CoverSilver Surfer #4, Vol. 3
Published by Marvel Comics
October, 1987

"Mantis"

Writer: Steve Englehart
Penciler: Marshall Rogers
Inks: Joe Rubinstein
Colorist: Marshall Rogers
Letters: John Workman
Editor: Michael Higgens
Chief: Jim Shooter

Original Price: $0.75
Current Value: $5.00

History Behind Issue: After a clash with the Runner, is the Silver Surfer dying? Not if Mantis can do anything about it! Plus: the Supreme Intelligence plots, the Elders of the Universe scheme, and the Skrulls get the biggest shock of their lives as the Celestials return!

Plot: Last issue, the Silver Surfer was thrust down upon a barren planet after tussling with the Runner, one of the Elders of the Universe. Charred and battered, he is dying, but with the help of one of Mantis’ potions, he quickly revives. After his “resurrection”, the Surfer tells about his recent run-in with the Elders (in West Coast Avengers Annual #2 and Avengers Annual #16) and how he thwarted their plans. Whilst traveling to their enemies’ hideout, Mantis in turn tells her own story, which is a little bit more complex. For those who know the story, skip the next paragraph, I’m going to tell it anyway. She was a Saigon woman living on the streets, or so she thought. Thanks to her connection with the original Swordsman, she joined the Avengers, and after he had saved her life, she found out she wasn’t who she thought she was at all. In fact, she was raised in the Earthtemple of the Priests of Pama, who were pacifist outcasts from the Kree empire and who cultivated the plant-consciousness known as the Cotati. But to make sure she would learn the other side of humanity, her memory of these events had been erased and supplanted with those of her Saigon youth. At the same time, Moondragon, who had received the same training as Mantis, had been taken to Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, and lived there as a priestess of the Titan temple. When the two of them were weighed in the balance, Moondragon lacked in humanity, and was found unworthy to marry the most perfect Cotati. Mantis had to marry “him” to create the union of flora and fauna, plant and animal. In other words, she were to become the Celestial Madonna. The body of the Swordsman was reanimated by the Cotati spirit, and a child was conceived. She then went to an island, where she raised the child in peace, but as he has grown older now, he doesn’t need his mother for the moment, hence her reappearance.

Through her contacts with plantlife throughout the galaxy, she has learned about the Elders’ nefarious plans, and was prepared to confront them, but when she noticed the Surfer too was pursuing them, she waited to find out if he were friend or foe. She’s glad he turned out to be friend, because they need all the power they can get to stop the Elders. The Surfer knew most of her story from conversations with the Avengers, but doesn’t know if he should trust her completely yet.

Meanwhile, on Kree-Lar, the throneworld of the Kree Empire, the Supreme Intelligence has found out the Skrulls have lost their shape-changing powers, and asks for his prime espionage unit. And in the Andromeda galaxy, emperor Kylor, one of the many who claim to be the rightful heir to the throne, is being reported that their secret still hasn’t leaked out (heh, little do they know...). And then, as Spider-Man would say, oh boy! A large Celestial looms over the city!!! (More about this in #5) Back to the Surfer and Mantis, who have arrived at a dark and lifeless planet and are preparing to go down. When Norrin asks Mantis to hold on to the board because they are going to go really fast, she answers she’d rather hold him instead, and so she does (cute, real cute). Down they go, to the crag where the Elders are meeting. Eleven sinister-looking guys are standing around a glowing green thingamabob, a few of them we know already, some others are still unnamed as yet. We have the Grandmaster (whose plans have been thwarted in the aforementioned annuals), the Collector (who has
been a regular Avengers foe), the Runner (who just battled the Surfer), the Champion (ditto), the Possessor, the Gardener and the Contemplator (these guys I didn’t know until I saw them here. Perhaps they showed up in the annuals, too, I dunno).

During their conversation, we get the names of three others: the Astronomer, the Obliterator and the Trader. The Runner is just gloating about his victory over the Surfer, pestering the Grandmaster and the Champion that he did what they couldn’t. They bicker a bit, until the Contemplator says he doesn’t want to hear them whine about their hurt egos, and wants to learn more about the Grandmaster’s plan. As we all know, the Elders are the oldest living beings in the universe. There races were the first races to grow after the Big Bang, which ended the universe before this one. Their fellow people have all died long since, and they are the only survivors, thus calling themselves brothers, though they are not related in blood, only in situation. They have continued to live for so long a time because they embody certain aspects of life in their respective
personas, i.e. the Grandmaster gambles, the Possessor records knowledge, the Gardener cultivates beauty, the Obliterator destroys, and so on. But recently, the Grandmaster has ensured their continued existence by gambling with Lady Death (in the first ever big Marvel “event”, the Marvel Super Hero Contest Of Champions!). The Grandmaster “lost” and as “punishment”, they are forbidden entrance to Death’s realm. And by the way, for the trivia lovers, the Grandmaster’s real name is En Dwi Gast (what a silly name is that, give me Taneleer Tivan any day :) That’s the Collector, for
those of you who didn’t know.) But they want more, and to reach their goal, the Silver Surfer must die (as they think he did). Because there is one who is still older than them, namely Galactus, who is the only one to survive the previous reality. To
make them really really REALLY (with a cherry on top) powerful, Galactus must die!!! And then he is interrupted by the eleventh Elder, none other than Ego, the Living Planet! The planet they’re gathering is an Elder all by itself, if you can imagine. When the Surfer and Mantis want to flee, Ego stops them easily, since the entire planet can attack them. While Ego holds Norrin, Mantis is under attack by the Obliterator and the Champion, but lucky for her, the Surfer manages to hurt Ego badly enough so they can both escape from the Elders, setting up the stage for the next few issues. And now that they know the Elders’ plan, they can’t possibly turn away anymore. And their cooperation is sealed by a gentle kiss from Mantis. Woo-hoo!

Comments: Again, lots of good stuff here. Rogers draws a great Mantis, and his Elders were fine too. We get a lot of nice teasers thrown at us about the Elders’ plan, the Kree/Skrull war and a romantic relationship between Surfy and Mantis. I enjoyed it, and it’s always fun to read about Mantis when written by Englehart.

But this issue wasn’t as solid as the first two. Although Englehart piqued my interest concerning the Elders’ plan and the growing conflict between the Kree and the Skrulls, things were a little bit too vague for my liking. He has been laying a lot of seeds for coming issues, and that is good, and he has also updated us on Mantis’s background, which is also good, yet there wasn’t too much of an actual story. It’s almost impossible to read it as a stand-alone issue, unlike the previous ones (issue #3 had the same problem, actually). Oh yes, the coloring wasn’t up to par either here. Too much green and purple during the Elders’ meeting. It didn’t look good, and I expect better from Rogers.

Not as good as the first few, but certainly still fun to read, especially the interaction between Mantis and the Silver Surfer. It’s not as if Englehart suddenly slipped or something, it was just that every writer needs an issue to plant some seeds for upcoming storylines, and he did it in this one, making the storyline just a tad weaker. I give it three and a half stars, making it still a quite recommendable book to read.

Written by The Collector

 

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