A Brief History of Kang, Part 15: Preying (on) Mantis
By Michael Proteau
I have the distinct pleasure of reviewing the Englehart Kang/Celestial Madonna
Saga as part of our Kang Chronicles. I will be breaking it down into a couple of
parts and include the Englehart Immortus issues as well. Be warned, I am a
historian by proclivity and can tend towards long-windedness (though I try to
guard against it). So to wit let us begin-
The Celestial Madonna Saga Phase One-The Coming of Kang (Avengers 128, 129,
Giant-sized Avengers 2)
Avengers 128-an Englehart/S.Buscema/Staton/Thomas production
Bothered, and Dead!"
The bulk of this issue deals with Wanda's first training with Agatha Harkness
(interesting in light of events in Vol.3 #10) and their battle with Necrodamus
(another old Defenders foe). The Mantis/Swordsman/Vision/Wanda love quadrangle
sub-plot is also featured as Mantis rejects Swordsman outright and makes a play
for Vision. Vision is vulnerable because he had just attempted to talk to Wanda
alone and express his love for her once and for all, but the attempt was rebuked
by Agatha Harkness and he is hurt Wanda chose to be with Agatha over him.
Soon after Necrodamus is defeated by Wanda [no mean feat as he had challenged
the combined power of Hulk, Namor, Doc Strange, (and the Surfer iirc)], and
while Mantis is putting the moves on Vision, a blazing new star appears in the
pre-dawn sky above Avengers Mansion. The Avengers and Agatha Harkness gather
outside and gaze upon it (why all the Avengers were hanging out at the Mansion
in the wee hours of the morning is not really explained but oh well....). Thor
voices their collective question, "What can it mean?"
A voice rings out in answer-"I can tell you if you care-or dare-to know!" Iron
Man in horror gasps-"That voice, it cannot be---" But the voice continues, "But
it is, twentieth-century savage! That star was a signal to me-a signal that your
earth was finally ripe for conquest--- at the unyielding hands of KANG THE
Well, ole Blue face only appeared for 2 panels on the last page but what an
effective appearance it was, leading into-
Avengers #129-an Englehart/S.Buscema/Staton/Thomas production:
Kang appears before the gathered Avengers and Agatha Harkness and announces that
he is there to conquer the 20th century. Thor attacks and Kang is impressed that
one of the Avengers finally attacks without Kang striking first. Mjolnir though
deflects harmlessly off of Kang's personal forcefield. Kang announces that there
cannot be conquest without opposition, and wants the Avengers to oppose him.
Kang then unleashes his Macrobots (souped up stimuloids) upon the Avengers. The
Macrobots absorb power and use it to turn the Avengers’ attacks back upon them.
Thor is the first to fall and soon all the Avengers (Thor, Swordsman, Iron Man,
Vision, Wanda, and Mantis) and Agatha Harkness are defeated. Kang boasts that
this time he did not underestimate his foes as he had in previous encounters.
Kang then dispatches some of the local police and Jarvis who try to oppose him.
He then prepares the Avengers for teleportation to his base of operations and
announces his purpose to the (unseen) masses of humanity.
Kang announces that he has come to start World War 3 and devastate the earth in
a nuclear holocaust and that he will rule over the remnant and the universe as
well. The Dawnstar was a sign that he had long awaited, though whence and where
it would appear could be determined no more clearly than twentieth century earth
from the fragmentary histories that had survived into his time, so he set up a
temporal monitor to watch for its appearance. He could not seek it out because
there are many electro-static disturbances in the MU's branch of the time
The appearance of the star heralds the completeness of the Celestial Madonna.
Her mate shall be the most powerful man on earth, though both the Madonna and
her mate's name do not survive. Kang intends to be her mate, as her child will
be "The One" and Kang intends to rule the heavens through this child. The
appearance of the Dawnstar over Avengers Mansion means that one of the women
there is the Madonna. Kang teleports the Avengers and Agatha Harkness to his
hideaway, but leaves the Swordsman behind because he considers him a weakling
and a blunderer and while his plans call for powerful male Avengers, Swordsman
just doesn't cut it.
Swordsman swears to get Kang, but doesn't know what to do. However, he is soon
contacted through magical means by Agatha Harkness. She directs the Swordsman to
Egypt, specifically to the pyramid of the Pharaoh Rama-Tut, Kang's base.
Swordsman flies a quinjet there, reflecting on his and Mantis' relationship, but
is shot down by the Egyptian air force. He crash lands near the pyramid, but
Agatha's message abruptly ends. Kang has discovered her and ended the message.
