Wiltonbooks has struck up a deal with Jonah to publish a book of Spider-Man photos Peter has taken over the years entitled "Webs". Since Peter doesn't own the rights to the photos, he's not eligible for any royalties. Wiltonbooks offers him a $25,000 partial royalty payment in exchange for going on an all expense paid tour promoting the book. He agrees to this in order to pay for his upcoming return to graduate school.
The first stop of the tour involves Los Angeles and a charity event sponsored by Transcorp. Transcorp has recently re-discovered a priceless artifact, the Valencia Chalice. It is on a display in L.A. before being taken back to Europe as part of a goodwill effort. During the party, the Black Fox, intent on stealing it for himself, tricks Spider-Man into revealing his presence at the party. A last minute save from Mary Jane announcing a special appearance from Spider-Man keeps his identity secret. With little choice, he goes along with it and begins to mingle. The Fox returns to find the Prowler (Hobie Brown) intent on taking the chalice for himself.
|Spider-Man Annual (UK) 1990
|Spider-Man: Visionaries - Todd McFarlane (TPB)
Spider-Man finishes signing autographs for a crowd of celebrities and resumes his search for the Black Fox. He finds the Prowler trying to take the Valencia chalice. When he tries to stop him, Prowler attacks. The Black Fox slips away with the chalice during their fight. When they hear the security guards coming, Prowler tells Spider-Man that he needs the chalice to free his wife from prison due to her unfortunate employment with Transcorp. He begs Spider-Man to meet him at the Algonquin Hotel tomorrow morning and all will be explained. Based on their history, Spider-Man trusts him and lets him leave. The next day at the Algonquin, he soon discovers that Prowler has set him up.
That night Spider-Man hangs out at the Transcorp building in the hopes that he can find something about the missing artifact. He notices Prowler sneaking around the rooftops, grabs him, and demands to know what's going on. Hobie confesses he was too scared to meet him at the hotel because of possible repercussions from Transcorp. He informs Spider-Man that his wife Mindy was set up as a scapegoat for Transcorp's illegal stock transactions and sent to prison. Through his "research" as the Prowler, he discovered the real set of books have been encoded onto a chip hidden inside one of the jewels in the Valencia Chalice. This entire goodwill tour of the chalice is an elaborate smokescreen to smuggle the information chip out of the country since goodwill shipments are not inspected. The information will be shipped back to the owner of Transcorp - Justin Hammer. Spider-Man understands and offer his assistance.
Using one of Prowler's homemade listening devices, they eavesdrop on Troy Fishburne, head of Transcorp West Coast (reminds me of Dabney Coleman, but I digress) who is responsible for this operation. They overhear him telling his enforcers they have located the Black Fox at Long Beach. He dispatches them to capture the Fox and retrieve the chalice. Spider-Man and the Prowler quickly make their way to intercept.
While Prowler detains the Transcorp goons, Spider-Man catches the Black Fox. The Fox begs for mercy raising the point that incarceration may prove fatal to him at his age. Spider-Man begins to wonder if he's right. When he swears on his mother's grave to never steal again, Spider-Man reluctantly lets him go, relieving him of the chalice. The next morning the information on the chip proves to be sufficient to release Mindy from prison.
As the Black Fox leaves for Europe, he reflects on his latest job. Despite the abysmal failure to acquire anything to fence, he manages a laugh at Spider- Man's ready acceptance of his oath - on his mother's grave - to never steal again. When he returns home, he'll tell his mother about that, knowing she'll get a laugh as well.
Someone went to the trouble of encoding accounting information onto a chip, hiding it in priceless artifact, and tried to smuggle it out of the country. Am I the only one that thinks this is a bad idea? There are too many things that can go wrong - like someone trying to steal your carrier for instance. It's too high profile of a target.
Keeping in mind that at this point there wasn't a true Internet nor any other digital means of transportation, there still had to be a better way to get this kind of incriminating evidence out of the country. Why not have a flunky transport the data personally? Attache case with a handcuff anyone? That would have been a better option.
With that out of the way, I'm at a loss to suggest a better alternative. Given that this story had to be wrapped up by end of issue to start the bi- weekly schedule, this was an effective plot device. I will assume the Transcorp executives were looking for the path of least resistance.
Despite the rant above, the story is enjoyable. I'll be honest, I think the Prowler is one of the best supporting characters in the Spider-Man books. In most cases when the Prowler is used, it's a good story. This is probably the best story involving the character. That alone overrides any other minor problems I have. 3.5 webs