Mourners gather for the funeral of Ed Raymond. Eccentric billionaire Henry Hewitt and Multiplex conduct an experiment on Lorraine Reilly to recreate the accident that created Firestorm. Senator Reilly remains a captive at Hewitt's Virginia mansion. Reporter Roxanne Sharpe, still investigating the passage of Senate Bill 343, watches as agents search Senator Reilly's office. Firehawk attacks Firestorm in the skies over New York City.
Firestorm826's Panel-by-Panel Story Summary (Spoiler Alert)
Prologue: Mourners gather at a graveside burial ceremony. Ronnie Raymond loosely holds dirt from the grave in his palm. The minister speaks quietly, “Ashes to ashes…dust to dust…let us pray.” Ronnie stands solemnly as the dirt slips between his fingers. The newly-carved tombstone before him reads simply, “Edward A. Raymond 1933-1983” Ronnie looks at it and thinks, “…Dad…”
The image of the explosion at his home and the fiery violence that enveloped his father are seared into Ronnie’s mind. “It really happened. It really happened,” he remembers, “I saw Dad die, in some kind of explosion, and I still don’t know why…but it happened.” He thinks that somehow he has to live with it, to make it real. Eyes closed, head down, Ronnie can only think, “My father is dead.”
The burial ceremony concludes, and the assembled mourners begin to depart. Those close to Ronnie approach to offer their support and condolences. Doreen Day holds his hand, saying “Ronnie…I’m so sorry. Dad wants to ask you…” Bert Day interrupts his daughter. He has talked things over with his wife, and since their daughter Summer’s room is empty, Ronnie will stay with the Day family until things have settled down. “Thanks, Mr. Day,” Ronnie answers, “that means a lot.” Ronnie’s friend Jefferson tells him that the whole team wanted to come to the service, but Coach Mason said Ronnie wouldn’t want a mob scene. “Listen, if you need me…I’m here,” Jefferson offers.
Martin Stein approaches and asks Ronnie if he is alright. “I just need some alone time, Professor Stein. Give me ten minutes,” Ronnie replies as the two men reach for each other. Cliff Carmichael steps towards Ronnie and offers his condolences. He mentions all those fights he and Ronnie used to have, and Ronnie tells him to forget them. Cliff tells Ronnie to take care of himself. Ronnie returns the good wishes. Doreen, seeing the two rivals talk civilly for change, is a bit surprised that Cliff is acting human, then figures that even Cliff has some level of sensitivity.
Looking around, Ronnie sees Principal Hapgood standing over at the line of mourners’ cars. Hapgood appears preoccupied, and hasn’t come back over to speak to Ronnie since the service ended. Ed Raymond and Principal Hapgood were friends from way back, Ronnie recalls, and perhaps Hapgood is too upset to talk to him. His hand resting on a black sedan, Hapgood is speaking to the driver through the partially rolled-down window.
“He deserves to know. Please let me talk to him,” Hapgood says. The blond-haired driver with dark sunglasses leans close to the window, telling the Principal, “Can’t do it, Hapgood. Policy. Rules. The rules say, nobody without a need to know can have access to restricted information…and that includes the Raymond boy.” Hapgood clenches his fists in frustration, face in a tight grimace. He says it is not fair. The driver tells him that fairness doesn’t cut it, that Ed Raymond broke the rules when he moved back to New York. “Sooner or later, this was bound to happen,” the driver tells Hapgood, “Now get in the car.” End of Prologue.
Ten minutes later, the angry image of Firestorm streaks past the twin spires of the World Trade Center. “Damn!” Ronnie yells, “The past two days, I’ve been sick with grief, Professor - - but now, I’m angry! Some rotten creep killed my father…and I want to know why!” Firestorm shoots over the city making sharp twists and turns in the sky, a byproduct of Ronnie’s grief and anger. Stein observes that the police reports indicate that an extremist group, possibly taking offense to articles Ed Raymond wrote, is suspected in the bombing. Ronnie dismisses that idea quickly. His Dad was working as a re-write man for the past few months, and hadn’t by-lined an article outside of the Feature page in weeks. Stein mentions the Quebec terrorist group that Plastique worked for, recalling that they used bombs and were discussed in an article Ed Raymond wrote. Ronnie reminds him that the terrorist movement is dead in Quebec and that Plastique is like a freakish dinosaur. “Call it a gut feeling if you want, but I swear Dad wasn’t killed because of his work on the Daily Express,” Ronnie says, “It had something to do with me.” Stein counters, warning Ronnie against blaming himself.
