Cover Price: $.25
Value: $7 (Near Mint-)
"Death In The Year Before Yesterday!" - 17 Pages
Here's the situation so far: the Scarlet
Witch has been lured into the past (1692 in Salem, Mass., to be exact) by a
religious zealot named Cotton Mather. Mather is a real-life historical figure
behind the Salem Witch Trials, in which innocent people were accused of
witchcraft and executed. Spider-Man and the Vision, the Scarlet Witch's husband,
follow them back in time using Doctor Doom's old time machine. When they get to
Colonial Salem, they learn that a powerful entity known as the Dark Rider is
guiding Mather. The Dark Rider is seeking power and he must be stopped in the
past lest he rule the present. The three heroes are joined by an unlikely ally -
none other than Doctor Doom himself! But at the end of
Marvel Team-Up #43,
Spider-Man, Doctor Doom, the Vision and Scarlet Witch have all fallen to the
Dark Rider. Who is left to stop this villain?
That would be Moondragon, the bald-headed female Avenger and powerful telepath. Moondragon is in the present, but she has been bothered by dreams. "Dreams that call out to me! That plead with me for help!" she says. It turns out that these dreams are connected to the situation in Colonial Salem. A glowing energy sphere (actually a desperate spell cast by the Scarlet Witch) meets her and takes her back to Salem, where she is just in time to prevent Cotton Mather and the Dark Rider from murdering the three heroes. The Dark Rider planned to sacrifice all three and draw upon their powers. Meanwhile, Doctor Doom is trapped in an energy bubble, which drains his innate magical power (Doom's mother was a witch) and feeds it directly to the Dark Rider.
Moondragon bravely battles the Dark Rider with powerful mental blasts. As she enters his mind, she learns that the Dark Rider is an ancient wizard who lived eons ago and who transformed into something like a demon through magic. But the villain proves too powerful, just as he did for the others. He plans to drain her considerable power and add it to his own. "Die, woman! Die that I may live!" he yells. But she and the Scarlet Witch are able to delay the Dark Rider long enough for Spider-Man and the Vision to free Doctor Doom.
Meanwhile, Spider-Man has formulated a plan. "The Rider's beaten every combination we've thrown at him," Spider-Man thinks. "Hold on, Parker! That's it! We haven't once tried to hit him all together!" So he revives Doctor Doom and the heroes strike as one. Doom blasts him with force-blasts from his armored gloves, while the Vision pounds away on the Dark Rider. The Scarlet Witch adds a hex blast, while Moondragon gives him a mental assault. "This blast is meant for you -- to repay you for the obscenities I was made to witness as I sojourned through your memory!" she says. And for the first time, the Dark Rider falls. He transforms into a pile of dark ash and is heard from no more.
With that, it's time to go home via Doctor Doom's time platform -- at least for some of the heroes. Doctor Doom says, "Farewell, my companions. When we next meet, it will be as foes!" Vision, Scarlet Witch and Moondragon go back next, but Spider-Man asks them to send the time platform back for him, as he has something else to do. When they were in Colonial Salem, he was befriended by John Proctor, a man accused of witchcraft. Spidey wants to try to save Proctor and the other falsely condemned prisoners before he returns home. But when he returns to the village, he makes a chilling discovery: the accused witches already have been hanged. "Oh, Lord. The fight took too long. I'm too late...too late!" he says. It's an appropriately sad ending that reminds us that the Salem Witch Trials weren't a fictional comic book story; they were a real American tragedy.
Normally, the idea of involving Spider-Man in a time travel story wouldn't be a good one. Spider-Man is a "street level" hero and that's why people can identify with him. He should be fighting crime in New York, not battling monsters in outer space or traveling back in time like the Fantastic Four. But this four-issue story works, in large part because it is rooted in history. Putting these characters in the middle of a real historical event like the Salem Witch Trials gives this story a weight and believability that most time travel stories would lack. Plus, you've got a nice mix of guest stars: two stalwart Avengers in the Scarlet Witch and Vision; a lesser-known hero in Moondragon and Marvel's all-time great villain Doctor Doom.
Next issue: Spider-Man's time travel adventure isn't over yet, as he finds himself in the future teaming with the man known as Killraven!
Reviewed by Reviewed by Bruce Buchanan.
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