|Cover Art:||Al Milgrom|
|Reprinted In:||Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #2|
At a bar in Greenwich Village, Peter overheard the TV news report say that a series of burglaries led to a murder at a fashionable apartment. The police believed Spider-Man to be the culprit. Peter was on a date with Deb Whitman and wondered who was setting him up this time. Another guy at the bar told the bar tender to change the channel, and Peter interrupted, saying he wanted to hear more. The reporter finished, saying the name of the apartment complex. The other guy threatened to beat Parker up, but was stopped by the bar tender. The guy took Peter to the exit to "talk" and Peter quickly knocked him out. Just then Deb arrived from the bathroom and he told her that he had to leave. The bar tender found the other guy passed out, thinking he was drunk. At her apartment, Deb was disappointed that Peter refused to come inside with her and felt like a fool for thinking he was really attracted to her.
Spider-Man left the scene feeling bad for ditching Deb but more worried about be framed for murder. He swung to the scene of the crime and snuck to the crime scene, where he was stopped by the police. One of them let him in, saying her knew him as a reporter from the Globe. Sergeant Snider informed Peter that the break ins were all done on second story apartments and all were inhabited by people in the fashion business. This was the only time that Spider-Man was seen at the time. A nearby man began to whine that this was taking too long and he had been answering the same questions for over an hour. A woman entered the room and told him to keep his shirt on and gave him a fresh drink. She was called Mrs. Vaughn-Pope, and explained that she had come home from an evening of dancing with the whining man, Steve Daughtery, and her body guard, Charlie McGuire. McGuire witnessed Spider-Man on the balcony and opened fire, shoving Vaughn-Pope out of the way. The bodyguard ran to the balcony and she saw him fall as Spider-Man got away.
Peter looked over the edge of the balcony, saying to not blame Spider-Man just yet, as he'd been impersonated before. He also found finger holes cut into the side of the wall leading to the balcony. Another officer arrived to say that a steel flechette had been dug out of the wall and had probably been fired at the bodyguard. Peter jumped in to say that Spider-Man had never fired anything but webbing at people before, and an officer commented that someone must want them to think Spider-Man was the culprit. Peter thought to himself that he had a good idea. A cop mentioned that it still didn't make sense, because the thief had been going through the fashion designs that Vaughn-Pope had let out, and robbery was secondary. Snider said they should look into the fashion angle, and he remembered that Spider-Man had been involved with Roderick Kingsley a short time ago. Vaughn-Pope told him not to say that name in her home again. Another cop showed up to show them a ball of webbing that they had found on the roof, which was the bag of clothing Peter had left when he arrived. Vaughn-Pope said they found their killer and then turned to leave.
As Spider-Man swung away, he thought of the Prowler, who dug into walls as he climbed and fired metal darts. They hadn't parted ways on the best terms, but he never thought of Hobie Brown as a killer. He found Hobie at his apartment and demanded answers. Hobie said he gave up on being the Prowler months ago and was married now and had never wanted to be in a costume again. He had tried to join the Defenders but a bunch of other superheroes showed up as well. The Valkyrie showed up and quickly tossed him into the harbor. He got back to dry land and swore he'd never wear the costume again and put it in storage in his basement. He took Spidey to his basement to show him the rusted equipment and found that it was missing. He wanted to find who took his belongings but Spider-Man said he'd be the one to do it.
In Manhattan, the new Prowler snuck into his apartment, complaining about his lousy luck. He turned on the police band to see what they were saying about the death at Vaughn-Pope's apartment, and heard them blaming Spider-Man. He began to panic, thinking that Spider-Man was going to get involved and he planned to get out of town, when he was stopped by a woman in a purple overcoat and hat. She said that she had put him back in business and that she owned him. He called her "Belladonna" and agreed that he would do the robberies that she wanted but never expected Spider-Man to get involved. He never wanted to deal with him again. Belladonna pulled a gun on him and told him to explain what happened that night. He told her he robbed a bunch of fashion designers as she told him, then went to the Vaughn-Pope residence like she told him. He didn't expect the bodyguard to be so trigger happy, or to rush the balcony. He fired the flechettes at him but the guard knocked them both over the edge. The guard fell to his death before Prowler could grab him. He was a criminal but not a killer and knew that he was looking at murder in the first degree. Belladonna agreed with him, and told him that's why he'd do exactly what she told him.
At Restwell Nursing home, Peter went to visit May and Nathan Lubenski. She had become very popular with the other residents, who loved hearing her tell how se had been saved from the burglar by Spider-Man. At Empire State University, he saw a headline on the Daily Bugle, accusing Spider-Man of the guard's death. Deb was there and she said she had fun the other night and said they should do it again. He mumbled an agreement and was focused on finding the Prowler and keeping aunt May a fan of Spider-Man. He walked away, not paying attention to Deb. He was soon swinging away and spotted by goons working for Belladonna. They reported to Prowler that he was headed his way and he wasn't thrilled to hear it. As Spider-Man swung past, he fired at flechette at him, severing the webline. He recovered quickly and found Prowler, who immediately ran away. Prowler noted that Spider-Man was even faster than he remembered and Spidey noted that he moved totally differently from Hobie. In fact, he seemed familiar. Prowler ran through a door on a roof and Spidey followed him. Inside, Prowler shoved huge rolls of cloth on top of him. Spidey dodged the rolls and webbed the crook, dragging him back and yanking off his mask. Before he could see his face, Prowler sprayed him with belladonna gas, which burned his eyes. Prowler ran for a door and Spidey followed, but the door closed behind them. Belladonna was gloating at them from the other side and told Prowler that if she let him out, Spider-Man may escape. He'd outlived his usefulness anyway.
Prowler panicked, saying they were going to die and that's when Spider-Man recognized him. He was the Cat Burglar that he faced years ago as a high school student. Spidey tried to break through the glass window on the door, but it was too thick. He asked Belladonna why she went through so much trouble for him and she replied that he had caused her trouble in the past and she didn't like him. He was too strange. The room began to fill with her belladonna gas and she called him a challenging opponent, while he lasted.
This as an enjoyable story, full of cool moments. Peter handling the jerk at the bar was a nice touch, even if he continued to treat Deb like garbage. I had to facepalm myself when he ditched her to go investigate the death of the bodyguard. Going to the scene of the crime so soon was a bad idea, especially when Deb was inviting him into her apartment. Vaughn-Pope and her boytoy Steve were nicely arrogant and spoiled, as you would expect from the well to do.
The new Prowler's fear of Spider-Man was a nice touch, it was exactly what you would expect from a human criminal that had faced the webhead before. Belladonna's secret ID isn't much of a mystery but they rarely are. The story feels layered and well thought out.
It's an exciting story with some nice character moments, just what I like.