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Comic Book / The Celestial Madonna Saga

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"This one is not someone interesting to talk about". Yes, sure.

"The Celestial Madonna Saga" is a 1970s storyline of The Avengers (1963), written by Steve Englehart. The plot is massively complex, and it is perhaps the most complex comic book plot written up to that date (and it may still give modern readers a headache).

The arc runs through The Avengers #129-134 and Giant-Size Avengers #2-4.

In short, the Swordman had returned to the Avengers and brought Mantis with him, a Vietnamese martial artist. Unravelling details of her past, which was composed of fake memories, she became the "Celestial Madonna" (the perfect human being), got married with a sentient tree and ascended to a higher plane of existence. The time-traveler Kang the Conqueror tried to abduct Mantis, but he was opposed by pharaoh Rama-Tut (a future self of Kang) and Immortus (a future self of Kang and Rama-Tut); even so he attacked a second, a third and a fourth time. The Vision discovers that his body was not created by Ultron; actually he used to be the robotic Human Torch, with a changed body and new brain patterns (this became more complicated in the future...). Agatha Harkness trained the Scarlet Witch in sorcery, so she became an actual witch, and not just a mere fancy superhero name. And, as a bonus, we also learn the origin of Moondragon.

Sounds complicated? Remember that this is just the brief introductory version.

This is a comic book without any relation to the Queen of Pop.

The Celestial Madonna Saga provides examples of:

  • A God Am I: Moondragon is quite insistent that she's a goddess due to her psychic training.
  • Arc Welding: Loads of it. The story not only ties together the origins of Mantis, Moondragon, and the Kree, it also makes Immortus a future version of Kang/Rama-Tut and reveals that the Vision is the Golden Age Human Torch.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Midnight, who Kang recruits to capture Mantis with his skills. Never mind that he died fighting Shang-Chi in a martial arts duel, he still assumes his skill will win out right up until Mantis subdues him with a single hold.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The ending for Mantis and the Swordsman.
  • Badass Boast: When Kang rants about his problems, the Flying Dutchman's Ghost lets him know how much worse being damned to wander as a spirit really is.
  • Bald of Evil: All the Kree seen in the flashback to their origins are completely bald.
  • Becoming the Mask: With her studies of mystic arts, the Scarlet Witch becomes an actual witch.
  • Beneath Notice: Way back in the ancient past, two species lived on Hala; the carnivorous Kree, and the plant-like Cotati. The Avengers, watching a playback of this, figure the Kree left the Cotati alone because, being meat-eaters, there wasn't anything they needed from them.
  • Beyond the Impossible: Nothing can pierce Kang's personal Force Field... so Thor just hits it so hard that it and Kang are thrown around with great force anyway.
  • Body Horror: When Libra says that he is Mantis' father, she replies that he's a liar. To prove her point, she says that he also claims to be blind, and yet moves and fights as no other blind occidental may do. (She does not know Daredevil). To prove that he's not blind, she takes the bandage from his face... eek. The implied sight of burnt eyes (or, more exactly, the sight of burnt cavities that used to contain eyes) is not something easy to manage.
  • Breather Episode: "A Quiet Half-Hour in Saigon" in issue #131 works this way, since Kang is busy scheming and the Avengers aren't in battle for most of it.
  • The Bus Came Back: Immortus had last appeared way back in Avengers #16, vowing vengeance on the team, but had never reappeared. He shows up in Giant-Sized Avengers #2.
  • Chekhov's Gun: When he shows up for the final ascent of Mantis to Celestial Madonna, Immortus brings a box with him. Kang appears shortly afterwards, to abduct Mantis right before her ascent, but the content of the box foil his plan.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • Moondragon answers a distress call aimed at Captain Marvel. Actually, her presence is more important for the events developing than if Marvel actually took the call.
    • The mysterious man accompanying the Avengers in the old West is really Thor as Don Blake, his mortal alter ego.
  • The Chosen One: The Celestial Madonna, who it is said will give birth to the Celestial Messiah, who will bring about an era of peace and suchlike. Kang wishes to grab the Madonna so the Messiah will be his kid, through which he can rule the world (instead of, say, conquering it himself). The Priests weren't certain if it was going to be Mantis or Moondragon, so they hedged their bets. Moondragon flubbed the test through her arrogance, so Mantis it is.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Mantis towards the Vision.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Monsieur Krull subjects the Swordsman to torture when he foolishly tries to force answers from him.
  • Comic-Book Time: Some of the story is pretty heavily influenced by the whole Vietnam War, not to mention the Watergate Scandal which was going on at the time. Later stories have had to work around this when they can, retconning things so that all the stuff taking place in Vietnam now took place in an entirely different country called Siancong.
  • Conflict Ball: Mantis' presumptiveness towards Vision means even when they've been abducted by Kang the Scarlet Witch would rather attack her than deal with the bad guy first. Don't touch Wanda man.
  • Crossover and Cross Through: One issue is given over to the original Thanos storyline from Captain Marvel, and Captain America's then-current storylines, also written by Engelhart, affect his status quo in this story.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The whole plot, really, down to an ersatz "star of Bethlehem" appearing over Avengers Mansion as the Madonna reveal draws near.
  • Damsel in Distress: Played with. Dormammu has both the Scarlet Witch and Agatha Harkness captive, and Vision tries to rescue them. He is defeated. Then, it is the Scarlet Witch who breaks free and rescues him.
  • Death of Personality: Part of the Vision's origins. Here, he is physically the original Human Torch, but after John put up a fight while Ultron was reprogramming him Ultron entirely scrubbed his personality and replaced it with the recording of Wonder Man's mind Hank Pym had, so the original Human Torch is effectively dead.
  • Death Seeker: Implied with the Flying Dutchman's Ghost, who destroys himself in order to subdue the Vision after telling Kang how awful Hell is.
  • Dirty Commies: Subverted with the Titanic Three, who started out this way in earlier stories but are now operating as superheroes in Vietnam.
  • Dirty Coward: Kang, surprisingly. He flees through time whenever it looks like he's about to lose in battle, uses time travel to his advantage by returning soon after each defeat after resting and preparing elsewhere, and conducts both of his major attacks on the Avengers by proxy using the Macrobots or the Legion of the Unliving
  • Epiphany Therapy: Through the story, the Vision has a lot of angst over his origins, and being a robot. On seeing his origins explained to him, all this vanishes.
  • Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: In this version of the Vision's origins, Ultron grabbed the Human Torch's body and rebuilt it, but demanded Professor Horton make Vision's skin red so that every time he looked in the mirror he'd be reminded of what had been done to him. To Ultron, this was utterly hilarious, and he explodes when Professor Horton doesn't laugh at it.
  • Faceā€“Heel Turn: The Rama-Tut here is an older version of Kang who got bored with conquering and went back to Ancient Egypt to live the life of a humble pharaoh. He helps the Avengers fight his younger self.
  • Failed a Spot Check:
    • The Frankenstein Monster quickly abandons the Legion of the Unliving because Kang can only control the dead members, and apparently didn't realize that the monster himself is not dead... he's just made of dead body parts.
    • Similarly, Kang is finally undone when he loses track of Thor in the latter's Don Blake Secret Identity.
  • Fake Memories: To prevent Mantis from having delusions of grandeur, the priest of Pama erased her memories of her training in the convent before releasing her to the streets of Saigon, the new memories were that she just always lived in those streets.