Kang then reveals a synopsis of his history to her. He tells her how he was
Rama-Tut having come back from the 31st century to rule in ancient Egypt but
because of the FF he had to flee, leaving his sphinx time machine behind. Using
a smaller vessel, he escaped into the timestream, but this vessel could not
withstand the disturbances there and he overshot his hometime and landed in the
41st century, where he came to lead the barbarians there and became Kang the
Conqueror. Wearying over the ease of conquest there, he sought challenges in the
Swordsman, meanwhile, using skills he picked up as a criminal, finds a way into
the pyramid (he had engaged in Pyramid robbing-hey maybe he and Power Man teamed
up for an antiquities black market scam that could be the plot of the one-shot
special Rob clamored for!!!!) Swordsman encounters a vampiric monster and is
saved unwittingly by Egyptian troops who are hunting him. Kang views this and
reveals that he had turned Amen-Hotep into a vampire with a special potion while
he reigned as Rama-Tut. Swordsman slips away while Amen-Hotep feeds on the
Kang reveals that he will use the male Avengers as power sources for his
Macrobots and will use them to attack the world leaders and precipitate World
War 3. Swordsman sneaks up and gets the drop on Kang, but before he can blast
him and reveal his location he is stopped by RAMA-TUT..... to be continued in
Giant Sized Avengers #2 an Englehart/Cockrum/Thomas production:
"A Blast from
Hawkeye is foiling a jewel heist and learns from a police officer that the
Avengers were abducted from the Mansion earlier in the day. He seeks to go to
their aid even though he hasn't been an Avenger for over a year (since he quit
in 109, but it may actually be a shorter interval due the compression of Marvel
time into about a 10 year period since FF#1), and learns from Jarvis what has
happened. As Jarvis finishes his tale, Swordsman and Rama-Tut arrive at Avengers
Mansion. Hawk is suspicious of Rama-Tut but decides to go along with his plan.
Meanwhile, Kang completes his transformation of the Macrobots by encasing the
Avengers within while Wanda and Mantis both muse that Wanda must be the Madonna.
Kang sends the Vision-Macrobot to slay the Secretary of State. Hawk, Swordsman
and a disguised Rama-Tut materialize to oppose the Macrobot. The battle goes
badly, as Kang observes and oozes overconfidence. He laughs off Wanda's comment
that the disguised man may be a threat by saying that for him to be a threat he
must be Kang's equal and no man is that (Englehart foreshadowing).
We then get a flashback of Rama-Tut reflecting on his life, how he tired of
being Kang the Conqueror as he turned 60 and so went complete circle and
traveled back to Egypt to resume his reign as Rama-Tut.
Rama tells Hawk that the Macrobot is powered by the Vision. Since Hawk knows how
the Vision draws his power through the solar gem on his forehead, he uses an
arrow that coats the Macrobot’s head in a black inky substance preventing any
more sunlight from charging up the Vision Macrobot. It soon expends its power
and collapses, much to Kang's chagrin. Rama frees the Vision, who is much
weakened with his power drained.
Back to Rama's reflections-He and his court wizard Shamaz make plans so Rama can
reach the 20th century to stop his fruitless schemes as Kang, the most fruitless
of which is the quest for the Madonna. Because his time sphere was destroyed,
Rama must use suspended animation and the knowledge of the future/his past to
reach the 20th century. He is suspended in a sarcophagus and was awakened by the
Swordsman's actions in Avengers 129. He stopped the Swordsman from blasting
Kang, as Kang's death at that point would have been his own.
Flash to Kang- he releases the Iron Man Macrobot to destroy Peking and China's
leaders. Mantis and Wanda bicker over who’s man Vision is. Hawk, Swordsman, Rama
and the weakened Vision materialize to stop the Iron Man Macrobot. Vision uses
his cape in a bizarre density alteration trick to destroy the armor surrounding
Iron Man, but ole Shellhead's armor is desperate need of a recharge. Kang,
royally p.o.'d at the turn of events, sics the Thor Macrobot upon the weakened
Avengers. Shellhead absorbs the energy of the Macrobot recharging and unleashing
the power back upon it while Vision frees the captive female Avengers and Agatha
Harkness. Witchie uses her hex power to cause a meteorite in orbit to strike the
Thor Macrobot, and the Avengers remark upon her increased power level. Rama
releases Thor, but is attacked by Kang, who discovers Rama's true identity.
In this moment as they face one another, time ruptures (a great 2 pages of art
by Cockrum, lots of great little touches like Hank Pym's costume progression as
well as Tony's armors) and Kang learns the identity of the Madonna: it is
Mantis. He also learns Rama is his future self. Rama tries to persuade Kang to
surrender and Mantis rejects him. Kang vows if he cannot have the Madonna no one
will and fires upon her. Swordsman leaps to save her and is struck down in her
place. Rama and Kang grapple and disappear into the timestream. The Swordsman
gasps his farewell to Mantis; she finally shows feelings towards him as he dies.
The threat of Kang has been overcome, for now, but the saga of the Madonna is
Of note GS#2 also reprints FF#19, the intro of Rama-Tut for those
who want to read it. This is a great Kang Saga. Englehart really explores Kang’s
motivation and weakness here. The theme of his over-confidence and arrogance is
explored masterfully on so many levels by Englehart, yet the many layered
sub-plots are also advanced: The love quadrangle, Swordsman's feelings of
inadequacy, Wanda's powers, Vision's bouts of panic, etc. With all this there is
still no shortage of action. I always liked these stories, but going back and
rereading them, I found so much more to them than I had when I read them when I
was younger. Stay tuned for Phase Two of the Englehart era. Same Kang Time, same