A Brief History of Kang, Part 16: Madonna-Truth or Dare
By Michael Proteau
Avengers #130 An Englehart/S.Buscema/Staton/Thomas production
THIS IS NOT A KANG STORY-Kang only appears in a one panel flashback, but
this interregnum type ish sets the stage for further developments in the
Celestial Madonna saga. The highlights-The Avengers travel to Viet Nam to bury
the Swordsman at Mantis' request. Wanda elects to stay behind to train further
with Agatha Harkness. The Vision/Wanda relationship subplot is touched upon.
Swordsman is buried in the ruins of the Temple of the Priests of Pama (Kree
splinter group of dissident pacifists who settled on Earth and trained Mantis
who were slain by the Star Stalker in 124). In Viet Nam, the Avengers run afoul
of the Titanic Three (Crimson Dynamo, Titanium Man, and Radioactive Man, but
they are the law in the communist sector. Thor must strike down Iron Man to
prevent him from attacking the one responsible for the death of his ladylove.
The Avengers depart and Mantis recaps her story for Hawk's benefit. The Titanic
Three again battle the Avengers, this time because of the machinations of a
petty thief named Slasher. His plot is revealed, and the conflict is settled
peacefully. However, a mysterious hooded figure had appeared during the fight to
take out the Dynamo.
A mediocre issue but the highlight for me was Hawk's reflections at the funeral
of the parallels b/w him and Swordsman and the choices made and breaks received
that separate the two. Not much of the Madonna plot is furthered and it seems
the story was catching its breath after the events of GS #2. The only key
development was that the Avengers agree to help Mantis discover her roots and
the consequences of being the Celestial Madonna.
Avengers #131 an Englehart/S.Buscema/Staton/Thomas production
"A Quiet Half Hour
We open with Mantis kicking the crud out of a mugger in the streets of Saigon as
she muses/recaps her current situation. A voice rings out in response to her
rhetorical question, the voice of.....Steve Rogers: Nomad. Steve and the team
catch up on old times as he awaits word on the whereabouts of the Serpent Squad
(see Englehart's issues of Cap's own mag he says in his best Rascally
imitation). Their talk causes Hawk to muse on how much the Avengers have changed
while he was gone and to wonder if he still fits on this team.
Meanwhile.....we see Kang and Rama-Tut continuing to grapple with one another as
they hurl through the timestream. Kang swears he will never become the pathetic
weak fool that Rama is. Suddenly a mysterious force strikes Rama through the
walls of the timesphere rendering him unconscious. Kang and Rama are again
touched by this mysterious power and disappear only to reappear in..........the
throne room of Immortus!!!!!
Kang's reaction: "You speak as if your name alone should be enough to impress
me! I assure you it does not! Who are you?"
Immortus' response: "I am the Master of Time--He who rules the Mystic realm of
Limbo, where there is no change! Who are you to exhibit no gratitude for your
To which Kang responds: "My name is Kang, The Conqueror, and I did not ASK to be
rescued. I could have overcome my foe and escaped through MY own efforts."
Immortus: "COULD you, I wonder...."
The egos just ooze off the page in this exchange. It's just delicious fare for
Immortus and Kang continue to exchange barbs as Immortus tries to capitalize on
his defeat of Rama to gain Kang's allegiance. Kang explodes in fury at Rama and
rants how he will never become a weakling as Rama did. He rededicates himself to
conquest and vows to eradicate every trace of mercy and compassion within him to
ensure he never becomes Rama.
Meanwhile, the Avengers seek word from Mar-Vell as Mantis wants info on the
Kree. Mantis apologizes to Vision for coming on to him. Thor and Shell-head ask
Nomad if he will rejoin the Avengers, which he promises to do as soon as he has
finished off the Serpent Society. Our mysterious cloaked figure from last ish
reappears and observes Mantis. She seems to sense something but when she looks
there is nothing there.
