FOR PART 1 OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF MARVEL’S SUPERHEROINE MANTIS CLICK HERE
THE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 133 ( March 1975) Yesterday and Beyond
Avengers Roster: Thor (Donald Blake, MD), Iron Man (Tony Stark), The Scarlet Witch (Wanda Frank), Hawkeye (Clint Barton), The Vision (not applicable), MANTIS (Mantis Brandt) and Moon Dragon (Heather Douglas)
Synopsis: We start out at Avengers Mansion, where the Scarlet Witch and the sorceress Agatha Harkness are still locked away in the room which Agatha has sealed off from the rest of the world. Miss Harkness continues to tutor the Scarlet Witch in the more effective use of her mutant hex powers.
The throngs of onlookers continue surrounding Avengers Mansion for blocks because of the Madonna Star, which still burns brightly over the mansion. There is still a lot of public speculation that the artificial satellite heralds the end of the world. Whispers about Kang the Conqueror’s reference to a “Celestial Madonna” have even the least religious-minded people apprehensive.
Back in the room where Agatha is tutoring the Scarlet Witch, Wanda – showing no sign or memory of the possessed manner in which she chased away the butler Jarvis in our previous installment – prepares to show more of what she’s learned.
Focusing all her concentration, she manages to get a SPECIFIC, CONTROLLED result from her hex-sphere instead of just unleashing random chaos and destruction. That result: animating a nearby chair and causing it to come to life and begin walking around.
Wanda is so excited and proud that she momentarily loses control of the walking chair, Fantasia-style, so Agatha Harkness intervenes, casting a spell that returns the chair to its normal, inanimate state.
The Scarlet Witch tells Miss Harkness that she’d love to show her fellow Avengers her refined abilities and can’t wait for them to return from Vietnam, where they were researching Mantis’ past. Agatha calmly informs Wanda that the Avengers are no longer in Vietnam, and in fact, are no longer on the Earth.
Of course, we know Agatha is referring to the very public disappearance of the Avengers when Kang teleported them to Limbo to fight his Legion of the Unliving in Kang’s latest attempt to seize the Celestial Madonna. That attempt was thwarted thanks to help from Immortus, who, like Rama Tut II, was revealed as ANOTHER of Kang’s future selves. (Think of them as different “regenerations” of the same man like in Dr Who.)
We WILL learn how Rama Tut II went on to become Immortus before all this is through, but for right now, Immortus has reassembled the Avengers in his throne-room. Limbo itself exists outside of the time-stream but Immortus has allowed Thor, Iron Man, Hawkeye, the Vision and Mantis to sleep since their minds require it.
Refreshed (and presumably fed) the Avengers gather around as Immortus begins to make good on his promise to show the Vision and his past android self – the Original Human (really android) Torch – how their fates intertwined. Immortus also promised to provide Mantis and her fellow Avengers the truth about the Celestial Madonna.
Immortus already sent the Original Human Torch back in time and now sends the Vision back the same way – clutching a Synchro-Staff , a baton-shaped staff that simultaneously transports the Vision through time as an observer AND provides him with narration in a robotic female voice like Siri.
Immortus says that the Vision must travel alone since his secrets are far too recent. Mantis, Thor, Iron Man and Hawkeye can travel together with a Synchro-Staff of their own because the secrets of the Celestial Madonna began several millennia ago.
In an irresistible character bit from Hawkeye, after Immortus tells Thor to grasp the staff the archer says “I tried grasping the staff at the Playboy Club once …” But Immortus teleports the foursome away before we readers can catch the presumably dirty completion of the remark.
With all his time passengers on their way Immortus now reflects on how he has known five lives and the Vision two. Very soon now Mantis will begin again in a new existence of her own. For the curious, naturally Kang, Rama Tut and Immortus are three of the “five lives” he referred to. The other two are:
A. His original identity of Nathaniel Richards, the 30th Century descendant of the mingled bloodlines of Reed “Mr Fantastic” Richards and Victor Von Doom.
And B. The Scarlet Centurion, conqueror of 20th Century Earth until the time-traveling Avengers opposed him.
Cut back to the Earth. The superheroine Moon Dragon, in orbit around the Earth in her spaceship, has been monitoring the repeated broadcasts appealing to the Kree Avenger Captain Mar-Vell. A few installments back the Avengers started those broadcast appeals for Mar-Vell to check back in with them.
Our heroes were hoping that the Captain’s Kree background would enable him to answer some questions about the Priests of Pama who trained Mantis since that Priesthood started long ago in the Kree Empire.
Moon Dragon – like the Scarlet Witch and Mantis herself – was experiencing parallel life-events for an as-yet unknown reason. But answers are coming soon.
In any event Moon Dragon is curious about the appeals AND wonders why Mar-Vell hasn’t responded. She sets her course for Avengers Mansion to investigate.
