Saturday, August 27, 2011

4-sided romance, Act IV: On their own 1974 Marvel Comics' Avengers


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Act the Fourth: Death of a Swordsman

by Lue Lyron

By AVENGERS #128, it’s apparent that everyone feels they need someone else.

Scarlet Witch: needs this new teacher to take over her life, risk her life, challenge her powers and her fundamental doubts in her abilities to recharge between hexes more quickly, and establish a relationship with nature (at the same time that her science spawned boyfriend seems to flake).

Vision: this android---this man---needs to tell Scarlet Witch, Wanda, he loves her, and needs to tell Mantis he admires her, and needs some assurance from inside himself that he is not having some kind of hardware crash---especially when he’s needed most. So, as with each of them, he really needs something inside himself---but he’s got a person he reaches for, they each do, on their journey. At least, he needs to tell her for her own sake, as well as his own. Unlike...

Swordsman: needs Mantis, who dumps him this very night. Needs so badly he insanely picks a fight with Iron Man and resists Thor, unable to contain how much of his ego has fled with this one. He needs to tell her he loves her for HIS sake.
And Mantis...ah, Mantis.

Mantis needs the Vision. He, perhaps, will understand...and he is so perfect, so attuned, surely he will see the logic...he is the reasonable choice to be her man.



She’s dodging the lightning at the beginning, pointing out again how martial arts discipline gives one command of destiny (similar to the Swordsman’s typical sword-first style of introduction). You would become intangible, she says aloud to the Vision, but you must of course protect the Scarlet Witch.” We find out the lightning’s an attack on Agatha Harkness, the one who in the end knows the words to bring it to an end. The lips of the Mantis are also engaged in an attack of sorts; she’s got it in mind that Scarlet Witch is frail...too pathetic, even quarrelsome, to be with the Vision. This fits the Thing’s observation earlier of how openly Mantis is thinking of the Vision; one reads between the panels to find her eyes wondering towards him at every opportunity.


Shame, really, for Mantis came but to stay by the side of “her man” the Swordsman, someone with whom Wanda hoped to talk, share sisterhood, though she came to the team not wishing to join. There was the flaw of intention: the lack of team spirit that goes into indulging herself in what seems to be a logical desire for the suitable man. She seems to have a Darwinian, unromantic style of sexuality.

In this the Swordsman was correct: appearing weak before her was the beginning of losing her, but as he feels more and more weakened, he loses more composure, even while his desire grows, as always it must, for what he wishes to seize. That’s too bad; remember, he won the sponsorship of none other than Thor himself, who’s been known to speak for questionable mortals (such as Spider-Man, in Avengers Annual #3, 1967) in whom he saw merit. The Thunder God expressed his astonishment for Swordsman’s skill. All of this, he throws away because it is not the crucial element he sees in his rehabilitation: Mantis.


Mantis ---who doesn’t have any other known name, apparently, like her man---believed she had built herself, her awareness, from a defenseless urchin survivor to a martial artist who can achieve more than most think is humanly possible. You see, imagine you think you are that. Now imagine, in her words, “I fear I might be a pawn” in the plans of unknown others who may have implanted her very sense of self, and erased their handiwork in her formation. This may or may not have anything to do with her sexual identity as well. If she believes she survived at times as a prostitute, then she believes she’s trained herself to behave sexually without an emotional attachment. She may not have a good sense of what an emotional relationship is, based on that identity. This would explain why the true love of the Vision and the Scarlet Witch seems to completely evade “this one’s awareness.”



But as to why she would be given an identity capable of sexuality without emotional attachment: who would that benefit? Aside from reflecting the realities of 1970s Viet Nam, which saw people surviving any way they could, who would want her to think of herself that way, to what purpose?

The why’s and wherefores of her possibly implanted identity will at least come with a face, very soon, but now the immediate problem is that she did not attempt to turn to Wanda for emotional support and assistance, or no one at the moment, if she was completely honest with herself, rather than throw herself at a man, even the incomparable Vision. (Besides, it’s not fair to compare a man to someone who was made “perfect”---perhaps the new mystery of who honed her own perfection makes inaction and contemplation menacing, and besides, this one’s senses detect too perfect a match. So, yes, it’s her, not the Swordsman, and he’s only now trying to make it about her, but every time they talk, he keeps taking her, trying to take her, emotional hostage with pity.



Now she ignores the crying Swordsman’s screams on her way to the Vision’s room. I honestly don’t know what she was thinking except she didn’t care what anyone thought about it, there is one anchor she’d like to drop in her building tempest. Her face rather looks like she might eat him, when she announces her veiled intentions. It’s true, she does believe he is the only one who might help, who might understand, but she does not see the Avengers as a whole, and objectively, he may not be the only one who can help.




