Saturday, November 3, 2012


I’ve always been a fan of “Mantis”, the antennae sporting, half Vietnamese, half German martial arts expert, Avenger member and daughter of Libra, the sometimes hero, sometimes villainous member of the crime cartel known as the Zodiac. I was particularly excited to see this great Steve Englehart created character revived some years ago by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning as a member of the new Guardians of the Galaxy (a comic that Marvel/Disney will be adapting for the big screen in 2015). So it was only a matter of time before I purchased one of Mantis’ most popular story arcs “The Celestial Madonna Saga.

Avengers: Celestial Madonna Saga collects Avengers issues 129-135 and Giant Sized Avengers 2,3 and 4. There are some problems with this trade. One of the problems I have with this particular, relatively popular Avengers story arc is that it's less of a "Mantis" story and more of a "Kang" story in that several key Mantis appearances needed to help flesh out and give depth to the Celestial Madonna saga are not included such as Avengers #112 (first appearance of Mantis) and Avengers 120-123 (first origin of Mantis, Libra and the "Zodiac War" storyline) as well as other key Mantis plot points such as her budding relationship with The Swordsman that developed in the issues leading up to "Celestial Madonna". Since those early Mantis appearances are even harder to come by than the ones collected in this trade, this is extremely disappointing to say the least. Without those stories, the only real relevant "Mantis" story in this collection is the final entry...Giant Size Avengers #4.

However, there is also much to enjoy here. Some fine artwork by Sal Buscema, Dave Cockrum and George Tuska for example. And the Steve Englehart/Roy Thomas scripted story packs in everything but the kitchen sink. We get one of the most classic battles between Kang and the Avengers in which the Avengers discover the true nature of Kang, Pharaoh Rama-Tut and Immortus as well as Kangs plot to capture the Celestial Madonna. We also get a rather intriguing battle between The Avengers and Kangs "Legion of the Un-Living" a team of previously dead heroes and villains that includes Frankenstein, The original Human Torch, Baron Zemo and Wonderman. In Avengers 130 the Avengers travel to Viet Nam and end up battling Crimson Dynamo, Radioactive Man and Titanium Man. Over the course of the story The Avengers are witness to the origin of the Human Torch and The Vision (elements of this story were retconned in the classic and epic Busiek story Avengers Forever). 

 We also get the tail end of a subplot involving Scarlet Witch, Agatha Harkness, Dormammu and his sister Umar. There’s also a certain amount of kooky charm to this story. Lines such as this one are a hoot…. "She CANNOT marry a TREE! And even if she could, she could never become a Madonna because they could not have a child!"
Comic books. You gotta love em. Only in the bronze age of comics could you read a line like that delivered straight and with complete sincerity. And it's that unabashed, unapologetic and crazy brand of Marvel melodrama that helps to make this often crude, unorganized and incomplete story "AVENGERS: Celestial Madonna" a little more palatable.

In the final issue of this collection, Giant Size Avengers #4 (the classic issue with the Vision-Scarlet Witch/Mantis-Swordsman double wedding) we finally discover the origin and identity of The Celestial Madonna which anyone who's even remotely familiar with Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy (or anyone who looks at the cover to this trade) already knows. Unfortunately, GS Avengers 4 is the weakest entry of the collection from a visual standpoint. Don Heck was one of Marvel Comics "workhorses" but his art could be crude at times.

Contemporary readers might find this collection of Avengers tales rather quaint compared to later works by Busiek and Perez and that's to be expected. While I can't recommend putting this at the top of anyone's buy list, I do recommend it to those Avengers completists out there as well as those looking to read some classic Avengers history or for those Mantis fans out there, or those simply looking for a little Bronze Age nostalgia.


  1. Essential Avengers vol. 6 reprints 120-140 and the Giants in glorious black and white. It also gives a flavour of the wacky tapestry Englehart was creating.

    I have especially fond memories of reading GSA 4 reprinted in six or seven-page chunks in the UK Super Spider-Man Weekly during the summer of 1978.

  2. Thanks for the reply, Dougie! I have quite a few volumes of Essentials. They're great for referencing stories when you don't want to dig through a jillion long boxes! Speaking of Giant Sized Marvels, I'll be posting some thoughts on the Marvel Giant Sized trade paperback in the next few days. Hope you'll stop by again and take a look.

  3. windows 10 activation software , windows storage server workgroup , windows 8.1 product key , cheap windows 8 professional genuine keys , buy genuine uk windows 7 ultimate product key , vmware workstation 11 to buy , windows thin pc keygen , windows 7 starter to home premium upgrade sale download , t2EKf1

    office 2016 product serial free

    windows 10 enterprise key

    office 2016 product key

    office 2013 product key sale