Firestorm zings through the sky, surfing on a trail of atomic energy. Ronnie tells Stein that he is not blaming himself. He tells the Professor that there are two guys out there, Multiplex and Enforcer, who know their secret. Even though Enforcer is in jail and Multiplex is free somewhere, Ronnie worries that maybe the bomb that killed his father was intended for him. “You are blaming yourself, Ronald,” Stein says, “and I won’t have it! Why would someone of Multiplex’s power and abilities resort to primitive explosives? Be reasonable.” Ronnie feels that being reasonable is easy to say but harder to do. Coming to land on a garbage scow lazily prodding through the New York Harbor, Ronnie agrees with Stein but keeps thinking that if he could have gotten to his house sooner he could have done something. Stein suggests that the likely result of that would have been Ronnie getting himself killed. Ronnie still feels there must be some explanation other than his Dad dying because of some looney terrorist. High overhead, a helicopter is trailing the garbage scow. Its pilot radios in, “Skybird to Roost. We have the subject in view. Visual transmission begins.”
Arlington, Virginia. The sprawling, secluded country estate of Henry Hewitt, chairman and chief stockholder of Hewitt Industries…a man whose eccentricities make those of Howard Hughes appear positively normal. Hewitt lies on his command chair, legs and head slightly elevated. In a sparse, large circular room, Multiplex and Maxwell stand next to him clad in isolation suits. Maxwell informs Hewitt that Skybird’s transmission is on line three and offers to transfer the video. In a soft, meek, yet authoritative voice, Hewitt says he can handle the task. His disease and his age may have made him frail, but technology does offer ways to compensate. “Every device in this underground complex is under my direct command,” Hewitt tells his henchmen, “mine to command at the touch of a button from this console chair.” Wary of germs and infections, he warns Maxwell to keep his distance. With the touch of a few buttons, Hewitt displays the video feed from Skybird on the viewscreen next to his chair, complimenting Maxwell’s technicians.
Maxwell asks what is to be done now. Hewitt informs his second-in-command that he and Multiplex were ordered to prepare an experiment that will attempt to repeat the nuclear accident that created Firestorm. “Is everything ready?” Hewitt asks. Multiplex credits Maxwell as being a great help, and informs Hewitt that they are ready. Maxwell asks if Hewitt is sure he wants to use Senator Reilly’s daughter as a guinea pig, worried if something goes wrong. “Then the good Senator will be minus a daughter, Maxwell,” Hewitt says, “and I will be minus a second-in-command. Begin it now, Maxwell, while we have a fix on this Firestorm being. Just one question - - is the girl ‘prepared?’” Lorraine Reilly’s mind is a clean slate, Maxwell informs his leader, and it is ready for Hewitt to write on it.
Interlude: Elsewhere in the sprawling underground complex beneath the quiet Virginia countryside. Senator Walter Reilly angrily confronts Mica, complaining that he is a United States Senator and Hewitt can’t just hold him prisoner, adding that the situation is madness. Mica urges Reilly to calm down, reminding him of his daughter, Lorraine. “Mr. Hewitt owns you, Senator. Accept it,” she tells him. Reilly objects, saying he betrayed his Constitutional oath once for Hewitt and he will never do it again! He tries to step out of the doorway of the room he is in and ZZZZT! Reilly is shocked by an energy field preventing his escape. Mica reminds him “Senator, never forget. You are a prisoner.”
