Firestorm saves a falling window-washer from certain doom. Professor Martin Stein, recently fired by Concordance Research, begins his new career as a burger chef at the Bun 'n' Bun. Stein's ex-wife Clarissa Clemens continues her strange surveillance of her ex-husband. Enforcer leaps from a helicopter and attacks Ronnie and the Professor. Enforcer captures Stein, carrying him away on rocket boots. Senator Reilly learns his daughter Lorraine is being held captive and he is blackmailed. Ronnie tries to track down Stein, and a familiar foe from Firestorm's past reappears.
Firestorm826's Panel-by-Panel Story Summary (Spoiler Alert)
Take one high-strung physicist named Martin Stein, and one teenage jock, Bradley High’s star basketball center, Ronnie Raymond, mix ‘em together in a freak nuclear accident, and what you get is: Firestorm, the Nuclear Man!
A window-washer works on scaffolding high above the Manhattan streets. He’s rehearsing an argument that he plans to have later with his company’s head window-washer. Seemingly out of nowhere, the radiant red and yellow form of Firestorm swooshes by, trailing behind him a current of swiftly moving slipstream. The unexpected winds blow past the scaffolding. The window-washer loses his balance, knocking over a bucket. The man reaches for it and the scaffolding tips and sways. “Oh, mama!” he yells as he loses his balance and starts to fall head-first! Stein observes that these types of thing happen when Ronnie rushes. Firestorm swoops in the sky, flying to a position with his arms stretched out below the falling man. “I’m gonna die…I’m gonna die…I’m gonna…Huh?” the man says as he comes to a sudden stop in mid-air!
Firestorm apologizes to the man, explaining that he was so worried about work that he didn’t see the man on his scaffolding. “I – I feel sick…say, your hair’s on fire!” the man says as he gazes upon his most unusual rescuer. Firestorm returns the man safely to his scaffolding. The man pauses and recalls that he has seen Firestorm on the tube, and asks if he is one of them Titans. Firestorm tells him “Close, but no score.” The man thanks Firestorm and the Nuclear Man flies off.
Coming down for a landing in a quiet alleyway, Firestorm transforms from one Nuclear Man into two separate people: Ronnie Raymond and Professor Martin Stein. Ronnie frets that he nearly turned that window-washer into a wet sploit on the sidewalk. Sometimes sharing their mutual persona with Stein as Firestorm makes Ronnie crazy. The two talk while walking to their nearby destination: the Bun ‘n’ Bun restaurant.
Stein says he has been thinking. Perhaps what they are about to do isn’t such a good idea, he worries. He appreciates Ronnie’s offer to help but he has no experience in this particular field. Ronnie reassures him, saying if it was so hard, would Ronnie be doing it? Stein stammers and Ronnie tells him to straighten up, smoothing the Professor’s collar. “You’ve just lost your job at Concordance Research and you’ll need some cash to tide you over till something else comes along, right?” Ronnie asks. He gestures at their destination. Stein squints at it with nervous uncertainty, saying he has a feeling that he’s just not cut out to be a chef at the Bun ‘n’ Bun.
Two hours later, the newly-minted fast-food chef Martin Stein is in a full panic. He is hunched over the hot grill, spatula in hand, busily flipping burgers. The restaurant is crowded and orders are being barked at Stein in rapid-fire succession. Six Mammoth Burgers, one with no lettuce, two with extra hot sauce. Make that two rare, one up with egg, and two chocolate Tasti-Shakes. Extra lemon on a junior Mammoth Burger to go. I need two large mustard fires with tartar on the side. How about those six Mammoth burgers…two with extra sauce. I need those mustard fries. Cancel the Mammoth Junior, make that a double-bacon with lime. Martin Stein scrambles to keep up with the burgers sliding off the conveyor belt from the oven. Sweat beads on his forehead as he toils.