Somewhere in the time-stream the Human (android) Torch holds his Synchro-Staff as the Siri voice tells the Torch that his very creation was owing to some of Kang’s meddling with time. The Staff shows him that it all starts in a future battle between Kang and the Avengers – a battle that hasn’t even happened yet in the lives of the Avengers OR Kang at the time of the Celestial Madonna Saga.
This is why the Torch and the Vision had to travel separately. These events are yet to transpire in the lives of the Vision and his fellow Avengers. Kang goes to the past again and unleashes a plot in the very early years of the 20th Century to destroy the Avengers by preventing them from ever coming into being.
He poses as a brilliant scientist running a company called Timely Industries – a cutesy reference to Timely Comics, the original Golden Age name of Marvel Comics. Timely Industries is a cover for Kang to carry out his plan. That plan is thwarted but in his hasty retreat Kang fails to take all his advanced tech with him.
Certain items that are far ahead of the 20th Century are left behind resulting in a typical sci-fi paradox (think of Terminator 2 as well, and how the original Terminator’s damaged hand contained circuitry that led to the creation of Skynet in the first place.)
Eventually Professor Horton found and appropriated that tech in “Timely Industrie”s old, run-down, long-abandoned offices. (These details have been retconned by Marvel in various ways since then.)
This was how Horton was able to create such an advanced android life form in 1939. Immortus, while trying to clean up his past self Kang’s time-meddling, realized that in true Butterfly Effect fashion this particular mess of Kang’s caused too many important ripples on Earth’s future to simply be undone.
Not only did it lead to the creation of the Original Human Torch but also led to his various adventures interacting with and sometimes saving the lives of Captain America, the Sub-Mariner and other World War Two-era heroes. Not only that but Horton’s work indirectly led to Life Model Decoys and other technology in the Marvel Universe.
It also led to Ultron’s creation and to Ultron’s reworking of the Original Human Torch into the Vision, again, thanks to Kang’s future tech that should never have been introduced into the past. Since the existence of the Torch and all that came after was necessary to avoid even MORE disruption of the time stream, Immortus had to let it all happen but just manage the events instead of undoing them.
Especially vital was the way the Torch-turned-Vision interacted with the future Celestial Madonna, serving as one of the psychological tumblers that influenced her completion.
With his lesson learned and a certain inner peace achieved, the Original Torch is abruptly returned to the exact milli-second when Kang plucked him from the time-stream to serve in his Legion of the Unliving. The Torch has a half-smile forming on his lips as the Mad Thinker blasts him to death now that he knows he has “a life after death.”
The Torch’s synchro-staff adventure was not revealed until years later, but ultimately it was retconned when Marvel foolishly decided Immortus was “lying” about most of the revelations of the Celestial Madonna Saga. Letters pages and future Avengers issues provided this info.
NOTE: Ant-Man’s mysterious discovery in the Vision’s android brain during the Kree-Skrull War was a circuit sporting the Timely Industries logo, startling Hank Pym since Timely was a turn of the century company. Right after seeing it Ant-Man had to fight for his life so the TI logo was forgotten amid larger events.
Back with the time-traveling Vision and his talking Synchro-Staff our hero is told by the Siri Voice that they are purely observers and no one in the events they visit will be able to see or hear them.
The Synchro-Staff shows the Vision the day in 1939 when Professor Phineas Horton unveiled his android creation (in real life it was in Marvel Comics #1). The android would burst into flame on contact with the air, alarming the scientific community.
Until the Torch could get its fiery side-effect under control Professor Horton had it sealed in concrete – and the android’s claustrophobic reaction to that was one of the causes of the Vision’s panic attacks in Dormammu’s quicksand and sealed inside Kang’s Macrobot.
Next the Vision is shown his past self’s traumatic experience being trapped by gangsters in a swimming pool which doused his flames, the half-remembered moment that caused his panic at Taurus’ swimming pool. The Staff’s Siri voice tells the Vision they are now journeying on to later years. (More next time.)
Back in Vietnam the glowing, shimmering figure disguised as an all-green version of the dead Swordsman is still remaining out of sight with the mysterious Hooded One. That hooded figure wears the robes of the supposedly extinct Priests of Pama and had been observing Mantis and the other Avengers in Vietnam.
A recap would be no quicker than a word-for-word look at their dialogue:
Green Swordsman: You must not pace so, my friend. Moon Dragon has all but arrived on this planet and Mantis is beginning her instruction in the history of the universe. The plan is as sound as ever.
Hooded One: (impatiently) I know, I know but despite all my training by the Priests of Pama I am yet a man of the Western World. It’s all so intricate, coming together at so many different points from so many different directions! If one little thing goes wrong …
Gr Sw: (interrupting) NOTHING will go wrong.
