The Flash #293

    The Flash » The Flash #293 - The Pied Piper's Paradox Peril!/The Deadliest Man Alive! released by DC Comics on January 1, 1981.

    Short summary describing this issue.

    The Pied Piper's Paradox Peril!/The Deadliest Man Alive! last edited by MickRory on 03/24/23 03:14PM View full history

    The Pied Piper's Paradox Peril!

    The Flash encounters the Pied Piper, playing near City Hall. By racing around a fountain, the Flash generates a water spout, that carries the Pied Piper away from the crowd. Upon interrogation, the Pied Piper states that he was merely playing to keep the elephants away. As if on cue, a horde of rampaging elephants come tearing down the street. Stamping his feet, at super-human speed, the Flash generates enough heat friction to melt the asphalt into molten tar, impeding the elephants' charge. The Pied Piper blackmails the city into paying him $250,000.00 to lead the elephants away.

    The Flash, as police forensics scientist, Barry Allen, next encounters the Pied Piper, outside of a theater. With the crowd riveted on the Pied Piper's performance, Allen switches into his Flash costume. The Flash gathers a collection of wind instruments, and begins playing them, at super-human speed, in unison. Moving faster than the eye can see, the Flash steals the Pied Piper's pipe, and makes a subtle adjustment to it, before returning it to his hand. The Pied Piper screams at the Flash to stop playing. As soon as the Flash complies, a horde of enraged ostriches descend on the theater district.

    The Pied Piper plays the ostriches away, but this time, instead of controlling them, the angry birds surround him. The Flash forces the Pied Piper to confess his crimes before he moves to rescue him. The Flash catches the ostriches in his slipstream, and carries them out of the city, to a series of waiting cages. The Pied Piper gives back the money he took from the city, and then is turned over to the proper authorities.

    The Deadliest Man Alive!

    As the Flash races past Metropolis, he carelessly generates a sonic boom. The impact of the sonic boom reaches all the way to "Superman's Island", a special prison designed to hold Superman's greatest foes. Though faded before impact, the force of the sonic boom is still great enough to compromise the integrity of one of the prison cells. Realizing the danger of what he's done, the Flash makes a sweep of Superman's Island. The Flash is quick to discover an unconscious prison guard. Suddenly the Flash is hit with a bolt of radiation, courtesy of the Atomic Skull.

    With the Flash incapacitated, the Atomic Skull takes his leave of the prison. Realizing that the lethal radiation will kill him within the hour, the Flash races to New York City, to seek the aid of Firestorm, the Nuclear Man. Firestorm rescues an attempted suicide. Firestorm's attention is drawn to the street, where he sees the Flash generating a glowing message of distress. Quickly ascertaining the situation, Firestorm absorbs the radiation from the Flash's body. The amount of excess radiation absorbed by Firestorm knocks him out of the sky. When he recovers, he seems intoxicated, as if by alcohol.

    The Flash carries Firestorm to Colorado, where they find the Atomic Skull mining for uranium. The Flash undoes all of the Atomic Skull's work, before announcing his presence. After dodging another radiation burst, the Flash goads Firestorm into attacking him. The Flash races towards the Atomic Skull. At the last second, the Flash dodges Firestorm's nuclear blast, which instead fells the Atomic Skull. Having discharged the excess radiation from his body, Firestorm "sobers up", with no recollection of how he got to Colorado. Inexplicably, Firestorm feels a sense of umbrage towards the Flash, but the Scarlet Speedster is reluctant to explain why.

    Firestorm826's Panel-by-Panel Story Summary (Spoiler Alert)

    The Metropolis Seismological Survey Station, 6:42 p.m… “Holy Hannah! Look at the video display terminal!” a technician cries out in shock.

    “It’s registering a Richter 8 temblor southeast of Metropolis” a scientist exclaims as he watches the incredible readout trace across the screen. “Wait! That’s no temblor! Look at the radar readout below the graph - - there’s something moving out there, at ground level! Something traveling at Mach 1!”

    “Not something, Fred - - someone! That’s got to be the Flash!” the technician replies.

