Friday, September 16, 2016

The Celestial Madonna - Kang War III

As the Celestial Madonna saga enters its third and final phase in The Avengers #133 by Steve Englehart and company,  Kang the Conqueror seems to have been defeated and the Avengers are then able to pursue mysteries which have bedeviled them for some months -- the conflicted and contentious origin of Mantis and the convoluted and enigmatic origin of the Vision.  To that end Immortus grants to the Avengers the use of devices he dubs "Synchro-Staffs. He gives one to the Vision who pursues his origin story along the timelines alone and the other to the rest of the team who accompany Mantis on her quest. (For the record this time while reading the story I heard the voice of "Siri" for the Synchro-Staffs) Meanwhile the Titanian priestess Moondragon heads to Earth. And the former Avengers-villain Libra meets a strange green creature who resembles the deceased Swordsman.

The Vision sees the earliest days of the Marvel Universe when he witnesses the birth of the android Human Torch who is almost immediately imprisoned by his creator. He escapes to become a hero of the era.  The Avengers see the birth of the Kree race, going back to their prehistoric origins when they shared their planet with the peaceful plant-life Cotati. The Skrulls appear and offer technology to which ever of the two races impresses them the most. To that end they take representatives of each species to remote planets - the Cotati to a distant world and the Kree to the Earth's Moon where they establish the Blue Area. The Skrull are more impressed with the Cotati's peaceful gardens than the Kree's techno-cities and choose them, but the Kree attack and kill everyone and take the Skrull tech.

The origin of Mantis continues in The Avengers #134 when we see the Cotati survivors make alliance with Kree pacifists who smuggle them to various places including the Earth where they become the Priests of Pama who eventually trained both Libra and his daughter Mantis. Later the Star-Stalker appears and menaces the them but they are able to restrain him.  

Meanwhile the Vision follows the Torch's story into the 50's when he is revived by an atomic test and later is rescued (sort of) by the Thinker who seeks to use the original Torch to attack the Fantastic Four but he is unsuccessful and then Ultron appears. Moondragon appears at the Avengers mansion and meets with the Scarlet Witch who has continued her training with Agatha Harkness. The story ends as the Avengers meet Libra and the weird green Swordsman in the grove of the Priests of Pama where they buried the unlucky Avenger.

Up to this point the art on this run had been by the remarkably good team of Sal Buscema and Joe Staton but with The Avengers #135 the always reliable George Tuska takes over with inks by Frank Chiramonte.

We see Ultron appear to steal the body of steal the body of the Torch which he uses to form the basis for the Vision. Moondragon appears in the Priests of Pama grove to confront the Avengers. Ultron gets the hapless Phineas T. Horton to help him revive the Torch and between the two of them they recreate the android into the image of the Vision, who turns against his creator as we already know. Later his mind will be remolded using the patterns of Wonder Man. The Avengers meanwhile confront Immortus who appears bearing a large cask.

In Giant-Size Avengers #4 Englehart continues his story but Don Heck and John Tartaglione step in to finish up on the artwork. The Vision, having learned his origin (he thinks) is stranded in a dark dimension by the Dread Dormammu who has also captured Wanda the Scarlet Witch to somehow use her power to allow him access to Earth. Immortus and the Green Swordsman then continue the origin of Mantis by explaining that she is the perfect  human being, developed over the years to bear the ultimate child -- she is in fact the Celestial Madonna. Also having been prepared over that time on Saturn with an origin remarkably similar is Moondragon who likewise is a candidate. But Mantis wins the day and it is her destiny to mate with the Green Swordsman who is a manifestation of the Cotati. The Avengers are then surprised to find the Titanic Three (Crimson Dynamo, Titanium Man, and Radioactive Man) on the grounds of the garden defeated by some mysterious foe. The Avengers discover that Kang has returned yet again.

The Vision and Wanda continue to battle against Dormammu and his sister Umar in the Dark Dimension. Thor, Iron Man, and Hawkeye look for Kang and find him, not once but three times, and all of them battle simultaneously a version of the Conqueror, each with limited effect. Meanwhile Wanda and the Vision finally find a way to defeat Dormammu and exact a promise from him that they are safe for the time being. Eventually the myriad Kangs are rounded up while both Mantis and the Green Swordsman and Wanda and the Vision prepare to be wed. Then yet another Kang appears and attempts to kidnap Mantis yet again but he is tricked by Immortus who substitutes the Space Phantom for the beautiful Vietnamese vixen. Kang is needless to say, surprised. Then the Vision and Wanda appear in the garden, and Immortus agrees to make it a double wedding and officiates as the two couples are joined. The Avengers, at least for the moment are happy, happy, happy and head home while Mantis and her new and verdant husband head into the depths of space to pursue their destiny.

More Kang is coming of course. He's like that cinematic, metallic time traveler...he'll be back!

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