Julia Campbell has recently begun a business, selling art-paintings, lithographs, prints, and most recently original comic-book art. To get attention for her new business, PopCulture Gallery, she was going to auction off, the famous 1940's cover of the first ever Dark Hawk comic magazine, at the last day of the upcoming comic-book convention, (ComicCon) in San Francisco. But when she discovers the piece is a forgery she has to change her plans, knowing that if this information got out, it would not only ruin her business, but also her and her partner’s reputation. Julia is unwilling to call in the police, but when a friend (who is with ATAC) tells her about Frank and Joe Hardy she asks for their help.
ATAC (American Teens Against Crime) sends Frank and Joe to investigate, and as a cover they take best friend Chet Morton along with them, telling him, their mom and aunt that the trip is just a present for his upcoming birthday.
Once in San Francisco, the Hardys drop Chet off at ComicCon and head for the PopCulture Gallery. At the gallery Frank and Joe introduce themselves to Julia Campbell, who, although surprised at how young they are, is still happy for their help.
Julia gives the brothers more details, telling them that she didn't look at the cover very carefully before she sent it to be framed, so really has no idea when a switch might have happened.
Ms. Campbell is a bit let down when one of her most faithful customers, an Ian Huntington, returns a piece drawn by P. J. Rodriguez. But things go even worse, when P. J. Rodriguez (who is a close friend of Julia) comes into the store and after examining the cover that Huntington just returned, declares it a fake.
With the owner of a rival store, Clyde Fanelli and Julia's partner, Jasper Scranton (whom they met at the gallery and who didn't seem too worried about the forgeries), at the top of their suspect list, the Hardys head to ComicCon to find Chet and more clues.
The next day at the Con the brothers hear rumors that the PopCulture Gallery sells fakes. They also see a man taking pictures of the art with a cell cam (which is not allowed) and thinking that this could be a good way to make forgeries, Frank and Joe keep an eye out for the young man.
Next, the Hardy boys go to the stores that framed the fake covers, thinking that a switch could have been made when the covers were being framed. At Fine Framing (the company that framed the Dark Hawk cover) they are rewarded, because the person working behind the counter is none other than the man who was taking pictures at ComicCon.
Frank and Joe question the man, who turns out to be named Kyle McMartin. He admits that he framed the Dark Hawk cover, but says he hasn't heard any thing about its being a fake. The undercover brothers are sure that Kyle McMartin has something to do with the forgeries, and after a visit to the store that framed the fake P. J. Rodriguez piece, where they learn that Kyle worked at the time they framed the Rodriguez, they are even more convinced.
While eating lunch with Chet, Ian Huntington sees them and chats with them. Unfortunately, Chet has heard rumors about the forgeries and, not realizing that the Hardys are on a case about just that, starts to blab about it in front of Ian (Julia's best customer). Luckily, Frank manages to distract them by the changing the subject to an embarrassing moment that Joe had earlier (much to Joe's annoyance). However, after Ian leaves, P. J. Rodriguez joins them and Chet instantly realizes that the Hardys are on a case (since the famous P.J. would have no reason to talk to them otherwise), and confronts them about it after P.J. leaves. He also starts to [correctly] suspect that his birthday present is not legit, and they are only out at ComicCon due to the case. Not wanting him to feel bad (not to mention suspicious), the Hardys tell him a complete white lie to calm him down. Frank and Joe learn that Kyle rents space at an art studio near Golden Gate Park and go to look for him. After being told that Kyle was just there to drop off his laptop and that they missed him by minutes, Joe suggests going to Golden Gate Park while they wait for him to come back.
In the heavily wooded park the brothers are followed by Kyle and two goons. A fight ensues and Frank and Joe are losing badly; fortunately the park security show up before any real damage can be done to Frank and Joe. As Kyle leaves, he warns them not to ask people about him in the future.
The Hardys go back to Kyle McMartin's studio to search it. When they get there they find the door open and Kyle lying dead on the floor.
That night, to clear their minds, Frank and Joe take Ian Huntington up on his offer to join him on his yacht. On the yacht the boys discover two framed comic-book covers; The Dark Hawk cover and the P. J. Rodriguez. And too late do they realize that Ian Huntington is the one who was responsible for the forgeries, the one who employed Kyle McMartin and had him shot when the Hardys got suspicious.
Ian Huntington holds Frank and Joe at gun point, forcing them to jump overboard into the icy water of San Francisco Bay. By this time the yacht is close to Alcatraz Island, home of the jail famous for being impossible to escape from, because of the freezing waters and choppy currents.
Frank swims under the boat to the other side, then sneaks on board. However, this is unbeknownst to Joe and Ian, both of whom believe that Frank has drowned; as such, they begin to exchange nasty words. Joe gets under Ian's skin, causing him to shoot at Joe but miss. Joe then sees Frank, however, and realizes that he has to distract Ian. He continues to taunt Ian so the latter doesn't notice that Frank is creeping up behind him. In anger Ian is about to shoot Joe, but Frank gets to Ian in time, and gives him a swift karate chop to the neck, knocking him out.
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- Julia Campbell
- Clyde Fanelli
- Ian Huntington
- Trevor Knightly
- Kyle McMartin
- Scotty Milner
- P. J. Rodriguez
- Jasper Scranton
- Alcatraz Island
- Golden Gate Park
- PopCulture Gallery
- San Francisco, CA.
- San Francisco Bay
Businesses and organizations
- Dragon's Tooth (comic book series) (mentioned only)
- Fierce (comic book series) (mentioned only)
- World's End (comic book)
- First editions of Comic Con Artist, include a 15 page preview of The Murder House Trilogy #1 Deprivation House.
- This is the only Undercover Brothers book to have a drawing on the cover, rather then a photo.
- The heading (that is used to tell readers which Hardy boy is narrating the chapter) at the beginning of Chapter 7 "F" Is for Fans says "Frank" which is a mistake since the chapter is actually told by Joe.
- Chapter 17 Swimming with Sea Lions is narrated by Joe but then on page 137, for no reason what so ever narration switches to Frank (see excerpt below) , who continues to tell the story for the remaining two pages of the chapter. Narration of the story goes back to Joe for the next chapter.
- "You know, you may be right," Frank said...two paragraphs later; "It's pricey?" Joe said.