Out of all the things that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 taught me, one of the most important was that I underestimated and misunderstood Mantis (Pom Klementieff).
When Mantis first appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 I immediately wrote her off. Personally, it felt like James Gunn was writing the “kawaii” Asian character who was sweet, demure, and here to serve the other characters. And with the way Drax treated her (it honestly felt like the was being slightly cruel with his word choices because she saw him) it further cemented that she was a tool to elevate other characters. Even when the big showdown with Ego was happening, and all the Guardians were standing around ready for action, she was in a pose that felt like something straight out of a poster from the 80’s with the meek but sultry character.
And yes, I understand what she was trying to do to Ego at that moment. The point still stands.
All of this, and the fact that Chris Pratt is problematic, is one of the many reasons why I never gave the Christmas Special a chance or watched Vol. 2 again. But after Vol. 3, I might have to go back and revisit this whole adventure and what it meant for Mantis’ character. Because I underestimated her drive, her values, and what role she plays in this group of misfits. She was subdued in Vol. 2 because it’s what Ego taught her to be or what he allowed her to be. When the Guardians came around, it was an opportunity to break free of that completely. And it’s to my own detriment that I missed out on the Christmas Special and how she blossomed before Vol. 3.
By Vol. 3, Mantis has come into her own. And everything that Ego taught her or made her feel like she needed to be is gone. She’s mischievous, pranking Drax and being delighted when he gets all grumbly. Oh and don’t forget how she took down those guards in the meat station thingie. Iconic. She’s outspoken, telling Nebula that she can’t talk to others in a manner that disrespects anyone on their team. And she tries her best at every turn without letting anyone walk all over her. Mantis even goes as far as understanding, not taming, those big hulking beasts who the High Evolutionary absolutely created to cause mayhem and pain. She freed her friends from the impossible situation they were in and she did it in a way that didn’t take away from who she is.
In the end, when Mantis decided to leave Nowhere and the Guardians, she was doing it because she knows she has a home. She has family. She has friends. And because of them, she has flourished into who she is now. But it’s time to take it a step further and explore the universe with her new companions. It’s time for her to chart the course of her life on her own terms and maybe find out some new things about herself with the knowledge she has somewhere to go back to. And who knows, maybe she’ll find more of her kind and unlock powers within herself she didn’t even know she was capable of. Or maybe she can guide others with similar powers to use their abilities for good. And for a tiny bit of mischief, of course.
Basically, I should’ve trusted the process when it came to Mantis. Because even though I probably won’t see her for a while, I miss her already. I want to know what she’s up to. I want to know what world’s she saved, all the ass-kicking she’s absolutely going to do, and the people that she is going to change along the way. Because Mantis is an unstoppable force of good, mischief, love, family, and honesty that we need to see more of in Marvel. Hell, I wouldn’t mind even being her friend. And I never think that about the characters I connect with through the media I consume. There’s always that wall. But Mantis? She’s a ride-or-die kind of baddie that will hit you with hard truths while acknowledging the delights and wonders of life.
That’s someone worth knowing. And why I hope Mantis eventually returns to the MCU.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is now in theaters.