the BOOK OF ANTAG

Classification: Extradimensional (Earth-691) book of galaxy-spanning puzzles

Creator: Antag

User/Possessors: Force, Guardians of the Galaxy

First Appearance: Guardians of the Galaxy I#1 (June, 1990)

Powers/Abilities/Functions: The two known copies of the Book of Antag are books which contain a series of clues which ultimately lead to the planet where a brightly-colored disk that would grant its possessor invincibility in battle (a.k.a. "the legendary invincible shield") could be found. Neither of these copies is known to possess any special powers or abilities.

   Both known copies of the Book of Antag were written in the runes which the Centaurians used in their writing system. This fact has (mis)led some scholars into believing that the Book of Antag was from Centauri IV. The only confirmed difference between the two copies is that Force's copy had a brown cover while Yondu's copy had a dark green cover.

   However, Yondu's copy of the book apparently contained the final clue, something that seemingly was not in Force's copy.

History:

(Guardians of the Galaxy I#6 (fb) - BTS) <Early 21st Century (Earth calendar)> - During the War of the Worlds, Doctor Doom removed Captain America's shield from Earth-691 to prevent it from falling into the hands of Earth's "Martian" conquerors. How the shield later ended up on the planet Klatuu has never been revealed but it is generally presumed that Doom gave the shield to Antag, a "space wanderer" (presumably an alien) who had somehow come to be his servant.

(Guardians of the Galaxy I#6 (fb) - BTS) <Early 27th Century or later (Earth calendar)> - It is believed that Antag brought the shield to Main Frame's world (the planet formerly known as Klatuu). Apparently wanting someone (possibly a specific someone, like Major Vance Astro) to eventually find the shield, Antag wrote (at least) two copies of the Book of Antag, both of which contained clues that could lead those who read them to where the shield waited "for any worthy enough to possess it."

(Guardians of the Galaxy I#1 (fb) - BTS) - A chapter in the Book of Antag spoke of a brightly-colored disk that would grant its possessor invincibility in battle. Although not identified as Captain America's shield, the chapter's illustration did closely resemble that particular object.

(Guardians of the Galaxy I#15 (fb) - BTS) <3017 A.D.> - As part of his scheme to acquire the powerful soul of the Protege, the demon Mephisto secretly made certain that the mercenary group Force came into possession of a second Book of Antag. Mephisto hoped that this would lead to a battle for the shield in which Force would destroy the Guardians before Aleta could ever become the Matriarch, the female who was destined to become the Protege's tutor.

(Guardians of the Galaxy I#3 (fb) - BTS/Guardians of the Galaxy I#6 (fb) - BTS) <3017 A.D.> - The legend of the "invincible shield" came to the attention of Interface, the Uloc who led Force. Interface somehow misinterpreted the legend to mean that the shield contained "magical energies" that made its wielders invincible by enabling them to dominate the wills of others.

(Guardians of the Galaxy I#3 (fb) - BTS/Guardians of the Galaxy I#15 (fb) - BTS) <3017 A.D.> - Apparently unaware of Mephisto's involvement, Force acquired the second copy of the Book of Antag and began to follow the clues that led to the legendary invincible shield.

(Guardians of the Galaxy I#1 (fb)/Guardians of the Galaxy Annual I#1 (fb)) <3017 A.D.> - Several months after the end of the Korvac Quest, Centaurian Yondu Udonta found a strange book written in the runes of his people among his belongings in his quarters aboard the Guardians' starship, the Freedom's Lady. Yondu did not remember ever owning this book and did not know its origin but he suspected that it might have been a gift from the Ancient One (Stephen Strange) whom the team had met several months earlier. Yondu brought the Book of Antag to his closest confidant, Major Vance Astro, and as they inspected the tome they found a chapter about a brightly colored shield that would grant its possessor invincibility in battle. Most of the Guardians believed that this was just a Centaurian superstition but Astro recognized the illustration and realized that it was Captain America's shield. Astro theorized that the book was a galaxy-spanning puzzle and convinced the team to begin to follow the book's clues.

