Kang’s Weird Guardians of the Galaxy Marriage Was Too Toxic
Let’s take a look back at the brief period when Mantis was supposedly married to Kang in the early 1990s and why the marriage was later reinstated.
The Mantis Empath is now an established member of the Guardians of the Galaxy and a frequent presence in Marvel’s cosmic pantheon of superheroes. However, she also played an important supporting role for the Avengers and has a history with none other than Kang the Conqueror. Mantis fought alongside the team, formed a relationship with the Vision, and was the Silver Surfer’s sole lover.
Kang the Conqueror hoped to leverage Mantis’ superpowers in a failed plot to defeat the Avengers. She survived the ordeal but, as a result, her mind fragmented into many different iterations of her psyche that could not co-exist with each other. After that, several Silver Surfer stories referenced Mantis’ whereabouts, but it largely disappeared from Avengers stories. Meanwhile, several comics have referred to Mantis as a possible “Heavenly Madonna”, the mother and savior of the Kree race. Another alien species, the Cotati, also believed in the fate of Mantis and encouraged his development as a hero and protector of all life.
avengers Writer Bob Harras and artist Terry Kavanagh reintroduced Mantis as an enemy shortly before the 1995 “Crossing” story arc, in which Tony Stark worked for Kang and turned against the mightiest heroes of Earth.
In avengers #392, Mantis reappears in a splash page cliffhanger. She blames the Avengers for her predicament and plans revenge on them and the alien Cotati who possessed the corpse of her teammate, Swordsman and impregnated her. Mantis and the Cotati had a son together before their relationship ended. Naturally, Mantis felt violated and views her marital relationship with Kang as a convenient partnership. Kang and Mantis decided to adopt twin sons, Malachi and Tobias and use them in their scheme against the Cotati Swordsman and Avengers. Do you have all that? It gets even more complicated.
As a general observation, mid 1990s avengers the story arcs have not aged well. The storylines pairing Mantis and Kang in a revenge-fueled nuptial relationship were unnecessarily complicated. Additionally, different Marvel writers have dealt with different aspects of the story and have not coordinated with each other. The storyline was so obtuse that it made no sense from a continuity perspective and became a prequel to the convoluted reveals of the aforementioned “Crossing” event.
At the time, Marvel creatives wanted the story to remain intact without any retroactive continuity. However, Mantis and the other Avengers lacked clear motivations and were often portrayed grossly out of character. Mantis often seemed unaware of her own misdeeds, even though she willingly married Kang. Many fans lamented that Mantis, given his long history with the Avengers, was only used as a pawn for Kang. This poor reception necessitated a complete reversal.
In 1998-99, writer Kurt Busiek pieced together the story beats of Mantis and “Crossing” in the 12-issue series. Avengers: Forever. There, Busiek explained the Mantis that reappeared in avengers #392 was not the real Mantis. Instead, she was a Space Phantom conjured to distract the Avengers from Immortus’ villainous machinations. In Busiek’s account, Mantis’ husband Kang was actually Immortus. His use of the Mantis Space Phantom became a tool to keep the Avengers in the dark against the arrival of another villain, Onslaught. The Space Phantom was supposed to believe she was the real Mantis in order to further legitimize the subterfuge.
Harras had intended the adopted twins, Malachi and Tobias, to be the offspring of the Scarlet Witch and the Vision, and would likely have developed that development if given the chance. Busiek abandoned this idea and made Space Phantoms children as well. Meanwhile, the real Mantis had gone off into space, completely unaware of her doppelganger’s actions. She eventually returned as a 2001-2002 limited run Avengers: Celestial Matterst. Writer Steve Englehart’s inclusion of Mantis resolved lingering plot threads involving his fractured psyche. Mantis also briefly appeared in the 2004 high-profile event “Avengers Disassembled”. However, regular use of the character didn’t really happen until the 2007-2008 cosmic crossover. Annihilation: Conquest. Since then, Mantis has remained a frequent cosmic presence and Guardians of the Galaxy.
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