and closes with the Baron, ripping the electrical weapon out of the palm of his glove. Hawkeye wrestles with himself over his desire to kill Zemo to avenge Iron Man and the Vision, which gives the Baron an opening to pull out his backup gun of Adhesive X.
Zemo uses it to shoot a load of the super-glue, hitting Hawkeye in the torso, knocking him down and binding Hawkeye to the floor with just his head and parts of his arms and legs free. Baron Zemo taunts Hawkeye that he will leave him there to die slowly of thirst and starvation.
Hawkeye naturally taunts Zemo in return. The Baron goes into full Hitlerian Rant mode about the hatred he feels because of the way his mask was permanently attached to his face because of his Adhesive X. Immortus talks from his transparent cell, offering to help Baron Zemo with his problem.
Meanwhile, far away, the Original Human Torch tries to make the Frankenstein Monster/ The Glob (but mostly the reader) understand: The Torch doesn’t understand it but the Vision is HIM. His android innards are exactly the same as the Torch’s but upgraded and now crimson, meaning something happened to the Human Torch’s body after he was blasted dead by the Mad Thinker.
The Torch says all this soothingly to Frank/ The Glob, since it feels so possessive of its “toy” the Vision. Because its his own android body years later – just as Rama Tut II is Kang’s older self – he knows how to repair the Vision. The creature lets the Torch do his stuff.
Back in Immortus’ throne room, Immortus continues to distract Baron Zemo from Hawkeye, who is struggling to surreptitiously spread his bow with his legs and use his mouth to load up an arrow and pull the bowstring. It’s a desperate hope, but he might be able to ricochet the arrow off the ceiling and make it hit the release button on one of the arms of Immortus’ throne.
Immortus stalls for time, explaining how he can send Baron Zemo back to before the accident which melded his mask to his face so that he can escape that fate.
Elsewhere in the Labyrinth of Limbo, Kang and Wonder Man are nearing the spot where Wonder Man left the Original Human Torch, the Vision and Frank/ The Glob. Suddenly Thor catches up to them, still a man possessed. Before Thor and Wonder Man can close in battle again, the Human Torch, Frank/ Glob and the Vision come up from behind.
The Human Torch defies Kang’s orders to attack the Avengers, telling Kang that he’s prepared to be sent back to face his doom. For the Vision’s part he recounts how – but not WHY – the Torch saved him, except for his left arm which hangs useless and might never be able to be repaired.
Meanwhile, back in Immortus’ throne room, Baron Zemo tells Immortus he’s interested in his offer but first he’ll kill Hawkeye. Just then Hawkeye opens his mouth, letting loose the arrow which DOES ricochet off the ceiling and strikes the release button.
Immortus and Rama Tut II are freed and Immortus attacks Baron Zemo, reducing him to a puddle of protoplasm. Back with Kang, Wonder Man is fighting the Vision while Thor resumes his berserk attack on Kang himself.
The Vision is almost finished off by Wonder Man’s murderous assault since – with his arm in its current condition – he can’t turn intangible. He DOES manage to make himself diamond-hard and kicks Wondy between his legs and then follows through with more blows that knock Wonder Man out.
The Vision then joins Thor in his attack on Kang the Conqueror. Between Thor’s berserker rage and the energies being unleashed by Kang the walls and ceiling of the Labyrinth begin to collapse around the combatants. Thor is beyond reason and screams that he doesn’t care if he and his fellow Avengers die WITH Kang, but he wants Kang DEAD.
Always shrewd, Kang realizes a retreat is called for, and teleports himself back into the time-stream to escape. With Kang gone, the warrior madness slowly leaves Thor and the Labyrinth does NOT collapse completely.
Calmer now but frustrated the thunder god asks “Is this, then, how it all doth end? This ignominious puff of smoke and Kang escapes?”
The Human Torch, supporting his battered future self the Vision, tells Thor they’ll have to settle for that, since it’s still not certain Vizh will survive. Thor and the Vision discuss the situation and he tells Thor how the Torch isn’t just ANY android, but the android who was eventually overhauled into HIM, the Vision.
NOTE: The Vision explains that FINALLY this solves his recent malfunctions and panic attacks and deja vu episodes in Dormammu’s quicksand, Taurus’ pool, and trapped inside Kang’s Macrobot. The experiences triggered repressed memories from his android brain from back when he was the Torch and suffered traumatic incidents like being submerged in a pool by gangsters, and enclosed in a concrete slab to snuff out his flame.
Thor asks the reasonable follow-up question about HOW the Original Human Torch was transformed into the Vision. Neither Vizh nor the Torch can answer. Suddenly the Torch, Vision, Thor and Frank/ Glob are teleported to Immortus’ throne room.
NOTE: For hardcore Marvel fans this would have been a MIND-BLOWING and too-cool development. (AND another example of GOOD use of ret-conning) Now, all three of Marvel Comics’ most successful Golden Age heroes – Captain America, the Sub-Mariner and the Human Torch were present in the Marvel Universe’s CURRENT fictional world.
With the Johnny Storm Human Torch active in the pages of the Fantastic Four there was no need to have it be the Torch himself still being the Torch. So it was nicely set up so that his dead/ inert android body was reworked into the Vision. And hell, since “the Vision ” was ALSO a name of one of Marvel’s World War Two-era superheroes it almost makes the Vizh a three-in-one character.
(Next time we’ll deal with Ant-Man’s mysterious discovery in the Vision’s brain during the Kree-Skrull War.)
Back to the story, Immortus has teleported ALL of the Avengers and Legion of the Unliving members to his throne-room. The Vision gets his first realization that Iron Man is dead and is a bit terse with Mantis, who had just found the dead Avenger when Immortus gathered everyone together.
Immortus tells the Avengers that with his control of time he can restore Iron Man to the condition he was in right before he got killed and therefore it will be like his heart and lungs never stopped working. Iron Man comes to and is confused, but relieved as his friends fill him in on what happened.
Next Immortus also restores the Vision to the pure condition he was in before he was so terribly injured by the Ghost. Rama Tut II announces he must leave and says his goodbyes and his thanks to everyone for stopping Kang from plunging all of time into chaos in his mad quest for the Celestial Madonna.
Rama Tut II’s parting words to Mantis are “To thine own self be true.” Then he teleports himself away.
Now Immortus sends the members of the Legion of the Unliving back to that moment when they were plucked from the time-stream to play a role in this strange cosmic drama. It’s another example of how enjoyably “timey-wimey” this story is, since to each Legionnaire they have just a split second before their deaths to reflect on the strange, extra adventure they just had in Limbo … and then, oblivion.
The Original Human Torch is the only Legion member Immortus did not yet send back. He says that he is going to send the Torch and the Vision back in time as observers to see how their fates became intertwined … and he will also grant Mantis and the Avengers the answers to all the mysteries about the Celestial Madonna.
Immortus also reveals that HE is another one of Kang’s future selves – so I’ll say again to Doctor Who fans it helps to think of Kang, Rama Tut II and Immortus as three separate “regenerations” of the same man. Rama Tut II went on to become Immortus in later life, and we’ll learn how in upcoming installments as the Celestial Madonna Saga hurls toward its conclusion.
NOTE: So, it makes for MORE “timey-wimey” fun to ponder how Immortus was experiencing the events of this story for the THIRD time: the first time as Kang, the second time as Rama Tut II and the third time as Immortus. And it’s mind-bending to think about what kind of things Immortus may have told Rama Tut II while they were imprisoned right next to each other in the throne room. +++
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
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