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MANTIS 24: THE SWORDSMAN’S FUNERAL AND THE MYSTERIES OF MANTIS’ PAST

FOR PART 1 OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF MARVEL’S SUPERHEROINE MANTIS CLICK HERE  

Avengers 130 Titanic ThreeAVENGERS Volume 1, Number 130 (December 1974)  The Reality Problem 

AVENGERS ROSTER: Thor (Donald Blake, MD), Iron Man (Tony Stark), The Scarlet Witch (Wanda Frank), Hawkeye (Clint Barton), The Vision (not applicable) and MANTIS (Mantis Brandt).

The Swordsman is dead. So is Moe Greene … Barzini … Tattaglia … All the heads of the Five Families. Today I settle all family business, Carlo, so don’t tell me you’re innocent. It insults my intelli- OH, sorry. I started channeling Michael Corleone there.  

In any event the Swordsman (Jacques Duquesne) IS dead, to begin with. As dead as a doornail. SORRY! I promise that’s the last time I’ll do that! The Swordsman was killed by Kang the Conqueror last time around, giving his life to save his beloved Mantis.

swordsman-funeral.jpgMantis, who was proven to be the mysterious Celestial Madonna that Kang is after, realized how much she really loved the Swordsman, despite her recent callousness toward him while she tried to romance the Vision away from the Scarlet Witch. She deeply regretted her actions, pleading with her dying lover to forgive her and to chalk it all up to her youthful pride. 

Two or three days have gone by since the Swordsman’s death in Peking as the Avengers battled Kang. Our heroes have been mourning the loss of their comrade while regrouping and trying to comprehend the universe-threatening situation they have found themselves in.

And there’s a lot to take in:

*** It’s the first time an Avenger has ever been killed in battle.

*** The Madonna Star continues to shine brightly over Avengers Mansion. Crowds remain thronged around the mansion for blocks because of this strange phenomenon which has spawned rumors that the End of the World is near.

*** The shocking death of an Avenger has added to the grim environment, magnifying global fears of imminent doom. The international tension caused by Kang’s attacks in Egypt, at the U.N. and in China doesn’t help any, either.

*** Kang is still at large and still determined to have the Celestial Madonna.

*** Exactly WHAT the Celestial Madonna IS and how she affects all time and space is still not known.

Mantis in action*** Exactly WHY Moon Dragon and the Scarlet Witch were having parallel experiences to Mantis’ own is still not known, either, but those parallel experiences added to the mystery of which one of them was really the Celestial Madonna.

*** The Vision and his teammates still cannot determine the cause of his recurring panic attacks/ deja vu traumas, more of which occurred while fighting Kang.

*** There is some speculation that the android Vision may be experiencing traumatic memories related to life experiences of the dead supervillain Wonder Man (Simon Williams), since HIS mental patterns were used for the Vision’s artificial intelligence. That was done back when Ultron-5 used them while creating the Vision as a weapon against the Avengers.   Continue reading

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MANTIS 20: ULTRON VS THE AVENGERS, THE FANTASTIC FOUR AND THE INHUMANS

FOR PART 1 OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF MARVEL’S SUPERHEROINE MANTIS CLICK HERE 

Fantastic Four 150

FANTASTIC FOUR Volume 1, Number 150 (September 1974)  Ultron-7: He’ll Rule The World

Just like during the Avengers/ Defenders War this crossover story alternated between the Avengers’ comic book and in this case the Fantastic Four’s comic book. In fact it was the 150th Anniversary Issue for the F.F, an appropriate setting for the momentous events in this story.

NOTE: This was back when Ultron was still numbering his iterations, hence him going by “Ultron-7” here. For instance, Ultron-6 was the first time the android villain used adamantium for his body and Ultron-5 was when he created the Vision to use against his archenemies the Avengers.

Ironically, though today Marvel’s fictional metal adamantium is mostly associated with Wolverine’s claws and skeleton it was actually introduced as a new discovery in the pages of The Avengers in the 1960s. In fact it was introduced in the very story in which Ultron stole some of the indestructible metal to make himself even more dangerous.

After this current Ultron-7 story, when Ultron returned for the long-running Bride of Ultron storyline he was no longer  numbering his versions.   