Observing Stein in action, Ronnie and his friend Jefferson look amused. Ronnie tells Jefferson that he knew Stein would work out. Jefferson agrees. Ronnie describes hearing that his father, Ed Raymond, made quite a scene at the high school the other night when Ronnie didn’t come home. Jefferson asks where Ronnie was, and says that Ed was ready to turn the whole school upside-down, starting with Coach Mason. As they talk, Stein is struggling, and an order of burgers falls to the floor. Ronnie tells Jefferson that he’ll explain later and asks Jefferson to cover for him.
In the lobby of the Bun ‘n’ Bun, the customers are getting restless waiting for their orders. Working the counter, Doreen Day is bearing the brunt of their displeasure. “Is this a fast-food joint or what? Where’re my six Mammoth Burgers?” one asks. Another snorts, “Young lady, if my food doesn’t come in the next two seconds, I’ll want a word with the manager.” Martin Stein, looks on through the kitchen, an exasperated expression on his face.
Cliff Carmichael asks for his mustard fries, and takes enjoyment in Doreen being flustered. He remembers that ever since he popped that bozo Raymond during a fight, Doreen has ignored him. With a cheesy Cheshire cat grin, he looks on as Doreen gets a measure of come-uppance in his eyes, and Raymond, too.
Customers grow tired of waiting and begin to demand their money back. Some turn to leave, heading for the Burger Queen down the street. One yells loudly that he wants to see the manager. In the kitchen, Martin Stein crumbles under the pressure. A large order of burgers and buns tumbles off the grill, spilling all over the kitchen floor. Stein bends down to clean up the mess, saying “This is a nightmare. I never should have let Ronnie talk me into…Ulp!” Stein is hunched over at floor level and a pair of shoes has appeared in front of the pile of burger gunk he was focused on. Mr. Edgar, the Bun ‘n’ Bun manager pulls a smoky cigarette from his lips, saying “Stein, we’ve got a problem here.” The Professor looks up warily as the manager informs him that the problem is…him.
Outside the restaurant, Clarissa Clemens looks into the busy lobby from the window. Formerly Clarissa Stein, she thinks that she almost feels sorry for that puddle-headed ex-husband of hers. Then she remembers how she wasted the best years of her life on him, finally realizing that poor old Martin Stein was and is a hopeless loser. She reflects learning at least one thing at her mother’s knee in West Virginia: cut ties with losers. Looking back toward the street, she recalls that her three years with Martin Stein did have advantages. Those years and that relationship have made Clarissa indispensible to her new employer. While observing Stein, Clarissa has held a small clandestine microphone in her hand, its cable extending into her purse.
“Skybird, this is Groundling. You read?” Clarissa asks into the microphone. A voice answers through an earphone Clarissa wears to confirm that they do read her. Clarissa transmits that the “Worm is about to leave his hole” and she guesses that he’s going to be fired. She asks if Skybird is in position. From a helicopter beginning to hover overhead, the voice answers “We are, Groundling. Report received. Leave the area immediately. You’ve done your part, now it’s my turn. Skybird out.”
The voice comes from a passenger in the helicopter. He wears a green and yellow armored mask and suit. He tells the pilot that this Clemens woman overreaches herself and may have to be eliminated when the Stein Project is finished. The passenger remarks to the pilot that he would enjoy eliminating Clarissa as he is annoyed by pushy women. He directs the pilot to descend down to two hundred feet. The pilot asks if he should land. He is horrified as his passenger open the helicopter door and leaps out!
Rick Austin has been a helicopter pilot since learning to fly Hueys during Vietnam. He’s always known there’s only one thing wrong with choppers - - you can’t bail out. When he sees the heavily-armored man that was his passenger lunge himself out of the copter’s hatch, he is sure he has just witnessed an unusually grisly method of suicide. The heavily-armored man is now about to land, and Rick Austin couldn’t be more wrong.