H O: So you keep saying, dammit, but (The Hooded One now pulls back their hood, at last revealing that he is LIBRA, Mantis’ father) Mantis is my only daughter!
Back with Mantis, Thor, Iron Man and Hawkeye. Their Synchro-Staff’s Siri voice is now informing them that they have arrived in space around the Kree home planet of Hala, in what the Kree would come to call Kree Year Zero because of its momentous events.
Mantis can empathically sense two races on Hala, one of which she says is definitely the Kree. We are shown the primitive and barbaric ancient Kree fighting other-worldly versions of dinosaurs with spears and similar sights.
They are already very war-like and their leader is a Kree named Morag. The other race on Hala turn out to be intelligent and mobile plant-like people called the Cotati. The Cotati communicate telepathically and avoid the Kree. For their part the Kree are obsessively carnivorous and ignore plants completely.
From out of the skies above a spaceship flies into view and lands on Hala, attracting curious crowds of Kree and Cotati. The door to the spaceship opens and a few Skrulls emerge to address the curious gathering. Our observing heroes are shocked to learn that the Skrulls are so much more scientifically advanced than the Kree, given the way they are still waging war on each other to this very day.
Dorrek, the Emperor of the Skrulls at that time, addresses the Kree and the Cotati. The Skrulls, as it turns out, run a multi-planet version of the Federation but without the Prime Directive. The Skrulls offer all inhabited worlds they discover a choice: they will share their advanced technology with the planet in exchange for submission and access to the planet’s resources. All parties involved can then prosper.
The Skrulls further state that they have learned to avoid divisiveness and resentment if there is more than one intelligent species on a given world. Since Hala has both the Kree and the Cotati, the Skrulls will employ their usual method to decide WHICH intelligent species will represent Hala in their federation.
That method: a contest. A group of Kree and a group of the Cotati will be taken to separate dead worlds and provided with ample supplies and technology by the Skrulls. At the end of a Skrullian Year the group which has done the most with the resources at their disposal will represent Hala.
The Cotati immediately accept. The Kree distrust the aliens and take the rest of the day and night to consider the offer. Morag, the Kree leader, can see no graceful way of declining to participate without losing face, so at last they agree to the Skrulls’ proposal, too.
The Skrulls take seventeen Cotati to their designated experimental world and then do the same with seventeen Kree (seventeen is a round number in Skrullian math). Our observing heroes are again surprised, this time by the realization that the Skrulls are really going through with it and weren’t just pulling some trick.
Their surprise at that realization pales to their shock when they see that the “dead” body that the Kree have been left on is Earth’s moon. The Skrulls tell the Kree party to ignore the planet below them, since any life on it is in far too primitive a state to even walk upright yet. Like they did for the Cotati, the Skrulls provided the Kree with an artificial environment and flew off, leaving them to their task.
After a Skrullian year is over the Kree have constructed what our heroes recognize as the Watcher Uatu’s blue city, but in pristine condition, not the ruins it lies in today. So this is ANOTHER big revelation for hardcore Marvel fans of the time. (And for X-Men fans that city on the moon is where the battle between them and the Imperial Guard took place at the end of The Dark Phoenix Saga.)
The Skrulls are impressed with the city but when the Kree party return to Hala they discover they are disgraced because the Cotati were judged to have won the contest with THEIR accomplishment. The Cotati used their abilities to turn their dead world into a lush paradise with a lot of plant life which then helped form an atmosphere of the planet’s OWN.
The Skrulls naturally recognized this as a greater accomplishment since it leaves the world in ideal shape to be resettled. Overnight Morag and the Kree stew over this disappointment, then decide to go under cover of darkness and, brandishing their primitive weapons, commit genocide on the Cotati, leaving none alive.
The next morning Morag and the Kree greet the Skrulls with the news that they have solved the problem of representation for Hala in their federation by killing all of their competition. The Skrulls are outraged by this and vow to never again interact with Hala on any level.
The angry Morag then leads his barbarian horde in slaughtering the Skrulls. Hawkeye makes a heated remark about how crazy the Kree are, but in a remark which will add meaning to the ultimate revelations about the Celestial Madonna in a few issues, the Synchro-Staff replies “I won’t debate the point with you, Hawkeye, but I will ask you this: if we were observing the history of humans would we find any less insanity?”
When the massacre is over Morag declares they will use what they learned from the Skrull’s construction technology that they used on Earth’s moon to try to fathom the space ship they now have.
It took decades but the Kree eventually mastered interstellar space travel and attacked an outpost world of the Skrulls, wiping out all the inhabitants. The Skrulls then renounced pacifism and declared war on the Kree, kicking off their ancient struggle against each other.
Mantis does not understand what any of this has to do with her but the Synchro-Staff says that patience is required. All will become clear soon.
JUST THREE MORE PARTS LEFT IN THIS STORY. FOR THE 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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