As for himself, Vision suggests his two recent malfunctions---which could cost he and his friends everything one day---these freeze-ups make him unsuitable for advice. But, in this, he is right: together, they might compare notes on their paths and share. She may know more about lovers than he could ever know, but the Vision knows who are his friends, and who is his best friend, and knows they require loyalty to bring fruit.

Isn’t it interesting that she accuses the Scarlet Witch and Swordsman of being weak, yet, in seeking to share the emotional burden of her identity crisis, isn’t that what she wants to be, isn’t that what she’s choosing, in turning to another man to wash away the disturbance of her problems, someone whose logical mind, whose empathy over being programmed, will help her most? Or is it simply her mistake to turn to anyone right now? Or perhaps, to expect so much from the Vision is to not understand what she seeks, at all.




It could be that Wanda---who for the first time, really, isn’t “Smurfette” anymore---could’ve made more overtures, been less jealous towards her new friend. But she has been put in her place, oh so many times, starting with her brother, mostly, that she’s become suggestible to being told what to do, and Mantis actually has a pretty open shot, from the psychological point of view. But she chooses to get angry, because she’s really mad at herself for still being vulnerable to being pushed around. True, she does turn to yet another person to tell her what to do, but in a different way: how to fish, not simply how to cook, or as it’s said in the script, “a witch more in name than poetry.” The first lesson, which has a very Carlos Castaneda vibe to it, is to face the greatest power of fear, and decide between the void and assertion of one’s pure motive, which is one’s only hope of harnessing the circumstances of the universe against our ever impending physical doom, with a soul of immortal life.



The star plot of the issue is the Scarlet Witch, as the last line of defense against a vengeful Harkness enemy in Necrodamus, isolated from everyone else in the mansion. This also points to Englehart’s knowledge that Mantis, too, must face her own perils in contemplation, just as the Vision is doing when she enters his room, just as the Swordsman really, really needs to do right now.

I mean, he IS the Swordsman, he is only the Swordsman, and he is the Swordsman the Avenger, he lies to himself, because of Mantis, who, remember, is not an Avenger, who was only ever there for him. You see, he forgot that, himself. If he had not abandoned belief in their love, but instead learned to love himself and what it is to be an Avenger, and a regular Joe. He’s going to really hate himself, this night, and he can only address that as, “I love Mantis.” After all, as long as there is an outer enemy, the Swordsman can figure out the upperhand, even if the chaos of battle should snatch it away. But rather than addressing himself as who he is from the ground of silence up---which may have occurred to him given time---ah, but there is no time. There is only a blinding light at the window.


The Scarlet Witch’s self as a power being and her romance are being attacked at the same time, and the panels are illustrated running alongside each other, as the reader experiences both threads simultaneously---a wonderful advantage of comic book storytelling. Wanda fights well, but three hexes and she is out, while he, Necrodamus, is in a physically exalted form, of the kind he apparently can only assume during some particular alignment of the stars, with which he has fought no less than the Hulk and Namor together! Meanwhile, the battle of her heart lies in the decisions of the Vision, without any further assistance from her for now, and in this, he is on his own. We see all these characters reaching out, and in the end, their lives rely on their decisions alone.

So, in the guest female chambers of Avengers Mansion, surrounded by Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the Scarlet Witch may die here without anyone knowing in time, and Necrodamus has just “generously” shared that his box will steal the souls of her and Agatha Harkness, confounded and consumed for all time by the darkness within. The cat---who was never born---stares into the slack features of the Scarlet Witch, and a fire to win overcomes Wanda’s fear. From her boundaries of depletion she draws, in this room alone, the power to hex reality one more time, and Necrodamus becomes a victim of his own box.

Agatha Harkness now appears, and Wanda feels as though her sorceress mentor spoke truly, that she had power all along, and asks if Agatha set up the whole battle herself? “But it was you who overcame Necrodamus...you who summoned your unconscious reserves of inner strength...how could I have planned these things?”
“Huh! Well, I can see it won’t be dull having you around!”

You know, jealousy, I’m told by my wife, was only there because on some level, in not being able to trust in herself, she could not trust in her love, in the Vision. It would be a really good time for them to talk about this...but Wanda sees a brilliant light through the windows, even from the magically sealed room. That brilliant light on the front lawn is the invasion of Kang the Conqueror, 41st century tyrant, with cool confidence in the robot soldiers with which he expects to easily overcome the Avengers. They cannot know yet, but he will soon tell them: the light outside, the burning star, is his signal from afar, to initiate the time of the Celestial Madonna---his intended bride.

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