Simultaneously, in the lead-shielded lab adjacent to Henry Hewitt’s hermetically-sealed control chamber, Lorraine Reilly floats in liquid inside a bubble-like cylindrical machine that radiates light throughout the room. Her body wears a form-fitting suit. A mask with breathing tubes covers her face. Wires and tubes connect to various points along her body. At the controls of the unusual device nearby, Multiplex and two of his duploids prepare the experiment. The voice of Maxwell crackles over an intercom speaker next to Multiplex. “Our bio-telemetry readings show the Reilly girl is in a semi-conscious state, Multiplex,” Maxwell announces, “She’s ready. Can you handle all those controls alone?” Multiplex replies that he and his duploids have matters well in hand. He mentions that if they’d captured Stein, he could double-check his calculations - - not that he needed to, of course. “Believe me, I’m positive I’ve duplicated Stein’s experimental design for the Hudson Nuclear Power Facility,” Multiplex transmits back, “Even as Stein’s assistant, you see, I was the real genius. Now I’ll prove it.”
Multiplex orders the reactor seal to be opened. Radiation exposure time…minus six seconds and counting! The green liquid surrounding Lorraine turns an eerie bright orange. Her body shimmers in yellow light and the liquid bubbles furiously! Multiplex monitors and announces “Five seconds, full radiation count! Four seconds, maximum exposure…three seconds, radiation levels at peak!” Looking on from his command chair, Hewitt sees Lorraine Reilly recoiling in pain on his viewscreen. He warns Multiplex that the reactor will go out of control and kill them all if he keeps this up! Hewitt directs Multiplex to look at his sensor readouts showing that critical overload conditions are quickly approaching!
“I know what I’m doing, Hewitt! You wanted to duplicate the conditions of the original accident that gave Stein and me our nuclear powers!” Multiplex beckons back. What is being tried at this very moment has never been done intentionally before. Multiplex counts down as the reaction envelops Lorraine Reilly. “Two seconds: meltdown phase…One second: molecular breakdown in process…Activate reactor shutdown now! Repeat: activate shutdown! For the love of Heaven, shut down!” he yells in fascinated terror!
Fiery tendrils of energy sweep around and through Lorraine’s body inside the containment tube. All connections, wires, and clothing seem to have been swept away by the reaction. She wraps one arm in front of her chest and the other in front of her face as she is wracked by the powerful radiation pouring into her every molecule.
“What’s happening, Multiplex? What’s gone wrong?” Hewitt screams from his control chair. Multiplex’s duploid struggles to shut down the reactor. The system’s automatic controls have failed and the reactor is microseconds from going completely out of control! “Use the manual backup!” Multiplex yells at his clone, “Hurry, before she burns!”
It only took seconds, but they felt like a lifetime. The manual override stops the reaction, and Multiplex announces that the reactor seal is sliding back into place. Mist and light fill the room, obscuring Lorraine Reilly from sight. “But what’s happened to the girl?” Multiplex asks, “Look: She’s alive! But the protective suit she was wearing…She’s altered it somehow! She’s…Good Lord!”
The mists part enough for eyes to behold the unbelievable sight. Where Lorraine Reilly was moments ago, a new being stands. She is fierce-looking, a focused glare of determination on her face. Two long, red wings flow from her shoulders to her feet. Her boots and bodysuit are yellow, sleeves and leggings a dark purple. The visage of a hawk adorns the center of her bodysuit. Flames drift upwards from the tops of her boots, from her collar, and…her hair! No one moves. No one even breathes. Then, WHOOOM! In a rush of heated air, the leaded glass walls encasing her burst outward!
Lorraine Reilly, or what used to be Lorraine Reilly, explodes out of the containment tube into the lab. Multiplex and his duploids are nearly frozen in their tracks by her image. “We never expected this! She’s changed - - She’s not like Firestorm, not like me!” Multiplex cries out, “Every exposure to that experimental nuclear pile must produce a completely different effect!” Hewitt’s voice comes over the intercom asking if Lorraine is still human. And - - can she be controlled?
Maxwell, trembling, wonders “W-What is she…some kind of a bird?” Her wings don’t look normal…They flicker and change, like tongues of flame! “Mr. Hewitt - - we have to get out of here!” Maxwell yells as Lorraine Reilly enters Hewitt’s command chamber. Hewitt does not flinch. Speaking in his weakened voice, he tells Maxwell he would never miss this opportunity of a lifetime. Maxwell reported to him that Lorraine had been conditioned by sensory deprivation, and now that conditioning will be put to the ultimate test!
