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Avengers #123: Review

May 1974
Steve Englehart, Bob Brown

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Story Name:

Vengeance in Viet Nam - or - An origin for Mantis

Review & Comments

4 stars

Avengers #123 Review by (December 11, 2013)
Libra will continue to feature in the Mantis story in Avengers though to #135 and Giant-Size #4. Meanwhile others of Zodiac will crop up in Ghost Rider #7. Then Libra will rejoin them in Iron Man #184, and for their swan song in West Coast Avengers #26. Aries will get killed in Captain America #177-178, and will be replaced. Taurus will have a cameo next issue, will get in on the action before the others in IM#183, and will survive the others for a bit into WCA#27-29. The original Scorpio, Jake Fury, also gets into the act, apparently not having died in SHIELD #5. He appears in Defenders #46-50 where he creates a rival Zodiac out of Life Model Decoys (SHIELD tech). At then end of that stint his LMDs are destroyed and he appears to commit suicide. He then reappears with a 2nd LMD Zodiac in WCA Annual #1. This Zodiac then goes after the human Zodiac in WCA#26 and kills them all except Taurus. At the end of the WCA run this Jake Fury is revealed to be an LMD himself, supposedly created after Jake's suicide. There are confused reports as to which appearances of Jake Fury are actually the LMD. And also whether some of the non-JF Scorpio apps are actually JF. But Jonathan Hickman's Secret Warriors #26 turned the question on its head when it revealed that Jake Fury had been long ago duplicated by a proto-LMD process from Hickman's SHIELD series. The Marvel Chronology Project now agrees that it was this evil twin LMD that was all the JF Scorpio's. Meanwhile the real JF had gone undercover as the Hydra operative Kraken. And SW#25 revealed that Cornelius Van Lunt was Taurus in an earlier and much different Zodiac organised by Leonardo Da Vinci.

This issue the price goes up from 20¢ to 25¢. In 1953 the Communist Viet Minh were fighting for freedom from French rule. In 1954 Vietnam would be free of the French, and partitioned into the Communist North and non-Communist South, leading to the Vietnam War. I don't believe any explanation is ever given why Mantis has antennae. They were probably meant to be connected to her empathic ability. This really is the end of Khruul, although he will appear in more Mantis flashbacks. We will learn more about the Priests of Pama as Mantis' story progresses. Others will (possibly) reappear in the Crossing event. They will certainly show up in Avengers: Celestial Quest, Annihilation: Conquest and a few other places. Iron Man reminds us that Captain America is absent fighting a fake murder charge (and the Secret Empire) in CA#169-175, and that Stark had just been contemplating going to Viet Nam for his own reasons in IM#67, which he will do in IM#68.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Avengers #123 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
The Avengers (Black Panther, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, Thor and Vision) had just captured Zodiac in their New York lair when 1 of the criminal cartel, Libra, claimed to be the father of their guest Mantis, which was why he betrayed his gang to save the heroes last issue. A claim Mantis now hotly disputes.

The Avengers take the rest of Zodiac to jail, and then return to Avengers Mansion with Libra to hear more of his story. As they find Mantis' injured lover Swordsman, Mantis suggests Libra's blindfold is a fake. But when she rips it off him the Avengers see his eyes have been burned away.

Libra relates his history. He is German, and was working as a mercenary for the French in Viet Nam in 1953. He met and married a native girl Lua in Saigon. But her brother, crimelord Monsieur Khruul, disapproved and they went into hiding. (The Avengers recall that Swordsman told them how he was working for Khruul when he met Mantis.) After Lua gave birth to a baby girl, Khruul's assassins caught up with them and burned their house down. Lua was killed but the blinded father escaped with his daughter.

The fleeing pair stumbled on a remote temple where they were cared for by the Priests of Pama. These guys spent years teaching the soldier to use his other senses to compensate for his lost sight. But they insisted on keeping the baby girl and raising her themselves. Before he left the future Libra saw the young girl learning martial arts. And this was Mantis, complete with antennae.

The ex-soldier eventually did leave the temple and never saw his daughter again. He became a criminal and joined Zodiac as Libra.

Mantis vehemently denies this was her life, and tries to attack Libra. The Avengers try to stop her, but her martial arts defeat them all. Her death grip even momentarily stuns Thor. But Libra himself proves her match, because he studied martial arts with the same teachers.

Suddenly Mantis realises the wounded Swordsman has gone. He's taken a quinjet, and tells them by radio that he's going to Saigon to get revenge for Mantis' mother. Their only other quinjet is in New Jersey where they left it in #121. And Panther's personal craft only carries 1. So Iron Man flies to NJ to get the bigger ship.

Meanwhile Swordsman invades Khruul's villa, only to have to fight his sword-wielding minions, whom Khruul has given a drug that makes them immune to pain. The fanatical assassins soon defeat the injured Swordsman, and Khruul has him tortured for information about his long-lost niece (except Swordsman never actually mentioned her during the fight).

When the Avengers get there Khruul and his men have already left for the temple of Pama. Leaving Scarlet Witch to take Swordsman to hospital, Libra leads the others to the site, but they find the Priests already murdered. Khruul flees as the heroes despatch his men. They hear him scream, and then find him slashed to ribbons. As he dies he groans "Beware the Star-Stalker". And the Avengers don't notice a large dragon in the shadows.

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Barberoids 1 cover original artwork on ebay

Bob Brown
Don Heck
Petra Goldberg
John Romita (Cover Penciler)
Ron Wilson (Cover Inker)
Letterer: John Costanza.
Editor: Roy Thomas.


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Black Panther
Black Panther

Iron Man
Iron Man

(Tony Stark)
Scarlet Witch
Scarlet Witch

(Wanda Maximoff)


Plus: Libra, Priests of Pama, Star-Stalker, Zodiac.

> Avengers: Book info and issue index

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