(Guardians of the Galaxy I#5 (fb) - BTS) - Force visited over a dozen worlds, often killing some of the native inhabitants, and always finding the clues that had been left on those planets.

(Guardians of the Galaxy I#1 (fb) - BTS) - Every clue the Guardians of the Galaxy followed were dead ends since they led to planets where there were no traces of the clues that were supposed to be found on them.

(Guardians of the Galaxy I#1-2 (fb) - BTS) - Force visited the planet Courg in the Bledsoe system, killed at least one of the Courga, found the clue and left.

(Guardians of the Galaxy I#1) - A few days later, the Guardians of the Galaxy arrived on Courg but were unable to find the clue that they had expected to find there. On the Freedom's Lady, Yondu invited Martinex to consult Anthos with him. As they looked into the sacred fire, Martinex and Yondu saw images from their past history, ending with how Vance Astro had recognized the brightly-colored disk depicted in Yondu's copy of the Book of Antag as Captain America's shield. Back on Courg, Vance Astro realized that the reason why they hadn't been finding any of the clues they were supposed to be finding was because somebody else was looking for the shield and they had their own copy of the Book of Antag.

(Guardians of the Galaxy I#3) - Aboard their starship, the members of Force consulted their Book of Antag so that Photon could continue to decipher the clues that would lead them to the legendary invincible shield that would make them unstoppable!

(Guardians of the Galaxy I#4) - Following the latest clue led Force to the planet Entem where the group launched a destructive attack on one of the planet's temples. After blasting their way in, Interface found a carving written in runes similar to those found on Centauri IV. Photon translated the runes as speaking of a machine that walked as a man in the morning but spent the night as a world. The runes also revealed that, beyond the Pleiades, around a star that gave no light, awaited the shield -- for any worthy enough to possess it. Force then departed from Entem, leaving death and destruction in their wake.

(Guardians of the Galaxy I#4 - BTS) - A short time later, aboard the Guardians' new ship in orbit around Courg, Major Astro told Firelord about the Book of Antag and their quest for the shield of Captain America. Astro and the Guardians were shocked when Firelord casually told them of a world that orbited a dark star beyond the Pleiades. Once Firelord had departed, the Guardians set course for that world.

(Guardians of the Galaxy I#5 (fb) - BTS) - After traveling for one month, the Guardians finally reached their destination, a planet that orbited a star that emitted in the X-ray frequency.

(Guardians of the Galaxy I#5-6) - After beaming down to the planet, the Guardians were greeted by Main Frame, the intelligence that lived within the machinery that surrounded them. At Main Frame's insistence, the Guardians participated in seven one-one-one contests with the members of Force to establish who was the most worthy to possess the shield. In the end, Main Frame decided that the Guardians had won and, after teleporting Force and their starship far away, confirmed Vance Astro's realization that he had been the Vision. Main Frame then revealed that the competitions had actually been tests of courage, cunning, mercy, charity/forgiveness, honor, faith and soul, and that the Guardians had almost lost. Main Frame then stated that the Guardians had to leave but before they did so he revealed that Doctor Doom had removed the shield from Earth. and that Antag was a space wanderer who was one of Doom's servants and someone who reveled in puzzle making and so he had left clues for Major Astro to follow.

   The Guardians took the shield with them when they left Main Frame's world.

    ..and the Book of Antag was never mentioned again.

Comments: Created by Jim Valentino and Steve Montano.

   In Guardians of the Galaxy I#15, Mephisto recalled how he "made certain that Force came into possession of a second Book of Antag." I find this claim to be a bit ambiguous. On the face of it, this claim seems to mean that Mephisto simply arranged for Force to obtain a (pre-existing) second copy of the Book of Antag but it could also be interpreted to mean that Mephisto had actually CREATED a second copy of the book so that he could use it to secretly guide Force into battling the Guardians. I doubt that this is what writer Jim Valentino intended but the possibility seemed worth mentioning.

