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GIANT-SIZE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 4 (May, 1975) … Let All Men Bring Together
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)
… LET ALL MEN BRING TOGETHER
Synopsis: First, an explanation of the title of this final chapter of the Celestial Madonna Saga. You’ll note this concluding installment was featured in Giant-Size Avengers #4, with the Giant-Size issues being the ones published quarterly.
The title to the story in Giant-Size Avengers #3, the previous one, as our heroes fought Kang’s Legion of the Unliving, was What Time Hath Put Asunder … So, even though three parts of this continuing story came between THAT Giant-Size issue and this one, the combined title is a play on the marriage ceremony’s words “Whom God hath joined together … Let no man put asunder.”
Here, it becomes “What time hath put asunder … Let all men bring together” referring to the Double Wedding in this final chapter as well as the “Timey-Wimey” convolutions the story has taken on its way here. (Especially Immortus’ effort to put right some of the chaos his younger self Kang caused in the space-time continuum.)
We join the Vision where we left him: in the center of the Earth in a mystical cave created as an artificial “womb” for the re-birthing Dormammu. As Uatu the Watcher told the Avengers and Defenders when Dormammu was seemingly destroyed by the Evil Eye of Avalon, Dormammu is a god.
He is a Dark God, but still a god, and the worship accorded him by all the lesser inhabitants of the Dark Dimension (Dormammu’s home universe) would gradually restore him. The Dread Dormammu is not yet back to full strength but he was sufficiently reborn to move from merely controlling the Scarlet Witch to capturing her and the sorceress Agatha Harkness, her tutor.
Meanwhile, at the Pama Temple Garden in Vietnam, MANTIS, Thor, Iron Man, Hawkeye and Moon Dragon have learned the answers to many of the mysteries surrounding the Celestial Madonna.
Those answers were provided by Immortus (Kang the Conqueror’s future, reformed self), by the mysterious glowing, shimmering being disguised as an all-green version of the slain Avenger called the Swordsman and by Mantis’ criminal father – Libra, now wearing the robes of the supposedly extinct Priests of Pama.
Moon Dragon, Mantis and the Scarlet Witch, almost since birth had been candidates to become the Celestial Madonna, completely unknown to themselves. The Scarlet Witch was the candidate put forward by the High Evolutionary, Moon Dragon was the candidate put forward by the Eternals of Titan and Mantis was the candidate put forward by the Priests of Pama.
Mantis emerged as the most qualified, after all three ladies were secretly studied their entire lives and subjected to multiple similar stimuli.
The final step in her maturation process came as her hubris was turned to humility when the Vision (finally) rejected Mantis’ attempt to steal him from his true love, the Scarlet Witch. Having her (Mantis’) ego put in check like that after her cruel treatment of her lover the Swordsman was the final necessary life-experience for the Eurasian beauty.
That is why the Madonna Star immediately began shining over Avengers Mansion right after Mantis was rejected by the Vision.
*** SOME READERS HAVE SAID THEY WOULD PREFER BRIEFER BULLETIN POINTS INSTEAD OF MY DETAILED SYNOPSIS AND EXPLANATION OF EACH PLOT DEVELOPMENT, SO I WILL USE THAT APPROACH FROM HERE:
*** The Scarlet Witch’s tutoring by the sorceress Agatha Harkness led to Wanda (the Scarlet Witch) inadvertently catching the attention of the reviving Dormammu, who slowly possessed her, causing her odd behavior over the past few chapters.
*** Dormammu wants revenge on the Scarlet Witch for her prime role in defeating him when he was merging the Dark Dimension with our dimension to side-step his old vow to never again invade Earth’s dimension. He holds her captive now with plans to kill her, then destroy the Avengers and the Earth in the fury of his return to full godly status.
*** Immortus still refuses to explain the purpose of the coffin-shaped stone box he brought with him from Limbo, his realm which exists outside of the time-stream. Thus there is fear in the air that – like the Swordsman – yet another Avenger may die in the multiple conflicts unfolding in this finale.
*** The Titanic Three (Radioactive Man, the Crimson Dynamo and Titanium Man) invade the Temple Garden. They’ve been searching for – and itching for a rematch with – the Avengers ever since the very public disappearance of our heroes when Kang abducted them to Limbo.
