A million years ago, a starship crew destroys the planet Cytothex 3 to kill the dreaded Zuggernaut. Shards of the planet's remains float around the galaxy, and one eventually finds its way to Earth. The KGB runs tests on Mikhail Arkadin and releases him. Ronnie struggles to understand the changes that have occurred to Firestorm. An ugly mob driven by hatred attacks three men in New York City and Firestorm intervenes, leading to an encounter with Green Lantern.
One million years ago…Somewhere in the universe, a world explodes.
“Cytothex 3 destroyed, Admiral,” a starship crewman reports.
“Very good, Ensign,” the Admiral replies. He stands on the bridge of his craft looking at the expanding cloud of the obliterated planet.
“Seems a sort of pity, sir,” the second-in-command observes as he watches. “Was a lovely planet…in an alien way, of course. And it’s unfortunate that we had to destroy…what? Three billion…Four billion sentient beings?”
The Admiral nods, appreciative of his crewman’s thoughts. “Of, course, of course. One never likes having to do that, Number Two” he replies. “But the alternative…to simply let the Zuggernaut run free…chance it coming to our planet…Well, that’s simply not to be endured!”
“No, no, of course not, sir! I simply regret the necessity,” Number Two explains.
“Your sensitivity speaks well of your upbringing, Number Two,” the Admiral replies. “Given the need, however, I’m sure any of us would do the same again. The Zuggernaut had to be destroyed.”
The debris that was once the planet Cytothex 3 spun out into space. Most of the shards travelled until they fell into the gravitational fields of other planets, or of stars, and then plunged to their destruction. Other shards collided with other debris, splintered and eventually powdered into virtually nothing.
One shard, however, resisted the siren call of other gravitational fields and avoided the danger of other debris. It carried with it the sole survivor of the destruction of Cytothex 3…a being not born of that planet. For hundreds of thousands of years, the shard and its passenger traversed the emptiness of space. Six years ago, it entered our Solar System. Eighteen months ago it passed Saturn. Seven days ago, it sensed life-forms on the third planet from the Sun. It latched onto the magnetic field of that planet and surrendered itself to the planet’s grasp and began to tumble towards its new home.
A medical lab near Kiev… “The tests are completed. We can find no further trace of the Pozhar powers within this man,” a doctor announces. He adjusts electrodes attached to the chest of Mikhail Denisovitch Arkadin.
“No, you have lost them, Comrade Arkadin, and the American Firestorm has found them,” Major Zastrow explains. His fedora hangs low over his forehead. He stares at Arkadin through his ever-present dark sunglasses and puffs on his cigarette. “He disappears and you mysteriously reappear with your wife. How does this all happen, Comrade?” Zastrow asks.
“As I told you, Comrade Zastrow. I fought the Nuclear Man in the Nevada desert as my government instructed. He defeated me. Then a nuclear bomb was detonated,” Mikhail answers. “I know nothing of what happened next but I assume this Firestorm somehow assumed my powers in the explosion and was responsible for my being returned.”
“And you, of course, have no idea why this Firestorm would do this for a man who was sent to destroy him. I tell you bluntly, Comrade, I think you are lying,” Zastrow replies icily.
“Mr. Gorbachev does not,” Mikhail answers. “And now I should like to see my children and go home…as it was promised I could do.”
“Here,” the doctor calls as he opens the door to the exam room.
“Papa!!!” yells Irena Arkadin. She and her little sister Sofia rush to their father’s side.
“Where are my little ones?” Mikhail says with a broad smile. He bends down to hug his two young daughters. “You two have gotten so big!”
“I’m still little, Papa!” Irena answers.
“May we go home, sir?” Mikhail asks, glancing sideways at Major Zastrow.
“Yes!!!! But go not far from it! I have not finished with you, Comrade Arkadin!” Zastrow replies.
Zastrow and the doctor watch as Mikhail leaves with his daughters. “Tell me: Was nothing discovered in Arkadin or his children?” Zastrow asks.
“In the children, nothing conclusive,” the doctor answers. “The anomalies you are looking for may develop as the girls grow older, but…”
“What of Arkadin himself?” Zastrow interjects.
“There may be energy matrices there. Just because we can’t find them doesn’t mean they do not exist,” the doctor explains. “What next?”
“The government is not willing to drop the Firestorm matter yet. These wallets belong to two Americans discovered aboard one of our submarines just before this Firestorm transmuted the warhead. The Americans disappeared. We intend to find them. To which end, they have decided to reactive Stainoivolk,” Zastrow answers as he walks towards the door.