   The history of Captain America's shield, from the War of the Worlds to when the Guardians found it on Main Frame's world in 3017 A.D., has always been rather vague. Main Frame did state that Dr. Doom had removed it from Earth to keep it out of the hands of Earth's conquerors but didn't specify what happened to it afterwards. So, while it's possible that Doom immediately gave it to his servant Antag with orders to transport it to some other planet, it's also possible that Doom kept the shield in his possession for centuries before having Antag move it. Furthermore, since it's not even certain that it was Antag who brought the shield to Main Frame's world, it could have been someone else, maybe Doom himself, who transported it there.

   Another part of the shield's history that has never been established is when it was brought to Klatuu. The fact that the final clue in the Book of Antag refers to a machine that had walked as a man before becoming a world strongly suggests that the Vision had already interfaced with the central terminal on Klatuu by the time Antag wrote the book, and that in turn suggests that the shield arrived after the Vision had merged with the planet's machines. According to what the Keeper told the Guardians, Norrin Radd's first action as the Keeper, saving Klatuu from the coming of Galactus, could not have taken place before the 27th Century. Taking into account the fact that the former inhabitants "had long fled" Klatuu by the time the Vision arrived, we can reasonably conclude that the shield must have been brought to Main Frame's world no earlier than the mid-to-late 27th Century. So where was the shield for those 600 years? Nobody knows.

   Some online sources claim that the Book of Antag is sacred to the natives of Centauri IV but this is incorrect. In actuality, it seems that most Centaurians (i.e., everyone except Yondu and Photon) have never even heard of it. The fact that it was written in Centaurian runes does not make it a Centaurian artifact.

   The "Beyond the Pleiades" clue only makes sense if one is aware that that vector is meant to be relative to Earth's location. Without knowing that Earth is the viewpoint location, that clue could be used to describe ANY location. For example, from Klatuu, Earth is also "beyond the Pleiades." I guess that Antag assumed that anyone who was seeking the shield would know that it was from Earth and would take that fact into account when trying to figure out the clues.

   The idea that Klatuu orbits "a star that gives no light" because it "emits in the X-ray frequency" is scientifically inaccurate. All stars emit the energy that they produce across the entire electromagnetic spectrum and even those stars which emit most of their radiation in forms that are invisible to the human eye (like X-ray stars) will still emit a lot of visible light. Only very old stars or stellar remnants might be cold enough to not emit ANY visible light.

Problems with the Quest for the Shield
   The whole "Quest for the Shield" storyline in Guardians of the Galaxy I#1-6 is not as good as it could have been. The Guardians spend the first four issues on one planet (Courg), Force conducts a two-page raid on another planet (Entem) in issue #4, and then both teams end up on Main Frame's world where they battle for the shield. Sure, there are references to other planets that have been visited during the quest and other clues but none of them show up in-story so it's like they don't even matter.

   Another problem is that the format of the quest doesn't make any sense. The fact that there were a set of clues and locations where more clues could be found made it seem like a treasure hunt game but the story did not follow through on that idea. I know of two versions of the treasure hunt game. In one version, all of the players start with the same clue and have to solve it to reach a location where the next clue can be found, a process that is repeated until one player solves the last clue and becomes the first to reach the final destination. In the second version, all of the players start with a complete set of primary clues, all of which have to be solved in order to reveal the locations where secondary clues can be found, and all of those secondary clues have to be combined to point the way to the final location. Either version could be used in the GOTG storyline but instead the two teams seem to be playing different versions.

   On the one hand, there's the Guardians of the Galaxy. They used clues found in their Book of Antag to identify locations on various planets where they were supposed to be able to find other clues. Unfortunately, all of their clues led to dead ends because other people looking for the shield were getting to those locations first and finding and removing the clues. However, despite not retrieving ANY of the clues they were supposed to find on those planets, the Guardians managed to arrive at the correct final destination because Firelord, after learning of their quest, was able to tell them of a world that orbited a dark star beyond the Pleiades.