*** Kang the Conqueror makes his final, desperate attempt to seize the Celestial Madonna. In his absence he has deduced that Immortus – like Rama Tut II – is another of his future selves and became even more infuriated at the thought that he himself will some day come back in time to thwart his own ambition to rule all time and space through the offspring he plans to have with the Celestial Madonna.
*** The tableau of two older versions of himself ultimately being his most potent enemies in his campaign to possess Mantis gave Kang an idea: multiple versions of himself could also be his most potent ALLIES in this final gambit.
*** To that end Kang went back in time roughly an hour to pair up with his hour-younger self, then those two Kangs went back in time an hour to recruit that still-younger Kang and those three went back in time an hour to recruit a fourth Kang.
*** OR, as it would have seemed in linear time, one Kang – from his point of view – would suddenly be visited and recruited by three of his future selves. One of those three would recount how he was visited and recruited by TWO of his future selves and another would say how he was visited and recruited by just one, hour-older version of himself.
That older version would be the Kang who got the idea to recruit some of his own recent past-selves in the first place. I will say again, to me this examination of so many aspects of time travel is part of the enjoyment of this long-running story.
*** So our heroes – Thor, Iron Man, The Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, The Vision, Mantis and Moon Dragon – now have to contend with FOUR evil Kangs instead of just one.
*** One of those Kangs thoroughly trounces the Titanic Three – an excellent story-telling decision since it helps preserve Kang’s credibility as a menace.
*** The Crimson Dynamo, the villain Iron Man blames for his beloved Janice Cord’s death, has had his armor so damaged by Kang that he’s in danger of dying. Iron Man grapples with his conscience, but in appropriate Good Guy fashion he does the right thing and fixes the Crimson Dynamo’s armor just enough so that he’ll live.
*** The Green Swordsman is really an unnamed member of the plant-like Cotati race disguised to mislead Kang if he saw him, since this Cotati member is to be the Celestial Madonna’s mate. The records must NEVER show her mate’s name. (Back in Bid Tomorrow Goodbye you may remember Kang referring to the way that “no surviving records” say who her husband will be.)
*** This Cotati member was selected from the other Cotati candidates in the garden the same way the Celestial Madonna was: a lifetime of testing. This Cotati, like Mantis herself, transcends his own race and species in control of mind and body. He is, for instance, the first Cotati in untold thousands of years to WALK, instead of remaining permanently rooted to the soil.
*** The violent, bloody history of the Kree Empire was used by Immortus as a microcosm of the tragic path of ALL humanoid or animal life-forms. It also educated Mantis and the others about the history of the Cotati people and the Priests of Pama. The Celestial Madonna and her mate will produce what will – over the course of millions of years – become THE intelligent life-forms in the universe.
Their combination of active animal principles with the passive plant principles and mind abilities of the Cotati will enable them to accomplish greatness that we mere humans cannot even comprehend.
The union of the Celestial Madonna and her mate is as pivotal a turning point in the universe as was the moment when the first forms of life on Earth emerged from the Primordial Soup. It was not that immediate moment which was the most significant, but WHAT WOULD COME OVER MILLIONS OF YEARS.
Without the multiple new species that will be produced from their union the future would end only in destruction. The animal and the plant, male and female, the yin and the yang, or the active and the passive must be transcended so simplistic dualism can no longer limit future life-forms.
So, for a fun comparison, think of the final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, titled All Good Things Must Come To An End. Just as Picard had to fight across time and space to ensure that humanity’s existence did NOT get negated through the prevention of life emerging from the Primordial Soup, so Immortus and the Avengers were fighting to prevent Kang from negating the existence of the new life forms to come from the Celestial Madonna and her mate.
*** Mantis’ descendants WILL literally “inherit the universe” and their “gifts/ technology” will give them mastery over time and space but NOT in the way Kang the Conqueror mistakenly thought.
*** In his characteristic military-mindedness Kang took the poetic references to the Celestial Madonna too LITERALLY, and believed her offspring – beginning with a first-born son – would be the most powerful in the universe and would control all time and space the only way he himself could conceive: through conquest and domination. As we’ve seen, the opposite is true.
*** Dormammu, luckily still not back to full strength, is defeated. Just like last time around the Scarlet Witch is the Avenger most responsible for that defeat, adding to Dormammu’s hatred of her.
