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Subj: Mantis - The Celestial Madonna
Posted: Thu Apr 03, 2014 at 02:47:53 am EDT (Viewed 277 times)
An excerpt from one of the best accounts of Mantis during her time with The Avengers - her history, abilities, personality, growth and development. Long but worth reading. I always thought she was fascinating and this account has rekindled my interest
By SÃ©bastien Alexandre Andrivet
Source of Character: Primarily Avengers comics during the 1970s (Marvel Universe) by Steve Englehart.â€ƒEverything is covered until her return in 1987.
Helper(s): Peter Piispanen, Darci
Real Name: First name unrevealed, last name Brandt
Note: One caption implies that â€œMantisâ€ is her actual first name.â€ƒIf so her parents may have given her a Latin or Greek first name, since neither the Vietnamese (Bá» ngá»±a - â€œinsect horseâ€) nor the German (Fangschrecken) are terribly conductive as a first name.â€ƒIn Ancient Greek, Î¼Î¬Î½Ï„Î¹Ï‚ (mÃ¡ntis) means â€œprophetessâ€.â€ƒA later account is that the â€œMantisâ€ name was given to her by the Priests of Pama based on her mastery of the martial arts attack of the same name.
Other Aliases: Celestial Madonna, Willow, Lorelei, â€œThis oneâ€
Marital Status: Married
Known Relatives: Gustav Brandt (aka Libra, father), Lua nâ€™Guyen Brandt (mother, deceased), monsieur Khruul (uncle, deceased), Prime Cotati (husband), Sequoia aka â€œQuoiâ€ (son)
POWERS & ABILITIES
Mantis has received an extraordinarily advanced alien training regimen - the fusion of thousands of years of Kree and Cotati wisdom.â€ƒShe has a near-perfect control over her body and mind, though she has only recently reached the point where she learns to grow as a person.
In practice Mantis has slightly superhuman levels of strength, endurance, agility, speed and hand-to-hand fighting techniques.â€ƒShe particularly excels at striking weak points, allowing her to hurt or knock out targets that are utterly out of her strength range - she famously felled Thor in one blow, though she canâ€™t do that with any level of reliability and her blows can shatter hardened steel without apparent effort.â€ƒ
Mantis could engage Captain America on seemingly equal footing, and was clearly superior to the version of Midnight (Mâ€˜Nai) summoned to serve among the Legion of the Unliving.â€ƒShe could also reliably hit Quicksilver despite his speed - at least at Quicksilverâ€™s 1970s power level.
Her lift-to-weight ratio is likewise impossible, as she was seen simultaneously hurling back Thor, Iron Man and the Vision - though it might be very advanced throwing techniques that can leverage minor movement on the oppositionâ€™s part to make them sail in the air.â€ƒMantis could easily carry in her arms her unconscious lover Jacques Duquesne, who weighs more than twice what she does.â€ƒHowever, her only defence is her agility.
Mantisâ€™ distinctive â€œfinisherâ€ move is to leap on the back of her opponent, landing on their shoulders and coiling her legs around their neck and upper chest.â€ƒThe exact move varies from squeezing the neck between her thighs to induce unconsciousness within seconds, to various hand strikes on the skull.
She is highly intelligent, with superior deductive abilities and an excellent intuition.â€ƒMantisâ€™ logical deductions have been compared to the Visionâ€™s.
THIS ONE MERELY KNOWS WHAT SHE KNOWS
This one knows many esoteric techniques.â€ƒThese are a mix of â€œancient martial arts secretsâ€ in true 1970s fashion, mental techniques taught by extremely advanced telepathic aliens, and outright magic.â€ƒDemonstrated capabilities include :
Precisely assessing the damage to her body (including internal damage) with but seconds of concentration.
Performing an elaborate, graceful dance that could transfix onlookers with a bestial nature (such as the Lion-God).â€ƒOthers can assist if they have suitable skills - for instance the Swordsman reinforced the effect by making his sword â€™danceâ€˜ and reflect light in sophisticated, rhythmic patterns.