Inside the Bun ‘n’ Bun, Martin Stein begs Mr. Edgar to give him another chance. The unhappy manager tells him to forget it and removes the uniform hat from Stein’s head. Thumbing Stein towards the door, he tells him “You’re through. Guys like you make me puke, Stein. Over-educated wash-outs who think the world owes ‘em a break because they’ve got brains.” Stein hangs his head at the reprimand. Mr. Edgar calls him a parasite, sucking off the work of people better than he’ll ever be. Looking on, Ronnie asks if Mr. Edgar might be coming down a little too hard on Stein. Turning to face Ronnie, Mr. Edgar points and lashes out at him. Hiring Stein was Ronnie’s idea, making him responsible for Stein’s foul-up in Mr. Edgar’s view. “You’re fired!” he barks at Ronnie and then orders the rest of the staff to get back to work.
Doreen and Jefferson stand with Ronnie and the Professor. Doreen tries to console Ronnie, reminding him that he worked really hard at this job. She starts to suggests that they all go to speak to Mr. Edgar, but Ronnie interrupts. He warns that she can’t quit or confront the testy manager, or she’ll just get fired as well. She needs the money. Ronnie says it’s no big deal really, while thinking inside that he really means it. The seemingly minor events at a neighborhood fast-food joint pale in comparison to the experiences he has just had.
Ronnie feels lucky to be alive. He just fought two were-hyenas, one of them Doreen’s own sister, Summer Day, and then became infected by the were-hyena curse himself. With that kind of stuff in mind, he finds it hard to get himself worked up over losing a job at the Bun ‘n’ Bun. For a while, he thought he was cursed forever, half-hyena and half-Firestorm. Then, he was saved by an African healer, who died in an attack of guerillas that included the healer’s own brother before the secret could be revealed that would cure the other Hyenas, Jivan Shi and Summer Day. “But how do I tell Doreen that I’d rather be out of work than all-over hairy?” Ronnie wonders, seeing in his mind’s eye the chilling memory of Firestorm with a vicious and bestial hyena face.
Ronnie tells Jefferson that he’ll talk with him about all that other stuff later. Doreen asks if Ronnie is headed home, saying she’ll call him later. Sighing about where else would he have to go, Ronnie tells the Professor it’s time for them both to walk.
As they amble along the sidewalk, Stein says it is bad enough that he’s ruined his own life. It seems he’s now starting in on Ronnie’s life also. Stein observes that he’d consider himself jinxed if he was a superstitious man. Ronnie tries to cheer him up, bringing up the law of averages and Stein’s recent period of bad luck. Stein laments his losing two jobs in one week. Ronnie again mentions the law of averages, figuring that maybe the Professor is due for a string of good luck now. Their conversation is interrupted by a loud voice!
“Martin Stein!” the voice rumbles. Standing on a ledge above them, the green-armored man is perched, hands on his hips. “My employer desires your presence, Martin Stein,” he continues. Leaping down, the armored man flies to the street on the power of rocket jets in his boots. He is here to enforce his employer’s will, warning Stein that resisting or willingly yielding will produce the same result. Ronnie looks in surprise, stammering “A – a robot, Professor - - on jets!” The man lands before them and says he is no robot. He draws their attention to the fiber-plastic armor he wears, light as cloth but tough as steel. He invites them to test his armor’s strength. “No bozo in a plastic garbage can pushes us around, Buster,” Ronnie replies. The man responds that his name is Enforcer, suggesting that Ronnie remember it when he is asked who put him in the hospital. WHUMP! Enforcer slams a powerful left backhand strike across Ronnie’s head, knocking him back. He strikes his head on a brick wall as he recoils from the sudden blow as surprised bystanders look on. Enforcer stands poised before a trembling Martin Stein.
