Guardians of the Galaxy was perhaps Marvel's most unexpected blockbuster hit — I mean, the studio made us fall in love with a superhero movie featuring a talking raccoon and a walking tree! Next year's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will expand the team's roster, introducing us to a brand new Guardian: Pom Klementieff's Mantis! But who is this mysterious new superhero, and what part will she play?
Who is Mantis?
Created by writer Steve Englehart in 1973, Mantis is a fascinatingly complex character who adds a powerful spiritual dynamic to the #MarvelComics Universe. Amusingly enough, Englehart loved the character so much that, when he left Marvel after a falling-out with Editor Gerry Conway, he was unable to leave the character alone. In Englehart's Justice League of America, she was renamed 'Willow'; in his Scorpio Rose she was redesigned as Lorelei. It's always a little sad when a creator loves a character so much, but realistically, because Englehart used her in Marvel comic books, she's a #Marvel property.
Mantis is a half-Vietnamese, half-German warrior, and was brought up at the Temple of the Priests of Pama: a Kree sect who were attempting to find the 'Celestial Madonna'. She's at the heart of possibly some of the wackiest, most complex plots in Marvel history; in "The Celestial Madonna" arc, she... married a sentient tree. Baby Groot's a little young for you, Mantis!
What Is the Celestial Madonna?
In the comics, the Celestial Madonna is essentially the pinnacle of human evolution, destined to give birth to the Celestial Messiah. If you can't see the religious allusions already, the Madonna is heralded by a gigantic Star of David hovering over Avengers Mansion! According to legend, the Madonna's mate will be the greatest figure in history, which naturally meant the time-traveling Kang the Conqueror wanted Mantis as his trophy wife.
What are Mantis's Powers?
Trained by the Priests of Pama, Mantis is a tremendously effective martial artist. She can instinctively sense a person's weak points, and strikes pressure points with ease; she actually managed to knock out Thor once. She has an unusual amount of control over her own body, and is able to heal injuries through sheer force of will.
After, ah, 'communing' with the Cotati (a tree-like alien), she gained some pretty remarkable abilities. She gained an empathic connection with a world's flora and fauna, and could project her astral form. Oddly, in the "Annihilation" epic she also demonstrated precognitive abilities, as well as some energy-manipulation powers. No explanation for these powers was ever given.
Mantis in the MCU
The trailer for Guardians has made it clear that the Mantis of the MCU is definitely a powerful empath. In a scene that's surely even more amusing in context, she reaches out and takes Peter Quill's hand. In doing so, she gains insight into his emotions - including one particular emotion! Pom Klementieff's look is pretty comic-book-accurate - right down to the antennae and green bodysuit!
But what will Mantis's role in the #MCU be? We don't really know; significantly, though, Pom Klementieff has tied her in to Ego the Living Planet:
"I arrive in the movie with Kurt Russell's character, and I've spent my life with him, and then I meet the Guardians."
In the same interview, Pom also reveals that this version of the character is actually an alien, suggesting that Mantis is being drastically rewritten. It sounds as though the MCU version of Mantis is still a meditative woman, and grew up on the surface of Ego, the Living Planet played by Kurt Russell. In this version, she's an alien, not a human at all; it's possible that her empathic powers will have given her a unique connection to Ego, and that she acts as his 'interpreter', speaking on his behalf to the Guardians before Ego manifests himself.
Will a version of the quest for the Celestial Madonna / Celestial Messiah be part of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2? My suspicion is that, in the MCU, the Temple of the Priests of Pama will actually be situated on Ego's surface, and Mantis will have been trained as a warrior by the Priests. Given Star-Lord's MCU story is very different to anything we've seen before, though, the same could be true for Mantis.
I can't help wondering if Chris Pratt's Peter Quill plays the role of Celestial Messiah in this story — with his mother being the Celestial Madonna, and Ego the father. After all, we've already seen that Star-Lord is able to wield an Infinity Gem without harm, and some rumors suggest the character will play a key role in #InfinityWar. A Messiah is a savior, so perhaps he'll be important in saving the universe from Thanos...
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I don't mind admitting that Mantis is perhaps one of the most surprising characters to actually make her way into the MCU. She's at the heart of some of Marvel's craziest arcs, and suggests that #JamesGunn is tapping into some of Marvel's most remarkable mythologies. I'm really excited to see how she's adapted for the MCU!
Who do you think will be the Celestial Messiah in the MCU?
(Poll Image: Marvel Comics — showing two potential Madonnas in battle!)