You know things about me that other men wouldn't imagine in their darkest dreams.
I am the Rider, and no dreams are darker than mine.
I thought it could make sense to bring this story up, given that it was recently re-presented in Essential MTU vol. 2. It's part of a larger time travelling arc that also includes run-ins with Killraven and Deathlock, but it can be read self contained in MTU 41-44, and stars Spider-Man along with the Avengers Scarlet Witch, Vision and Moondragon.
It was realized in 1976 by Bill Mantlo, Sal Buscema and Mike Esposito, and I think it could be of interest to contemporay Avengers fans, especially now that Spider Man is fully part of the team. At one point in the story the Vision even asked why the Avengers hadn't sought him out. And who can blame him, I think his characterization here is great.
For my taste this four parter is just about flawless, just very tight on all accounts. What makes it great is that the fantasy elements are added to the reality of the Salem Witch Trials, but do not replace the actual events, which are shown in pretty realistic and unsettling terms, making this story not only a fun superhero thriller, but also the cautionary tale that those events represent, which I think is as relevant today as it ever was.
One of my favorite parts is early on, when Cotton Mather brings the Scarlet Witch before the angry townsfolk to be denounced as a Witch, and the Vision appears, only to be mistaken as the devil. Both heroes find themselves in a pretty difficult spot, they know these are just ordinary people swept in a wave of superstitious hysteria, but that that doesn't make them any less deadlier, they start throwing rocks at them - and eventually shoot Wanda - and the use superhuman powers in self defense only reinforces their conviction of dealing with demonic entities. "I'm not a witch, I'm a mutant!" she starts to say... and immediatly realizes how useless such a notion is in that situation, as one thing would be tantamount to the other to them.
The rage in the Vision as he sees the woman he loves hurt that way, is one of the most vivid example of his humanity that I personally can remember, and certainly a great portrayal of him as a passionate and emotional person, whose use of logic and reason, especially in contrast with the mob that he encounters here, is the mark of the best in one's being human, not something that detracts from it.
Incidentally, I noticed you never see the sea in the story, I'm not sure if that is because in 1692 the village was more inland or just an inaccuracy.
I remember the final installment of that story. One of the qualities which I loved so much about the MTU stories of that period was the ongoing arc in the team-up series. I believe there was a story roughly within the same year that could function as a "Defenders" story, with Valkyrie and Nighthawk playing major roles (didn't Dr. Strange round out the story? I can't remember). In the story you brought up, we see 3 Avengers and 1 future Avenger team up with Dr. Doom (!) to stop the Rider.
IIRC, Moondragon was called across time to serve as "the cavalry" to rescue the others. Where would the story fit into Avengers continuity of the time? Would it have happened before or after "The Serpent Crown Affair"? Not a life-or-death question, I'm just curious. Also, while the villain might have seemed silly to modern audiences, the last panel with Spider-Man is anything BUT silly. Nice touch of the previously mentioned realism.
One of the qualities which I loved so much about the MTU stories of that period was the ongoing arc in the team-up series. I believe there was a story roughly within the same year that could function as a "Defenders" story, with Valkyrie and Nighthawk playing major roles (didn't Dr. Strange round out the story? I can't remember).
That would be MTU 33-35, written by Gerry Conway. I really liked that story, as it articulates the notion that it's necessary to address the root causes of violence in society, rather than simply lock away its undesiderable elements and look the other way, in an endless circle.