Englehart keeps careful track of the passing minutes (see the title) and the
difference in the passage of time between Saigon and Limbo, often using it as a
transition between scenes as here when we switch focus back to Kang and
Immortus. Immortus reveals to Kang that he wants to attack the Avengers, which
Kang finds amusing. He tells Immortus that he has already done so but his memory
of it was erased by the Enchantress, who erased the events from the sands of
time (see Avengers #10-imitation Rascal); however, Kang had observed them take
place (see note 1 below). However, since Kang's ambition is to attack the
Avengers, he will ally with Immortus. Rama tells Kang he is a fool bound to fail
and Kang explodes in rage. He tells Immortus how his pawns from Avengers #10
were not powerful enough. Kang then proceeds to collect a group of (mostly)
super-powered pawns from the ages to face the Avengers-all of whom will strike
fear because they are already dead-Frankenstein's Monster, Wonder Man, the
original Human Torch, Midnight, The Ghost, and Baron Zemo-the Legion of the
Meanwhile, Vision approaches Iron Man to talk about love matters hoping that
hanging around playboy Tony Stark will give Iron Man some insight to help Vision
out with his love problems. He loves Wanda but Mantis gets him all bothered.
Iron Man quickly bucks out saying he is not comfortable talking about it.
Meanwhile, Mantis sees a glowing green vision of the Swordsman on the crowded
streets of Saigon but when she gets close to it, it disappears.
Meanwhile, Kang and Immortus are arguing over strategy and tactics. Immortus
convinces Kang to bring the Avengers to Limbo rather than going to 1974 (the
current year where the Avengers are, dates subject to change due to Marvel time
compression). As soon as this is decided, Kang turns on Immortus and imprisons
him, berating him for being a fool if he ever thought Kang would be content to
be a warlord under him.
Meanwhile, Jarvis contacts the Avengers with word of the Serpent Squad's
whereabouts and Nomad departs. Hawk opens his big mouth and says: " Well at
least he's got some action--while we stand around coolin' our heels! So now
whadda we do?" No sooner does Clint get the words out when KZAP the Avengers are
transported to Limbo and separated. Kang appears and threatens them as the
Legion of Unliving approaches threateningly...
The Madonna saga heats up in this ish as many threads are woven to
be tied together later.
1) Kang asks Immortus who he is early in the issue yet later says he observed
Immortus' earlier attempt to attack the Avengers in V.1#10-huh? What's going on
here, this seems to contradict itself.
2) Englehart keeps having the transitions catch Kang and Immortus in the middle
of conversations to imply that there is stuff going on between them off camera.
3) The narrator assures us that Kang has nothing to do with the mysterious
hooded figure running around.
4) Later retcons would bring the status of many of the Legion of the Unliving as
deceased into question.
5) The scene between Vizh and Shell-head was priceless.
One of the Avengers Depicted on this cover (Thor Iron
Man Mantis) Will Perish in this very issue! BUT WHICH ONE?
And so we move into
Avengers #132 an Englehart/Thomas/S.Buscema/Staton/Thomas production
"Kang War II"
Kang marshals the Legion of the Unliving against the Avengers, but
Frankenstein's monster shambles off on his own. The monster encounters Thor as
Don Blake who is seeking some way to escape that which holds him in Limbo. After
changing back to Thor, he fights off the monster and ends hostilities. The
monster wanders off and Thor follows, hoping to gain info.
Meanwhile, back in Saigon, our mysterious hooded figure examines the spot the
Avengers disappeared from. He is accosted by the authorities, escapes and flees
to hide in an alley. He concentrates for a moment and the green ghostly
Swordsman appears in answer to the hooded man's summons. Swordsman reassures him
that he need not worry, for Mantis will return, it is pre-ordained as she is the
Back in Limbo, Kang and the Battalion from Beyond encounter the Vision. Kang
sicks the Torch and Wonder Man on him. Vizh is startled but recovers quickly. (A
funny scene in light of Shooter's later patented Wonder Man dialogue line "these
fists hit almost as hard as Thor's hammer" when Wondy punches diamond-hard Vizh
he hurts his widdle handypoo). Vision realizes he cannot defeat this group as
his solar beams only briefly stun them, so he flees to find the other Avengers.
