Marvel's latest blockbuster, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 looks set to be an absolute hit! It has introduced fans to Pom Klementieff's Mantis, a thrilling new character who adds a whole new dynamic to the team. But with Mantis sticking around as a member of the Guardians, what is it that makes her so cool and effective an addition to the #MCU?
A Fascinating Powerset, Especially In The Context Of The Guardians
First of all, let's take a look at Mantis's powerset. When the MCU started out, the first iteration of the Avengers had pretty basic powersets — you're talking your standard supersoldiers and some cool ranged attacks. We had to wait until Phase 2 before we got Quicksilver's super-speed and the Scarlet Witch's telepathy and telekinesis; it took Phase 3 to add the spectacular range of sorcery that we saw in Doctor Strange. With the MCU broadening out in terms of powersets, Mantis's is one of the most fascinating to date.
What I love about Mantis's powerset is the fact that it's limited. I love the subtle distinction between telepathy and empathy, while Mantis's empathic powers are complemented by her ability to manipulate the moods of others. In one remarkable scene, she's even able to put a furious living planet to sleep! But her powers have clear limits, ensuring she's not overpowered. She needs to touch in order to influence.
In a universe where most characters have offensive powersets, Mantis's is a defensive one. She lacks the combat skills of her comic book counterpart, and you won't see her wading through Thanos's armies anytime soon. She adds much-needed diversity to the powersets and concepts on display in the MCU.
A Different Kind Of Female Superhero
As little as fans may like to admit it, up till now, Marvel hasn't exactly been great at handling female characters. There have really been only a handful of female characters on display in the MCU to date, and they've almost all fitted simple tropes:
- The secondary female character, introduced as a love interest for the white-male main (Jane Foster, Pepper Potts)
- The all-action, kickass warrior-woman (Black Widow, Gamora)
- The tertiary character who exists in a single plot, and is pretty much forgotten afterwards (Maria Hill, Doctor Cho)
The sole exception to date has been Scarlet Witch, who's brought a powerful new dynamic to the MCU. Mantis, though, is another exception, and that's great for improving the character diversity of the MCU.
There's no female superhero in the MCU quite like Mantis. Her empathic powers will gradually transform her into the heart and soul of the team, and her lack of combat experience means she won't be the front-line warrior woman (usually while wearing a catsuit). That's brilliant.
A Beautifully Innocent Portrayal
Pom Klementieff plays the role of Mantis with a touching degree of innocence, giving us a real sense of how her character works. Growing up in the shadow of Ego has left Mantis hesitant and unconfident, innocent and naive. Although she possesses empathic powers, she doesn't really understand how to relate to people; that's why she clicks so well with Drax, because the two are both socially awkward.
The most beautiful thing about Mantis, though, is that she doesn't judge. She doesn't really understand why Peter Quill is embarrassed when she exposes his love for Gamora; she can't explain why Drax finds the revelation so embarrassing. She's just delighted to share something with someone. She really is an absolute innocent, and she's never going to judge anyone for what she senses. This non-judgmental character complements her powerset perfectly; she's an empath who will never judge you for what she knows.
Another core element of the character, though, is her low self-esteem. Mantis has absolutely no idea that she's beautiful, and accepts Drax's judgment that she's "ugly" without a second thought. More importantly, Mantis doesn't really realize how powerful she is; Drax's statement of confidence inspires her to put Ego to sleep, but she'd never have imagined she could do it without his lie about believing in her.
The difficult question, though, is how this low self-esteem will play out in the long term. How will Mantis respond as she begins to understand that people lie to themselves, and to one another? Will she continue to believe Drax's lie about her ugliness, or see through it to his obvious attraction towards her? Only time will tell.
Mantis is a brilliant addition to the MCU, a character who's defined not by her fighting prowess, but by her compassionate character. Pom Klementieff performs the role with skill, transforming what could have been a pretty "flat" concept into a wonderfully well-rounded hero. I'm delighted that she's been added to the MCU.
Do you feel Mantis and Drax should get together?
(Poll Image Credit: Marvel Studios)