“I’m okay. I’m fine. Just leave me alone, okay?” Ronnie Raymond asks. He sits on the couch in his Dad’s apartment. Ed and Felicity sit near him. Lorraine Reilly leans against the doorway behind Ed and Felicity.
“You’re not okay, Ron. You haven’t been out of this apartment since returning from Nevada last week,” Felicity answers.
“You sleep all the time,” Ed tells him.
“So I’m tired all the time! So what?” Ronnie says quickly as he stands up.
“So it’s a classic symptom of severe depression,” Ed explains.
“Gee, are you speaking as my father or in your professional psychiatric capacity of reporter, Dad?” Ronnie asks with frustration.
“Actually, some professional counseling might not be a bad idea, Ron,” Lorraine suggests. “What’s bothering you, Ronnie, is that you no longer control Firestorm.”
“And that wouldn’t bother you, of course,” Ronnie replies.
“I’d cope with it. As Professor Stein evidently did,” Lorraine answers.
“He had input, I don’t,” Ronnie says with a scowl.
“You do influence the creature, Ron. If only we could somehow manage to talk with it..!” Ed tells him.
“Gee, great idea, Dad! I’ll just run down to my lab, whip up the secret potion and send Mr. Firehyde up to you, okay?” Ronnie says. He walks into the hallway and slams the door closed.
Ed and Felicity stand together near his door. “Let him go, Ed,” Felicity says. “At least he has gotten out of the apartment. He’s scared because he no longer controls Firestorm, and he doesn’t know what does and he can’t prevent Firestorm from forming. Right now, he needs to work this out alone.”
Shortly after, Ronnie sits in an elevated train, looking out the window as it clacks along the tracks. “What if he kills someone?” he wonders. “Mom and Dad and Lorraine all mean well but for them this is an intellectual question! I’m trapped within Firestorm now. I have no idea how he’s going to respond to something and no way to stop it.”
The train pulls into a station. Ronnie gets off the train and walks down to the sidewalk. “It’s as if I had no control over my own body,” he thinks. “My not controlling Firestorm isn’t the problem. It feels like someone else is controlling me! And I don’t know how to break free! Or what will trigger his next appearance!”
“…Uh, A.J.? Meshach? I hate to tell you guys this, but I think we’re lost,” Jamal says. He drives along in an unfamiliar neighborhood with his two friends.
“Look outside at all them bright smiling faces, Jamal. I think we’re loster than you know,” A.J. answers. People on the sidewalk next to them glare and scowl at them.
“I’m going to pull into the first gas station I see and get some directions,” Jamal replies.
“Let’s get out of this neighborhood first, okay, Jamal?” Meschach suggests. “I don’t like some of the looks we’re getting.”
“Oh, come on, man! This is the Eighties,” Jamal scoffs.
“Get real yourself, Jamal,” A.J. replies. “There are some places in this city where it’s just not real smart for us to go.”
“Yeah. There’s a couple of places in Harlem I can name,” Jamal chuckles. He pulls to a stop at a gas station. “Relax, guys! It’s the middle of the day. We’re just asking directions so we can get to that meeting. Nothing’s going to happen.”
Jamal gets out of the car and walks over to a gas station worker pumping gas. “Excuse me, friend, but can you tell me how to get to..,” he asks.
The man turns to him quickly. “Can tell ya how t’go t’hell,” he sneers. SPLORSH! He whips the fuel nozzle out of the car and sprays Jamal with gasoline!
“Dammit..! This was a new suit!” Jamal blurts in shock.
“New suit’s good…for buryin’ in,” the man answers as he lights a cigarette. He holds the burning match out towards Jamal. “Make a wish, dark meat. Blow it out.”
Jamal looks at the match with wide-eyed fear. “Look, just cut it out! This isn’t funny!” Jamal blurts.
“No? I think it’s hysterical,” the man tells him.
“I suppose we can’t just leave him here,” A.J. says, looking on from the passenger seat.
“This don’t look like fun, do it? Let’s go,” Meschach answers. The two get out of the car.
“Jamal! Get in the car,” A.J. calls to him.
“This guy won’t try anything, will you, Pump-Boy?” Meshach asks.
The man looks them over. “Hey! Tony!” he yells. “Got some blackbirds making to rob us again!”
Suddenly, five men armed with bats and wrenches step out of the garage. “Picked the wrong folks! Didn’t they, guys?” Tony asks his friends as they approach.
“This’ll teach ya to stay where yer wanted!” the gas pump man says. WHAM! He punches Jamal across the jaw!
WAK! Jamal counters with a vicious punch! “Shouldn’t let you mouth write checks your fists can’t cash!” he yells.
A.J. and Meshach fight with other men as another armed group approaches from behind. “Stow it and move towards the car!” A.J. yells to his friends.