Entering healing trances in which her body somehow repairs itself as if under the care of a superior, well-equipped physician.
A limited knowledge of the occult, allowing her to sense magical presences around her, conduct simple rituals, know basic information about thaumaturgic manifestations and entities, etc.â€ƒThis one is clearly no Doctor Strange, but sheâ€™s a competent troubleshooter.
By meditating upon nearby magical energies, Mantis can gather basic information about it, such as the casterâ€™s identity and the spellâ€™s general nature and purpose
This one has a form of mystical awareness, warning her of cosmic occurrences and mounting malevolent mystical machinations.â€ƒThese flashes of insight tend to be very random, though, and usually occur to move the plot along.
This oneâ€™s perfect muscles control allow her to slip free of most bonds, and to slither and contort into impossibly tight spaces without breaking stride.â€ƒShe can presumably climb up with the same degree of mastery, though she was only seen climbing down
Sprinting at speeds that seem slightly superhuman - perhaps 50 km/h.
Mantis has ill-defined quasi-telepathic and empathic abilities.â€ƒFor instance she could feel the persona switch within Gemini (Joshua Link) of the original Zodiac, and it was stated that she could feel another personâ€™s pain as if it were her own.â€ƒShe could also sense dominant emotions felt around her, and get a sense of peopleâ€™s personalities at a glance.
This one can make her body vibrate slightly out of synch with the universe, to exist as a ghost in a nearby dimension.â€ƒIn this form she can talk and perceive, but is immaterial.
Mantis is the daughter of Gustav Brandt, a German mercenary who served with the French Foreign Legion during the colonial war in Indochina (1946-1954).
Gustav was but one of thousands of German soldiers who joined the Legion after the Second World War rather than return to a Germany that laid in ruins.â€ƒSome sought adventure, some simply wanted not to starve, some had lost everything, and some had to flee their past as SS stormtroopers.â€ƒEntire units were recruited by the French among the military prisoners camps, and were an important presence in post-WWII colonial wars.
In 1952, Herr Brandt met a local in SaÃ¯gon ; they fell in love, and were soon married and with a child on its way.â€ƒHowever, the brother of Mrs. Lua Brandt, one monsieur Khruul, was a major mobster who reviled the thought of a White man marrying his sister.â€ƒHis hitmen nearly killed the couple and forced them to flee for ten months across Viá»‡t Nam, to the Northern half.â€ƒWhen the killers caught up with them, Lua was killed and Gustavâ€™s eyes were destroyed.â€ƒThe German nevertheless fled in the jungle with the baby, and eventually stumbled upon a temple.
THE HIDDEN PRIESTS
The men there were monks of Pama.â€ƒThey decided to raise the baby, and Brandt never got to talk to his daughter again.â€ƒHe eventually escaped and returned to the West.
The monks treated the Brandtsâ€™ baby with reverence, and used all their resources to raise her as a perfect human being and the ultimate fighter.â€ƒThis was part of a project to raise a human woman who could make mental contact with the immensely intelligent Cotati aliens.â€ƒ
On the same day, the other Pama monastery in the solar system - on Titan - started working with a little girl named Heather Douglas and trained her similarly.â€ƒShe would become Moondragon.
Mantis reached mastery of her mind and body, and was taught to make contact with the vegetal Cotati - which expanded her consciousness.â€ƒShe emerged as the most suitable of the two candidates, and unlike Moondragon went on to the next stage.â€ƒMantis received mind blocks and fake memories to convince her that she had always been an ordinary SaÃ¯gon slums girl, and was released from the sheltered monastery at age 18 to discover her humanity.
The Cotati are vegetal aliens, from the same world as the Kree.â€ƒThey are known for their interest in developing their mentality, spirituality and telepathy.â€ƒOver time they evolved into immobile rooted forms, and many are indistinguishable from trees.
The Kree attempted to exterminate the Cotati millennia ago, but some Cotati survived and allied themselves with Kree dissidents who shared their pacifistic beliefs.â€ƒThese men and women formed the basis of the Priests of Pama, but the authorities exiled them to a barren planet.
