Balladeer’s Blog’s summer-long exploration of Marvel Comics’ Celestial Madonna Saga of 1973-1975 wrapped up last Saturday. For a light-hearted “dessert” after that 31-part examination here’s a look at a ONE-ISSUE tie-in from 1977 that Steve Englehart, the writer of much of the Celestial Madonna Saga, wrote for the Justice League of America (as it was then called) at his NEW employers: rival comic book company DC.
So let’s be clear: this is NOT the Celestial Quest that Marvel Comics did DECADES later to bring back the character of Mantis long after she and her Cotati husband had offspring. This was Englehart tongue-in-cheekly presenting the Justice League helping a woman who was CLEARLY supposed to be Mantis – right down to her powers and her repeated tendency to refer to herself as “this one.”
Remember, this was 1977, long before Marvel and DC would do outright crossovers and meetings between their characters on a semi-regular basis. Englehart had to be careful to a certain degree since Mantis was a copyrighted character owned by his previous employers at Marvel.
His way of doing that is often pretty cutesy, like having his Mantis stand-in get interrupted at key moments when she’s about to answer very specific questions about herself and her background.
So relax – this was just a one-shot deal, so no need to commit anything to memory, just smile at Englehart using the Justice League at DC in a tacked-on Celestial Madonna epilogue two years later.
RETURN FROM FOREVER
Synopsis: Aqua-Man, the Atom and Elongated Man are enjoying a quiet moment sailing around off the coast of Georgia. Their relaxation is interrupted by a battle overhead as two spaceships fight and shoot down a third alien craft of exotic design.
The three JLAers spring into action, with the Atom and Elongated Man driving off the intelligent robots in the other two spaceships and Aqua-Man trying to save any passengers on the shot-down – and now sinking – third craft. There is only one passenger: a beautiful woman who says to call her “Willow” to keep her true identity a secret from any deadly forces that may try to trail her around the cosmos.
In a coincidental bit of prescience regarding future depictions of Mantis when Marvel Comics finally brought her back, Willow has GREEN skin. She also has what appear to be antennae peeping out from under her pile of hair.
She has highly attuned empathy with the world around her AND is skilled at an other-worldly version of Martial Arts. Willow formerly “joined” with a mate and transcended normal modes of existence, passing out into space. (Just like Mantis and her Cotati husband after they were wed by Immortus.)
And the sly dance continues! Willow tells the three Justice League members “This one has come from a place she must not name and needs your help.”
The army of robots who shot down her spacecraft are creations and minions of “the Construct” – an artificially intelligent android who seeks to eliminate all plant and animal or humanoid life-forms, not just on Earth, but throughout the entire universe.
This “Construct,” a pastiche AND composite of Avengers foes like Ultron and Thanos, wants a cosmos in which only machines exist. Willow and her “mate” manifested back into physical form in “a” universe but are still joined in one body, hence her green skin color.
Willow/ Her Mate is/ are pregnant with their offspring, the first of new life-forms which will go on to thrive and populate the future universe. (Again, like the Celestial Madonna.)
The Construct knows this is a threat to his plans for a “dead” universe and so has taken to pursuing Willow, intent on killing her before she can give birth.
Just like Mantis would have empathic epiphanies about which Avenger she should accompany she intuits that she should accompany the Atom in his part of the plan to destroy the Construct. At one point amid all the action the Atom even asks Willow point-blank why she didn’t seek help from her previous super-powered comrades that she mentioned.
In the end the Construct is defeated and Willow goes off to an undisclosed location on some plane of existence where she and her Mate will give birth.
The actual story is, unfortunately, fairly dull. Only the sly Mantis references make it stand out.
But it IS kind of cool from a pure comic book fan angle to think of this as a story accentuating Mantis’ status as the Celestial Madonna. She and her Mate’s offspring will apparently impact the entire Multiverse, not just one particular universe.
And who knows? With Mantis already introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe as one of the Guardians of the Galaxy maybe we’ll see her feature in a crossover movie(s) with her as the linchpin joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Cinematic Universe.
Look for it in theaters around 2036! +++
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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