We continue our looking back review of the MTU Time Travel story which began in Marvel Team-Up #41.
Our three heroes re-cap for the benefit of those who missed the last issue. The Vision says, "When your strange behavior led you to take an Avengers quinjet and fly to Latveria, Wanda... I never would have dreamt that it would lead to this.", which implies, I suppose, that the Vision followed her and also used Doc Doom's time machine thereby accounting for his presence. (The android Vision, by the way, is a bright red-skinned being with a tiny jewel in his forehead. His elaborate green and yellow costume covers so much of his body, including the back and top of his head, that the only part of him that appears red is his face.) All is as it was at the end of the last issue only now Wanda is untied from the poles. Mather still urges on the crowd. The Vision decides that ol' Cotton "seems to be possessed by some outside influence" but his ruminations are interrupted by a stone that smacks him in the side of the head.... thrown by a very self-righteous Puritan. Wanda has had enough. She casts a spell that sends a "plague of locusts" on the stone-thrower. If the mob had any doubts about witchcraft before that, they don't have it anymore. The angry, scared townspeople attack with pitchforks and clubs.
Spider-Man has no problem evading the attackers. The Vision, however, still angry over the treatment his wife has received, stands his ground and injures two Puritans by phasing his fists through their bodies. (The Vision can control the density of his body. If he chooses, he can become as hard and as heavy as stone or as light and intangible as a ghost. When he phases parts of his intangible body into another being and then solidifies just a bit, he inflicts tremendous pain. Or so they tell me.)
Distracted by the Vision's actions, Spider-Man allows himself to be overwhelmed by townspeople. They club him to the ground. Then, one of their number (who must be as tough as the Rhino) knocks Spidey out with one well-placed fist on the head.
The mob goes after the Vision next. At first, he turns completely intangible, allowing the clubs and pitchforks to pass harmlessly through. But, "being intangible is too passive a stance for my present feelings!", he decides, so he turns solid and lets the weapon break apart on his "diamond-hard form". Cotton Mather tells his flunkies to strike at the Vision "where he'll hurt!" "Get ye his woman!", he says.
Wanda seems to be holding her own. A hex sends two assailants crashing through the boards of the platform. But a third sneaks up carrying a blunderbuss. He fires off a gunshot that creases her temple, forcing her to lose consciousness.
The Vision thinks she is dead. "There is blood and she doesn't move." He may be an android but his human emotions are strong. Rage and grief and hate overwhelm him. Eyes glowing, he descends on the townspeople... only to be struck down by the fire that comes from Cotton Mather's cross. The three heroes are bound and taken to prison. Spidey is the first to wake up and discover that he has stepped into The Crucible.
(Actually, it's been so long since my history and drama classes that I can no longer tell you how much of what follows is fact or Arthur Miller... or even Bill Mantlo, for that matter. Still, ready or not... here it comes.)
The web-slinger discovers that he, Wanda, and the Vision have been put in irons in a large common room of Salem jail with dozens of other prisoners. (Though the others are not chained.) There is a large man with long hair and beard standing above him, trying to offer assistance. He introduces himself as John Proctor. John acknowledges that Spidey's "words" and "garb" are strange to him but he takes it all in stride. When the wall-crawler asks why so many people are in this cell, John begins his story.
"Twas Autumn, the time of the harvest, in the year of our Lord 1691", he begins. Harvest is too busy a time to engage in evil, though petty disputes continued to be settled by the local churchmen. "Still, as winter set in so too did the time of gossip." A number of young girls, idle at wintertime, became interested in the voodoo doings of Tituba, a woman from Barbados who served as cook in Reverend Samuel Parris' home. "Twas his daughter, nine-year-old Betty and her eleven-year-old cousin, Abigail, that did first succumb to the servant's teachings... lessons in the black arts!" Soon, a number of girls were looking on as Betty and Abigail tried to wound their enemies by sticking pins in doll-images, and, in the wake of these activities, a change came over the participants. "A listless, sly way of acting."
One day, Betty Parris and Mary Walcott are lounging around when accosted by Mistress Sarah Good for their laziness. At Sarah's words, "the girls did fall to the ground, shrieking with foam flecking their lips, madness in their eyes, and crying out, 'she is a witch'."
