Every now and then I like to theme these Marvel Madness posts, often to the releases of various Marvel movies, and of course holidays. This is pretty easy for major holidays, or seasons, because Marvel certainly has a lot of Halloween or Christmas material for me to work with. Other holiday, less so. Such as Thanksgiving. I lucked out early on finding a ridiculous issue where some Avengers had Thanksgiving dinner together at the house of the Scarlet Witch and the Vision, which was pretty fun. But, other than that, I’m kind of tapped out. There’s some Power Pack story I guess, but I have less than no interest in the Power Pack, so I won’t be trotting that one out unless I get really desperate. So, I decided to think a little outside the box this year, weirdly enough hitting up another story with the Scarlet Witch and Vision. Because when I heard that there was a crazy story from Marvel Team-Up where various character traveled back in time to save the Scarlet Witch from the Salem Witch Trials, I knew it was probably going to be up my alley to talk about. And, while pilgrims and the Salem Witch Trial folks aren’t exactly the same thing, there’s still a lot of people with buckles all over their clothes, so I’m just going to go ahead and count it. But, I didn’t really anticipate what an insane, sprawling tale that it would end up being, stretching over four entire issues of comics. So, buckle up, because this thing is a wild ride.
The issue begins with the Scarlet Witch wandering the torch-lit halls of a mysterious castle, talking to herself about all the strange visions she’s been having. These issues weirdly don’t call out the location directly at any time, so I’ll just drop some pretenses and let you know that she’s currently broken into the castle of Doctor Doom, in order to steal his famous time-machine. And the reason she’s broken into one of the most dangerous buildings on Earth is because she’s been acting very strangely lately. Every now an then she’ll suddenly become someone else, an angry and hateful person who snaps at her husband the Vision, and Edwin Jarvis, the butler of the Avengers. She doesn’t understand who or what is manipulating her mind, but she’s finding herself increasingly becoming someone else, and feeling a strong pull to Castle Doom. So, one night she slips out of Avenger’s Mansion, steals a Quinnjet, and zips over to Latveria. She sneaks her ways down into the bowels of the castle, and comes across the room where Doom keeps his Time Platform, and finds someone else waiting for her. She reacts in horror, and the mysterious figure is able to attack her. But, before the Witch loses consciousness, she’s able to set off one of her ill-defined hex-blasts, which flies out of the castle, looking for someone to help.
And, as you might have guessed from the fat that this was an issue of Marvel Team-Up, the hex bolt manages to fly all the way back to New York, tracking down the one and only Spider-Man. He’s more than a little alarmed by the strange appearance of glowing orb that seems to be tracking him down, but nothing he can do manages to avoid it. He dodges, he webs it up, and he flees, but the hex orb manages to corner him, and absorb him. And, because no one know what the Scarlet Witch’s powers can do, and thus they can do anything, he’s instantly teleported straight into Castle Doom, where he finds an unconscious Scarlet Witch, an activated Time Platform, and a man dressed as a pilgrim.
This man is Cotton Mather, a real-life person who was instrumental during the Salem Witch Trials, and who is our villain de jour. Spider-Man is pretty shocked about this whole thing, but he’s pretty sure that the mysterious man looming over an unconscious superhero is the bad guy, and starts to fight Mather. Unfortunately, the man is holding some magical crucifix, which is able to send out blasts of mystical energy which manages to knock Spider-Man down. He keeps getting back up though, until Mather decides to switch up his attack, forcing Scarlet Witch to deal the final blow. With tears in her eyes she unleashes another blast of hex energy, which appears to obliterate Spider-Man, and leave a massive crater in the ground. But, it’s Spider-Man, so he’s fine.
Spider-Man crawls out of his little hole, and starts smart-mouthing to Mather, earning ire from the time-travelling bigot. He attacks Spider-Man once more with his magical cross, and then has Scarlet Witch blast the ceiling of the castle, causing a cave-in that buries the old web-head. And, with Spider-Man temporarily taken out of commission, he orders Scarlet Witch onto the Time Platform, which has already been set to transport the pair back to 1692. So, a slave to Mather’s mental magic, Wanda Maximoff finds herself transported back to possibly the worst possible time to be a witch.
And, while all of that’s going on, Spider-Man is doing what he does best. Being stuck under some heavy rubble that he has no business lifting on his own. But, as always, Spider-Man is able to pry himself out of that situation, using his webbing as leverage to pull enough rubble off of himself to wriggle out of the wreckage. And, with that taken care of, he has to figure out just what the hell is happening. He still doesn’t have any clue why he’s here, but he’s pretty sure it’s up to him to save the Scarlet Witch. So, he starts poking around with the Time Platform, which is still set up to travel back to 1692. And, just like that, Spider-Man is sent back to Salem, Massachusetts, right in the middle of the witch trials.