Ultron 7 againULTRON-7: HE’LL RULE THE WORLD

Synopsis: We pick up where we left off in our previous installment, in Atillan aka The Great Refuge, hidden home of the Inhumans. It’s the night before the former Avenger Quicksilver and the Inhuman named Crystal are to be married.

Crystal has been kidnapped by the gigantic robot called Omega, but after a battle with the Inhumans plus the wedding guests – the Avengers and Fantastic Four – the enormous figure pulled off its mask to reveal that it was really Ultron-7. (Nicely, this was early enough in Marvel’s history that Ultron had previously never fought the Fantastic Four OR the Inhumans, just the Avengers.)

Ultron-7 taunts the assembled heroes plus the thousands of terrified citizens of Atillan about how they gathered for a wedding but instead of that joyous occasion have found only horror, defeat and death.

Mantis againHe revives the heroes he had put into comas last time around – MANTIS, Iron Man, Medusa, Quicksilver and the Swordsman. Meanwhile the Thing rushes forward to attack Ultron-7 but is easily defeated as the villain reminds him that the Omega body now has all of HIS (Ultron’s) powers, not the lesser powers it used to have.

Before the Thing or any other heroes can renew the attack, Thor, Mister Fantastic and Triton remind everyone that only Ultron-7 knows where the kidnapped Crystal is being held. The villain has the edge until they can learn if she is even still alive.       Continue reading

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MANTIS 14: THE STAR STALKER

READERS CANNOT GET ENOUGH SUPERHERO ITEMS THESE DAYS. FOR PART 1 OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF THE MARVEL SUPERHEROINE MANTIS CLICK HERE   

Avengers 124 star stalkerTHE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 124 (June 1974) Beware the Star Stalker 

The Celestial Madonna Saga continues! Our previous installment ended with some of the Avengers (Thor, Iron Man, The Black Panther, The Vision and MANTIS) at the Temple of the Priests of Pama in the jungles of Vietnam. Meanwhile the other two Avengers (The Scarlet Witch and The Swordsman) were back in the capitol city with Wanda aiding the Swordsman, who had been tortured for information regarding the temple’s location.

The Avengers themselves had only found that temple through the aid of Libra, from the supervillain team Zodiac. Libra had been revealed as the father of the mysterious superheroine Mantis and claimed both he and his daughter had been trained by the Priests of Pama.

The Vietnamese drug and vice lord Monsieur Khruul (no relation to Mademoiselle Unkhiind) had used his super-powered minions to slaughter every single Priest of Pama. The Avengers and Libra defeated Khruul’s men (his “Khrewe” you might say) then found the dying crime boss himself slashed to ribbons in the temple’s dungeon.

The criminal chief’s dying words were “Beware the Star Stalker.” Unknown to the Avengers, the Star Stalker – a giant, red-scaled dragon-like creature – was watching them from above, seemingly poised to strike.     

BEWARE THE STAR STALKER

Synopsis: The Avengers have no idea who or what the “Star Stalker” might be. From hiding, the creature itself continues to observe our heroes as they split up and search every nook and cranny of the temple but find nothing.

Despite her continued claims that she remembers nothing about this temple, her father or the Priests of Pama, Mantis eventually intuits the location of a device to open a secret passageway. The Black Panther expresses suspicions that she might simply be lying about not remembering anything but Mantis sarcastically inquires if she is “on trial.”

Mantis star stalkerAt any rate the hidden passageway leads the Avengers right into the chamber that the Star Stalker had slunk away to. The creature now stands up on two legs and threateningly addresses the Avengers since, during its years of captivity in the temple, the Priests of Pama had taught the Star Stalker Vietnamese, English, French and presumably other languages as well.   

The Avengers attack the creature, whose very scales seem to ooze energy. After a furious battle it becomes apparent that physical attacks on the Star Stalker do little damage and energy blasts like Iron Man’s repulsor rays simply feed it and make it more powerful. That prompts the Vision to refrain from using the solar rays he shoots from his eyes and our heroes attempt to regroup.

