Warning: This page will contain spoilers for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Read at your own risk.
To describe Mantis as having one of the weirdest, most complicated histories in all of superhero comics would be an understatement. Originally introduced as the title character of the Celestial Madonna storyline in Avengers, Mantis is a Vietnamese martial artist raised by Kree monks to become the savior of a plant-like alien race called the Cotati. After becoming an Avenger and joining them on some of their adventures, she eventually departs the team to realize her destiny as the so-called "Celestial Madonna."
And then she winds up in the DC Universe as a character named "Willow," following co-creator Steve Englehart's move to the Distinguished Competition in 1977. While she's never explicitly identified as Mantis in those particular comics, it's very much implied to be the case. She then appears as "Lorelei" in the Eclipse Comics Scorpio Rose, before finally returning to the Marvel Universe under Englehart's pen in 1987, now with green skin and an upgraded power set that includes invulnerability, empathy, chlorokinesis, self-healing, and precognition.
She'd remain a background player in the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe for quite a while until the Annihilation event series, which then segued into a regular role in the reboot of Guardians of the Galaxy in 2008. Because of her new empathic abilities, she mostly served as a support player for the team, helping mediate all the different personalities onboard their roster, but she did spend on time on the field with the rest of them throughout the run.
Perhaps because of her convoluted nature in the comics, a streamlined version of Mantis appears in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, portrayed there by Pom Klementieff. Debuting in 2017's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, this iteration is an alien woman of unknown origin with empathic powers who serves as the ward (and servant) of Ego. Though initially loyal to him, she soon defects to the Guardians of the Galaxy, and aids them in defeating Ego before he can colonize the entire universe. She appears again in 2018's Avengers: Infinity War, now having been a full member of the team for a number of years when the story begins, and plays an instrumental role in helping prevent Thanos from completing the Infinity Gauntlet.
Mantis appears in:Notable Comics
- The Avengers (various runs)
- The Celestial Madonna Saga (1974 — 1975)
- Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 (2008 — 2010)
- Marvel Cinematic Universe, portrayed by Pom Klementieff:
- Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: BREAKOUT! (2017), portrayed by Klementieff
- LEGO Marvel's Avengers (2016), voiced by Ali Hillis
- Marvel: Avengers Alliance (added in 2016)
- Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series (2017), voiced by Sumalee Montano
- Marvel Future Fight (added in 2017)
- Avengers Academy (added in 2017)
Mantis provides examples of:
- Action Girl: She's a woman who can kick ass.
- Action Mom: She has a son out there... somewhere.
- Amicable Exes: She and Kang have a "history". Or did, or will. Well, Mantis is amicable, at least. Kang is just indifferent to her presence.
- Asian Hooker Stereotype: It's no coincidence that when the (German-)Vietnamese woman had to go into the world to gain experience in a 1970s series she winds up... becoming a prostitute.
- Astral Projection: To travel in space, Mantis projects her astral form from her body, allowing her to travel interplanetary distances. She'd then recreate a body for herself out of the destination planets local vegetation.
- Because Destiny Says So: Becoming the Celestial Madonna.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Normally, Mantis is one of the calmest, sweetest and friendliest people around. In combat, however, she's utterly ruthless. And she's not above Brainwashing for the Greater Good.
- Blessed with Suck: She can see the future, but she can't do anything to change what happens, meaning if someone is going to go mad and turn the team, she can't warn anyone.
- But Not Too Foreign: Half-Asian (Vietnamese, specifically), half-white (German).
- The Chosen One: This one is the Celestial Madonna.
- Does Not Like Shoes: Averted when she joins the team, played straight before that.
- The Empath: This enables her to sense the emotions of others, which she feels as psychic "vibrations" which she also uses to communicate with the plant-like Cotati.
- Green-Skinned Space Babe: Not at first, and something of an inversion. She was originally a normal human who, through alien foster care, was chosen as the Celestial Madonna, developing psychic powers and a new body with green skin.
- Green Thumb: She's very fond of her plants. Both the sentient and the non-sentient ones.
- Interspecies Romance: With a member of the Cotati race (read: a living tree).
- Kick Chick: in battle scenes, usually shown kicking, showing off her long legs since she fights in something resembling a grass skirt.
- Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Her father was the original Libra of the Zodiac (although as of Avengers Forever, he's not quite a villain anymore).
- Magical Asian: Is half-Vietnamese, and was raised in an Oriental Temple of the Priests of Pama where she became an adept of Eastern mysticism and also a martial arts master. She is that rare case when ethnic stereotypes do not spoil the character: she is seductive, she goes barefoot (bearing association with Asian martial arts), and almost always refers to herself in the third person (which is also a common practice in Eastern religions), but nonetheless, she is a very smart, independent and strong-willed character whose depiction is not in the least patronizing.
- Mission Control: In as much as the Guardians have anyone who can keep them in line and tell them what to do, Mantis is this.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: During the Annihilation: Conquest - Star-Lord mini-series, she suddenly gains an immunity to being detected by Phalanx tech, out of nowhere.
- Plant Person: She can control the growth of plants, which is used to bring down the Phalanx Babel Spire.
- Playing with Fire: On rare occasions, she has shown the ability of pyrokinesis. It's implied she doesn't like using it, which given her empathic abilities wouldn't be surprising.
- Psychic Powers: Mantis has repeatedly demonstrated Telepathy as well as a variety of other mental powers.
- Put on a Bus: Isn't a member of the team come vol 3, with only one appearance so far. As of Volume 4, it's revealed that she and some of the other former Guardians are part of a new team called the Knowhere Corps.
- Raised By Aliens: Plant aliens, at that.
- Second Love: For Silver Surfer, after Alicia Masters and before Nova (Frankie Raye)
- Ship Tease: Between her and Peter. Nothing ever comes of it, though.
- Tastes Like Purple: According to Cosmo, her thoughts smell of flowers.
- Third-Person Person: Always refers to herself in the third person as "this one"; this probably has to do with her upbringing by the Priests of Pama, an Oriental pacifistic sect of alien origin whose teachings bear a considerable similarity to real-life Eastern philosophy (which has referring to oneself in the third person as a common practice of "distancing oneself from the ego").
- Taken Up to Eleven, since she even thinks about herself in the third person. Interestingly, this is apparently a conscious choice: in issue #135b, she corrects herself: "You're playing some monstrous game with m... with this one". When Silver Surfer asks her to stop doing this◊, she retorts very cleverly by making him admit he's romantically interested in her◊, and continues to speak like this.
- Twofer Token Minority: Half-Vietnamese, half-German.
- Verbal Tic: "This one".