Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #349

Background

After cheating death at the hands of Venom (Amazing Spider-Man #345 through to Amazing Spider-Man #347) on a deserted island and a run in with Sandman, the Avengers and a group of terrorists in last issue (Amazing Spider-Man #348) Spidey has earned a well-deserved break with the return of the Black Fox. Never posing any real threat to Spider-Man, Fox has become a mental nuisance to Peter because of his continued freedom. Whether Fox got the best of him or Peter was unwilling to bring the old man to justice because of pity keep him on the loose.

Since the character's debut in Amazing Spider-Man #255, the Black Fox has been looking for that one last score that will allow him to finance his retirement.

Story 'Man Of Steal!'

The issue opens with the Black Fox pulling a well-planned and well- executed scam to secure a penthouse apartment in New York. It will provide his base of operations while he works on his lastest score. Although appearing to be a feeble old man, the sequence establishes that there is sill plenty of skill left in the oldtimer as well as the contacts to provide necessary high-end equipment.

The next morning, Spider-Man prevents a common thug from stealing a woman's purse. No big deal. Except the thug is a direct contrast to the Black Fox. The crook is much younger with no skill, no plan, and a small knife at his disposal. Once caught, the same 'poor me' excuse used by Fox a half dozen times on Spidey gets the thief no where. The hero shows no hesitation in webbing him up for the cops which begs the question: Why does he always have so much trouble doing the same when it comes to the Black Fox?

On his way home we discover that Peter has a photo shoot lined up with the Bugle for the unveiling of the Trask Diamond. The reason Fox is in New York. Mary Jane comments on how little time they've been able to spend together because of Venom.

Meanwhile, the Black Fox sells a green emerald that he had stolen from a museum to an unidentified buyer. We find that the buyer would have paid up to three times what was asked and it is clear that the Fox didn't realize what he had in his possession. Fox needed the fence money for equipment he uses the following night to heist the famous 'Star of Zaire'. A diamond bought and renamed by Raymond Trask (The Trask Diamond) to be debuted at an event at the Trask Center.

Since Peter was covering the event for the Bugle, he recognized the Black Fox sneaking away from the event and catches him easily. Once again, pleading for his short future the Fox gets the better of Spidey by giving him a glass replica in exchange for his escape. At least Spidey nails Fox with a tracer.

During short interludes we learn that a mysterious man of royalty has landed in New York and is not happy with the Fox's exploits.

That night Peter admits to MJ that he doesn't know why he keeps letting the Fox go free. It's obviously bothering him and rather than go to sleep he goes out as Spider-Man. It doesn't take long swinging around town for Spidey to find a tag on the spider-tracer he planted on the Black Fox. He follows him to a meet with the buyer for the diamond, all the while not noticing a black limousine with diplomatic plates that had trailed them.

Wasting no time, Spider-Man interrupts the meet and begins to take out the buyer's goons. The buyer (an Asian man named Hiroto) gets away in a helicopter as the money is scattered about in the draft. During the confusion Fox ducks away with the Trask Diamond, but it doesn't take long for Spidey to catch up with him at a nearby warehouse. About to bring the Black Fox to justice, Spidey is stopped by a voice behind him. Doctor Doom is here and has his own plans for the Black Fox!

General Comments

A decent lead-in story to Amazing Spider-Man #350. The Black Fox is a rather lame villain, but the character issues he brings out in Peter Parker can forgive that. At times the thief seems capable of 'mission impossible' type adventures and at others as a sniveling, pathetic old man to feel sorry for. It's all part of his scam to secure that one last score to retire to.

The surprise comes from Doom's appearance at the end. His presence is lightly hinted at throughout the issue, but what could he want from the Black Fox on page 30 that he couldn't have taken in page one? A giant-sized #350 makes a Doctor Doom vs. Spidey marathon inevitable. A great idea as long as the story with Fox is enough reason for Doom to come to New York and involve himself with Spidey.

Michelinie gives a solid story and does a nice job writing the Fox. He gives the character a sense of despair that Peter Parker can't seem to condemn his criminal actions for. Larsen's art (as always on Spider-Man) is great.

Overall Rating

Solid story, solid art, and a nice build-up toward ASM #350.

Footnote

This story arc (finished in ASM #350) was, to date, the last appearance of the Black Fox. It was also the last collaberation of Michelinie and Larsen on Spider-Man.

P.S. Actually, that is false. As of November of 2007, I have seen the Black Fox in a Heroes For Hire tale during World War Hulk and have since found on the web that he's appeared in two or three other storylines (albiet very briefly). This may have been his last FULL appearance in a storyline.