Spider-Man doesn’t really have a lot of skyscrapers to be swinging off of, so he goes a little more stealthy, hopping from shadowy roof to roof. He’s pretty alarmed by all the hateful fervor filling the area, and just kind of follows the crowds of people carrying torches and pitchforks. And, sure enough, they lead him straight to a town’s square where the Scarlet Witch is currently tied to a post, with Cotton Mather preaching hateful nonsense about her devilish blood. She keeps fighting against Mather, spitting in his face and insulting him, working him up to the point where he reaches back, ready to deliver a massive punch to Wanda’s head.
Which is when his arm is grabbed by none other than the Vision. It turns out that he was worried about his wife’s mysterious ailment, and tracked the location of the Quinjet all the way to Latveria. he found the wreckage caused by Spider-Man and Mather’s fight. And, using his android smarts, he activated the Time Platform to come back and save his beloved. But, the sudden appearance of an insanely dressed man who can walk through walls and who has bright-red skin doesn’t exactly do much to assuage the fear and hate that this crowd of pilgrims have, since they just kind of assume that this is the Devil arrived to save the witch. Spider-Man then makes his presence known, freeing Wanda from her confines. The townsfolk start yelling at our heroes, throwing stones and insults at them, which causes Wanda to lose her cool, and summon a plague of locusts, which doesn’t really do much to calm the situation down.
This little act of magic causes things to pop off, causing Mather to order the pilgrims to start attacking the heroes, who charge the stage where Wanda had been tied up. The heroes begin fighting the pilgrims, and Spider-Man notices that the whole situation has really riled Vision up, meaning that the android is perhaps hitting these random people a little harder than he should be. Spider-Man tries to calm him down, and get him to stop worrying about fighting and instead make their way to the Time Platform, but that leaves him open to get dog-piled by pilgrims. Vision then begins using his phasing powers to really freak them all out, causing one of the pilgrim to take out his musket and fire it right at the Scarlet Witch’s head.
The bullet careens off her weird headdress, but to Vision it looked like a pilgrim just point-blank shot his wife in the head. And, when she drops to the ground, the Vision is thrown into a rage. He starts powering up his solar stone, ready to fry the pilgrims, until Mather takes out his magic cross once more, and blasts Vision with it’s mystical energy. And, whatever that cross is packing is enough to knock Vision out. And, since the random villagers managed to knock out Spider-Man, that leaves all of our heroes incapacitated, meaning they can all be dragged to the local jail until Mather finds a better way to kill them. And, when Spider-Man wakes up from that little forced nap, he finds himself right along another historical figure.
So, yeah, there’s John Proctor, one of the famous victims of the Salem Witch Trials. And, after helping Spider-Man out a bit, he starts to give him he Cliff Notes version of what’s been going on, in case the reader has no idea what the Witch Trials were all about. It points out that it was essentially the cause of a bunch of bored little girls, that got seriously out of hand and led the deaths of several innocent people. But, it seemed like things were starting to ramp down, when Cotton Mather showed up. Mather seemed deadset on stirring things up even more, and Proctor thinks that he’s working for someone else.
And, after recuperating long enough, Spider-Man decides that he’s had enough history, and it’s time to fight back. He breaks the bonds that the pilgrim used on him, and goes to wake up Vision and Wanda. Vision is fine, but Scarlet Witch is still pretty out of it from the deflected bullet to the head. But, John Proctor’s wife promises to tend to her wounds so that Vision and Spidey can go out and fight. The pair break out of the prison, and notice an eerie glowing out in the woods outside town, and decide to go track it down. And, weirdly enough, they manage to find Cotton Mather standing around with a hooded figure riding a massive horse, seemingly Mather’s boss. Spider-Man and Vision reveal themselves to Mather and this Dark Rider, and begin fighting. The Dark Rider summons a massive hawk to attack the heroes, but they manage to take it down regardless, earning some respect from the Dark Rider, but mainly ire. At which point yet another guest-star arrives, someone who has also been drawn here, and who wants to fight the Rider. And folks, it’s great.
Aw, hell yeah. When it became clear that a lot of this story revolved around various heroes commandeering Doctor Doom’s Time Platform it was only a matter of time before the main man himself showed up. And, here he is, confused as to what’s going on, but ready to kick whoever dared mess with his belonging’s ass. Unfortunately, it seems like this is exactly what the Dark Rider wanted. Doom had been drawn to a mysterious power, that of the Dark Rider, and the Dark Rider wanted Doom to come, because the Dark Rider, whatever he actually is, desires the life-force of sorcerers, which Doom just so happens to be.
