A Violent Beginning
Mantis can trace her roots back to the family of Vietnamese crime lord Monsieur Khruul. She was the daughter of Khruul’s sister, Lua, who married the German mercenary Gustav Brandt. Khruul did not approve of the nuptials and pursued the couple before killing Lua, blinding Gustav, and burning down their house. However, Lua had born a daughter, and the now visually-impaired Gustav fled with her, the last remnant of his wife.
Gustav and his infant daughter found sanctuary in the temple of the Priests of Pama, renegade pacifist members of the alien Kree race who were caretakers of the Cotati, a telepathic race of sentient plants. The Priests granted Brandt psychic sight, but removed his daughter from his side, afraid she’d be influenced by his violent nature as she grew. Gustav ended up leaving the Temple and joining the crime cartel Zodiac as Libra. Believing Mantis might grow to be the Celestial Madonna and mother the genetically perfect Celestial Messiah, the Priests of Pama trained her in martial arts, which she mastered, and gave her the name “Mantis” in recognition of her skill in defeating male opponents. They also taught her telepathic communication with the Cotati which gave her empathic abilities.
The Shao-Lom monks of Saturn’s moon Titan, whose teachings also stemmed from the pacifist Kree’s beliefs, mentored another possible Celestial Madonna: Earth-born orphan Heather Douglas, later known as Moondragon. But her sheltered life denied her insight into human existence and made her a less-rounded candidate. Moondragon would eventually return to Earth, becoming involved with the Avengers after losing in battle to Mantis, thus confirming that she is not the Celestial Madonna.
On her 18th birthday, the Priests removed Mantis’s memories, implanted false memories of an orphaned, impoverished life in Ho Chi Minh City, and sent her to experience life among normal humans.
One Powerful Mind
When it comes to her full range of powers, Mantis has complete control over her body. This gives her peak human agility, the ability to accelerate healing through force of will, and an empathic nature enabling her to communicate telepathically with the Cotati and sense the emotions of others as psychic vibrations. She can also control her heart and respiratory rate as well as blood flow. Her mastery of the Priests’ martial arts, which focuses on the manipulation of nerve endings and pressure points, has enabled her to knock out beings as powerful as Thor. Mantis has two slim antennae growing from her head that amplify her telepathic and empathic abilities.
Mantis also gained abilities when she merged with the Cotati, such as being able to communicate with both plants and animals, something she calls “biopathy.” She can also survive in space in a physically solid “energy” or astral form and transfer herself (and her son) from plant-life-to-plant-life across interstellar distances or dimensions, creating new bodies from the plant life of where she arrives.
Her mind itself is a human/planet hybrid, which is largely immune to mental or metaphysical assault, and her physical durability is greatly enhanced. It can also transmit and receive telepathic impressions that can affect all of the receiver’s senses. Mantis’ mind has also been known to have precognitive powers and has received flashes of future events. Combined with her meditative nature, this allows her to view and plan for unpleasant events with an impassivity and ruthlessness that others find unnerving. Unpredicted deaths can overwhelm her empathic nature, and it is in moments of peace after unexpected disasters that her emotions are often released.
Since her rebirth, she can fire powerful pyrokinetic energy blasts, form energy fields, communicate directly with cosmic beings such as Eternity and Death, and completely control her personal energies as well as her physical form.
While not an outright enemy, Scarlet Witch becomes an adversary of Mantis when Mantis discovers she has romantic feelings for Vision, whom Scarlet Witch ends up marrying. The love triangle is so bad that Mantis leaves the planet the day of the wedding.
Over the course of her life, Mantis gains enemies in Loki, Dormammu, the Collector, Klaw, Ultron, and the Mad Titan Thanos. In particular, Thanos tries to destroy Mantis and her son Sequoia, a dangerous move that leads directly to his own defeat.
Mantis is well-known for her membership in the Guardians of the Galaxy, but she starts out as a one- or two-person act in the beginning of her hero career, particularly when she helps reform the villain known as Swordsman (Jacques Duquesne). This is enough to grant her entry into the Avengers on Earth.
Upon leaving Earth in the form of pure energy, she travels the stars and finds a romantic ally in Norrin Radd. Together, they fight the Elders and Gardener. Mantis becomes a member of the Guardians following the defeat of the Phalanx techno-organic transmode virus. Peter Quill (Star-Lord) becomes a “frenemy” when he uses her to manipulate the rest of the team.