WHOK! A pipe smashes against A.J.’s head, knocking him unconscious
WAK! A monkey wrench pounds down onto Meshach’s skull and he falls to the parking lot unconscious.
Several men light matches and hold them in front of a horrified Jamal. “B-B-Q time, ‘ey, Tony! Get the charcoal goin’!” a thug yells.
Jamal breaks and tries to run, shoving his way past several men. “Look out! He’s jackrabbitin’!” a thug yells.
“Round ‘im up, boys!” Tony yells as the racist mob sprints after Jamal, cheering and jeering like animals.
“Gonna…they really…gonna…Not with fire! Lord, don’t let me burn to death!” Jamal thinks anxiously. He runs up an expressway entrance ramp with the mob just behind him.
“Lookit th’ monkey!” a miscreant yells from behind him. “’ey! He’s scramblin’ up the overpass!” yells another low-life.
VRROOM! VRRROOOM! Cars speed past as Jamal climbs over the highway wall. “Any way but fire!” he thinks.
HONKK! VROOOMMM! WHOOOOO! Jamal runs into the speeding traffic. BEEEEP! HERRRNK! VOOOMMMM! Cars honk their horns as drivers evade him.
“There he is!” yells a thug, pointing at Jamal out on the expressway.
Ronnie walks along a bridge overpass and hears a commotion down below. He peers over the edge and sees Jamal standing between traffic lanes as cars and trucks race past him. The angry mob jeers at Jamal from nearby.
“What the - - ? That guy’s gonna get - - !” Ronnie thinks. “NO!” A bright red atomic ring forms around him instantly!
“Go with your mother, girls. I’ll be right in,” Mikhail Arkadin tells his daughters as they arrive at their home. Suddenly, his body lurches and a bright yellow atomic ring begins to coalesce around him! “NYET!” he cries out. Instantly, he disappears!
An atomic fireball rockets into the air above Moscow. It races across Europe and passes over the Atlantic Ocean in a microsecond. Over New York City, it collides with another atomic fireball in a sudden fusion! Firestorm appears in the sky above Jamal!
HERRRNK! HERNNNK! A semi-truck blares its air horn as it barrels right towards Jamal! “AAAHHHH!” he yells. Firestorm speeds down and grabs Jamal! WHOOOOSH! He lifts him safely into the air. VROOOMM! The semi-truck races past. “Holy - - ! Who the hell are you?” Jamal blurts.
“I am Firestorm,” the Nuclear Man answers as he carries Jamal over the mob below.
“Oh…yeah, yeah. I read about you, man,” Jamal answers. “Listen, you gotta help me, okay? My friends…they’re down there! They’re hurt! Gotta get me to them, okay?”
“Yes,” Firestorm answers. He lands in the street facing the mob. The motionless forms of A.J. and Meschach lie just ahead of him.
“Sonova - -! Wouldja look what brought him?” a thug yells in disbelief.
“Who dat?” asks another.
“Ain’t gonna mess wid dat guy!” another blurts.
Jamal looks over his injured friends. “A.J.? Meschach? Look what they done to you..!” He glares at the mob, pointing angrily. “WHAT KIND OF ANIMALS ARE YOU PEOPLE?!” he yells at them.
“You’re th’ animal, man! We know what happens when your kind gets a toe-hold in a neighborhood! Not here, man!” Tony yells back. “No matter what kind of freak you got workin’ wit’ you!”
“Yeah!” another thug yells. Tony and several others pull guns and aim at Jamal and open fire! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
FZAAM! Firestorm beams a transforming burst into the roadway. Instantly, a protective shield forms. VING! BDOM! The bullets bounce off the shield, darting off wildly!
“Ricochet!” a thug yells.
“Scatter!” yells another. “Look out one don’t hit…da gas pump..!”
FING! A bullet smashes into a gas pump and…BABLOOM! A massive explosion detonates, swallowing the gas station is a gigantic fireball!
“These cross-country jaunts are murder!” Green Lantern thinks. “Sometimes they seem tougher than zipping across half a galaxy. Especially for what was a false alarm. It was my turn, I guess. Still, I can’t wait to get back by the pool out by the GL Citadel.”
A huge plume of smoke rises over the neighborhood as Green Lantern approaches. “Wait a sec. Trouble down below,” he thinks. “Trip might not be a waste after all.”
“Hahahahaha!” Jamal yells, raising his hands triumphantly. A transparent sphere rises out of the smoke carrying Firestorm, Jamal, A.J., and Meschach safely above the inferno below. “Burn, you mother!!!” Jamal calls down. “Take the whole damn neighborhood! Let it burn!”
