Comics Reviews

What Was Marvel’s Mother – and How Did It Nearly Destroy the Universe?

The Young Avengers’ most horrifying enemy just so happened to also be the Marvel Universe’s absolute worst parent of all time.

More often than not, the high-flying heroes and menacing villains of the Marvel Universe have families just as complicated as the superpowered lives they lead. Plenty of characters have dealt with trouble at home, but no one has had to deal with a worse parent than the Young Avengers. Even if she only seemed unsettlingly overbearing at first, Marvel’s Mother didn’t waste any time proving just how much of an understatement that was.

2013’s Young Avengers #1 by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Mike Norton found two of the team’s young heroes at a particularly difficult impasse. Teddy Altman aka Hulkling was still carrying out near daily feats of super heroics at a time when doing so could put him at greater risk than usual. That fact was driving a wedge between Hulkling and Billy Kaplan aka Wiccan in their relationship. In a bid to help ease things over, Wiccan turned to his magics to scour the cosmos and depths of time. Miraculously, Wiccan somehow managed to bring Hulkling’s deceased mother back to the present before her demise, reuniting the Altman family on Earth. At least, that was what it seemed like before the returned Mary-Jo Altman had a chance to speak with Wiccan’s parents about the situation. While Rebecca and Jeff Kaplan had been overtly supportive of their son’s relationship, Mary-Jo was eerily resistant to everything she had seen. Not only that, but she was even prepared to take control of things by taking the Kaplan’s lives for herself.

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It was soon revealed that this Mary-Jo Altman wasn’t actually a version of Teddy’s mother from another timeline, but rather the shapeshifting, interdimensional parasite known only as Mother. Capable of taking the form of any deceased parent, Mother had struck a secret deal with Kid Loki long before her arrival on Earth. In helping Mother to access the primary Marvel Universe, Loki had very nearly ensured the destruction of it all. Of course, the young trickster god had never intended to actually allow Mother to consume Wiccan’s power as the Demiurge, the omnipotent embodiment of magic that had once seeded life on Earth. That wouldn’t stop her from trying, even in spite of the limitations of her own powers. When Wiccan had summoned her, Loki recognized the threat and took it upon himself to intervene. Because of this, Mother could only manifest so long as the Young Avengers were in New York, although leaving home wouldn’t be enough to keep them safe.

Thanks to the interference of alternate versions of the Asgardian Leah and the Young Avengers, Mother was able to lure Teddy back to New York. Bridging that gap between them didn’t just put the Young Avengers within her reach, it also allowed her to unleash their alternates on Earth. With no other chance of stopping Mother, Wiccan finally tapped into his powers as the Demiurge, albeit unsuccessfully at first. It would take reconciling his relationship with Hulkling for Wiccan to realize his full potential. Once he did, however, it was unlike anything anyone had ever seen. Wiccan quite literally became the cosmos from within Mother’s dimension, able to flip through time and reality as if they were comic book panels. As the Demiurge, Wiccan completely eradicated Mother and every threat she had created in Young Avengers #13 by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

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In a story filled with dead parents, endless evil alternates of the Young Avengers, and one young hero becoming an omnipotent cosmic being, Mother still stood out as the most unsettling aspect. Posing as the deceased before moving to consume entire realities was bad enough, but her unnerving demeanor as a loving caregiver made Mother more horrifying than any typical villain. Thankfully, there isn’t any real chance of her coming back from the end that befell her. Then again, there is nothing to say that Mother was the only evil, interdimensional helicopter parent out in the dark corners of the Multiverse.

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