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THE MANTIS SAGA: CHAPTER LINKS

Mantis Collector pose 2Balladeer’s Blog spent part of this past summer on a light-hearted, escapist bit of fun by examining the very first Mantis storylines at Marvel Comics. Mantis was brought into the Marvel Cinematic Universe this year in the second Guardians of the Galaxy movie but I reviewed her ORIGINAL appearance and the 1973-1975 Celestial Madonna epic she starred in.

I. MANTIS: THE CELESTIAL MADONNA SAGA – The “senses-shattering” beginning of the series which I covered in some of the same style as my reviews of Epic Myths. CLICK HERE  

Mantis Night of Swordsman 3II. MANTIS 2: NIGHT OF THE SWORDSMAN – Mantis and her romantic partner the Swordsman show up at Avengers Mansion and wind up helping the superteam against one of their old foes. CLICK HERE

III. MANTIS 3: BELOW US THE BATTLE – Mantis, the Swordsman and the other Avengers fly to England in search of their missing member the Black Knight. While there they come into conflict with sinister forces. CLICK HERE

IV. MANTIS 4: THE AVENGERS VS THE DEFENDERS – As the search for the Black Knight continues, Loki and Dormammu trick the Avengers and the Defenders into all-out war with each other over a relic called the Evil Eye of Avalon. CLICK HERE 

V. MANTIS 5: THE AVENGERS-DEFENDERS WAR CONTINUES – Mantis and one of her fellow Avengers battle the Defenders’ leader Doctor Strange for a fragment of the Evil Eye. Meanwhile, the newest Defender Hawkeye fights Iron Man in Mexico for another fragment. CLICK HERE Continue reading

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MANTIS MEETS THE JUSTICE LEAGUE: A CELESTIAL MADONNA EPILOGUE

Mantis and JLABalladeer’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.

Mantis miniHis 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.  

Mantis greenIn 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.” Continue reading

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MANTIS 31: THE FINALE, INCLUDING KANG’s FINAL GAMBIT

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

Let All Men Bring TogetherGIANT-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.)

Dormammu for Mantis 31We 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. Continue reading

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MANTIS 30: THE NEXT-TO-LAST CHAPTER

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

Avengers 135 torch is passedTHE 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.

Mantis 3The 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.   Continue reading

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MANTIS 29: THE REAL STORY OF THE PRIESTS OF PAMA

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

Avengers 134 times that bindTHE 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.

Times that bindThe 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.  Continue reading

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MANTIS 28: CELESTIAL MADONNA EXPLANATIONS AND THE HOODED ONE’s IDENTITY

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

Avengers 133 Yesterday and BeyondTHE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 133 ( March 1975)  Yesterday and Beyond 

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) 

Synopsis: We start out at Avengers Mansion, where the Scarlet Witch and the sorceress Agatha Harkness are still locked away in the room which Agatha has sealed off from the rest of the world. Miss Harkness continues to tutor the Scarlet Witch in the more effective use of her mutant hex powers.  

The throngs of onlookers continue surrounding Avengers Mansion for blocks because of the Madonna Star, which still burns brightly over the mansion. There is still a lot of public speculation that the artificial satellite heralds the end of the world. Whispers about Kang the Conqueror’s reference to a “Celestial Madonna” have even the least religious-minded people apprehensive.

Back in the room where Agatha is tutoring the Scarlet Witch, Wanda – showing no sign or memory of the possessed manner in which she chased away the butler Jarvis in our previous installment – prepares to show more of what she’s learned.

Scarlet Witch and Agatha 133Focusing all her concentration, she manages to get a SPECIFIC, CONTROLLED result from her hex-sphere instead of just unleashing random chaos and destruction. That result: animating a nearby chair and causing it to come to life and begin walking around.

Wanda is so excited and proud that she momentarily loses control of the walking chair, Fantasia-style, so Agatha Harkness intervenes, casting a spell that returns the chair to its normal, inanimate state.

The Scarlet Witch tells Miss Harkness that she’d love to show her fellow Avengers her refined abilities and can’t wait for them to return from Vietnam, where they were researching Mantis’ past. Agatha – always supernaturally savvy about larger events – calmly informs Wanda that the Avengers are no longer in Vietnam, and in fact, are no longer on the Earth. 

Of course, we know Agatha is referring to the very public disappearance of the Avengers when Kang teleported them to Limbo to fight his Legion of the Unliving in Kang’s latest attempt to seize the Celestial Madonna. That attempt was thwarted thanks to help from Immortus, who, like Rama Tut II, was revealed as ANOTHER of Kang’s future selves. (Think of them as different “regenerations” of the same man like in Dr Who.)