This prison was eventually attacked by a planet-destroying creature called the Star-Stalker, whom the Priests defeated.â€ƒThey offered to protect the Empire against further attacks by the Star-Stalker, and Kree Supreme Intelligence agreed to a deal.â€ƒThe Priests were allowed to spread through space in pairs, covertly taking their plant friends with them as they founded small temples. On Earth, one was founded in Viá»‡t Nam and gradually recruited monks among the locals.
By that point the city was in the final years of American occupation, and its economy was shaped by the military presence there.â€ƒAs a naive young woman without any relative or contacts, Mantis was soon approached by mobsters - who worked for her uncle, though neither suspected that they were related.â€ƒMantis joined the ranks of the hundreds of thousands of prostitutes in South Viá»‡t Nam during these years.
She soon ran into a Frenchman patronising the bar she was working in.â€ƒThough he looked like a pathetic, burnt-out wreck, the highly empathic girl discerned the seed of greatness in Jacques Duquesne.â€ƒAt that point Duquesne was working for monsieur Khruul, but a raid went wrong and the diminished Frenchman was shot by rival mobsters.
Mantis found him and took him to her apartment, healing him and going without food so he could eat.â€ƒShe started a relationship with him, and tenderly helped him regain his dignity and character so he could reclaim his identity as the costumed adventurer, the Swordsman.â€ƒThe Swordsman now wanted to be a hero again, and he and Mantis left Viá»‡t Nam for the US to apply with the Avengers.â€ƒDuquesne had previously been an Avenger - though he was forced to work as a double agent for the Mandarin, he had been an heroic figure and he had betrayed the Mandarin to save the Avengers.
Mantis and the Swordsman applied in 1973.â€ƒAt this point Hawkeye (Clint Barton) had recently left the team, and the couple replaced him.â€ƒMantis did not request an official status, but the Swordsman joined as a full Avenger after a probation.â€ƒThough many Avengers were suspicious, particularly about Duquesne, he and Mantis served well.â€ƒThey briefly appeared to betray the team, but that was part of a cunning - and successful - plan to defeat the Lion God.
Mantis and the Swordsman served during the so-called â€œAvengers-Defenders warâ€.â€ƒThey also were present during the big clash with Thanos in 1974 ; when the apotheosised Thanos put most Avengers out of synch with time to neutralise them, it was Mantis who managed to project her image back to the real world and warn Captain Mar-Vell.â€ƒMantis, ISAAC and Mar-Vell deduced how to put an end to Thanosâ€™ godhood, a plan that the great Mar-Vell successfully executed on.
Mantis, the Swordsman and the rest of the Avengers also fought the version of the Zodiac covertly led by Taurus (Cornelius van Lunt).â€ƒThe latter incident led this one to meeting her father, who was working for the Zodiac as Libra but betrayed them to save his daughter.â€ƒDuring the fray, Mantis also developed a romantic interest in the Vision despite her relationship with the Swordsman and her friendship with the Scarlet Witch.
Libra told the Avengers and Mantis about his daughterâ€™s origin.â€ƒThis made the young Vietnamese furious, as it conflicted with her memories.â€ƒThe revelations also triggered the Swordsmanâ€™s ire, and the Frenchman impulsively left for Viá»‡t Nam to kill monsieur Khruul now that he knew that his former employer had killed his loverâ€™s mother.â€ƒHowever, the Swordsman was badly weakened by an infected wound, and was defeated by Khruulâ€™s men.â€ƒHe was tortured and gave them the location of the Temple of Pama.
TRá»ž Vá»€ VIá»†T NAM
Monsieur Khruulâ€™s men raided the Temple and killed the Priests.â€ƒThis was a bad move - the Star-Stalker responded within minutes, killed Khruul and his men, and prepared to consume the Earth.â€ƒThe Avengers defeated him, and the fight led Mantis to the conclusion that Libraâ€™s assertions about her real past had some substance.â€ƒLibra went to prison, but Mantis said that sheâ€™d ponder his words and perhaps visit.