    It’s the sort of incident that’s occurred a thousand times in the career of the fastest man alive, but this time, it will have dire consequences…

    At Mach 1, any moving object crosses what is popularly known as the Sound Barrier. BOOM! Result: A sonic boom - - surely nothing unusual in the experience of the Scarlet Speedster. But this time, this sonic boom is going to do more than rattle a few windows and set a few dogs howling…Let’s follow it skyward, through layers of innocent cloud, as it expands like a ripple in pond water, filling a square mile before it begins to fade…

    Unfortunately, its fading begins too late, for its already reached the 20,000 foot level, where a bizarre prison floats on an anti-gravity plate…A prison containing the most powerful and malicious villains in the country…among them a man named Dr. Albert Michaels - - but lately better known as the Atomic Skull!

    Flash speeds along, running on the surface of the water near Metropolis. “I’ve been careless. Thinking about what’s been happening lately - - I didn’t realize what I was doing!” he worries. “It’s a maximum security lock-up where Superman keeps his most dangerous enemies after their convictions. I ‘boomed’ when I passed beneath it…and I’d better find out if I accidentally did any damage! Since I can’t fly, I’ll need to hitch a ride to 20,000 feet.”

    Flash runs across an airport runway, leaping onto the wing of a jet on its takeoff roll. “Luckily, this commercial airliner seems to be going my way!” he thinks. VVVROOOM! The jet lifts off, quickly gaining altitude.

    Seconds later, 20,000 feet above Metropolis… “There it is! No sign of any damage here. Still I’d better make absolutely certain..!” Flash thinks. He leaps off the wing of the jet towards a billowing cloud just below. “There’s just enough - - water vapor - - in these clouds - - to support my weight - - at super-speed - - but only for - - half a second!” he thinks as he stair-steps down to the floating prison.

    “Now I’ll vibrate through the prison wall, and see if - - eh?” he thinks. Flash steps inside the control room of the prison. “That prison guard, sprawled unconscious - -?” he thinks, rushing to the man’s side.

    “I see we have a visitor! Too bad you have come too late for the guided tour, Flash,” a voice calls out.

    “YAAAHHHH!” Flash cries out as the Atomic Skull blasts him with energy.

    “Still, let me introduce myself,” explains the Atomic Skull. “My name is Dr. Albert Michaels. I used to be the head of S.T.A.R. - - but more recently I’ve been known as the Atomic Skull!”

    Flash stumbles back to his feet, clutching at his forehead. “W-What…hit me..?” he groans.

    “Oh, you might call that a brain-blast, Flash,” answers Atomic Skull. “You see, I suffer from a rare neural disorder that causes a short-circuiting in my brain…A radium device was implanted in my skull in an attempt to control these neural seizures - - but instead, the radiation mutated them. Now my brain produces these strange energy blasts at random.”

    Atomic Skull grabs Flash by the chest of his uniform, holding him at arms’ length. “It’s a peculiar power, I admit, but it’s my own,” Atomic Skull continues. “In my cell, I was rendered harmless by a device that counteracted my seizures before they could begin. A few minutes ago, something short-circuited the equipment, freeing me. I intend to make the most of my good fortune, by increasing the strength of my brain-blasts till they are sufficient to even destroy Superman!”

    He flings Flash down to the floor and walks toward an airlock door. “For that, I’ll need more radium in its natural form,” Atomic Skull says. “But you needn’t concern yourself about that, Flash. You received quite a healthy dose of brain-blast radiation just now…I doubt you’ll live another hour.”

    HSSSSSS! The airlock slides shut, and the Scarlet Speedster slumps forward…but only for a moment; reserves of strength are tapped…and an indomitable will is summoned…

    “Need help!” Flash groans as he gets to his feet. An aura of residual energy from Atomic Skull’s brain-blast surrounds his body. “Vibrating…internally…to slow the effects of Skull’s brain-blast!” Flash thinks. “But somehow…have to get rid of this radiation…and there’s one hero who can help me…one who thrives on radiation…Firestorm, the Nuclear Man!”

    New York, New York: They say it’s a hell of a town, and for some of its citizens, that old song lyric is the literal truth…

    Case in point: Casper Jones, formerly a dress-cutter in the Garment District, currently unemployed…He’s a man who’s lost touch with his life, a man without a reason for living, and with a real determination to die…

    “I’m gonna jump! Maybe somebody’ll care about me then, you think?” Jones yells down. He clings to the spire of the Empire State Building as police officers gather below him. “Sure, then I’ll be news! Then I’ll matter, after I’m dead!” he cries out. “But who cares, a man works his whole life at one job, and suddenly, nobody needs him anymore! Suddenly he’s a nothing! Well, I’m something, and I’m gonna jump!”