The Professor yells “Blast you! I’ve caused that young man too much trouble – and I’ve been pushed around more than I can stand! I will not allow…” Enforcer cuts him off, remarking that his attitude is admirable but that this is the wrong moment for Stein to discover his long-lost spine. Enforcer explains that his employer wants Stein alive and in mint condition. If not for that requirement, Enforcer might use more physical means than the sleep gas he now sprays from his armored glove into the faces of Stein and Ronnie! Falling to the ground as the gas affects him, Ronnie feels his head spinning and can’t concentrate to become Firestorm. Standing, he focuses and won’t let a creep in a green-glass costume grab the Professor. Taking a trash can, he flings it at Enforcer, yelling “Chew on this, Mask-Mouth!” Enforcer easily catches the projectile as Ronnie thinks that was a dumb thing to say. Enforcer comments that he was Ronnie’s age once. Appreciating Ronnie’s youthful exuberance, Enforcer says Ronnie’s age is the only reason he’s not going to do to him what he does to the trash can. With a loud “Scrunnnch!” the trash can crumbles into tin foil in Enforcer’s powerful fists. “Get the picture? Now beat it,” Enforcer orders, stomping the shredded trash can with his armored boot. His stomp is hugely powerful and causes the ground to vibrate and the concrete to break apart. The motion of crumbling concrete spreads like a wave right at Ronnie, knocking him off balance and into a display window. The window shatters under Ronnie’s impact as he yells “No…”
Ronnie legs can be seen hanging out of the shattered window. He does not move. The streets have become deserted as people fled the Enforcer, who takes notice that as usual, the brave citizens of Manhattan have decided that flight is the better part of valor. He stands over the motionless form of Martin Stein. He comments that citizens are courageous enough to catch a teenage purse-snatcher or gang up en masse on some drunken would-be mugger. “But when true bravery is required, when risks outweigh the chance of being a six o’clock TV news hero, that’s when New Yorkers show their true colors,” he observes. Enforcer grabs the shirt of Martin Stein. Activating the rocket jets in his boots once again, Enforcer launches skyward, Stein’s limp form dangling along behind him. Enforcer reflects that at least Stein showed some backbone. Zooming above the tall buildings, he chillingly says “I could almost admire the man. Too bad he’s doomed.”
In a sparse and darkened room, a woman sits slumped over in a chair with her hands tightly tied behind her. Lorraine Reilly has been a prisoner in this dark room for over forty-eight hours. She can smell the salt from her sweat. Her tears sting her eyes and burn her lips. She’s been dreaming, hallucinating perhaps, for the past ten hours about a rescue that never happens. About Firestorm, who never comes. Out of the darkness, someone touches her and she yells out in surprise! “W-who’s there? T-turn on some l-lights so I can…” she asks. The room is suddenly full of bright light! Lorraine squints and recoils. The light is so bright it hurts her eyes. Standing before her, a shadowy caped figure reaches out a hand to her. “Forgive me, I didn’t think. You must be in terrible pain. Such a pity, I wish I could help you. But I’m afraid your fate is out of my hands,” the shadowy figure tells Lorraine. Behind him, mounted on a wall, the red light of a whirring security camera blinks as its all-seeing eye records the scene.
On a TV display, the face of Lorraine Reilly looks frightened. The image suddenly clicks off. The horrified face of Senator Walter Reilly can barely process what he has just seen from the television display that had been placed upon his desk. He asks what has happened to his daughter and begs for the TV display to be turned back on. A short-haired woman wearing a long purple coat stands in the Senator’s office. “I think you’ve seen enough, Senator,” she says, introducing herself as Mica. Senator Reilly worries that his daughter has been kidnapped, possibly tortured, but asks Mica if it is he who is the person the real target in this plot. Mica says she has no personal interest in the Senator, but her employers do. She promises they’ll be in touch with Reilly. She warns that he should do what they tell him, or the next time he sees his daughter she won’t be recognizable. A loud hum emanates and Mica is surrounded by a strange yellow light. She disappears! Senator Reilly props his elbows on his desk and hangs his head in his hands. Mica was like a dream he thinks, but she was real and what she has just showed him was horribly, horribly real!