   On the other hand, there's Force. These mercenaries used clues they found in their Book of Antag to identify locations on over a dozen worlds where they then found and removed other clues. After retrieving the clue that had been left on the planet Courg, Force consulted their Book of Antag and then traveled to a temple on the planet Entem where they found the final clue that directed them to a world beyond the Pleaides that orbited a star that gave no light.

   So, what does this mean? If there was a single clue in the Book of Antag that indicated where the shield could be found, what was the point of all those other clues? And if that final clue was present in the Guardians' copy of the Book of Antag, why did Force have to go to Entem to find that same clue? All in all, the whole idea that the Book of Antag was a "galaxy-wide puzzle" turned out to really be something of a misfire.

Where the names Keeper, Kr'll and Klatuu first appeared:
1. In Guardians of the Galaxy I#6, Starhawk (Stakar) tells Aleta that they were in the large enclosed space that was where "the former inhabitants of this planet built the starships within which they escaped this world." Later, Main Frame reveals that "The beings who once inhabited this planet had long fled, having been warned of the coming of Galactus by the Keeper -- but their machines continued to function."
2. In Guardians of the Galaxy I#12, Main Frame tells Starhawk (Stakar) that "The psychic dampeners...were given to the Kr'll, the former inhabitants of this world, by the Shi'ar..."
3. In Guardians of the Galaxy I#23, the Keeper, after detecting movement by Galactus, muses to himself, "He is moving yet again. So must I now do what I have done since that time on Klatuu." A footnote from "Know-it-all Valentino" states that Klatuu is "Now known as Main Frame's world."

Profile by Donald Campbell.

Clarifications:
The Book(s) of Antag should not be confused with:


Antag

   A "space wanderer" who somehow came to serve Doctor Doom, Antag reveled in making puzzles. Antag wrote two copies (at least) of the Book of Antag in order to leave clues that would lead someone to find Captain America's shield on Main Frame's world.

   And that's ALL that is known about Antag. Everything else that might be said about Antag can only be the result of conjecture or assumption. Here's a list of some things about Antag that have not been revealed:

1) Antag's gender. Main Frame, the only entity who ever even mentioned Antag, referred to the alien only by name and not by any personal pronoun. This means that Antag could have been male or female or both (androgynous or hermaphroditic?) or neither or some third gender.

2) The nature of Antag's relationship with Doctor Doom. Being Doom's servant could mean anything from enslavement by Doom to being mind-controlled by Doom to simply having been hired by Doom.

3) The services that Antag performed for Doom. The fact that Antag was known to be a "space wanderer" makes it likely that the alien was the individual who transported Captain America's shield from Earth to Main Frame's world, presumably at Doom's command. However, this has not been confirmed. Similarly, while it is certain that Antag wrote the Book of Antag, it is not known whether or not this was done at Doom's command.

4) The date when Antag wrote the Book of Antag. The fact that the final clue in the book refers to a machine that had walked as a man before becoming a world strongly suggests that the Vision had already interfaced with the central terminal on Klatuu by the time that Antag wrote the clues. Since the Vision's transformation into Main Frame is believed to have taken place after the 26th Century, this implies that Antag wrote the book no sooner than the early 27th Century. However, if Antag's knowledge was the result of some precognitive ability, then the clues and the books could have been written earlier.

5) The duration of Antag's service to Doom. Main Frame stated that Doom removed Captain America's shield from Earth to prevent it from falling into the hands of Earth's conquerors. If Doom then gave the shield to Antag who kept it until delivering it to Main Frame's world in the 27th Century, then that would mean that Antag served Doom for around 600 Earth-years. However, if Doom didn't give the shield to Antag until just before he sent the alien to transport the shield to that planet, assuming that he did so, then that could mean that Antag only served Doom briefly, perhaps no longer than it took to deliver the shield.