However, a strange wrinkle is also placed into the story at this point. Because apparently Cotton Mather has been controlled by the Dark Rider, and for some reason has now been freed of that control. And, in that freedom he decides that Doom is some sort of avenging angel, a sign from the Lord that everything is going to be okay. So, Mather switches sides, and starts pledging his loyalty to Doom. But, Doom isn’t really interested in this sweaty weirdo, and just ends up back-handing him so hard he’s knocked unconscious. At which point the Dark Rider begins monologuing about how he craves the blood of witches and sorcerers, so came here to feast, only to find no actual witches present. So, he instead sent Mather to a period where there were witches, namely Wanda and Doom, in order to lure them here. And, while he’s taking about that, he also summons a massive cat to attack Spidey and Vision so that they have something to do too.
Vision and Spider-Man find the massive cat to b e pretty problematic, until they suddenly see it hit with a mysterious blast of energy. They look around, dumbfounded, and end up seeing the Scarlet Witch come hobbling out of the woods. She’s still very weak, but she knew that she had to come save her husband, and Spider-Man. Unfortunately, her presence leads to some problems, because now that there are two magic-users within the vicinity of the Dark Rider, he’s able to start siphoning off their energy, slowly growing to a very large size. At which point he removes his hat to reveal that he’s actually some horrible alien creature, with a rocking mohawk.
Doom is officially sick of this bullshit at this point, and decides that it’s time to just start blasting the Dark Rider with his mystical bolts. Which turns out to not be that great of an idea, since the Dark Rider is specifically here to feed off of mystical energy. He and Doom begin a wizard duel, blasting each other with magic, while Spider-Man, Vision, and Scarlet Witch look on in horror. Spider-Man and Vision are of the opinion that the should just peace out, get onto the Platform and return to Earth, leaving Doom behind, but Scarlet Witch insists that they actually help the despot, regardless of what good could be placed into the world without him. So, Spider-Man and the Vision enter the fray, with Spider-Man swinging around and hitting the Dark Rider while Vision just hauls off and blasts him with his solar beam.
However, Vision’s blast does essentially nothing to the Dark Rider. In fact, he’s able to absorb the flames of the attack and concentrate them back at Vision, hitting the android with a blast of force that knocks him to the ground. At which point Scarlet Witch finally decides that it’s time for her to join the fight. She releases a blast of her hex power at the Dark Rider, and it actually seems to have some affect. The Rider is surrounded by some magical energy that he’s unable to absorb, confining him. And, seeing an opportunity, Doom takes the advantage to start attacking once more. Which, was another bad call. Because Doom is attacking with his scientific weaponry, not his magical, and as soon as the science-based attacks hit the Rider he’s able to free himself from Wanda’s magical confinements.
Spider-Man doesn’t want to give up though, and tries to convince Doctor Doom to help him with a one-two hit. Spider-Man leaps into the air and delivers a massive kick to the Dark Rider’s head, stunning the villain long enough for Doom to strike him with everything he’s got. But, it’s still not enough. Even at full blast Doom’s strikes aren’t enough to phase the Dark Rider, and at this point he’s decided that he’s had enough. He absorbs what more magical ability he needs from Doom and the Scarlet Witch, and then blasts all four with his powers, knocking them out. At which point the Dark Rider picks the heroes, and Doom, up and begins to go about his evil plans.
So, things seem bleak for our heroes. They’ve all four been beaten by this cosmic being, and seem to be trapped in 1692 with no one aware of their location. Thankfully though, there is someone who has an inkling of what’s going on. Because, while everyone who specifically knows about the Time Platform is currently trapped in the past, Wanda and Vision’s disappearance has been noticed by the Avengers. And, one of them in particular has been receiving strange nightmares ever since they vanished, dreams of them being trapped in the past and in mortal danger. And, that Avenger is one that I’m really not overly familiar with, Moondragon. I know fairly little about Moondragon, other than that she’s a very powerful psychic, and I think is somehow the daughter of Drax the Destroyer.
But, that doesn’t really matter at the moment. What does matter is that Moondragon is suddenly feeling intense blasts of psychic pain, which seem to be drawing her into Avenger’s Mansion. She follows her intuition, and ends up finding a room where a mysterious and poorly-defined glowing orb is waiting for her. The orb then slowly surrounds her, and somehow manages to transport her through space and time to the source of the psychic disturbance. Meaning she finds herself suddenly in a field where the Dark Rider has set up an insane little device meant to drain all of the magical energy out of Doctor Doom, using Spider-Man, Vision, and Scarlet Witch as batteries.