*** Our heroes defeat three of the multiple Kangs.
*** The “last Kang standing” of the four Kangs on hand succeeds at taking Mantis from the Avengers and Immortus and returns to the 40th Century with her. Only then does Kang – and us readers – learn that at the last minute before Kang grabbed Mantis, Immortus had his servant the Space Phantom assume Mantis’ form, thus banishing her temporarily to Limbo.
*** Back at the Temple Garden in Vietnam Immortus at last reveals the purpose of the coffin-sized stone box he brought with him last chapter. It is a portal to his realm of Limbo, and Mantis is now released from it, rejoining her friends in the Garden.
*** With Mantis out, the Space Phantom reverts to his usual form. An infuriated Kang realizes he’s been tricked out of his last chance to seize the Celestial Madonna. With Mantis out of Limbo the Space Phantom automatically returns there. (Since Limbo exists outside the time-stream it makes no difference that the Space Phantom returns there from the 40th Century instead of the 20th.)
NOTE: The Space Phantom was a foe of the Avengers beginning with their 2nd issue in 1963. As mentioned above, he could take the form of any other being but by doing so, it caused the being that was getting impersonated to be stuck in Limbo while the Space Phantom wreaked havoc in their form.
Over the years the Space Phantom fought the Avengers again, but the references to “Limbo” were never elaborated on. This may be a story element which ONLY hardcore Marvel fans would find cool but this story is apparently the very first time it was established that the Space Phantom’s “Limbo” is the Limbo that Immortus rules.
It’s a retcon with purely Meta appeal, just like the way the creative team revived Immortus from his lone previous appearance in The Avengers # 10 back in 1964 and made him turn out to be Kang’s future self.
*** The Avengers are surprised but delighted at this revelation that the Space Phantom’s Limbo and Immortus’ realm are one and the same.
*** In a rare quiet moment amid all this chaos the Vision at last gets his chance to tell the Scarlet Witch what he was trying to tell her the night Agatha Harkness first started tutoring her. He discusses his deep love for her and ONLY her and the two decide to marry.
*** Agatha Harkness, as we now know, wasn’t being a jerk the night that she prevented the Vision from telling the Scarlet Witch the truth about his feelings. Per the prompting she had secretly received from Immortus, Agatha knew that the emotional impact of the Vision unbaring his soul about his feelings for Wanda would be needed at just the right moment to help her break free from Dormammu’s control.
*** It turns out Immortus was the one who recruited Agatha Harkness and briefed her EVEN BEFORE the wedding of Quicksilver and Crystal at the Great Refuge. The ruler of Limbo held a certain claim on Agatha’s loyalties as a descendant of the Reed Richards family line (Nathaniel Richards aka Kang aka Immortus is descended from both Victor Von Doom’s AND Reed Richards’ bloodlines).
*** Immortus, both a monarch and clergyman of sorts, performs a double ceremony, joining Mantis to her Cotati mate and joining the Scarlet Witch to the Vision. Libra is on hand both because he is Mantis’ father AND because he is standing in for the extinct Priests of Pama on Earth, all slain by Mantis’ uncle on her mother’s side months ago.
*** After the ceremony the Celestial Madonna Mantis and her mate use their total bodily control to transcend the physical plane and transport themselves off into space. It’s like the way Ilea and Decker teleport away at the end of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but obviously this 1975 comic book story came first.
*** Agatha Harkness, Libra and the remaining Avengers – Thor, Iron Man, the Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, the Vision and Moon Dragon – continue gazing up at the stars long after the Celestial Madonna and her mate have left, soaking in some of the wonders they’ve witnessed and experienced in this complex adventure.
*** Immortus returns to Limbo. And hell, even if you were inclined to sympathize with Kang, there’s no need to, since he himself ultimately repents and becomes Immortus. He even PERFORMS THE CEREMONY MARRYING THE CELESTIAL MADONNA TO HER MATE!
And given his various selves’ role in the creation of the Original Human (android) Torch and thus the Vision, it’s appropriate that he presided over the Vision’s wedding, too.
*** For obvious reasons this was a landmark Marvel saga and it’s easy to remember when it happened in their history: immediately before Chris Claremont’s X-Men run at Marvel Comics began.
Right after the Celestial Madonna story in The Avengers, the Beast left the X-Men to become an Avenger because at around the same time in 1975 Giant-Size X-Men #1 launched the NEW X-Men lineup of Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Banshee, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Thunderbird and Sunfire.