Raising a hand to point at Lorraine, Hewitt orders “You: Woman, come here. I am Henry Hewitt. My mind is your mind; my desires are your desires. Do you know your name?” Floating gently on her radiant wings with crackles of flame dancing around her, Lorraine replies, “My…name? I had a name once…but the silence took it away…” Hewitt speaks to his creation, “Then, listen: I will give you a name. From this moment forth, your name is - - Firehawk! And whatever I command you to do, you will do without hesitation, for I am you, and you are me. Understood?” She flexes her wings, draws a slow breath, and then loudly proclaims her allegiance: “I am Firehawk…I am you…and you are me!”
Interlude: Doreen Day’s house, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Doreen sits on her porch in the fading evening light talking with her father, Bert. He suggests that they go inside as it is getting late. She wants to stay out another few minutes, and he wonders if she’s worried about Ronnie. Ronnie said he wouldn’t be gone long, but that was hours ago. Doreen keeps thinking about him walking around, alone. Bert tells her Ronnie is hurting and needs time to himself. Doreen understands, but feels so sorry for Ronnie. Especially when she thinks how she’d feel if she lost her Dad. Bert and Doreen hug, tears streaming down her face. “Hey, little girl…Don’t cry,” Bert comforts, “Your Daddy’s here.”
New York Harbor. A cool sea breeze blows off the bay, and somewhere to the east, surf whispers against the rocky Long Island shore. Firestorm silently sits on the bow of a garbage scow slowly making its way across the water. He has been lost in thought for more than four hours, barely even aware of the world around him. His head slowly rises and he realizes: it is time to go home, wherever that is. As they take flight, Stein asks if Ronnie has made a decision. “What makes you think I’ve decided to do anything, Professor?” Ronnie responds. Stein answers that sharing a body allows him to be able to read changes in Ronnie’s mood. He has made a decision, Ronnie reveals, and that decision is that all of this stuff is over his head. “I’ve got too much to deal with, just feeling lousy about Dad. I can’t think straight…and my feelings are all screwed up.” What Ronnie really wants is time. What he needs is time to work some things out.
Firestorm flies peacefully over the city, heading back to Doreen’s house where Ronnie will live temporarily. He is unaware that he is being silently pursued. And unfortunately, time is a precious commodity, and Firestorm is about to discover that his supply has just - - RUN OUT!
FHOOSH! Out of nowhere, a vicious strike surprises Firestorm! “Dear God! Who - - or what - - is that?” Stein cries in shock! Spun nearly out of control by the unexpected assault, Ronnie yells “Arrghh! What hit me, Professor? Feel like I’ve been blowtorched!” Sweeping past Firestorm’s crumpled body, a newly-born Nuclear Woman flies in the night on a trail of fire, yelling “I am Firehawk! He has sent me to kill you…but not too quickly! He wants you to suffer first, and what he wants - - I want! I am him, and he is me! We are one!”
Firehawk flies off and Firestorm pursues. “Can you believe this, Professor?” Ronnie asks, “It’s a girl - - and she’s on fire!” Stein is more concerned with what Firehawk said than he is with her appearance. He wonders who sent her after them, and why. Trailing behind the two fiery super-beings is a helicopter. “Skybird to Roost: We’ve got contact, sir,” the helicopter radios in, “Transmitting audio and video on Scrambler channel 9.” In his command chair, Henry Hewitt watches Firehawk on his viewscreen. She is doing exactly what Hewitt told her to do, and he savors the moment. Hewitt will enjoy this, indeed.