Given no chance to defend herself, Sarah is taken away and put on trial. The Judge asks the girls for evidence of Sarah's witchcraft and they all fall to the ground, shrieking again, and making accusations of Sarah flying naked, with a black cat, at night, over Salem. Sarah is hanged two days later, the girls smiling mischieviouly at the execution.
"And on, friend, it did go!", John continues. The girls denounced anyone they disliked. John's wife was arrested, then John himself when he dared to question the girls' veracity. "There were none that dared believe an accused witch, lest they or their family be next to be named."
Still, there was one, a minister named John Burroughs who dared to recite the Lord's Prayer at the gallows. The townspeople, believing that no witch could speak the words are ready to release him. But, at that moment, Cotton Mather arrives for the first time, accusing Burroughs of being "the devil incarnate". "And at his words was Burroughs hanged."
His story done, John Proctor asks Spider-Man to pray with him. Spidey has something else in mind. Clinging to the wall with his feet, he pulls with all his might at his iron bonds until they snap. Proctor wonders if this feat means that his companion is indeed a witch. "Nope, not a witch... just your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man."
Spidey checks on the Vision and the Witch who are both still unconscious. He shatters Vizh's shackles and the android recovers consciousness soon after. With Vision checking on his wife, Spidey peeks out the barred window in the prison door. "I'll check out the local version of the deputy at the county jail!", he says. "Ah! Just what I thought! A prime specimen. As half-baked as the ones on Gunsmoke!"
Calling out, "Yoo hoo, Chuckles! Turn around and see what one of us naughty witches is doing!", Spidey rips the door apart. He grabs the frightened deputy, tosses him into the cell and ties him up with webbing.
Spidey looks to the Vision for an ally but the Avenger is reluctant to leave the unconscious Wanda. John Proctor's wife steps in and promises to take care of the Scarlet Witch who "regains consciousness e'en as we speak". Spidey then tries to get all the accused witches to escape with him but John Proctor speaks for all of them when he says, "Twould be an admission of our guilt were we to flee with ye. This is a judgment put upon us by the Lord and we must face it, not run from it!" A stunned Spidey has to remind himself that all of this is history. "John Proctor was hanged as a witch in August of 1692 after spending nearly a year in prison", he thinks, "and there's nothing I can do to change that!"
Spidey and the Vision leave the prison (with the Vision phasing through a solid wall, terrifying the other prisoners). The street is deserted but there is a "weird greenish glow away off in the woods". Thinking it may be the time platform, Spidey and the Vision follow it. They hide in a tree near a clearing and witness a meeting between Cotton Mather and a large man astride a large black horse. The man is cloaked in shadow but wears a Pilgrim hat with buckle and a purple outfit with purple cape. A black cat rides on his shoulder and a raven sits on his wrist. It is the strange man himself who is glowing.
Mather greets his companion as the man who gave him the power "to do the Lord's work in Salem". The man refers to himself as the Dark Rider. No doubt the conversation would continue but the sight of Mather so enrages the Vision that he, unthinking, attacks. He strikes Mather a mighty blow. Only Spidey's cry of "Vision! Stop it! You'll kill him!" slackens the Avenger's wrath. But, our two heroes are soon to learn that Mather is not the real threat here. The Dark Rider reveals not only that Mather is his pawn but that he is the one with a need of the Scarlet Witch. ("In other words, we're meeting the Big Cheese", Spidey says.) If the Vision is truly the Witch's husband (as he blurted out when he attacked Mather... trust me), "you are then in the way and must be disposed of!" The Rider dispatches his raven with the command of "slay them!"
The raven flies at Spider-Man, growing as it approaches. Webbing does not stop it. The wall-crawler must leap away. The Vision fires a "blast of intense heat" from his eyes at the raven and the bird is engulfed in flame. Shrieking, it crashes to the earth in a fireball, but "in death... does not become blackened ash... but merely reverts to its former size." The Rider is surprised that "people of this time" could defeat the "bird of night". Spidey starts to explain that he and the Vision are not from this time when a voice cries out, "Tell him nothing, Spider-Man! He must not suspect from whence you came!" The voice belongs to Doctor Doom. He stands on some nearby rocks, his hands crackling with energy "and though it rankles to ally myself with such as you, I find now that I must, or the earth as we have come to know it, will never be!"