We continue our looking back review of the MTU Time Travel story which began back in Marvel Team-Up #41.
"You have come, Doom, as I knew you would.", says the Dark Rider, his own hands crackling with energy. The two hand-cracklers face each other. Cotton Mather bows to Doom, saying "You are the Angel of Light, master! Come to battle the darkness of man!" (Ol' Cotton really can pick 'em, can't he?) Spidey and the Vision stand aside, observing.
The Rider observes that Mather has switched allegiance to Doom but the Doctor is not interested in him. Disdainfully, he swats the fanatic away. The Vision cannot believe that this pathetic "creature" is the man who has caused Wanda such pain.
Doom demands to know why he has been drawn here. His answer? "The Dark Rider has but one interest in you and the men of your time! (Hey! I thought the Rider didn't know all these fellows came from another time!) And that is the power of witchcraft that some among you possess, a power given you, Doom, as your birthright! A gift from your mother!" (If you think I'm going to re-cap the whole history of Dr. Doom, you can forget it, but, yes, Doom's mother was a witch. Doom, himself, of course, is an evil synthesis of science and magic. He wears a full suit of armor of his own design including a sinister metal mask that he originally donned in order to conceal his features, which were apparently shattered by an explosion when he was a university student. Actually, according to one version, Doom co-creator Jack Kirby always felt that the only wound young Victor Von Doom received was a small scar but this was enough to destroy his "perfect beauty" and therefore enough to send him into a frenzy. This all becomes a moot point when Doom dons his mask while it is still white-hot from its casting. If he wasn't a mess before, he sure would be after. In any event, the Doctor is primarily an opponent of the Fantastic Four but has fought just about everyone in the Marvel Universe at one time or another. He has met Spider-Man a number of times but all, with the exception of ASM #5, came after this story. Doom covers his armor with a green tunic, cape and hood. His armor conceals and includes all manner of ingenious weapons.)
Spider-Man and the Vision decide that they have waited around long enough. They call on Doom who "claimed alliance" with them to join them in attacking the Dark Rider. The mysterious villain responds by waving his hands and the cat on his shoulder grows to tiger-size. The Vision tries his eye bursts again but, though they worked on the raven, they have no effect on the cat. Spider-Man sprays the feline with webbing but it is easily shredded by claws. The giant cat manages to trap Spidey against a tree but the Vision comes to the rescue. His eye blasts won't stop the cat but "they may distract it".
(While this is going on, the Dark Rider re-caps Dr. Doom's origins, explaining that Victor has magical abilities that he wishes to absorb. Hey, sorry, Rider! You're too slow! We covered the re-cap of Doom's origin two paragraphs ago!)
As Doom stands stunned at the Dark Rider's knowledge ("You know that of me which no man could ever guess!"), Spidey finds himself on the ground, helpless. The giant cat leaps at him. The Vision cannot reach him in time. Suddenly, a power blast appears as if from nowhere. The beast dies and, in death, reverts back to an ordinary-looking house cat. Spidey and the Vision don't know from where the saving blast has come, but that mystery is quickly resolved. It is the Scarlet Witch who has saved them with a hex sphere. But, the effort of arriving on the scene and conjuring up the hex are too much for her. She passes out again. The Vision races to Wanda's side while Spidey decides to see what's up with the "good doctor".
He doesn't like what he sees. "I feed on your power just by your proximity to me, Doom" says the Rider, and as evidence of that, fangs appear in the mouth of his shadow-hidden face, his eyes take on a feline tilt, and, "with each passing second", he begins to grow. By the time he is done, the Rider has grown to three times Dr. Doom's size. (And his clothes grew along with him... lucky for him.) He removes his hat to reveal a goblin-ish face with pointed ears, a Morbius-like nose, and, strangest of all, a Mohawk haircut that looks like a chunk of shale taped to his head. He calls on Doom to bow before him. The Doctor is not impressed. "Doom kneels to no one be he man or God!" "I am more than any God", the Rider replies. "I am a rider on the winds of time! I am eternal!" Doom's answer is to fire a blast from his hands directly at the giant.
Back in Salem, John Proctor and the others are brought in chains before the court. The Judges call on Proctor to admit his witchcraft. If he repents, he will live. But the girls, who have caused the witch mania, fall to the ground, froth at the mouth, and accuse Proctor of "tempting the Judges" with his black magic. "He doth send Sirens of the Lord of Hell against thee", they claim and, suddenly, others in the courtroom think they see a vision of evil women hovering over the main Judge himself. "The Judge is a witch!", they cry, and the Judge is quickly taken away, now accused with the rest.
The remaining magistrates ask Proctor to "cease your torment of these young girls. Repent, man! Admit your guilt!", but Proctor will not. The girls continue their convulsions and the magistrates cannot doubt what they see. They charge the whole group with "unrepentent witchcraft... to be hung at dawn upon the gallows hills!"
Back in the clearing, Doom attacks to no avail. All of his blasts are absorbed by the Rider. The giant channels them through his body, changes the color of the blast from gold to red, and fires it back at Von Doom. The Doctor manages to block the attack but Spidey, on the sidelines, begins to worry if Doom can continue. A now recovered Wanda decides that they all must help Victor. The Vision is appalled at this. "You speak of aiding Doctor Doom. One of the most evil men on earth!" "If we don't help him, my darling", Wanda replies, "there may not be any earth! Not as we know it!". Spidey decides he'd "rather have to worry about Doom in the future where there's a Fantastic Four to stop him than take my chances on the Rider getting ahold of his powers in the past where there's only us!" and he charges into the fray. The Vision, though still unsure, also joins the battle. But Wanda is still too weak. She "slumps back against the trunk of a tree."
Spidey swings in, drawing the Rider's fire and allowing Doom to get a power blast into his opponent's midsection. It has no effect. The Vision arrives, floating on air currents, and attacks the Dark Rider with his eye blasts. The giant is engulfed in flame and, for a moment, Spider-Man is convinced that the fight is over. But the Rider laughs, shrugs off the flames, absorbs their power, and fires a bolt back at the Vision. The android crashes to earth, "felled by his own power".
The Scarlet Witch does not take kindly to this. She rises, shakily, to her feet, and unleashes a hex before again collapsing from shock and exhaustion. (Wanda's "helpless female" routine is getting very annoying, wouldn't you say?) The hex strikes the Rider and immobilizes him.
For a moment, it looks like the heroes have won, but then Doom unleashes another power blast and the Rider is free. "I do not know why the Witch's power held me", he says to Von Doom, "but the infusion of your science-created power has released me!"
Doom fears "total defeat" but he instructs Spidey to join him in one last attack. The web-slinger swings up and kicks the Rider "right smack in the kisser". This is followed by full power from Dr. Doom. The Rider is not even staggered. With his own hand blasts, the Mohawked villain strikes down both Doom and Spider-Man. The webster falls to the ground, tries to stay conscious and fails. With the Vision, Scarlet Witch, and Spider-Man sprawled out unconsious around him (and, hey, where's Cotton Mather in all of this?), the Dark Rider picks up the still form of Dr. Doom in one hand. "And now the game begins anew!", he proclaims, "My game! And may the future tremble!"