The group also notes that the temple itself is in danger of collapsing from the damage the battle has inflicted. The Star Stalker points out that such destruction is nothing – he intends to destroy the entire planet as he destroyed countless others during his thousands of years of life. He further states that other life forms are meaningless and he is all that matters.    Continue reading

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MANTIS 13: AN ORIGIN FOR MANTIS

READERS ARE LOVING THESE LOOKS AT THE SUPERHEROINE MANTIS. FOR PART 1 CLICK HERE 

Avengers 123 An Origin For MantisTHE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 123 (May 1974) An Origin For Mantis

As our homegirl MANTIS here passionately defends her father Libra’s eccentric decision to wear hot-pants into battle, I’ll welcome you to Balladeer’s Blog’s latest installment of The Celestial Madonna Saga.

NOTE: This issue is titled AN Origin For Mantis, not THE Origin. For reasons that will become clear later Libra is not telling the full story this time around but he still fills in a LOT of background regarding his mysterious daughter. 

AVENGERS ROSTER: Thor (Donald Blake, MD), Iron Man (Tony Stark), The Scarlet Witch (Wanda), The Black Panther (Prince T’Challa), The Vision (not applicable), The Swordsman (Jacques Duquesne) and MANTIS (Mantis Brandt).

AN ORIGIN FOR MANTIS

Synopsis: Our previous installment ended at the skyscraper headquarters of the international supervillain team called Zodiac. In the aftermath of the Avengers’ defeat and capture of the entire group, Libra (Gustav Brandt) revealed that the only reason he betrayed Zodiac was to save Mantis, claiming she is his daughter. 

Mantis reacts furiously, accusing Libra of claiming to be her father as some cruel attempt to garner sympathy from the Avengers, possibly for a lighter prison sentence.

The argument is cut short by Iron Man, who insists that the conversation continue ONLY away from the prying ears of their deadly foes in Zodiac. The Vision concurs, all the while hiding his fear that his android brain is beginning to malfunction and that THAT is the reason for his frantic panic episodes in Taurus’ penthouse swimming pool last time around and in Dormammu’s quicksand at the end of the Avengers-Defenders War.

So, after the authorities arrive to occupy Zodiac HQ the Avengers take in their prisoners with the sole exception of Libra. After the usual post-mission press conference and such for our heroes they gather back at Avengers Mansion with Libra temporarily released in their custody.

Mantis hai ahhThe injured Swordsman is well enough to listen from his wheelchair as his teammates interrogate Libra. Mantis impatiently insists that she never knew any father and calls Libra a liar once more. Given the way the blind member of Zodiac handles himself in battle as well as the blind superhero Daredevil does, the Vietnamese woman even goes so far as to accuse him of FAKING his blindness.

She strips off the blindfold that serves as Libra’s mask and she plus the other Avengers are shocked and disgusted at the burns and scars that surround the empty eye sockets of Libra – Gustav Brandt. He re-ties the blindfold around his eyes and begins his tale. Continue reading

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MANTIS 12: SHOCKING REVELATIONS IN THE SHOWDOWN WITH ZODIAC

READER INTEREST IS THROUGH THE ROOF FOR THESE LOOKS AT THE SUPERHEROINE MANTIS. FOR PART 1 CLICK HERE 

Avengers 122 Trapped in Outer SpaceTHE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 122 (April 1974) Trapped in Outer Space 

It’s kind of nice that you readers have been so enthusiastic about these nice little bits of escapism. That’s why I’m doing two per week now. We can all use a light-hearted distraction now and then. 

As our last installment ended, five Avengers (Thor, Iron Man, The Scarlet Witch, The Black Panther and The Vision) were battling seven of the twelve members of the supervillain team called Zodiac (Aries, Leo, Cancer, Aquarius, Pisces, Scorpio and Sagittarius).

The Avengers called MANTIS and the Swordsman were recovering from their injuries back at Avengers Mansion. Taurus, the leader of Zodiac, had lured the seven mutinous members of his criminal cartel to a seeming warehouse that was really a trap.

The Avengers, all unknowingly, had trailed the Zodiac superteam to that locale and had attacked them, only to have the battle royal interrupted by the taunts of Taurus. Taurus – openly revealing his true identity of billionaire Cornelius Van Lunt – launched the warehouse/ disguised spaceship into orbit to let his enemies die when their air runs out.    