We WILL learn how Rama Tut II went on to become Immortus before all this is through, but for right now, Immortus has reassembled the Avengers in his throne-room. Limbo itself exists outside of the time-stream but Immortus has allowed Thor, Iron Man, Hawkeye, the Vision and Mantis to sleep since their minds require it.

Refreshed (and presumably fed) the Avengers gather around as Immortus begins to make good on his promise to show the Vision and his past android self – the Original Human (really android) Torch – how their fates intertwined. Immortus also promised to provide Mantis and her fellow Avengers the truth about the Celestial Madonna.  

Immortus already sent the Original Human Torch back in time and now sends the Vision back the same way – clutching a Synchro-Staff , a baton-shaped staff that simultaneously transports the Vision through time as an observer AND provides him with narration in a robotic female voice like Siri.

Immortus gives Thor a Synchro-StaffImmortus says that the Vision must travel alone since his secrets are far too recent. Mantis, Thor, Iron Man and Hawkeye can travel together with a Synchro-Staff of their own because the secrets of the Celestial Madonna began several millennia ago.

In an irresistible character bit from Hawkeye, after Immortus tells Thor to grasp the staff the archer says “I tried grasping the staff at the Playboy Club once …” But Immortus teleports the foursome away before we readers can catch the presumably dirty completion of the remark. Continue reading

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MANTIS 27: THE CAUSE OF THE VISION’S PROBLEMS AND THE SHOWDOWN WITH KANG’S LEGION

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

Giant Size Avengers 3GIANT-SIZE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 3 ( February 1975)  What Time Hath Put Asunder …

I will point out once again that the creative team at The Avengers did the best job of incorporating these short-lived “Giant Size” quarterlies into their ongoing storyline. And it certainly helped that they had a complex serial like the Celestial Madonna Saga running at the time that Marvel experimented with these Giant Size issues every 3 months. 

We pick up where we left off: in the labyrinthine catacombs beneath the castle of Immortus, the ruler of the realm of Limbo. That realm exists outside of the time-stream itself, making it the ideal battleground for Kang the Conqueror’s latest attempt to possess the Avenger named Mantis, the Celestial Madonna, and through their offspring have control of all space and time.  

Mantis and her fellow Avengers – Thor, Iron Man, Hawkeye and the Vision – had been battling Kang’s Legion of the Unliving. That group consisted of six supervillains that Kang plucked from the time-stream mere nanoseconds before their violent deaths. If they help him obtain Mantis and kill the rest of the Avengers he’ll let them live. If not, he’ll simply return them to meet their deaths.

Mantis, led by the Vision’s scream of agony, found him lying near death after his battle with a member of Kang’s Legion. 

mantis-side-by-side.jpgWHAT TIME HATH PUT ASUNDER …

Synopsis: Mantis cradles the Vision’s dying body like she did with her lover the Swordsman several days earlier when he died at Kang’s hands. The Vision cannot move his android body and is delirious with pain.

He recounts to the now-weeping Mantis how he fought the Silver Surfer’s immensely powerful old foe the Ghost – one of Kang’s Legion of the Unliving. Even the Vision’s devastating tactic of plunging his intangible arm inside the Ghost’s torso and partially solidifying it could not defeat the villain.

That soldier of Kang then used the Vision’s own tactic against him, with the result that the Vision suffered so much damage from his foe’s arm that he is near death, while the Ghost simply vanished from the area.  

With his tale done the delirious Vision hallucinates that his beloved Wanda, the Scarlet Witch is the woman with him as he dies, not Mantis. Mantis redeems herself a bit more by painfully letting the Vision believe the happy but false impression.

(Wanda is really back at Avengers Mansion, still being tutored by the sorceress Agatha Harkness.)     

Soon Mantis’ grief is interrupted as she is attacked from behind by Midnight, the evil half-brother of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu. Kang had plucked Midnight from his death hoping that Midnight’s martial arts skills would enable him to bring in Mantis alive to become Kang’s bride.

Mantis and Midnight do battle again, this time to the finish since their first battle was interrupted. The Vietnamese Avenger defeats the black-clad villain despite his use of weapons like Ninja Stars and nunchuku.

Again she wonders how her human weaknesses like the anger she just showed fighting Midnight qualify her to be the Celestial Madonna. Before she can pursue those thoughts she realizes the Vision’s dead body has been taken away by an unknown party.

Try though she may she cannot find the culprit in the confusing maze of tunnels and corridors. We readers get to see which member of the Legion of the Unliving absconded with the Vision’s corpse, however. Continue reading

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