The Ghost pursues.
Midnight attempts to capture Mantis as Kang has ordered that she
be taken alive, but she fends him off and flees.
Immortus laments that Kang deceived him and Rama tells him he has
deceived himself. Immortus blasts him for not doing anything to oppose his
earlier self, to which Rama responds he has striven against Kang in his own way
for 5000 years. Rama continues, "Yet I know that which for all your immortality
seem not to: That which is written is written...and an eternity of raging will
not alter one instant of that which will be. Only one maddening enigma remains!
Who knows that which is written? Who knows what will be--in the end?"
Hawk and Shellhead happen upon each other in Limbo's Labyrinth.
Each asks if they've seen any other Avengers but are soon set upon by Kang and
the remaining members of the Legion. They hold their own, barely, but Shellhead
sends Hawk to find the other Avengers. Hawk grumbles but goes. Kang stuns Iron
Man and the Torch grapples him applying intense heat. The heat melts the
circuits in the armor and it can no longer keep his heart beating and Tony dies.
(see opening cover blurb).
The Ghost encounters Mantis but leaves her unmolested to seek the
Vision. He soon finds the Vision and they fight. Ghost uses Vizh's own
disruption trick on him, severely wounding him. Vision screams in agony as
Mantis closes in. She arrives and Vision lies unmoving upon the ground. In this
one's words, "You lie so still...so unmoving. This one does not need to touch
you to know...to fear with her innermost being....you are dying!"
I thought Tony had overcome the need for the armor to keep his heart
beating before this but I could be wrong. My Iron Man knowledge is lacking until
I get around to reading my Iron Man run especially the pre-100 issues). I humbly
submit to the Shellhead experts out there for comment on this one.
Kang is again presented as a competent warlord. His plan is working even though
little bits are not as he planned. Kang seems to be one of those foes who beats
himself rather than being overcome by his enemies. One Avenger dies and one is
at death's door because of Kang's strategies, yet he has also sown the seeds for
his eventual downfall.
Rama's cryptic statements are intriguing and set the stage for Englehart's
There are plenty of clues as to the identity of the hooded figure that long-time
readers should have picked up as they read along.
Reading issues in succession really points out how much room is given for recaps
and with the low page counts of the seventies it's amazing how much Englehart
could move the story forward in such little space.
It's also obvious that Roy Thomas scripted this issue. He tries to emulate the
Stainless one's style but there's just a different feel to his scripts than
"Let's do the time warp again!":
Giant Sized Avengers #3 An Englehart/Thomas/Cockrum/Giella/Thomas production
"...What TIME hath put asunder!"
Mantis holds the dying Vision in her arms as he recounts what he has undergone.
Vision calls out to Wanda and Mantis realizes it is the Scarlet Witch that
Vision truly loves. She pretends to be Wanda to comfort him in his time of
dying, but is attacked by Midnight, and a martial arts duel ensues. (It is
thematically appropriate that each lectures the other about the dangers of
overconfidence which seems to be the moral of this era's Kang stories). Mantis
emerges victorious. She returns to the place where Vision lay dying only to find
Frankenstein's monster shambles down a corridor carrying the
Vision's limp form. One artificial life form carries another, both created to
resemble man, both question their own humanity, but who is to define what is
human and what is not. Hawkeye spies them and displays rare (for him at the
time) prudence and decides to track down the rest of the Avengers rather than
pointlessly attacking the monster.
Kang leads Zemo, Torch and Wondy through the corridors of Limbo.
