Spider-Man was accused of murder in the death of a bodyguard at the apartment of fashion designer Desiree Vaughn-Pope. The evidence pointed partly at Spider-Man and partly to the Prowler. Spidey went to talk to Hobie Brown, who said he had given up on being the Prowler. To prove it, he tried to show Spidey his costume and equipment but it had been stolen. The new Prowler worked for a woman that called herself Belladonna and she had directed him to commit burglaries of fashion designers and to be at Vaughn-Pope's apartment when she arrived. His next target was Spider-Man and he was reluctant to do it. He was soon snared in a trap set by Belladonna, along with Spider-Man. Trapped in a metal vault that was quickly filling with gas, the new Prowler was found to be the Cat Burglar, whom Spider-Man had fought very early in his career.
|Cover Art:||Frank Miller|
|Reprinted In:||Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #2|
After webbing a mask for Prowler, Spidey managed to break through the window on the door. He was disappointed to find that Belladonna wasn't there but her image had been broadcast via a monitor. The Prowler regained consciousness as Spider-Man argued with the monitor and aimed his gauntlets at him. Before he could fire his flechettes at him, a bomb in the monitor blew up and set fire to the room. Spider-Man went back for the Prowler, who had caught part of the explosion. He carried him out of the burning building to the police outside, telling them that he was the real killer of Charlie McGuire. Prowler told the cops that McGuire's death had been an accident when detective (he had been a sergeant in the previous issue) Snider arrived. Snider demanded to know more about Spider-Man, as he had been the main suspect in a murder investigation and was still involved in the case. Spider-Man told him that they had all the evidence that they needed but Snider said that that didn't mean he could get out of making an official statement. He wanted Spidey to go with him to the station house but the webhead swung away.
He arrived at his apartment (identified as 410 Chelsea St.) and wondered if he looked as bad as he felt. Taking off his mask, he said he looked worse. Before he could shower, the phone rang and JJJ was on the line. He accused Peter of selling out his friends to make more money at the Daily Globe, a rant that went on for twenty minutes. After Jonah's tirade ended, Deb Whitman showed up and said she had been in the neighborhood. He let her in but started working on a shorted out light switch. He thought he fixed it, until the bulb blew up and set fire to a nearby Teddy bear. He distracted her from taking the bear to the bathroom, as his costume was still there, and smothered the flames with his curtains. They went out for coffee and dumped the bear in the trash. A man came by and decided to take the bear home and fix it.
Meanwhile at the hospital, the Prowler was resting in bed with a distracted cop nearby. He used the gas in his gauntlet to knock him out and then took his uniform. He stole the car of a nurse and decided to rest a while before he went after Belladonna. Peter, unaware of Prowler's escape, went to speak with the manager of Loft Rents, Inc. He identified himself as a journalist and asked who rented the loft that caught fire. While the manager left, Peter looked through his files to see who rented that loft and found it was Desiree Vaughn-Pope. He called an expert at the Globe for more info on Vaughn-Pope and the conversation ended by the time the manager arrived. Later, Spider-Man remembered his source telling him that Vaughn-Pope's business had been bought out by Roderick Kingsley. From dealing with Kingsley before, Spidey knew that the deal was probably unpleasant.
He arrived at her apartment, telling her that he knew her secret. He was surprised to see that he wasn't talking to Desiree but her sister, Narda Ravanna. He told her that he suspected Desiree was plotting against Kingsley and she denied it. If her sister wanted to hurt Kingsley, she'd do it with the fashion world's blessing. They had made Desiree's second husband's business into an empire, one wanted by Roderick Kingsley. When they refused to sell it to him, he tried to ruin them. He hired a former model to say that their cosmetics gave her severe skin disorders and he became her champion. The bad publicity ruined them and they were forced to sell.
Spider-Man told her that he believed her sister to be Belladonna and was using very deadly gas. Narda refused to believe it, as her sister was on her way to a meeting with Kingsley as they spoke. Spider-Man rushed to Kingsley's home before Desiree arrived, while Narda reveled in how well she had played Spider-Man. She called Kingsley to tell him that Spider-Man had joined her and was on his way. He sat and waited with a gun, wishing he had called the police but knew that doing so would have risked them learning about his business dealings. Narda then called her goons, telling them to be ready at the hideaway.
Spider-Man arrived at Kingsley's studio and looked in through the skylight, seeing him sitting and waiting. At Desiree's and Narda's apartment, Desiree woke after a nap and went out partying. Narda thought of how conscientious her sister had been before the business failed, but now she just partied. She blamed it on Kingsley. She then called the police to give them some information. Not wanting to wait any more, Spider-Man jumped through the skylight but was shot multiple times by Kingsley. The police arrived just in time to see him standing over the costumed corpse. Listening in on a bug that her men had left in his apartment, Narda rejoiced.
Narda left to destroy all evidence at her hideout but was stopped by the Prowler. He told her that he was facing one charge of murder, so he might as well make it two. She offered him medical attention and money and he was only interested in the money, and she took him to a safe. While she cursed her men for being so slow to arrive, she gave him $75,000. She also reached for a gas gun but he knocked it out of her hand. He took her to the balcony and was about to throw her off when Spider-Man arrived. Narda was stunned that he was alive and he told her he suspected that she had Kingsley's apartment bugged. Narda had been in charge of the perfume lab for the business, making her a chemist. A chemist was a good suspect for Belladonna. He had seen Kingsely's gun and tricked him by throwing a mannequin in a Spider-Man costume through the skylight.
Belladonna's goons showed up at that moment and were webbed up. She hated that she had failed and that both Spider-Man and Roderick Kingsley were still alive. He told her that Kingsley was alive but would likely be under investigation. Meanwhile, Charlie McGuire was still dead. He called the police and detective Snider soon showed up and found the bad guys webbed up. Later, Spidey hoped that he was in slightly better standing with the police.
Okay, I really liked this two parter. Desiree having a sister was a little bit of a cheat regarding Belladonna's ID and I don't know how the police were dumb enough to leave Prowler's weapons right next to his hospital bed. Yeah, and it was convenient that there was a costume shop near Kingsley's apartment that happened to have a Spider-Man mannequin.
Still, we got to see a pre-Hobgoblin Roderick Kingsley in action. I like that he was a slimeball before he was even exposed to the Goblin formula. He was a bad seed that got even worse. I'm a sucker for long lost characters returning from obscurity, as long as it's done right. It was nice to see that the Cat Burglar was still terrified of Spider-Man even years after their one encounter.
The story had a lot going on but it was layered well. All of it had impact and it was nice to see Spider-Man use his brain in learning Narda's (that's a terrible name) secret. Good detective work, even if that isn't normally his thing.
I feel like this is a forgotten classic. Maybe it isn't the absolute cream of the crop as other stories (the death of Aunt May, Kraven's Last Hunt, or others) but it's a well done story with interesting characters and an up and coming villain.