Ronnie is sitting in the Bun ‘n’ Bun, Doreen and Jefferson standing next to him. Doreen asks him to explain what hit him. Jefferson observes that by the time they were able to get through the commotion and crowds, everyone was gone and all they could see was Ronnie lying in a store window. He suggests Ronnie stick around until the cops get there. Ronnie stands and takes Doreen’s hand. He says he can’t explain what happened to either of them. Promising to tell them later, he leaves the restaurant. Walking along the busy street, he thinks that Doreen gave him one of those “You’re crazy” looks and he can’t blame her, he does feel crazy. He knows one thing for certain: the Professor is in trouble. There’s one way to help him, and that’s by turning them both into Firestorm! Ronnie walks into an alley out of sight and starts the transformation. He tries to concentrate, but then thinks “What the…? It’s not working! Something’s blocking the change!”
Martin Stein screams in agony. Two electrodes are attached to his temples and he hangs suspended in mid-air inside a yellow-glassed cylinder. Pain, like nothing he has ever known before, needles through his skull. He doesn’t know where he is or how he got there. He knows only a searing agony that threatens to destroy his mind. Enforcer looks on, remarking “Hurts, doesn’t it? That’s the whole idea.”
The strange device has locked disruptor pods onto Stein’s temples. The traumatized Professor falls out of the machine into Enforcer’s armored arms. He warns that Stein will not be able to change into Firestorm unless he wants to fry his own brain. Three attendants in strange yellow uniforms tend to the machine as Enforcer helps Stein to walk away. Holding Stein up by draping his left arm over his shoulder, Enforcer tells Stein that the secret of Firestorm is an open book thanks to the tape recording that Stein made. They walk into an adjoining room. Stein asks “Y-you’re not going to hurt Ronnie, are you…” Enforcer replies that they don’t want Ronnie. He flings the Professor into the room where Stein bounces against a control panel. Enforcer warns that they might find a use for Ronnie as a test animal in their lab if Stein doesn’t cooperate. Stein asks what they want with him. Enforcer replies that the Boss will tell Stein himself, later. Stein is locked alone in the room. “What have I done, Ronald? Not only am I destroying my life - - but now I am destroying yours!” Stein thinks.
In the office of Concordance Research, Ronnie has approached a security guard in the lobby. He is looking for Professor Stein. He tells the guard that he knows Stein doesn’t work there anymore, but is trying to find out if anyone has seen him. The security guard uncooperatively tells Ronnie that the area is off-limits to unauthorized personnel, and that would include both he and Stein. Approaching the guard’s desk, Harry Carew suggests that the guard back down since he knows Ronnie. Carew reintroduces himself to Ronnie, reminding him that they met a few months back in Stein’s lab. The two walk out of the lobby and Carew explains that he and Stein used to be rivals. Carew now feels that Stein got a bum deal from Concordance. Ronnie asks Carew if he has seen Stein, but Carew has been working late and has not. He suggests that Stein just needs some space because of the hard time he’s been going through. Carew bids goodbye to Ronnie and head off to jog.
Ronnie walks away thinking about that hard time, harder that he could possibly tell Harry Carew. He takes a lonely ride home on the Uptown Express and arrives at home. He can see his father inside on the phone, yelling at his City Editor as usual. Ronnie can’t tell his Dad what happened tonight, and he didn’t dare tell Carew. He thinks that for all he knows Carew might even be working with the Professor’s kidnappers. Ronnie leans on his Dad’s car and thinks about a crazy idea he had that Concordance sent Enforcer, but dismisses it as just a crazy idea.
Martin Stein stands alone, a prisoner. He’s fed up with being a punching bag for everyone and their proverbial brother. He looks around at his surroundings. It is a fairly complete lab, almost a replica of the lab he shared with Danton Black at the Hudson Nuclear Facility. “It should have what I need,” he thinks.
