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THE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 134 ( April 1975) The Times That Bind
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)
THE TIMES THAT BIND
Synopsis: MANTIS, Thor, Iron Man and Hawkeye, still traveling through time courtesy of Immortus (another of Kang’s future selves), are informed by their Synchro-Staff’s robotic female Siri voice that they are nearing another important point in the tale of the Celestial Madonna.
In the previous installment the Avengers were shown the “senses-shattering” origin of the Kree-Skrull War millennia ago. Since then the two races have battled across thousands of worlds – even the Earth – forever expanding their empires.
The Synchro-Staff now shows its passengers the Kree home planet of Hala in the Kree Year 476 (last time around we learned that Kree Year Zero was the year of First Contact with the Skrulls). Here in 476 those Kree dissidents who want nothing to do with the “all-conquest, all the time” nature of their race’s Empire have drawn together in their own sub-culture.
That sub-culture of Pacifist Kree – as the Star Stalker told the Avengers when they battled him – formed the order called the Priests of Pama. Now our heroes are about to learn those pieces of the story that Mantis’ father Libra withheld from them.
As pacifists, the Pama sect, which includes both males and females, were ostracized and oppressed by the main Kree culture which viewed them as cowards. Out of the need for self-defense the Pama sect – which disdained weapons – began developing their alien martial arts. It took hundreds of years but the Pacifist Kree eventually reached the point where their discipline’s fighting prowess was superhuman.
Just as an Earthly human body can split boards and bricks and such thanks to martial arts training this extraterrestrial form of those disciplines enabled a humanoid body to do far more damage. (Which answered the question of how Mantis’ use of Pama martial arts enabled her to defeat Thor and Captain America way back in her first appearance.)
Decades later, in the slums where the outcast Pacifist Kree were condemned to live, their meditations were interrupted by an insistent telepathic summons. They tried to ignore it, fearing a trick of the Imperial Kree, but in the end the summons would not go away.
The Pacifist Kree at last gave in and followed the summons to an ancient ruin deep within the slums. Inside that structure the pacifists saw that they had been summoned by members of the plant-like Cotati race, which was presumed wiped out by the Kree militarists in Year Zero.
These Cotati explain that when their ancestors were murdered by the Kree warriors those ancestors – whom the Kree had previously ignored as irrelevant life forms – passed their internal seed pods. Those seed pods took root and grew into a new generation of Cotati.
The Kree were so preoccupied with trying to comprehend and reverse-engineer the Skrull spaceship they had seized that they paid no attention to the emerging Cotati. When the new generation was old enough to walk they hid themselves in the ancient ruin which was now part of the slums in Hala’s capital city.
The Cotati realized that their race’s dedication to serene meditation and contemplation would always leave them at the mercy of aggressive animal life-forms like the humanoid Kree. So, to conceal themselves forever amid other forms of plant-life the Cotati nudged their own evolution along.
The end result of that “nudge” in their evolution let them pull off that concealment by abandoning all movement and forming permanent roots in the soil. Thus in the past several centuries they had evolved to their current immobile state. (Yes, I know evolution doesn’t really happen in just hundreds of years but this is just science fiction about a non-existent race of intelligent plant-like beings.)
The Cotati knew that, eventually, some of the Kree would see similar universal truths about existence and pacifism that the Cotati themselves had long believed in. The Pacifist Kree are those people.
An alliance is formed: the Pacifist Kree will keep the Cotati’s existence a secret and look after the plant-beings as if merely raising garden groves of trees. This will allow the numbers of the Cotati to expand beyond the mere dozen or so survivors they are limited to right now.
In return the Cotati will tutor the Pacifist Kree in their ways of meditation and mastery of the mind. They will also share their knowledge of the universe, knowledge which their telepathic powers has opened up to them.
CUT NOW: Back to the separate quadrant of the time-stream in which the Vision, with HIS Synchro-Staff, is still traveling in time. His staff’s robotic Siri voice has been instructing him on the early years of his previous self: the Original Human (android) Torch.
Last time around the Vision learned how the Torch’s traumatic experiences of being buried in concrete and later imprisoned in a pool of water surfaced as half-remembered “past life” or “deja vu” experiences in the Vision’s mind, causing his panic attacks in Dormammu’s quicksand, Taurus’ pool and inside Kang the Conqueror’s Macrobot.
This time around the Synchro-Staff shows the Vision highlights of the Original Human (android) Torch’s career fighting the Axis nations in World War Two alongside other superheroes like the Sub-Mariner, Captain America, the Whizzer and Miss America.
And yes, ironically he would serve alongside the original Captain America AGAIN as the Vision in the Avengers, with neither of them suspecting Vizh’s TRUE nature as an upgraded version of the Torch’s android body.
Eventually as the Cold War Era came along the Torch fell into a trap laid by Communist Agents in the U.S. The agents used a special chemical weapon called Solution X-R, which paralyzed the Torch and put his entire form into a type of stasis. They then buried him alive in the American deserts of the Southwest.