  • Fantastic Racism: Wonder Man, yanked out of time from just before his first death, seems to have some massive grudge against anything non-human, spewing out at the original Human Torch how he hates non-humans. He doesn't seem to get why the Human Torch might be so offended, and when he sees the Vision instantly tries to kill him. He's brainwashed by Kang's machines, but his wording suggests that he'd do it anyway.
  • Future Me Scares Me: For a Blood Knight like Kang, finding out that he's destined to become a pacifist who opposes his own schemes is too much to bear.
  • Gothic Horror: Briefly with the vampire Amenhotep, and then in a more extended fashion with the Legion of the Unliving, which even includes one of the Trope Codifiers, the Frankenstein Monster.
  • Hero of Another Story: The Titanic Three, whose superheroics in Saigon are only on the margins of the story.
  • I Have No Son!: Inverted: "This one has no father". To the point that the Vision has to point something Trivially Obvious: that every born person has a father
  • It's Personal: The brawl between the Titanic Three is not helped by the fact Titanium Man is responsible for the death of Iron Man's girlfriend Janice Cord.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: This is Moondragon's primary character trait; other than assuming herself to be the Madonna, she's right about everything she tells the Avengers. It's just that she's so arrogant and overbearing that no one wants to hear her out.
  • Lampshade Hanging: When the exposition starts getting really thick in Giant-Sized Avengers #4, Hawkeye even comments on how the Avengers have been reduced to extras in their own title, and wanders off until the plot comes back.
  • Lemony Narrator: The narration is very conversational and casual. And in the case of the Swordsman, pretty dickish, calling him a loser while setting the scene of his funeral.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: The Slasher manipulates the Avengers and the Titanic Three into fighting to cover his robberies. The fight stops when the Titanium Man sees he was lying, and the Three just stomp off.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: All the problem with Mantis' past begin at the end of Avengers #122, when Libra claims that he is Mantis' father.
  • Madness Mantra: "Kang conquers! Kang conquers!"
  • Meaningful Echo: Some time before this conflict, during Roy Thomas's run on the title, the Avengers fought against Sentinels. One scanned the Vision and reported him to be a three decades old. The comment was ignored in the heat of the battle, but remembered when he learned about his origin as the Human Torch.
  • Mr. Exposition: The Senso Staffs that Immortus gives to the Avengers, the Cotati spirit, and Moondragon. The last issues have very little actual action.
  • My Future Self and Me: Kang, Ranma Tut and Immortus: three different selves of the same man.
  • My Own Private "I Do": Immortus may be the high and mighty Lord of Limbo, Master of the Timestream, Watcher of the Timelines, Keeper of the integrity of the multiverse and all the stuff you want... but he has no legal nor religious authorization to conduct weddings.
  • Night of the Living Mooks: Kang's second attack. Seizing Immortus' machines, he abducts the Avengers to Limbo and raises an army of super-powered dead people via Time Travel.
  • Oh, Crap!: Kang has this reaction whenever Thor confronts him in single combat. In the epilogue arc, it leads to Kang destroying himself by overcharging his weapons in a last-ditch attempt to fend off the Thunder God.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The Legion of the Unliving initially seem impervious to physical harm, but it's later chalked up tot he odd properties of timeless Limbo and to Kang's Mind Control over them.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Not only is Amenhotep from ancient Egypt, he's also only a vampire because Kang/Rama-Tut fed him a potion. He still has the usual weaknesses, though.
  • Plot-Irrelevant Villain: Dormammu, Lord of the Dark Dimension, who abducts Wanda and Agatha Harkness. It's not because of anything to do with Kang or the Celestial Madonna. He just wants revenge on Wanda for stuff.
  • Put on a Bus: The story ends with Mantis going off into the unknown with her Cotati lover, not to be seen again until Steve Englehart started writing Silver Surfer in the 80s.
  • The Reveal:
    • Immortus is a future Kang.
    • Vision is (or was) the original Human Torch, rebuilt. (Well, kind of. Sort of. It's insanely complicated.)
  • Revision: A tool used for the complexity of the story. First the Star-Stalker explains the origin of the Priests of Pama, who trained Mantis, and some issues later we hear the same story but with more details that make it more complex (details unknown by the Star-Stalker, which explains why he didn't reveal them).
  • Rock Beats Laser: The primitive Kree, armed with nothing more than pointy rocks tied to spears, manage to overpower and kill an entire party of Skrulls, who are apparently so pacifistic they cannot overcome or flee them in time.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Kang will never stop being Kang... no matter what does his future selves claim.
  • Shoo Out the New Guy: Black Widow had joined the Avengers in issue #111. In issue #112, the first story of the saga, she promptly leaves to go be in Daredevil.
  • The Social Darwinist: Inverted. There is a "Celestial Madonna", a perfect human being, but she is not a Übermensch from a world power, but rather a poor girl from a third-world country ravaged by war. In fact, living among poor people and being one of them was precisely the reason why Mantis was selected to be the Celestial Madonna and not Moondragon, who never left the convent.
  • Stable Time Loop: Rama-Tut knows what's going to happen because he's already seen it when he was Kang, but is convinced he can change it. Apparently old habits don't die easy.
  • Start of Darkness: Part of the plot involves showing the Kree's. Back when they were primitive cavemen, the ancient Skrulls came and offered them and the Cotati membership in their empire provided they could prove they were good enough. The two species worked for months on Earth's Moon, creating the Blue Area of the Moon. Incensed at losing after their months of hard work, the Kree kill the Skrulls and Cotati, steal the Skrull ship, and use it to build their own empire. Nice job, Skrulls.
  • Taking the Bullet: The Swordsman saves Mantis from Kang, and dies in the process.
  • Took a Level in Badass: The Scarlet Witch, after learning sorcery.
  • Villainous Breakdown: After learning that he becomes the benevolent Rama-Tut and the comparatively pacifistic Immortus, Kang spends the rest of the story desperately trying to avert his fate.
  • Wacky Marriage Proposal: So, Mantis got married... to a tree? A tree possessing her dead lover?
  • Weddings for Everyone: The story ends with not one but TWO weddings at the same time: Mantis and the Cotati spirit, and the Scarlet Witch and the Vision.