TRAPPED IN OUTER SPACE

Synopsis: At first all of the Avengers and Zodiac members are pinned to the floor by G-Forces but eventually the huge deathtrap reaches its programmed altitude and settles into orbit. The reinforced steel door slides right to reveal the Earth far below and a mostly transparent force-field enclosing the entire warehouse.

Thor hurls his hammer at the force-field, but it just penetrates the force-field, which re-forms after it passes through. The hammer tries to return to Thor’s hand like usual but his relative position to the hammer has changed as the spaceship/ trap has moved along in its orbit. Thor’s hammer remains floating outside in the vacuum of space.

Mantis trapped in outer spaceThe Vision is not able to phase through the force-field because it is the same technology that Zodiac used to seal off Manhattan from the rest of the world in one of their previous clashes with the Avengers. In 1974, when this story was published, Thor would still magically transform back into his secret identity as the lame (as in limping), mortal Dr Donald Blake after 60 seconds without his hammer.

He leaps behind one of the prop boxes in the phony warehouse and pulls some tarp over himself just in time to avoid having Zodiac see what has happened to him. The villains HAVE noticed how paniced Thor became without his hammer Mjolnir and realize something is up. Aries leads his teammates in an attack to finish off Thor, who is obviously in dire straits.   Continue reading

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MANTIS 7: BREAKTHROUGH!

THIS WORLD IS CRAZED FOR SUPERHEROES! FOR PART 1 OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF MARVEL’S SUPERHEROINE MANTIS CLICK HERE  

Mantis BreakthroughTHE DEFENDERS Volume 1, Number 10 (November 1973)  Breakthrough!

Last time around as the war between the Avengers and the Defenders continued, Captain America and the Sub-Mariner battled each other in Osaka, Japan, for their fragment of the Evil Eye of Avalon. Comparing notes the pair began to realize that the two super-teams were being manipulated into fighting each other.  

BREAKTHROUGH!

Synopsis: BATTLE SIX: THOR VERSUS THE HULK – Because of the Marvel Cinematic Universe audiences today automatically associate the Hulk with the Avengers. Back in 1973 that was not the case. Even though the Hulk WAS one of the original Avengers he quit the team at the end of the SECOND ISSUE, in 1963. 

The green guy made a few guest appearances in the Avengers, like in their 100th issue Anniversary Special but in the early 1970s the Hulk was known as a core member of the Defenders. That held true until at least the late 1980s or longer.

Mantis Breakthrough poseGetting back to the story, the final fragment of the Evil Eye is in Los Angeles, where the Hulk has dug it up with help from the spell cast by Dr Strange. Greenskin is causing the expected city-wide panic but before he can leave with the Eye fragment Thor arrives.

The thunder god, still under the mistaken idea that the Defenders want to reassemble the Evil Eye for malevolent purposes, tries to beg the Hulk to give him the fragment. Foolishly he appeals to him as a former Avenger, which just makes the Hulk mad and the fight is on.

The battling super-foes inflict kaiju-sized damage on Los Angeles but as the hours go by the more it becomes apparent that Thor and the Hulk are so evenly matched the struggle could go on indefinitely. The only thing that breaks up the contest is the sudden arrival of the combined forces of the rest of the Defenders and the Avengers. Continue reading

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NIGHTSHADE: ANOTHER FORGOTTEN SUPERHERO

Superhero-mania shows no signs of abating! Since Balladeer’s Blog’s recent look at the defunct Centaur Comics superheroes was such a hit I decided to post an entry on another of their neglected figures.

Nightshade splash pageNIGHTSHADE

Secret Identity: Howard Hall, scientist

Origin: Wealthy young scientist Howard Hall found both science and his life of luxury to be ultimately unfulfilling. Immersing himself in the secrets of Eastern Mysticism he discovered he had a real knack for one particular Dark Art: endowing his shadow with life, solidity and super-strength.

Calling himself Nightshade, Hall costumed himself in a white tuxedo and white hat with a pair of large sunglasses serving as a mask. He used his new abilities to fight crime and other forces of evil.  

First Appearance: Amazing-Man Comics #24 (October, 1941). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1942.

Powers: Continue reading

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