    Firestorm sees Jones and flies over. “Hey, I know life is tough, but this isn’t the way out. Let’s talk about it, okay?” Ronnie asks as he hovers next to him.

    “Huunnnhhh?” Jones blurts out in shock. Suddenly, he loses his grip and falls! “YAAAAAAHH!” he shrieks in panic.

    “Now you’ve done it, Ronald! You startled the man so much he lost his grip!” Professor Stein exclaims.

    “You ask me, Professor Stein, this guy lost his grip long ago!” Ronnie yells as he dives after the plummeting Casper Jones.

    “You’re the mature half of our composite Firestorm persona, you tell me how a sane guy can think about killing himself!” Ronnie asks.

    “I doubt this gentleman every seriously planned to harm himself, Ronald. His was a desperate cry for attention!” Stein explains.

    “Well, attention he’s got. Now I want to save his dumb neck!” Ronnie replies. “A handy nuclear blast will rearrange the atomic structure of his t-shirt into a trim little parachute and harness…”

    FTOOT! A parachute canopy appears instantly, and Jones begins to float slowly to the rooftop. “And just to make sure the guy doesn’t hurt himself landing…” Ronnie adds. FTOOM! He transforms a section of the roof into a pool. SPLASH! Jones lands safely, spraying water all over.

    “Someday, Ronald, you won’t be able to maneuver your way out of a problem quite so handily,” Stein cautions.

    “Y’know something, Professor?” Ronnie asks. “You may be one-half of this super-hero bod we both share - - but there are times when you’re more than half a pain in the - - huh?”

    Ronnie’s eyes are drawn to a streak of red zooming through the streets below. “Am I seeing what I think I’m seeing?” he asks. He looks as the streak forms the words “FIRESTORM HELP” between the streets, alleys, and buildings. “That’s the Flash super-speeding down there, moving so fast he’s leaving a message glowing in the air,” Ronnie observes. “Hey…Did I say glowing?”

    Ronnie dives quickly, pursing Flash to the waterfront. Flash slows to a walk and staggers. “Since when does Flashie glow?” Ronnie asks confusedly.

    “From the look of things, Ronald, it appears he’s been exposed to high-level radiation!” Stein observes. “Quickly, try to absorb that deadly radiation…”

    “I’m way ahead of you, Professor! They don’t call me the Nuclear Man just ‘cause of my good looks!” Ronnie answers. He hovers just above Flash with his arms outstretched, drawing the radiation out of the Flash. Flash grits his teeth and clenches his fists tightly as the dangerous radiation leaves his body.

    “Another second, and I’ll be done with - - ARRGGHH!” Ronnie cries out. SSHZZOM! Radiation overloads Firestorm and he falls out of the air!

    “Head’s clearing…almost fell human again!” Flash thinks. He turns to see Firestorm falling. “But…Firestorm! Something’s happened to him! He’s falling, barely conscious…” Flash sprints below Firestorm. “…Have to break his fall before he can - - WHOOF!” KRASH! Firestorm falls onto Flash, driving them both into a stack of wooden shipping crates. The boxes shatter under the heavy impact.

    “Good thing I angled us to land against those crates,” Flash thinks. “Firestorm seems dazed, disoriented! What have I done to him?”

    “Hiya, Flashie, old kiddo,” Ronnie mumbles with a sloppy salute. He stumbles to his feet. Flash tries to help him stand but Ronnie pushes Flash away. “I’ll be fine in a second. Jus’ a little dizzy, thass all,” Ronnie rambles.

    “Great Scott, he’s intoxicated! The excess radiation he drained from my body must have overloaded his nervous system - - like too much liquor!” Flash worries. “Who knows what sort of damage this could do to him? He has to get rid of that extra energy, and the best way to do that…is to send that radiation back where it came from!”

    Flash grabs Firestorm and pulls him over his shoulder. He starts to sprint away from the docks. “Come on, youngster. We’re going to find the Atomic Skull!” Flash explains.

    “Great. Terrific. What an ide-YURRRKK!” Ronnie blurts as Flash gains speed quickly.