As the Avengers continued their adventures, romantic conflict arose between Mantis, the Vision, the Swordsman and the Scarlet Witch.â€ƒThe Vision and Mantis grew to admire each otherâ€™s detached intellect, to the dismay of their respective companions.
Mantis eventually dumped the Swordsman and attempted to start a relationship with the Vision, but he remained faithful to Wanda Maximoff.â€ƒThe resulting stress took a heavy toll on the Swordsmanâ€™s mind.
In late 1974, Kang attacked.â€ƒHis historical records talked about a Celestial Madonna - a woman destined to give birth to a child of immense power - whose emergence would be marked by a mystery star in the sky.â€ƒSince the records about the father of the Madonnaâ€™s child had been destroyed, Kang decided to seize destiny and become that man.
When the star appeared above Avengersâ€™ Mansion, Kang knew that one of the three women inside (Mantis, the Scarlet Witch and the Witchâ€™s mentor, the aged Agatha Harkness) was the Madonna.â€ƒHe attacked, subduing and kidnapping everyone.â€ƒKang then used the captive Vision, Iron Man and Thor in an attempt to start World War Three so he could rule over the ruins.
This plan was foiled by Rama-Tut, Kangâ€™s past self, with the help of the Swordsman and Hawkeye.â€ƒKang realised that Mantis was the Madonna, and in irrational fury tried to shoot her - but the Swordsman reflexively blocked the shot, saving his lover at the cost of his own life.â€ƒKang then escaped.
The death of the Swordsman shocked Mantis, who suddenly realised that she loved him after all.
IN THE TEMPLE OF LOVE, SHINE LIKE THUNDER
Shamed by this realisation, Mantis left the Avengers and returned to Viá»‡t Nam to investigate her past.â€ƒShe took the Swordsmanâ€™s body to bury him at the temple of Pama, and the available Avengers accompanied her for this ceremony.â€ƒOnce this was done, they helped her investigate in SaÃ¯gon, where it soon became obvious that all her memories there before 1971 were fabrications.
Kang struck again, still determined to claim the Celestial Madonna.â€ƒThis time he used Immortusâ€™ machines to conjure the first Legion of the Unliving and a suitable battlefield.â€ƒThe Avengers and Immortus overcame his plot, and Mantis defeated the version of Midnight (Mâ€˜Nai) summoned by Kang.â€ƒImmortus then sent Mantis and some Avengers friends on a voyage through time to discover the origin of the Priests of Pama, and the project of raising a perfect woman.
Upon returning, Mantis entered a mental communion with the eldest Cotati on Earth, who had been planted in the Temple.â€ƒThis Cotati-Prime reanimated the body of the Swordsman, who had been buried among its roots, and possessed it as a living man suffused by a green, glowing energy so he could interact with Mantis.â€ƒAfter mental contact, the two agreed to a marriage.â€ƒImmortus officiated the ceremony, and the Avengers made Mantis an official member to celebrate.â€ƒThe Vision and the Scarlet Witch also married during this ceremony.
Mantis and the Cotati-Prime then turned into pure energy and flew into outer space.
THIS ONE AND THE DISTINGUISHED COMPETITION
In 1977, Mantis briefly returned to Earth - albeit for unknown reason it was Earth-One, in the DC Universe.â€ƒHer skin was now a light green, apparently since her husband had somehow merged with her - and she was a few months pregnant.â€ƒShe had felt a need to return to Earth to finish her pregnancy, and to give birth to new life that would guide humanity to the stars.â€ƒShe called herself â€œWillowâ€ to hide from her enemies.
However one such enemy, the radio waves intelligence called the Construct, sensed her as a bringer of life that could destroy its projected reign over Earth.â€ƒIt sent many robots after her, and â€œWillowâ€ contacted the Justice League for help.â€ƒShe encouraged Aquaman and the Elongated Man to go to Miami to defeat the Constructâ€™s homicidal plans there, and defeated the Construct itself with the help of the Atom (Ray Palmer).
