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Appearing in "Enter: Salem's Seven"

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Synopsis for "Enter: Salem's Seven"

Several hours after their defeat, the Fantastic Four awaken in a New Salem dungeon, where Agatha Harkness and Franklin are also imprisoned. Sue is happy to be reunited with her son, and Agatha apologizes for involving them all in the affair. Reed asks why she took Franklin away, and she answers that she had hoped his special powers would protect her from the New Salem Witches, who sought to return her to the town against her will. Unfortunately, it turned out that Franklin's power was gone, but she did not know this, and there was nothing she could do to prevent her abduction. Reed describes how they traced the Eliminator to New Salem and had to battle the witches' gargoyles and then the witches themselves. Sue asks who all these people are and how they acquired their powers but before Agatha can answer, Nicholas Scratch, the leader of the witches, enters, accompanied by a hooded bailiff and a blonde-haired witch. The bailiff pronounces sentence on Agatha, declaring her guilty of treason and ordering her public execution.

At this point, Ben and Johnny promise to lay waste to the entire town if Agatha is harmed. Scratch replies that even though such action would be quite useless, he believes they will try to make good the threat, so he uses his power to teleport Franklin away out of Sue's arms. Nearly hysterical, Sue is calmed by Reed and Agatha, who assures her that her son is quite safe. It is, she says, New Salem's way of insuring that the Fantastic Four will not interfere in what will happen. Agatha then departs with Scratch and the dungeon door shuts behind them.

Through the barred window, Scratch informs the teammates that when the old woman is slain, he will return to pass sentence upon them. Back at the Baxter Building, the Impossible Man sits engrossed before the television watching a rerun of Casablanca. Suddenly, two figures enter the room behind him and knock him unconscious with a sonic blast. There is much to be done says one, and little time to waste.

Nicholas Scratch, the bailiff, and the blonde witch escort Agatha up a stone stairway to a huge altar where, Scratch says 'justice will be done." It is what she deserves, he says, for deserting her people and him. She says that she only sought to live among normal men once more, but Scratch replies that now she must pay the price. All the people of New Salem are gathered there, bearing torches and six guards stand at the altar as Scratch declares that she has been tried by the people among whom she once dwelt. She has been found guilty of betraying the secret of their existence, he continues, and she knew when she left that the penalty for doing this is death. Agatha replies that the law under which she stands sentenced is archaic and the "trial" is a mockery of justice. Mockery or not, says Scratch, when the order of the court is carried out, she will be just as dead.

Meanwhile, Ben paces around the Fantastic Four's cell, shaking the building with every step. The first thing they must do is get out of their cell, so Sue shapes her force field into a narrow bar that she slips through the window in their door and loops around the head of the posted guard, then she slams him senseless back against the door. Using his auto-extensors Reed stretches his arms and grabs the guard's keys and the Fantastic Four quickly open the door and escape. But when they reach the head of the stairs, they find seven New Salemites awaiting them. Johnny imagines that, since the witches are unarmed, they will not present much of a problem.

But suddenly, they all mystically change into unhuman warriors—Salem's Seven. One of them, Vakume, says that they had been created solely to combat the Fantastic Four's superhuman powers. Ben immediately attacks the leonine Brutacus, who retaliates by slamming Ben with his fist. Johnny flames on but Hydron blasts him with a stream of water and extinguishes his flame. Then the snakelike Reptilla wraps Johnny up in her constricting arms. Reed slams Hydron, while Thorne fires a salvo of "power spines" from his forearm at Sue, who deflects the attack with her invisible shield. Ben attacks Vakume, but the witch-warrior turns himself immaterial, and Ben passes through him and smashes into a wall. Then the agile Gazelle attacks Reed. By this time, Johnny is dry enough to flame on, and he burns free of Reptilla's coils. Sue repels Gazelle from Reed with her force field, but one of Thornn's power-spines explodes and knocks her unconscious.

This creates a lull in the battle, during which Brutacus explains that they were ordered to do nothing more than prevent the Fantastic Four's escape—which they have done so far. Then Johnny attacks with a flame-blast as Ben clambers out of the hole he made in the wall. But before Ben can do anything, Vertigo, the seventh witch destroys his equilibrium and he topples dizzily. Then Vakume sucks up the air near the Human Torch and extinguishes his flame, and Brutacus crushes Reed's auto extensor hands with his fists. But this has a most unexpected result When Brutacus realizes that Reed's power is artificial, the spell that transformed the witches into Salem's Seven is canceled. The spell could work only against their natural powers, says Brutacus as he changes back into an ordinary New Salemite. Of course, this is excellent news for Ben, who swiftly administers the coup de grace.

As Nicholas Scratch presides over Agatha Harkness's trial he relates some of the history of New Salem's Witches. Centuries ago, he says, they lived in old Salem, where they were persecuted and many were hanged. So they departed to found their own community, calling it New Salem and swearing never to involve themselves with mortal men again. Agatha Harkness was once their leader, but for unexplained reasons she defied their oath, left New Salem, and—most unforgivable of all—revealed their existence to outsiders. Then Scratch orders seven witches to surround Agatha and raise their powerstaffs.

But before they can do anything, a pillar of flame arises from the floor, and the Fantastic Four climb out of the dungeons through the hole in the floor to the place of judgment. Agatha asks Reed for the sake of his child not to interfere, but Reed addresses the New Salemites and demands to be heard. He informs them that Agatha never once betrayed her trust. They discovered New Salem only after their son was kidnapped an abduction that Scratch himself arranged. It is thus Scratch who is the traitor, declares Reed, not Agatha Harkness. Scratch tries to silence Reed with his Satan-Staff, but Sue, invisible, snatches it from his hands.

When one of the townsfolk wants to hear what Sue has to say. Scratch stuns him with a mystic bolt. This act galvanizes the New Salem Witches, who clasp hands in a circle around Scratch and begin to chant. Suddenly terrified Scratch blurts out that he did indeed betray his people. Mystic forces gather around him. and he slowly disappears the victim of the Spell of Eternal Banishment that he intended for Agatha. As he fades from sight, he begs Agatha to intercede, but she says that it is far too late. All she can do, she says as tears fill her eyes, is mourn.

Soon the Pogo Plane takes all from New Salem, carrying the Fantastic Four, Agatha Harkness, and Franklin. As they watch the town from above, it starts to glow, and all of a sudden it vanishes. Johnny had been wondering what a town full of witches could have contributed to the world, and now he realizes that, whatever it was, the people of New Salem decided that what mortal men might offer them in return did not warrant their remaining on Earth. They are gone, says Agatha, to a better place, where the memories can finally be healed. Ben comments that after all they did to her, she must surely hate Nicholas Scratch. But she feels only pity, she replies. How could she hate her own son?


Continuity Notes

  • Agatha mentions that she originally took Franklin so that his powers might help her, but was unaware that he no longer had them. She seems to forget that she was present in Fantastic Four #150 when Franklin's powers went dormant after he used them to shut down Ultron.
  • The unseen attackers who ambush the Impossible Man this issue are revealed to be Klaw and the Molecule Man (possessing the body of boxer Aaron Stankey), next issue.
  • Although the Salem's Seven are stripped of their powers here and Nicholas Scratch is seemingly slain, they all return in Fantastic Four Annual #14.

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