    There’s a song about the Colorado High, but the mountains of that state are known for far more than pop country music…Here, among these blue-tipped peaks, lies one of the largest deposits of natural uranium in the world, and it is this which has brought the Atomic Skull to Colorado today…

    SKROOM! Blasts of energy, activated by the radium implant in his brain, have allowed the Atomic Skull to lay bare the bones of this mountain, revealing the secret marrow of uranium ore…Now, he prepares to feed on that exposed marrow…unaware that others are arriving with a different plan. Behind him a streak of red light approaches, quickly winding between the mountain passes.

    RRUMBLE! Tremors shake and ripple through the area. “Wh-What? The entire mountain is trembling!” the Atomic Skull exclaims. “But there isn’t an earthquake fault within a hundred miles of…”

    Suddenly, an avalanche forms and a river of dirt and rocks cascades down and over the uranium deposit. “No, no, no! All my work, all the effort - - wasted!” the Atomic Skull cries out. “Buried under a landslide! Now I’ll have to begin again!”

    “And if you do it again, I’ll bury it again, Skull...just as I did this time, with super-speed vibration!” Flash yells to the Atomic Skull.

    Ronnie staggers and looks around. “Hey, great bushes. Thish is what I call the wild outdoors,” he mumbles.

    “I’ll - - KILL YOU!” the Atomic Skull yells in rage. He leaps into the air and focuses as brain-blast at Firestorm and Flash.

    “Just as I thought! He’s so angry, he’s losing control!” Flash worries as he reaches for the wobbling Firestorm. “I figured we’d find him here, after what he said at the floating prison about wanting to increase his supply of natural radium,” he thinks.

    FWOOM! A brain-blast speeds toward them. Flash grabs Firestorm and moves them both safely out of the way. The brain-blast smashes into the mountainside, exploding in a rain of debris. “He won’t catch me with one of his atomic blasts this time…I’m expecting them…and if I can just keep Firestorm from getting killed…” Flash thinks.

    “Wow, lookit that bush blow up! What a trip!” Ronnie blurts out. Flash races toward a rocky outcrop, carrying Firestorm on his shoulder. “WHEEEE!” Ronnie yells happily.

    “We might be able to overload the Skull, by hitting him with a radiation blast just as he fires one of his own! There’s only one possible problem…Firestorm!” Flash worries. “He’s so out of it, he can’t possibly manage the timing!”

    Flash sets Firestorm down against the rocks as the Atomic Skull starts to descend toward them. “Hiya, Flashie, can we do that again?” Ronnie asks incoherently.

    “You dumb cluck, what good are you? You’re useless!” Flash yells at him.

    “Say, thass not a nice thing to say!” Ronnie babbles back.

    “You don’t deserve to be a member of the JLA! You can’t even hit what you aim at!” Flash taunts.

    Ronnie stands and puffs his chest out. “Oh, yeah? Oh, yeah? Well I can hit you, smart-mouth!” Ronnie replies.

    “Let’s see you do it. Blast me with all you’ve got, unless you’re just talk!” Flash answers.

    “Just talk, huh? I’ll show you, you big red cheese!” Ronnie replies as energy starts to form in his hands.

    Flash speeds up the rocky outcrop, toward where the Atomic Skull is about to land. “Good! Now if I can just time this to the split second!” Flash thinks as he runs.

    The Atomic Skull lands. Flash sweeps past him, Ronnie fires his bursts, and…

    FTOOM! “ARRHH!” the Atomic Skull cries out as he is blasted by Firestorm’s nuclear bursts!

    “Child’s play!” Flash thinks as his plan succeeds. He speeds below the falling Atomic Skull and catches him. “Looks like the Atomic Skull is down for the count,” he thinks. “I’ll return him to his cell in a moment, but first…”

    Flash sets the unconscious Atomic Skull down on the ground and runs back to Firestorm. “How are you feeling, son?” Flash asks.

    “Like somebody’s been using my head for a tambourine, Flash!” Ronnie answers, rubbing the back of his head. “And you know something weird?” he asks. “I got the strangest feeling I should be mad at you - - but I don’t know why!”

    Flash wraps an arm around Firestorm’s shoulders as the two walk back to retrieve the Atomic Skull. “I hope you never find out, Firestorm,” Flash answers. “But just in case you do, from the bottom of my heart, I apologize.”



    • This issue contains the Hostess Superhero Ad "Aquaman and the Space Capsule"


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