BOOOM! An explosion rocks the streets around the gas station. The panicked mob flees in terror from the flames. “Only way you’ll ever change people like this! Burn ‘em out!” Jamal growls as he looks down below. BBBOOOM! Another explosion rocks the area. EEEEEEEEEEE! Sirens and air horns blare as fire engines pull onto the block. THA-BOOOM! The gas station is rocked again by an explosion!
In the smoke plume, Green Lantern passes into view of Jamal. “Who the - - ? Where’s he going?” Jamal asks. Green Lantern uses his Power Ring to form a gigantic green fire extinguisher, guiding the massive nozzle to spray down on the blaze. “Stop! Stop him, Firestorm!!!” Jamal yells within the sphere.
“Why?” Firestorm asks.
“So long as these people live in their tight little enclave, they’ll never change! Society won’t change!” Jamal explains angrily. “It’s got to be destroyed so something better can be built. You’ve got to stop Green Lantern!”
“All right,” Firestorm answers softly.
“This isn’t working! The flames are spreading too fast! I need another idea or some help!” Green Lantern observes. He turns to see Firestorm quickly approaching, saying, “Firestorm! Great! You can snuff these fires in a second while I - -!”
FZAAM! Firestorm focuses an atomic blast at the gigantic fire extinguisher. “What are you doing?” Green Lantern asks in shock. “The feedback could..!”
FOOM! The extinguisher explodes, blowing Green Lantern back in the air! Firestorm quickly flies next to him. “So long as these people live in their tight little enclave, they’ll never change. Society won’t change. It’s got to be destroyed so something better can be built,” Firestorm explains.
“You’re wrong but I don’t have time to argue! So I’ll just have to take you out!” Green Lantern answers quickly. He forms a green cylinder with his Power Ring and smashes it into Firestorm’s jaw! Firestorm plummets! WHUMP! He lands hard in the street below. He gets up and pounds his right hand into the roadway. Instantly, a lava geyser shoots up at Green Lantern!
“Lava?!” Green Lantern blurts as he dodges out of the way. “Moses parted the Red Sea! Let’s see if I can do the same with molten lava!” he thinks. He aims his ring and focuses a beam that splits the lava flow away from him. “Whew!” he thinks with relief. “Of course, not I have all that boiling lava to deal with. Not to mention a fire that’s raging totally out of control.” He looks below as firefighters stretch hoselines to attack the inferno. “And, of course, there’s a small war with Firestorm to consider,” he thinks.
Firestorm soars up through the smoke and approaches Green Lantern. “Flame-Top! Listen! It’s Green Lantern! Remember me?” he asks. He uses his ring to form a large shield that hovers in front of him.
“No,” Firestorm answers, firing a nuclear blast that smashes into Green Lantern’s shield.
“We were teammates in the old Justice League together!” Green Lantern explains.
“I don’t remember,” Firestorm replies.
“For one group to force their will on another is wrong, whether it’s a majority on a minority or a hero on a society!” Green Lantern tells him.
“Putting up with evil makes you evil!” Jamal calls from the sphere. “How will things ever change?”
“Unless there is a real change of heart, there is no real change!” Green Lantern answers. “Look in your own heart, Firestorm! What does it tell you to do?!”
Firestorm looks anguished by conflicted thoughts and emotions. He holds a hand to his forehead, staring intently at Green Lantern. “I…I can’t decide…” Firestorm says.
Suddenly, his body shudders and a bright pink aura forms around him! Firestorm disappears into a bright atomic ring. Instantly, two fireballs break away and race through the sky in opposite directions!
“Gone!” Green Lantern thinks as he watches. “But at least now I can do something about this fire!” He descends and focuses beams of his ring around the perimeter of the blaze. “I’ll snuff the flames under and airtight bowl and cool the lava to slag,” he thinks as he works. “Then I’ll have to give some thought about finding Firestorm again. He’s too powerful to be allowed to stay that confused.”
The blaze is rapidly smothered and Green Lantern lands in the street. Jamal stands nearby looking at his friend Meschach, lying next to him on a stretcher. “Meschach’s dead, man,” Jamal sadly tells Green Lantern. “If I’d gotten him right to a hospital, instead of wanting to see this neighborhood trashed…If we hadn’t gotten lost…If those animals hadn’t attacked us..!”
Green Lantern bends down and picks up A.J. “Your other friend’s still alive. I’d better get him to a hospital now,” he tells Jamal. “You have a right to be angry, friend. I get angry, too. Sometimes it all seems so futile.” He leaps into the air. “But anger’s like a fire,” he calls down to Jamal. “Fires that are out of control don’t care who they burn. Rage is a response…not an answer.”