With her enemy gone, â€œWillowâ€ swore Palmer to secrecy and remained on a desert island, where she gave birth some months later.â€ƒShe named her son Sequoia.
TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE HEARTH
After giving birth, this one moved to Willimantic, CT and lived for six years in a Willowmantic Heights condo to raise her son.â€ƒBy this point, she had somehow moved to a different Earth.â€ƒDemons there schemed to use an artefact called the Book of Fleshe to create a nemesis capable of destroying her son while that was still possible.
However, the immortal Romani witch Scorpio Rose - this Earthâ€™s loose equivalent of Madame Xanadu, and a guardian of magical artefacts - opposed the demonic agents seeking the Book.â€ƒA demon in the body of one Igor Gravesend reluctantly allied with the witch, and when he tried to teleport to her side found himself in this oneâ€™s kitchen.â€ƒShe told him to call her Lorelei.
Lorelei told Gravesend what his masters were up to, then let him leave to rejoin Scorpio Rose.â€ƒThough Gravesend claimed that Lorelei held no influence over him, he admitted that he was doing it out of love for Scorpio Rose - right after Lorelei told him that she was a force of life and love.
During the first half of the 1980s, Mantis handed Sequoia over to a manifestation of his dad, to be taken to a Cotati world for exposure to this part of his heritage.â€ƒMantis then returned to outer space - and to the Marvel Universe.
Mantisâ€™ odd costume was apparently some sort of exotic dancer costume that she wore as a hustler in SaÃ¯gon, though she chose to keep it.
This one has two stray lock of hair shooting from her scalp and framing her face.â€ƒAs time goes, this hair apparently becomes more rigid and hangs more horizontally.â€ƒIt thus starts evoking insectile antennae.
At this stage, Mantis is chiefly characteristic as the Sensual and Very Mysterious Oriental - keep in mind that sheâ€™s an early 1970s character.â€ƒShe is polite, heroic and well-spoken, but shuns the limelight.â€ƒTwo other notable traits are her habit of referring to herself as â€œthis oneâ€ (though it takes a few issues to appear) or occasionally â€œMantisâ€, and to initially refer to the Swordsman as â€œher manâ€ with a certain submissive reverence - presumably due to her lack of experience with relationships.
This one is very confident in her abilities - but then her abilities are formidable, and she never appears overconfident.â€ƒThis one knows what this one knows.
During much of this era Mantis is still catching up with the normal human emotional development - her first 18 years at the temple did not include normal socialisation.â€ƒThus she has many of the same problems as Moondragon including arrogance, emotional distance, a nasty temper, haughtiness, a low tolerance for frustration, etc.â€ƒThese are under much better control than with Moondragon, though, and Mantis is usually a pleasant person to be around.â€ƒYet, this is largely out of pride, as Mantis wants to look cool, smart and masterful.â€ƒAs such she comes across as somewhat Vulcan-like - she understands emotions but prefers to act detached.
This one made rapid progress during the three years after she was released into the world.â€ƒAt first she wasnâ€™t a stable person as she was in many respects a child, but her good nature and power of empathy soon made her capable of more sophisticated, balanced and selfless emotions.â€ƒAt this stage she became fascinated by the greater-than-life-heroes among the Avengers, who had a greater stature than even the Swordsman - and her desire to have one led to her attraction toward the Vision.
Libraâ€™s revelations hurt her and made her furious, as all this progress was now threatened by no longer knowing whom she was - and her strong suspicions that her entire life had been some grand manipulation for a higher purpose where she was but a pawn.â€ƒThese ontological doubts, and her paranormal perception that the Vision was exactly the right man for her, led to a poor handling of the end of her relationship with the Swordsman.
The shock of the Swordsmanâ€™s death is what made her a grown woman, as she suddenly realised how petty, manipulative and self-centered part of her behaviour toward Duquesne had been while she was still emotionally an adolescent.â€ƒThis greatly shamed her, which in turn led to the decision to take the time to determine whom she was.
Writeup completed on the 25th of January, 2014.
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