Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Witch Hunt


Name This Marvel Villain??

While you may be tempted to make a wild guess and tag our mystery villain as "Dark Pilgrim" or take another stab in the dark with something equally outlandish, believe it or not you've just been given some clues as to his identity. To bring you further along, he was featured in a four-issue arc from 1976 where he established ties with Cotton Mather, the 17th century Boston Puritan who was a strong proponent of the Salem witch trials--a story which would bring together five Marvel heroes before it would reach its conclusion.

It's Mather, in his zeal to prosecute witches and see them hanged, who's duped by a mysterious "master" from behind the scenes to bring the Scarlet Witch to his century; and when the Vision and Spider-Man arrive to rescue her, our villain finally makes his presence known.

The Dark Rider conceals himself in shadow for now, while his power slowly begins to siphon the essence of Wanda while in proximity to her--but what's his true purpose here, and why has he conscripted a fanatic like Mather to his service? Well, from his actions, it seems that Mather is precisely the kind of lackey you'd want to do your bidding--a man who's totally devoted to his cause, and, by extension, to a being who appears to share his views and has the power to advance that cause. Yet both of these men may have erred in going after Wanda, since the lady has friends to stand in her defense.

It's not really clear how the Rider's fierce bird is going to "slam" Spider-Man and the Vision --"slay," more likely--but either way, you'd be correct in thinking that a bird isn't going to be much trouble to the likes of the Vision. But, jeez, look who's come to join the party now:

We can gather by Doom's appearance that the Rider has taken an interest in beings associated in one way or another with witchcraft. As for Mather, the crazed loon is obsessed with being the vessel of the lord, whoever that turns out to be--and the fact that Mather now mistakes Doom for his holy master speaks volumes about his tenuous hold on sanity. Doom, of course, has little patience for fools--and Mather's ravings are a bothersome distraction from the threat the Rider represents.

While the Rider confers with Doom, he occupies the other heroes with his feline companion, which now grows to the size of a saber-tooth and leaps to the attack. In the meantime, the Rider demonstrates thorough knowledge of Doom's beginnings, and of the power that the young man began to tap into.

Once Wanda has helped to eliminate the threat of the Rider's beast, the heroes turn to find the Rider growing impatient, as he decides to reveal himself in full--and though Doom resists his advance, the Rider now has the advantage of additional power being drained from both Doom and Wanda.

It looks like game and set for the Rider, who proceeds to set up a siphoning altar to more quickly and fully drain his victims of the power he craves. We still don't know why gaining the power inherent in witchcraft will make the Rider "master of all eternity"--but there might be another delay in achieving that goal because, good grief, now look who shows up!

As for Mather, he's clearly in way over his head in this conflict--his simple, twisted agenda overshadowed by the forces in play between these strange beings, with neither the Rider nor Doom appearing to be the master he looks to in guiding his actions. Yet Mather is too weak-willed to withdraw at this point--and the Rider has another task for him which will serve to damn Mather even more, if that's possible.

Now that Moondragon has engaged the Rider in order to save the captives, it's time for this story to provide us with a few answers. First, just what are all these heroes doing here?

And secondly, with Moondragon locked in a mental link with the Rider, we become aware of the Rider's origins, as a rogue dark wizard who escaped his fate in the timestream and again craves power.

At this point, a light bulb goes off over Spider-Man's head after he and the Vision free Doom: "The Rider's beaten every combination we've thrown at him! We haven't once tried to hit him all together!" And while those two statements may seem redundant to you and I, the heroes nevertheless team up against the Rider once more, only this time of course meeting with success.

It's a good bet that when a villain screams "NNOOoooooo!", the story's a wrap--and so it is, with the Rider fading away and everyone scooting back to the 20th century. With the exception of Mather, who eventually not even the people in his own century wanted around.

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