The Guardians of The Galaxy film franchise has been responsible for introducing a lot of obscure comic characters to a mainstream audience. The likes of Drax, Rocket Racoon and Groot have all benefited from the spotlight. Mantis is another superhero that’s had some great exposure, though the film version differs greatly to the comic portrayal. In the comics, Mantis is linked to The Avengers and her backstory makes her one of the most intriguing female superheroes in the Marvel Universe.
The Celestial Madonna
Mantis comes from a Vietnamese and German background, with her father being a German soldier called Gustav Brandt. While serving in the Vietnam War, Brandt fell for a woman called Lua. However, her brother Khruul took offense to the pairing, attacking Brandt and his family with flamethrowers. Lua was killed and Brandt left Mantis in the care of the Priests of Pama, a sect of Kree who’d taken refuge on Earth.
The girl was trained by the priests, with the Kree believing Mantis would become the Celestial Madonna, a kind of sacred icon that would give birth to the Celestial Messiah. When she reached adulthood, Mantis was mind-wiped and sent out into the world for life experience. She became a prostitute in a Vietnamese bar, where she eventually met the former Avenger Swordsman.
After Swordsman rejoined the Avengers, Mantis came with him and she went on many adventures with the team. As part of the Avengers, she battled Thanos, Kang and other villains.
Fulfilling the prophecy
Eventually, Mantis was revealed as the Celestial Madonna. The prophecy spoke of a human female creating a child with a member of the plant-like Cotati race. Mantis fulfilled her destiny, bearing a child called Sequoia. During this time, she took on an insect appearance, turning green and sprouting antenna. Mantis looked after her son for as long as she could before giving him to the Cotati to protect.
Mantis’ identity as a the Celestial Madonna offers a twist on the chosen one trope. Traditionally, a chosen one is picked to save the world, yet Mantis is different because she was chosen to birth the archetypical chosen one in the form of her son. As the Celestial Messiah, Sequoia was meant to change the universe.
This alternative take doesn’t make Mantis any less special. In my opinion, it makes her more compelling because she’s a character that has gone against convention.
It wasn’t until 2007’s Annihilation Conquest that Mantis appeared alongside the Guardians of The Galaxy. She met Star-Lord after escaping from a Kree prison, eventually joining the team. Her role in the Guardians can be described as a counselor, acting as a voice of reason to balance out all the other personalities.
Mantis’ skill set is diverse and her powers have evolved over time. Originally, she was a normal human who had a high mastery of martial arts. She also had exceptional willpower, to the point that she could control specific aspects of her body. For example, she could control her heartbeat and dull her pain awareness. Mantis possessed psychic empathy as well, allowing her to sense other people’s emotions.
When she became the Celestial Madonna, Mantis’ powers increased. Her mental powers allowed her to communicate with plant life and project her consciousness across interplanetary distances. Mantis also displayed superhuman strength, control over vegetation and pyrokinesis.
The diversity surrounding Mantis makes her stand out. Her membership in both the Avengers and Guardians is a demonstration of her always looking beyond the stars.