Definitely something you want to find yourself thrust into just because you played with a strange glowing orb.
The Dark Rider is gloating at this point, his master plan essentially complete. There’s only one last thing that needs to be done. The three heroes strapped to the table need to be ritualistically killed with a magic dagger. And, the Rider has decided that Cotton Mather will be the lucky executioner. And, even though Mather was recently just about to switch sides and become Doctor Doom’s acolyte, he still is willing to grab the dagger and kill the Scarlet Witch. He does ask for his god’s forgiveness, which is just swell.
But, right as Mather is about to kill the Witch, he finds that he’s unable to plunge the dagger into her. His hand is frozen, and a voice is calling out. Moondragon has revealed herself, and is ordering the two men to step away from the prisoners. The Dark Rider is pretty furious about this, at which point Moondragon uses her abilities to assault the Rider with psychic attacks, something that he’s actually fairly unfamiliar with. But, instead of it being some grand weakness, he actually seems to enjoy experiencing some new attack that he hasn’t had before. In fact, he actually seems to see the opportunity to destroy Moondragon, take her abilities, and add it to his own repertoire.
And, during the chaos, Spider-Man is able to wake himself up, and then awaken Vision and Scarlet Witch, telling them that they’ve been given a second chance. Or, like fifth at this point. Oh, and Scarlet Witch explains at this point that she was the one who drew Moondragon here, the same way that she summoned Spider-Man. And, with that squared away, they decide it’s time to take down the Dark Rider. They decide to split up, with Spider-Man and Vision attempting to free Docot Doom while Scarlet Witch aids Moondragon. Who, actually is in need of some help, because she has found herself in some psychic combat with the Dark Rider, peeking in on his pitch black soul and almost finding herself drawn into his evil mind.
Scarlet Witch begins assaulting the Dark Rider while Spider-Man and Vision just pummel the weird glass sphere that Doctor Doom has been stuck inside. They finally manage to crack the thing open and pull Doom’s form out of it, waking him up and getting him ready to attack. They decide they should come up with a plan, but at that moment the Dark Rider attacks Scarlet Witch, causing Vision to fly into a rage. This makes them jump ahead in the plan, and they all begin attacking in unison. And, deciding to switch things up, Doctor Doom decides that he’s not going to use his technological weapons anymore. He’s going to fully rely on his mother’s witchcraft. Which, ends up working. He’s able to blast the Dark Rider with enough magical energy that the other four folks are able to get in some good licks, finally causing the Dark Rider to collapse. He falls onto the ground, and seems to vanish, either dying or teleporting back to whatever dominion he came from. Which means it’s time for the customary dispensing of pleasantries from Doctor Doom, who then uses a personalized time machine on his belt to just blip away, leaving the rest to use the Platform themselves. But, before they go, Spider-Man asks to go visit Salem once more, and to thank John Proctor, only to find that the man has already been hung, as history dictates. Happy Thanksgiving!
Okay, I am fully aware that there was no real point in saving this story for Thanksgiving. The pilgrims of it all was tangential at best, but there’s just no point in trying to find real Thanksgiving stories. And, when I found this story, I knew I had to share it with you. Because, like so many Marvel Team-Up stories, it really represents everything I love about Marvel Comics. It takes five incredibly different characters, one of whom is their greatest villain, sticks them in a time-machine, has them deal with a real historical event, and fight some sort of poorly-defined cosmic god who wants to eat them. That’s Marvel. The story gets a tad unwieldy, especially in that fourth issue when Moondragon is introduced, but it’s still a really fun little romp, putting all of these weird characters into the same strange situation, and seeing them bounce off one another. The whole idea is a little insane, that some cosmic entity that hungers for magical power came to Salem, only to find that there weren’t actually any witches there, and instead of just going somewhere where there actually were witches, he had two magic-users brought to him. That’s so goofy, convoluted, and perfectly Marvel. Plus, I am very glad to see that the Salem Witch Trials that took place in the Marvel Universe were also a farce, and didn’t actually involve real witches, which honestly felt like a 50/50 chance.
Marvel Team-Up #41-44 were written by Bill Mantlo, penciled by Sal Buscema, inked by Mike Esposito and Dave Hunt, colored by Ellen Vartanoff and Janice Cohen, lettered by Gaspar Saladino and Karen Mantlo, and edited by Marv Wolfman, 1976.
Categories: Marvel Madness