6) Antag's lifespan. Depending on the length of the alien's service to Doom, Antag's lifespan could have been well over 600 Earth-years. On the other hand, even if Antag did begin serving Doom in the early 21st Century, Doom could have used suspended animation or a stasis field or time travel to enable his servant to still be alive in the 27th Century. Of course, if the alien only served Doom briefly, then Antag's lifespan need not have been anything remarkable.

7) The person or persons for whom Antag left the clues. While talking with Vance Astro, Main Frame stated, "Antag...left clues for you to find, Major!" The fact that "you" is printed in bold type could mean that Main Frame was saying that Antag left the clues specifically for Vance Astro or, more generally, it could have been meant to indicate that Antag left the clues for the Guardians as a group. Of course, if this were true, then that would raise the question of how Antag could have known that Astro and/or the Guardians would be the ones to find the clues and follow them to Klatuu. Precognition or information about future events provided by time travelers seem to be the only two likely possibilities. On the other hand, if Antag just left the clues for anyone to find, then no precognitive knowledge was required.

8) The places where Antag sent the books. Where and how Force acquired their copy of the Book of Antag has not been revealed. And while it is known that Yondu found his copy in his quarters aboard the Freedom's Lady, the identity of the person who somehow left it there for him has never been revealed.

   Additionally, nothing has been revealed about Antag's species, not even its name, and there are no known images or even descriptions of Antag or any of his/her/its people. In fact, for all we know, Antag could have been a HUMAN "space wanderer" and NOT an alien after all.

   Antag's ultimate fate remains a mystery.

--Guardians of the Galaxy I#6 (fb) - BTS


The final clue

   The first part of the final clue in the Book of Antag speaks of a machine. It states, "He walked as a man in the morning, but spent the night as a world!" This is a variation of the riddle of the Sphinx that has been adapted to the Vision and refers to how he existed as a humanoid android in the first part of his existence but later interfaced/merged with the world-wide computer system on the planet Klatuu to become Main Frame. The fact that this transformation did not occur until the 27th Century at the earliest indicates that the Book of Antag was written in that century or later.

   The second part of the final clue states, "Beyond the Pleiades, around a star that gives no light...awaits the shield for any worthy enough to possess it!" This gives the location of a planet (Klatuu) which orbits a star that "emits in the X-ray frequency."

   The members of Force only acquired this clue after they had traveled to the planet Entem and found it (carved in runes similar to those used by the Centaurians) on a stone tablet that was part of a temple there. In contrast, the clue was apparently always contained within the copy of the Book of Antag (written in actual Centaurian runes) that Yondu Udonta had found within his quarters on the Freedom's Lady. Although Yondu suspected that the unfamiliar book was a gift from the Ancient One (Stephen Strange), this belief has never been confirmed.

--Guardians of the Galaxy I#4-6


images: (without ads)
Guardians of the Galaxy Annual I#1, page 34, panel 4 (main image)
      page 34, panel 2 (Yondu finding the Book of Antag)
Guardians of the Galaxy I#3, page 10, panel 2 (Force's copy with red cover)
Guardians of the Galaxy I#4, page 17, panel 3 (tablet from the planet Entem)


Appearances/Mentions:
Guardians of the Galaxy I#1 (June, 1990) - Jim Valentino (writer/artist), Steve Montano (inker), Craig Anderson (editor)
Guardians of the Galaxy I#3-5 (August - October, 1990) - Jim Valentino (writer/artist), Steve Montano (inker), Craig Anderson (editor)
Guardians of the Galaxy I#6 (November, 1990) - Jim Valentino (story & art), Steve Montano (inking), Craig Anderson (editing)
Guardians of the Galaxy Annual I#1 (1991) - Jim Valentino (writer/artist), Steve Montano (inker), Craig Anderson (editor)


First Posted: 03/25/2019
Last updated: 03/25/2019

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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