FOR PART 1 OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF MARVEL’S SUPERHEROINE MANTIS CLICK HERE
THE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 135 ( May 1975) The Torch Is Passed
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 TORCH IS PASSED
Synopsis: Given the far more important storyline involving Mantis I’d have gone with the title hinted at in last issue’s cliffhanger ending: THE COMING OF THE CELESTIAL MADONNA. Instead they went with this cutesy play on words regarding how Ultron transformed the Original Human (android) Torch into the Vision.
Anyway, we’ll move along to the universe-shaking events taking place at the Pama Temple in Vietnam in a few minutes. This installment starts off with the Vision and his Synchro-Staff observing long-ago events where we left them.
The laboratory where the “dead” android Human Torch of the World War 2 era is lying on a slab was just broken into by the Avengers’ archenemy Ultron. Back then he was still numbering his iterations so he was technically going by Ultron-5 when he crafted the Vision.
Courtesy of Immortus’ Synchro-Staff, the phantom-like time-traveler called the Vision continues observing how events played out years earlier. When necessary the Synchro-Staff’s robotic Siri voice provides added details for the Vision’s edification.
Ultron examines the slain android form of the Original Torch. He makes it clear that the Mad Thinker was responsible for providing the villain with the information that the Torch’s android body was still lying undisturbed in his (The Mad Thinker’s) abandoned laboratory.
After a recap of Ultron’s own creation by Dr Hank Pym (aka Ant Man aka Giant Man aka Goliath aka Yellow Jacket) Ultron expresses his desire to create a “son” of his own. A son who will help him kill his hated foes the Avengers. Ultron picks up the dead form of the Original Torch and departs for his own secret lair.
BACK TO: The Pama Temple in Vietnam. Mantis, Thor, Iron Man and Hawkeye are where we left them: in the temple garden where they buried the Swordsman after he was slain in battle by Kang the Conqueror.
Facing them are Mantis’ criminal father Libra wearing the robes of the Priests of Pama (yes, he was the Hooded One spying on the Avengers in the capital city) and an as-yet unnamed being disguised as a glowing, shimmering all-green version of the dead Swordsman.
The Synchro-Staff that had been used by Mantis, Thor, Iron Man and Hawkeye deposited them here in the garden mere moments ago after the revelation that the short trees beside the Swordsman’s grave are really members of the Cotati race, long thought extinct.
Those Cotati beings were brought to the Earth from the Kree home planet of Hala untold thousands of years ago by Son-Dar and his wife Teress, a Priest and Priestess of Pama. This happened during the Pama Diaspora following their first encounter with the Star Stalker.
These Cotati, undetected by the Avengers (even Mantis) subtly used their telepathic abilities to “help” our heroes select this exact spot for the Swordsman’s grave. Mantis’ empathic powers have let her realize the Green Swordsman is NOT a revenant of her dead lover but an entirely different being assuming his general form.
Mantis has plenty of questions, feeling manipulated and insulted by the form adopted by the green being, who speaks in odd syntax similar to her own. This Green Swordsman again tells Mantis that today at long last marks the Coming of the Celestial Madonna.
Mantis demands answers from Libra but he says it is not yet time for final answers because they must await the arrival of one other. That “other” figure arrives just then. It is Moon Dragon in her spaceship. She has arrived following her defeat by the mysteriously sinister Scarlet Witch at Avengers Mansion. (Answers about Wanda are coming, too.)
The Green Swordsman, speaking in an unearthly voice, leads the gathered Avengers through a refresher on the odd parallels between Moon Dragon, Mantis and – to a lesser degree – the Scarlet Witch (Wanda). All were being considered as candidates to fulfill the role of the Celestial Madonna … since birth.
Mantis and Moon Dragon were even born at the exact same moment in different parts of the world. (Wanda was born a few years earlier.) All three found themselves being taken under the guidance and protection of higher powers when they were babies: Mantis by the Priests of Pama, Moon Dragon by the Eternals of Titan and the Scarlet Witch by the High Evolutionary.
All three mastered very esoteric disciplines, but Wanda’s mastery – under Agatha Harkness’ guidance – came only recently since the High Evolutionary was distracted by his other experiments as usual and neglected Wanda’s early training.
All three led unusual, danger-filled lives. All three were recently reunited with their long-lost fathers under very stressful circumstances full of emotional turmoil.
And all three even experienced emotional complications from a romantic triangle: Mantis and the Scarlet Witch were involved with the Vision, and Moon Dragon was “the other woman” in the relationship between the Black Widow and Daredevil.
Obviously, Mantis – the candidate put forth by the Priests of Pama – was the one who emerged as the Celestial Madonna herself. And the Celestial Madonna is badly needed.
BACK TO: The Vision, as his Synchro-Staff shows him Ultron’s efforts to overhaul the Original Human Torch’s body and bestow it with different powers. And most especially, to submerge any memories of its former existence as the Torch.
As a cruel inside joke for himself he wants the Vision’s plastoid body to be deep red like flame, as a constant reminder to him (Ultron) of the past life that the Vision will have no clue about.
BACK TO: The Temple Garden – Arriving now to carry on the explanations for Mantis and the others is Immortus, Kang’s future, reformed self and the ruler of Limbo, the realm outside the time-stream. Immortus has teleported himself to the site along with a coffin-shaped box made of Limbo-Stones like his castle.