Zemo asserts himself and Kang puts him in his place reminding him whom he owes
his very existence to. Kang sends Torch and Wondy to seek out the Vision and
continues to berate Zemo.
Thor walks the corridors of Limbo musing over how he lost the
monster when he comes across the still form of Iron Man and swears vengeance
Avengers Mansion-the Dawnstar still shines above it. The police
arrive at the Mansion with an urgent message for the Avengers. No Avengers are
available so Jarvis takes the message-Libra (of the Zodiac cartel and Mantis'
father for those who came in late) has escaped from incarceration and officials
fear he will help the rest of the Zodiac escape. Jarvis goes to alert the only
Avenger at the Mansion, the Scarlet Witch. However, when Jarvis knocks upon her
door he is told by a voice that is Wanda's yet something else as well, something
not human to...."Get away from the door Jarvis! As you value your wretched
life--get far away!!" Jarvis leaves visibly shaken.
Torch and Wondy wander the corridors of Limbo. Wondy runs at the
mouth about how inferior Vision is because he is an android, ignorant of the
Torch's true nature. Torch holds his tongue but is visibly disgusted by Wondy's
attitude. They happen upon the monster carrying the Vision. They encourage the
monster to lay Vision upon a slab, and Wonder Man moves to finish off the barely
living Vision, but the monster grapples him and prevents him. Wondy has a snit
and stomps off to find Kang. Torch moves carefully to examine the Vision and
makes a startling discovery....
Kang and Zemo still bicker but Kang has the obvious upper hand.
Kang sends Zemo off to check upon Immortus and Rama. Kang muses on his good
fortune of Immortus happening upon him as he did, when Thor discovers him. Thor
is enraged and presses the attack upon Kang whose personal forcefield absorbs
the brunt of it. Kang dismisses Thor as a relic of a forgotten pagan past and
strikes him with some ray he expects to dispose of him. He is incredulous to see
Thor not only still standing but also pressing the attack. Thor vows to strike
the forcefield so hard that Kang will be rattled inside and proceeds to start
pounding upon Kang. Kang rants that it cannot happen like this just as Rama
said, he rants he cannot lose that he must father the Madonna's child and rule
through him, that he must be the most powerful man on earth. To which the
enraged Thor can only respond-"POWER didst thou say? BY ODIN I'LL SHOW THEE
POWER!" as he smites him mightily. Thor stands over Kang and admonishes him to
stand and meet his fate to which a recovering Kang gloats, that Fate does await,
but not his, and Wonder Man lands a powerful and cowardly blow on Thor from
behind. Thor and Wondy contest and Wondy throws a snit when Thor refers to him
as Kang's pawn. Thor offers to let him be if he will stand aside but Wondy
refuses as he likes being alive and needs Kang to stay that way. Thor gains the
upper hand though and Kang and Wondy flee collapsing the tunnel to cover their
escape. Thor sets to work clearing the passage.
Hawkeye finds Immortus' throne room. He recognizes Rama but not
Immortus. Hawk is told how to free them and he muses whether they can be trusted
and decides that he will trust Rama as he helped stop Kang before. As he moves
to press the button to release them, he is stopped by an energy bolt - fired
by.....Zemo. Hawk launches a volley of arrows which Zemo renders harmless with
his blasts, but Hawk is quicker and blasts the ground beneath Zemo's feet,
overcoming him. He disables the blaster in Zemo's glove but turns his back on
Zemo to free Immortus and Rama. Zemo pulls his adhesive X gun from within his
cloak and immobilizes Hawk with it, and goes into super-villain rant/gloat mode.
Immortus offers Zemo a bargain to travel in time and prevent the accident
trapping him in his mask in exchange for his freedom.
Torch speaks to the monster unsure if he comprehends what he is
saying. Torch reveals that he recognizes Vision's android body; it is his own,
and asks the monster not to prevent him from doing what is necessary to save the
Vision. The monster nods.
