Brandt/Mandy Celestine (Mantis)

mantisfilmBefore looking at the new characters from the series’ winter finale(s), let’s take a brief look at the new Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 trailer, that introduced one of the new protagonists. At the end of the trailer, Peter Quill is seen holding hands with a weird alien, who can read his mind through contact and has no problems in exposing the man’s sexual interest in his teammate Gamora (much to Drax‘s amusement). That’s Mantis, portrayed by Pom Klementieff. What we know of her as for now is that she’s been raised by Ego the Living Planet, and she lacks any experience in social interaction (as we could guess from the trailer): she’ll assist the Guardians of the Galaxy in their mission, and eventually join them…but that’s all we know. In the comics, she’s not an alien to begin with, albeit most of her adventures involve outer space in a way or another. Let’s see together.

The woman known as Mantis was the daughter of German Gustav Brandt and Vietnamese Lau Nguyen. She was born in HuēVietnam, but immediately after her birth her parents were attacked by Khruul, Lau’s brother, who opposed the union: the woman was killed, while the man lost his sight. Seeking refuge, Gustav arrived with his baby to a temple home to the Priests of Pama, a rogue sect of the Kree Empire who despised its warring policy and was exiled as a result. The Priests were waiting for the Celestial Madonna, some sort of cosmic mother of the future Messiah, said to be “the most important being in the universe”, and they believed that the baby could be the one they were looking for. The Priests took in father and daughter, and even when Gustav left they kept training the girl and taking care of her, awakening her latent mental powers and teaching her martial arts; there was only one thing the girl lacked: life experience. When she turned eighteen years old, the Priests of Pama erased her memory and sent her out to the city, letting her learn from her own choices. Implanted with memories of being a Vietnamese orphan grown up in the streets of Huē, Mantis did her best to survive on her own, and she started working in a bar; mantiscomics1when money weren’t enough to make ends meet, she also became a prostitute (always operating in the bar she worked in). Among her many clients, she became attached to one in particular, sensing his self-loathing and his lack of self-respect: French mercenary Jacques Duquesne, the villain-turned-hero Swordsman. The two became friends, and Mantis helped him come back to his old self; when the hero was ready to come back to the United States, Mantis eventually followed him, and she stayed by his side even when he rejoined the Avengers. Putting her gifts and powers to her friend’s service, Mantis became a valuable ally to the Avengers, just as they first clashed then teamed up with the Defenders to repel a deadly alliance of Loki and Dormammu.

Chosing to stay mostly because of her growing attraction towards the Vision (being oblivious to the Swordsman’s love for her), Mantis helped the two men of her life and Scarlet Witch save Iron ManThorCaptain America and Black Panther from The Collector, but immediately after that the team was involved in a fight with a powerful terrorist organization, the Zodiac Cartel. One of the commanders of Zodiac, Libra, turned out to be Gustav Brandt, who revealed himself as Mantis’ father…but the woman obviously didn’t remember him. Gustav told her the whole story of her origins, but Mantis didn’t believe him…the one who believed the man was Swordsman, who left on a solo quest to find the killer of Mantis’ mother, Khruul. The quest ended in nothing, with Khruul being killed by Star Stalker before being questioned, and Mantis dismissed the whole thing…but her past came back haunting her when Kang the Conqueror, who claimed to know that she was indeed the Celestial Madonna, came to the heroes’ timeline to kill her. In the battle that followed, Swordsman sacrificed his life to protect her, and only in front of Duquesne dying Mantis finally revealed to him that she reciprocated his love. Swordsman was buried in Vietnam, in the temple Mantis had allegedely been raised in, and, while being there, she started investigating her mysterious past along with the Avengers. Kang returned, wanting Mantis to bear his child, and he unleashed the Legion of the Unliving on the heroes: the Avengers defeated both Kang and the Legion allying with Immortus (another mantiscomics2version of Kang), and the time master offered to both Mantis and Vision the opportunity to watch their origins as if they were spectators. Mantis accepted the offer, and she learned everything of the Kree/Skrull War, the Priests of Pama and the Cotati race they swore to protect. Back to Vietnam, she found out that Swordsman’s body, buried in the garden where the Cotatis hid, had been possessed by one of them: accepting her destiny as Celestial Madonna, Mantis left to space with Cotati-Swordsman to conceive the Celestial Messiah. From Vietnamese orphan to cosmic savior, Mantis had walked a long path…but that was still just the beginning.

Mantis is a living mystery, a woman whose past as she remembers it is a lie and an illusion, and whose destiny is written in the stars; with years, she became less and less human, embracing a nature that makes her detached from physical existence altogether, from passions and feelings. As the Celestial Madonna, she’s a powerful telepath and empath, she can leave her body in astral form, she can use pyrokinesis and chlorokinesis (the ability to manipulate vegetal life), she can foresee her and others’ future, she can strenghten her body with her psychic powers and even heal faster; after her training she has complete control over every single cell of her body, and she’s one of the most accomplished martial artists in the whole universe, being specialised in locating and using pressure points in her adversaries (despite not disposing of superhuman strength, she can easily immobilize extremely powerful opponents such as Thor with her techniques). With an awareness spanning eras and light years, watching over the balance of galaxies and cosmic beings, Mantis is now something infinitely more than the mere physicall shell containing her, a creature with an ever-expanding mind who barely remembers having been human once.

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