Ronnie is poking around in his garage. He reflects on spending hours here, working on the beat-up old Chevy that sits next to him. But that was before he met Professor Martin Stein. For months, he’s spent all his free time as Firestorm
In the lab, Stein is convinced it is exactly like his old lab. He wonders how that could be possible since the lab was destroyed in the same nuclear accident that created Firestorm. He looks down at a soldering iron.
Ronnie feels like he’s all loose ends. “What if something’s happened to Martin? What if he’s dead?” he worries, cutting the unpleasant thought off so as not to dwell on it.
Martin Stein removes his glasses. The disruptor pods attached to his temples will cause him to remain a prisoner as long as they stay on his head, making him unable to become Firestorm. He picks up the piping hot soldering iron. Seeing that it’s hot enough, he thinks “This is going to hurt.” Stein plunges the soldering iron into the disruptor pod on his right temple and yells out in excruciating pain! Far away, Ronnie suddenly feels the presence of the Professor and is encircled in the atomic rings of their fusion!
In an instant, Firestorm appears! “Greetings, Ronald. Forgive me if I seem a trifle disoriented, but I have a splitting headache,” Stein announces. Firestorm flies out of the laboratory prison room that held Martin Stein captive and into a hallway as three shocked workers look on. Ronnie shames the Professor for his pun, recalling that Stein calls Ronnie’s puns bad. Ronnie asks where they are and where the creep Enforcer is. Stein says he is uncertain of their location, but he believes they will find their emerald-armored friend down a corridor to the left.
Firestorm flies down the hallway. He uses atomic restructuring bursts to turn the floor into hot tar, sticking the feet of the worker bozos so they can’t move. Another restructuring burst creates a metal cage around a worker. One reaches for the alarm switch, but Ronnie tells him not to touch it or he’ll spoil the big surprise. “Everybody loves a surprise. And the Enforcer is gonna love this one…” Ronnie says as they come to the corridor Stein identified.
“WHOOOM!” A massive beam of energy strikes Firestorm! The Nuclear Man is enveloped in radiant reddish-pink light as Stein asks what just hit them. “Laser beam! Looks like the surprise is on us, Professor!” Ronnie yells in reply. Enforcer is poised in front of them in the cockpit of a strange green mechanical super-tank. It walks on three mechanical robot legs. An appendage like a giant, angry hammer swings from the super-tank and blasts into Firestorm, throwing him hard against a wall!
Enforcer announces that Stein should have known the disruptor pods on his head were monitored. When Stein destroyed them with the soldering iron, it set off a silent alarm. Enforcer describes that the Sentry Mark XX Combat Tank he pilots was designed to take on a dozen fighter jets simultaneously. Pulling a trigger, Enforcer fires a twin-beamed energy weapon that explodes against Firestorm. Surprised by the power of the Sentry Mark XX, he never had a chance!
Firestorm yells in pain. He stands in the same yellow cylinder that earlier held Martin Stein as the machine implants disruptor pods upon his temples. Enforcer observes that the pods should keep Firestorm from trying anything. He speaks to a shadowy, caped figure that has his back turned. “Stein did just what you said he’d do. This way - - capturing Firestorm in stages - - worked like a charm,” Enforcer tells the shadowy figure. The figure says that happened quite naturally, since he came to understand the good professor during all the months when they worked together. “Danton Black did all the work, and Marin Stein got all the credit,” the shadowy figure says and turns so his face now bathed in light. Multiplex!
Clenching his fist, Multiplex declares that he is no longer Professor Martin Stein’s humble assistant. The same nuclear accident that gave Stein fusion powers has given him command over atomic fission. In their previous encounters, Multiplex met defeat at the hands of Stein. Multiplex swore he would be triumphant next time, and he beckons to Stein that he has now been triumphant! Shaking his fist he yells “The struggle between us is over, and at last - - Multiplex wins!!!”