Sorry to go O Henry on you with a twist here at the end but the sad thing is, I agreed to reader suggestions for the bullet points synopsis this time because much of the writing and art for this finale issue was WAY below average for 1970s Marvel.
And much of what happened had to be gleaned from answers in the letters pages as writers and editors clarified certain aspects of the story and what it all meant. Hell, the only reason I know about them is from buying the actual back-issues, and not from archived collections, since those archived collections don’t reprint the letters pages.
NOTE: The archived editions also don’t reproduce the COLOR of the actual back-issues which is why I buy them… plus the period advertisements, which always make me laugh!
I also had to do what I normally avoid – added info from sequel stories done years later. In this case the way the original Human Torch was created with anachronistic tech that Kang accidentally left behind after his defeat as Professor Timely. And the X-Men story where they save the future Shi’Ar Empire from Kang.
ANYWAY, THIS WAS A LOT OF FUN. NEXT SUMMER I’LL DO ANOTHER LOOK AT A MARVEL SAGA FROM LONG AGO. MAYBE THE KREE-SKRULL WAR OR ADAM WARLOCK’S ORIGINAL CLASH WITH THE MAGUS.
*** LINGERING QUESTIONS? ***
“WHY DID AGATHA HARKNESS TRUST IMMORTUS AND WHY WAS IT NECESSARY FOR HER TO TUTOR THE SCARLET WITCH IN MAGIC?” *** After everything Immortus predicted would happen at Crystal and Quicksilver’s wedding really did come true, Agatha knew he was on the level. She took the Scarlet Witch as her pupil because he told her it is something which would have happened years earlier if not for Kang’s meddling in the timeline.
What is meant by that? Remember, as we learned several installments back, Kang’s time-meddling indirectly wound up causing the creation of the original (Android) Human Torch in 1939 and through him the Vision, if Kang had never started mucking around with time the Scarlet Witch would never have met and fallen in love with the Vision, who wouldn’t have even existed.
Presumably at around that time she would have drifted under Agatha Harkness’ tutelage. Immortus prompting Agatha to take Wanda under her wing was part of his attempts to restore events to the way they would have been if not for his younger self Kang’s interference. At least, as much as possible.
“WHY JUST FOUR KANGS?” NOTE: Letters-pages in these old, old comic books often give the creative team a chance to clarify elements of the storyline in answer to questions from fans. Those questions and explanations filled in a lot of the gaps for me, so if you research issues this old or older try to get the originals (if you have mad money to blow).
The archived editions don’t include the letters pages, so they’re missing a lot of the back-story I’m providing. It makes a big difference.
Part of that back-story comes from a fan question written AFTER this particular issue came out. “Why did Kang just round up a group of 4 of his recent past-selves instead of more?” Ultimately the answer I liked the best involved another in-universe staple of the Marvel Universe: what came to be called the Vance Astro Factor.
That Factor was a fictional aspect of the “physics” of time travel science in Marvel Comics. This Kang story was out just a few months before Marvel would use it in regard to Vance Astro but the factor came to be named for him: If two versions of one person – an older and younger self – are in close proximity for several hours, the paradox will result in the Earth slowly grinding to a halt on its axis, destroying the world.
The Defenders Vol 1 #26 applied this to Vance Astro, who had come back in time and was hanging around with his little boy self. At any rate, if 3 time-travelling versions of the same person were present at the same time the halt of the Earth’s axis would come that much faster. Add a 4th and it would be faster still.
Now add in the fact that Kang had deduced that Immortus was ALSO another version of himself. So, with the four evil Kangs AND Immortus, the future “good” Kang, there were actually FIVE Kangs on hand. This meant the evil Kangs had just barely one hour before the destructive halting of Earth’s axis.
If Kang had come back with any MORE versions of himself he would have had even LESS time to attack the Avengers and Immortus and try to seize Mantis.
So, I find it kind of cool to picture it as Kang’s kamikaze plan to either succeed at possessing the Celestial Madonna or die with the Earth, Immortus and the Avengers in a blaze of glory. Kang would likely prefer to die anyway, rather than live to see himself become a hero. (See what I did there?)
As it turned out, he THOUGHT he succeeded in getting Mantis and so returned to the 40th Century. With the hour up, all his other selves would have faded, too, so in the actual event only ONE Kang – Immortus – was left at the Temple Garden, preventing the Earth from halting on its axis. Whew! Did someone say “Timey-Wimey” again?
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