The years spent buried alive have also contributed to the Vision’s panic attacks and deja vu experiences. Eventually atomic bomb tests in the desert happened to free the Torch and restore all movement and his fiery powers. From there the Original Human Torch returned to crime-fighting heroics and public acclaim.
The Vision notes how the Original Torch’s human appearance and mannerisms made him beloved and accepted by the world in a way that his own “weird” appearance and mannerisms has always denied him. Yet he is happy for his past self.
Eventually, however, the radiation which had revived the Torch also caused his metabolism to start to malfunction. Realizing he was becoming a danger to human life the Torch returned to the American deserts to be alone if disaster struck. Soon he burned out, figuratively “going nova” like a star.
The Vision is in pain, able to remember THAT moment, too. Immortus’ Synchro-Staff advises him not to dwell on the pain as they move on to later years.
BACK TO: Mantis, Thor, Iron Man and Hawkeye. Their Synchro-Staff now shows them the capital city of Hala in the 600s by Kree Years. The Pacifist Kree have flourished into a philosophical school of thought and have rechristened themselves the Pama Priesthood.
Though still relegated to the slums they now repair those slums into modest temples for themselves. The Cotati still secretly coexist with them but their numbers, too, have grown.
Eventually the Kree militarists feel suspicious enough of the Priests of Pama that they raid their temples, pretending to be “concerned citizens” upset about the priesthood’s weird ways. The vigilante mob is armed and manages to kill a few priests and priestesses but the Pama Martial Arts let the pacifists defend themselves quite well.
The mob is defeated, but not killed of course. The subsequent public outcry and the Kree militarists’ embarrassment at being beaten by people they despise is great. This scandalous situation gives the Kree Supreme Intelligence his excuse to take action against the Priests of Pama.
That artificial intelligence (The Supreme Intelligence) which rules the Kree Empire exiles the Pama sect to a barren prison planet so far away from its sun that it was never truly light out. The planet only remained warm enough to support various life-forms because of its massive internal heat.
The male and female Priests of Pama had covertly said their goodbyes to the hidden Cotati. Secret irrigation systems they had set up would keep the Cotati alive but the departing priests feel let down by the Cotati, despite the telepathic assurance that the plant beings WILL save them from their exile in some way.
The Priests of Pama were understandably filled with even more doubt as they were herded aboard a spaceship by a mocking crowd and by jeering soldiers. When they were abandoned on their dark prison planet the departing soldiers even mocked them by asking if they would build a great city, like their shared Kree ancestors did on Earth’s moon long ago. (The city that became home to Uatu the Watcher. See last installment.)
And so it was that the Cotati telepathically SUMMONED the Star Stalker to the prison planet of the Priests of Pama. He did NOT just chance upon it in his interstellar wanderings like he had supposed.
At any rate he announced his intention to destroy that world but the Pacifist Kree simply stood by and did nothing.
Realizing he had nothing to fear from them the Star Stalker spun a cocoon around himself, the cocoon he uses to transform from the tougher, more resilient form that he uses to traverse the stars into a body made up of almost pure ionic energy. After his incubation period he emerged from the chrysalis, and in his ionic form – which looks just like his regular form but is mostly energy – began feeding upon the planet.
The Pama sect eventually realized they faced total annihilation if they did not stop him. Since their beliefs provided for self-defense they acted together to drive him off. They did that by using their Pama Martial Arts blows to literally crack open enough of the ground to let the near lava erupt, with the heat driving away the Star Stalker.
BACK ON EARTH: Moon Dragon, in her spaceship, lands atop Avengers Mansion and uses her mental abilities to de-activate the Avengers’ various alarm systems. As we saw last time around Moon Dragon has come out of curiosity over the repeated radio summons for the Kree Avenger Captain Marvel.
The Avengers began that broadcast in Vietnam, hoping that the Captain’s Kree background meant he could provide some answers on the Priests of Pama. Moon Dragon – whose life paralleled Mantis’ in strange ways that have yet to be explained (but WILL be next time) – notices the shining Madonna Star over Avengers Mansion.
It was not visible from space, which puzzles Moon Dragon. As we readers know the star signaled the fulfillment of the Celestial Madonna and tied her appearance to this particular building – Avengers Mansion. Crowds still line the streets and sidewalks below amid rumors that the star heralds the end of the world.
Moon Dragon mentally forces the Avengers’ private elevator to take her from the roof down to the residential section of the mansion where she greets Jarvis, the butler. She tells him why she came there and he fills her in on the various problems of the moment, including the Avengers’ very public disappearance from Vietnam when Kang abducted them to Limbo.
Jarvis is in the middle of telling Moon Dragon about the oddly possessed way that the Scarlet Witch has been behaving over the time she has been locked away with the sorceress Agatha Harkness. Agatha has been tutoring the Scarlet Witch.
Wanda (The Scarlet Witch) arrives in the middle of Jarvis’ remarks, more crazy-seeming than ever but at least speaking with a voice a bit more like her normal one this time. She nastily chews out Jarvis for his “servants’ gossip” and threatens to fire him … or worse.