As Immortus outlines his bargain, Hawk seizes the opportunity, and
using his feet and teeth nocks an arrow and draws the bow aiming for a shot at
the controls on the throne which hold Rama and Immortus captive.
Kang and Wondy move towards where Wondy left Torch, Vision and the
monster. Kang rants about the incompetence of those he summoned when Thor
confronts them again. Kang quickly orders Wondy to slow Thor so that Kang
himself may escape to safety and make new plans. Wondy boasts it is Thor who
will need help as he spots the monster and Torch. Kang orders all three to
attack Thor who responds by saying bring it on! But Torch and the monster
refuse. Kang sputters in rage and tries to intimidate them into obeying him but
is stared down by the monster. The monster and Torch then step aside to reveal
The Vision, somewhat recovered. One of his arms hangs useless, but he stands on
his own feet. Thor vows this is one more thing Kang shall pay for...
Immortus continues to distract Zemo but just as Hawk is about to
loose his arrow Zemo notices, Hawk's shot is slightly off but still frees
Immortus and Rama. Immortus zaps Zemo, reducing him to protoplasm.
Kang orders Wonder Man to attack the Vision. Wondy remarks that it
feels eerily like attacking himself. The two clash, and even weakened and
wounded, Vision gains the upper hand. Thor meanwhile has gone into a berserker
rage and is attacking Kang without mercy or conscience. He will crumble the
walls of Limbo destroying them all as long as Kang falls, but Kang whisks away
into the timestream to escape. Vision is helped up and supported by Torch and
the monster and he reveals the Torch's discovery about their bodies to a
bewildered Thor. Vision explains that this discovery explains the reasons for
his freezing during recent crisis situations. As they talk, they are whisked
away to.....scene switch: Immortus' throne room. Immortus has gathered all of
the Avengers and the remaining members of the Legion there. He essentially uses
his mastery of time to resurrect Iron Man, repair the Vision and return the
Legion to their own times and fates, all that is, except the Torch. Rama too
departs for his own time. Immortus then agrees to help Torch and Vision discover
their history and reveals that he does so because he understands what it is to
be two or even three men. You see, he is yet another manifestation of both Kang
and Rama from a future that they are not aware of, and that there are things
which the Avengers or Rama cannot know until the appointed time, for so it is
written in the history of the Celestial Madonna. The question at hand though
is...how did the original Human Torch become the Vision?
Avengers #2 with the introduction of Limbo and the Space
Phantom is reprinted in this issue.
Roy Thomas once again scripts this in his not quite Stainless imitative style.
A lot of long running threads are wrapped up and key developments in others are
revealed in this issue. It is a crucial issue in the Englehart run, it is just
unfortunate that the Stainless one couldn't script it himself. His deadline
crunch was swamping him though, he was writing the Avengers regular series, the
quarterly Giant-Size, Doctor Strange, Cap, and a few other features at the time
as well iirc. He was also recently relocated to the west coast and integrating
into the California hip culture lifestyle of the mid-seventies.
The art here is solid, and the close up panel of Thor on p. 10 as he grieves for
Iron Man and swears vengeance is just intense. It displays all the emotions
swirling about in Thor's psyche without resorting to exaggerated and cliched
facial expressions. Really nice work by Cockrum and Giella.
A great deal of Englehart's interpretation of Kang's personality/psyche is
really summed up in this book. It is a character exploration that Steve had been
doing throughout the Kang/Madonna saga, but Kang's actions and comments really
crystallize Englehart's (and Thomas' I suppose since he edited and scripted
large chunks of this) vision of Kang. I will explore this in depth in a separate
post. A question though to any who might know: How closely did the Editor(s) at
Marvel in the 70's work with the writers in terms of plot direction, character
development, etc.? There really was only one editor whose role is more like the
EIC today, overseeing the entire line, but Roy seemed to be pretty involved in
Englehart's Avengers work. Was this an exception or the norm for the time