(As we saw in previous installments those stones are so sturdy that even Thor’s hammer Mjolnir needs several blows just to crack them.)
The Avengers are apprehensive about the purpose of the coffin-shaped box and ask Immortus about it. He replies that its purpose will be revealed at the appropriate time, leaving our heroes pondering if ANOTHER of them will die like the Swordsman a few weeks ago.
Immortus begins to explain how the destinies of his past self Kang, the Celestial Madonna, the Kree and the Cotati came to be intermingled. As the Avengers know from Rama Tut II, another of Kang’s future selves, (think of them as “regenerations” like Time Lords if it helps), the day will come when Kang wearies of pointless conquest and will begin to reevaluate his life.
He will decide to make amends for his warlike ways and for his meddling with the time-stream over the years. He will recall that the most fruitless of his many conflicts was his campaign to possess the Celestial Madonna.
Thus, as we saw several installments back, Kang became Rama Tut II and returned to the undocumented past of Egypt to undo all the anachronistic weaponry and technology he exposed them to as the first Rama Tut. Then he had himself sealed in Rama Tut’s pyramid to be on hand to thwart his younger self’s first attempt to seize the Celestial Madonna, just like he remembered happening as Kang.
After leaving Immortus’ realm of Limbo following the defeat of Kang’s second attempt to take the Celestial Madonna, Rama Tut II went back to 40th Century Earth, which he ruled as Kang. Once there he planned to undo as much of his interference as possible, like he did in ancient Egypt.
Mastering methods of time travel far more advanced than any he had invented as Kang, Rama Tut II rechristened himself Immortus and began to investigate how the 40th Century would have turned out if he had never come there from the 30th and conquered it.
He did this by way of early versions of his Synchro-Staffs, designed to let him observe alternate time-lines which never came into being. As one of the Synchro-Staffs informed us two installments back, Immortus found that untangling all the threads and potential paradoxes caused by his younger self (Kang) would not be easy, nor even possible.
Too many events that his time-meddling influenced resulted in historical paths which impacted so many other events Butterfly-Effect style that even greater disasters would befall the entire universe if he undid EVERYTHING his past self caused to go awry.
Part of that had to do with the actions he remembered taking as Kang AFTER the end of all his attempts to possess the Celestial Madonna. Bitter and frustrated at being defeated by the efforts of his own future selves (Rama Tut II and Immortus), Kang lost himself in more wars of conquest.
With Earth long under his domination the Conqueror reached out to the Kree and Skrull Empires in the Milky Way Galaxy. It took years but he conquered the untold number of planets ruled by those two rival races. (NOTE: Long after this, in the pages of the X-Men, it was revealed that Kang even tried to conquer the Shi’ar Empire but was stopped by the time-travelling X-Men.)
With so much alteration in the way things would have been if Kang had never interfered in ANY century, Immortus realized that the entire time-space continuum was imperiled.
Above all, ONE pivotal event MUST unfold with Kang’s interference being thwarted: that event was the fulfillment of the Celestial Madonna and the way in which her offspring would preserve the universe – plus all of space-time itself.
And on that tantalizing note it’s BACK TO: Avengers Mansion on Earth. The Madonna Star still shines overhead. The assembled crowds still fear that it means the End of the World is near, and the Scarlet Witch is still holed up in the room of the sorceress Agatha Harkness, being instructed in true magic.
The butler Jarvis is worried about Wanda’s mental state, what with her possessed voice on one recent occasion, her refusal to accompany Moon Dragon to Vietnam to search for the other Avengers and her savage defeat of Moon Dragon.
He pretends to offer her and Miss Harkness some refreshments as a cover to nose around. When he knocks, the door simply swings open, revealing a dark and empty room. Demonic male laughter is heard, filling Jarvis with alarm.
BACK TO: The Vision and his Synchro-Staff. The Vision gets to observe Ultron applying the final touches to the transformed Original Torch. The villain uses the mental patterns of the dead supervillain Wonder Man (which the Avengers had measured while studying him when he was alive) as the basis of the Vision’s NEW artificial intelligence.
This is similar to how Hank Pym used his OWN mental patterns as a basis for Ultron’s artificial intelligence. With his creation complete, the Vision expresses how contented this odd journey has made him. He has higher self-esteem and relishes the heritage of his former life as the Torch during World War Two.
Suddenly, HIS Synchro-Staff vanishes, like with Mantis and the others at the end of last issue, and the Vision finds himself in the center of the Earth, in a mystic cave created by … the re-birthing DORMAMMU!
It is at last revealed that the Dark God Dormammu is the entity behind the Scarlet Witch’s recent odd behavior and he has her and Agatha Harkness at his mercy. He clearly wants revenge on Wanda for her role in defeating him when he fought the Avengers and Defenders during the Evil Eye story.
SO ON THAT COSMOS-THREATENING CLIFFHANGER THIS CHAPTER COMES TO AN END.
I’LL COVER THE GRAND FINALE NEXT TIME AROUND, AS OUR HEROES FACE DORMAMMU AND THE RETURN OF KANG THE CONQUEROR FOR HIS FINAL ATTEMPT TO SEIZE THE CELESTIAL MADONNA, PLUS ALL REMAINING QUESTIONS WILL BE ANSWERED. +++
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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