Moon Dragon invites the Scarlet Witch to come with her to Vietnam to investigate the disappearance of the other Avengers. Wanda replies that the Avengers mean nothing to her now that she has Agatha Harkness at her side. She tells Moon Dragon to go to Vietnam alone “and good riddance.”
Moon Dragon can tell this is a much different Scarlet Witch from the one she encountered during the Thanos War and tries to probe her mind. With her new abilities Wanda senses the attempt and evades it.
The fight is on between Moon Dragon and the Scarlet Witch. Given her new, enhanced command of her hex-powers, Wanda wins it in harsh, brutal fashion then sinisterly follows Agatha Harkness back to Agatha’s temporary quarters to resume her training. Jarvis tends to the fallen Moon Dragon.
BACK TO: The Vision and his Synchro-Staff. He is shown the time when – long years AFTER the Original Torch “went nova” the Fantastic Four’s enemy called the Mad Thinker spent months trying to locate him. The Mad Thinker specializes in androids so he wanted to study the Torch since he was the very first one.
At last he finds him and takes his body to his secret underground lab. The Mad Thinker repairs the Torch and programs him to kill the NEW Human Torch – Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four. The villain lures the New Human Torch into his clutches and pits the two Human Torches against each other.
This much of the story the Vision is familiar with, since the Fantastic Four reported it to the Avengers for their shared intelligence files. He tells the Synchro-Staff that this odyssey through his past self’s existence has filled him with a certain contentment and pride.
The Mad Thinker blasts the Original Human Torch to “death” for failing to kill the Johnny Storm Human Torch, the moment when Kang temporarily plucked the android Torch from the time-stream to serve in his Legion of the Unliving.
Naturally the naked eye cannot detect the nano-second in which the Original Torch disappears and reappears, but the Vision watches the scene unfold as the Mad Thinker escapes. The rest of the Fantastic Four had arrived to help Johnny Storm, and Reed Richards – Mister Fantastic – leads his team in mourning the just-destroyed Original Torch.
The Thing places the Torch’s dead body on a slab in the Mad Thinker’s laboratory and Mr Fantastic says a few words over him, closing with the observation that – since this Torch was figuratively “born” in a laboratory then a laboratory makes a fitting final resting place for him.
Time goes by, and at last the Vision witnesses the sight of the abandoned underground laboratory being broken into by the Avengers’ android foe Ultron, setting up a cliffhanger: next time around we’ll get the full story on how he rebuilt the Original Human Torch into the Vision.
BACK TO: MANTIS, Thor, Iron Man and Hawkeye and their tour of history. The Pacifist Kree felt obligated to inform the Supreme Intelligence about the existence of the Star Stalker since entire planets were in danger. The Pama sect proposed that they be permitted to travel in mixed male and female pairs to every life-bearing planet that the Kree knew of so that they could teach their ways and their martial arts to others so that those worlds would know how to defend themselves from the Star Stalker.
The Supreme Intelligence pretended skepticism but was happy to use the Pacifist’s plans as an excuse to exile them permanently, dispatching them throughout the known universe where they would be too scattered to pose any threat to the Empire. The militaristic Kree view all inhabited planets as potential subject-states of their empire, no matter how many millions of years it takes, so preserving such worlds fits their agenda.
The Priests of Pama are allowed to “pack supplies” before they are scattered across the universe. Amid those activities they secretly dig up the Cotati to be re-planted on the various worlds they are sent to. No one but the Priests of Pama know that the Cotati still exist.
Untold thousands of years ago the male and female Pama Priests designated for placement on OUR planet arrived via spaceship in ancient Vietnam at the site of what eventually became Earth’s Temple of the Priests of Pama.
The Kree man – Son-Dar – and Kree woman – Teress – select a spot in the jungle to transplant the five or six Cotati they brought with them. Admiring their handiwork the happy married couple reflect on how contented the long line of little trees will be, growing up nestled near the elder Cotati tree at the head of the line.
Mantis – in shock and alarm – gives voice to what her fellow Avengers are no doubt also noticing. She says: “By the Great Pama! This one saw it coalescing but dared not believe! That garden still exists! THAT is where we buried the Swordsman!” (Hey, I TOLD you readers to remember that line of trees near his burial spot.)
With that, the Synchro-Staff abruptly vanishes. MANTIS, Thor, Iron Man and Hawkeye rematerialize at the modern-day site of that garden in the Pama Temple. Greeting them are Mantis’ father Libra, dressed in the robes of the Priests of Pama just like he was wearing as the mysterious Hooded One spying on the Avengers in Saigon several installments back.
Far more shocking to the four heroes is the sight of the figure standing beside Libra: the glowing being disguised to look like an all-green version of the Swordsman.
The Green Swordsman addresses the Avengers in an otherworldly voice, saying “You have learned the history of the Kree Universe. Now you shall hear the final explanation, for today marks THE COMING OF THE CELESTIAL MADONNA!” +++
JUST TWO MORE INSTALLMENTS LEFT IN THIS STORY!
I’LL COVER THE NEXT ISSUE SOON. KEEP CHECKING BACK FOR UPDATES.
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