Despite her alien appearance, Mantis is the daughter of the German soldier and incarnation of the zodiac sign Libra (yes, in Marvel there is all sorts), Gustav Brandt, and the Vietnamese Lua Nguyen. She was born during the war of Vietnam, and in the middle of the confusion and chaos of the war, Lua’s brother, Khruul, goes after them and ends Lua’s life.
Feeling guilty about her death, he runs away with her baby daughter to the monastery of the Priests of Pama, where he abandons the baby leaving her with the priests. As guardians of an obscure prophecy that foretells the coming of the Celestial Madonna who will give birth to the most powerful being of the Universe, they train Mantis in all the known martial arts and, in due course, they also give her telepathic powers. That said, so that she can live and know the life that corresponds to her as a human, when she turns 18 they wipe her memory and throw her out.
With nowhere to go in a devastated Vietnam, Mantis becomes a prostitute in a brothel in the capital. While offering her services, she meets Swordsman, an old member of the Avengers, and manages to recover her self-esteem and become part of the team again. From there, Mantis’s adventures begin, taking her to all corners of the Earth and the galaxy, due in part to her extraordinary powers but also because one day she will give birth to a being so powerful that many villains of the universe, and the multiverse, will pursue her to be the father, whether she likes it or not.
Bearing in mind that she was born in Vietnam in the 70s and spends part of her life in a brothel, it’s not surprising that one of the fundamental aspects of her personality is sensuality and seduction, whether that be voluntary or involuntary. Her period in the monastery included Kung-Fu but not all the basic aspects of human social interaction, and a brothel was not going to improve her emotional intelligence, so even though she recognises and even perceives the emotions of those around her, she doesn’t tend to interact with them and sometimes hurts people without realising. She is brave, yes, but not too arrogant, even though she is aware of how powerful she is. Incidentally, it’s worth mentioning that she has the habit of speaking in the third person.
Friends and Enemies
Mantis is a well-used character in the Marvel Universe and so she has shared battles with some of its most powerful heroes. When she helps Swordsman to return to the Avengers, she herself becomes part of the team, and with them, she defeats one of her first threats: the alliance made up of Loki and Dormammu. That said, in her time with the Avengers her personal dynamics seem more important; even though she has a close relationship with Swordsman, she falls in love with Vision, which neither Swordsman nor the Scarlet Witch is very happy about. And we already know that the way that the Scarlet Witch gets angry alone can destroy your reality.
The most significant thing, however, is the interdimensional traveller Kang the Conqueror’s obsession with having a child with Mantis in order to become the father of the most powerful being of all the universes. Only the sacrifice of Swordsman, who is hurt but still loves Mantis, can save her from Kang’s claws. Her journeys don’t stop there, and she goes on to rescue the Avengers from the strength of the Collector, to play an important role in the Infinity War against Thanos and to help Star-Lord form the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Marvel Cinematic Universe
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Mantis will be played by the actress Pom Klementieff and will debut in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. So, it seems quite unlikely that she’ll be Vietnamese on this occasion. In fact, she is the only inhabitant of Ego, the living planet, played by Kurt Russel – it’s a planet and a person at once, don’t be surprised, Marvel is like that – and her encounter with the Guardians will be plagued by comic situations as we’ve seen in the trailer. To us it is already clear that Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) doesn’t find his love for Gamora (Zoe Saldana) being revealed in front of the whole group funny. But Drax (Dave Bautista) does find it funny, and their relationship could be one of the more juicy ones given that the thug also has problems interacting with society.
In any case, what is for sure is that Marvel will continue to do as it has done up until now and will take good care of the original material, trying to adapt it to this format as well as possible. And, as the director James Gunn has already said, Mantis will return in Guardians of the Galaxy 3 – who knows, maybe in more – so there is more than enough time to explore her and her enemies. We’ll see if Disney comes to an agreement with Fox so that Kang, the usual enemy of the Fantastic 4, can appear on the Cinematic Universe. There’s no harm in asking…
With regard to strength and speed, Mantis is by no means ordinary. Beyond her martial arts training, her psychic powers make her a force to be reckoned with. As well as being able to read thoughts with relative ease, she can also feel the flow of emotions between people. Fair enough, she won’t defeat Thanos with that, but it is useful – or not so useful… – in groups.
She can astrally project (now we’re getting to the interesting bit) and, in the astral plane she has powers of pyrokinesis, but most importantly, her relationship with the biosphere and vegetable life increase to a point at which she can encompass a whole planet.
To finish, she has total control over her body and can heal herselff simply through willpower, and sometimes, she can see the future.
More than a cliché
Something that we sometimes forget is that Marvel Comics was born in 1939 and that, as a result, it has heroes and villains of all eras and types. Mantis is representative of the 70s and the Vietnam War and that’s why some aspects of her personality may seem antiquated in the 21st Century, like her sensuality and submission to the masculine sex, her destiny to have a child, or the fact that she has been manipulated by others her whole life.
In any case, Mantis opens up a world of possibilities for the cosmic part of the MCU and it will be great fun to see her in the company of the Guardians.