Firehawk flies low over the rooftops. Small fires break out on the rooftops as Firehawk passes. Firestorm follows, noting that Firehawk is so hot that her radiant heat is causing the fires. Stein directs Ronnie’s attention to rooftop water tanks, and Ronnie uses nuclear bursts to open the tanks and quench the flames. Distracted by the fires, he loses sight of Firehawk. Stein warns him to proceed carefully, observing, “With all these building and alleys, she could be lying in wait anywhere, and we’d never…”
FZOOOSH! Firehawk bursts out of nowhere and pummels Firestorm with another powerful surprise blow! He tumbles in the sky as she tells him he is making their fight too easy. “Why don’t you fight back?” she asks, “Are you afraid?” FWHAM! Another crushing blow from Firehawk blasts Firestorm into the side of a building, scattering pieces of the wall in all directions. Flames crackle and leap like living things - - and to his horror, the Nuclear Man feels searing pain along his limbs, and realizes - - he’s on fire!
Firehawk yells “Burn! He wants you to burn!” Firestorm, flames encircling his body, dives down and away from her. Panic takes hold. He plunges into the East River. The cool water comes as a relief, and as a head-clearing shock. Resurfacing and able to focus his thoughts, Firestorm shakes his fist at Firehawk, warning “Lady, whoever you are - - you just bought yourself some heavy trouble!”
Interlude: The Washington offices of one Walter Reilly, junior Senator from New York. Men in suits scan the office, but there was no sign of the Senator when the Marine guards broke in. Scorch marks and damaged furniture indicate that someone or something put up quite a fight. Reporter Roxanne Sharpe stands outside the office. She has heard rumors that the Senator has disappeared. Looking in, she plans to get the scene on tape for the evening news. The men inside confer. The room was empty, except for Firestorm when the Marines made entry. Finding Firestorm should provide even odds that they will find the Senator. One man picks up a note, observing that it is in the Senator’s handwriting. It is barely readable, but clearly mentions his daughter, Lorraine.
Overhearing, Roxanne thinks she’s onto something hot. “First the Senate’s most liberal member votes in favor of a ‘big business’ bill,” she thinks, “then both he and his daughter split for parts unknown!” She directs a microphone at a passing police officer and introduces herself, asking for word on Senator Reilly. The officer tells her that the office is off-limits on orders of the FBI, even if she was Mike Wallace. He escorts her out. She realizes that she recognized two men in the Senator’s office that were not FBI agents. She has seen them before: Leland and Lewis from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. She starts to put together the details, wondering why the NRC would be interested in a missing Senator. Roxanne suddenly understands that the bill Reilly voted for will concentrate all commercial nuclear research in the hands of a single corporation - - Hewitt Industries! “Does the NRC think there’s a connection between Reilly’s vote and his disappearance? Is that why they’re here?” she contemplates as she drives away, “Curiouser and curiouser. God, I love being a reporter. What a story this is going to make.” End of interlude.
Citizens flee as two flaming nuclear humanoids battle in the streets above them. Cars erupt in flame while they jockey for position against each other. Firehawk flies close behind Firestorm, asking if fleeing at high speed is his idea of the “heavy trouble” he warned her of. “You can’t run from me forever, Firestorm!” she yells, “I’ll catch you eventually, and when I do - - you’ll feel my heat! I can burn anything, Firestorm - - even melt steel! See?” A river of fire sweeps along behind Firehawk! She chases closely, telling Firestorm that his destruction is inevitable and asking why he is fighting it. “Sorry Firehawk…but the thing is, I’ve got tickets for the Go-Go’s concert tomorrow - - and I’d just hate like heck to miss it,” he replies.
Ronnie tells Stein that it is no go, he’s trying to wear her down but is only getting wasted himself. His attention is absorbed by the people below and the multitude of fires that have broken out from Firehawk’s heat. Stein suggests that sodium chloride is an excellent fire extinguishing agent, and Ronnie uses atomic restructuring powers to transform large swaths of pavement into firefighting foam. The flames subside into the foamy waves, providing an area of safety for several terror-stricken people. “Score one for our side!” Ronnie tells Stein, “Whoops! Looks like I’ve made Firehawk mad!”
Firehawk flies back toward Firestorm, screaming out in anger. She chases Firestorm upwards away from the foamy street. A police officer trying to direct the crowds to safety is swept by her fiery slipstream. His uniform erupts in flame and he yells out in horror. Firestorm banks tightly in the air to save the officer. Using an atomic restructuring burst, he transforms a section of sidewalk into an asbestos sheet. Firestorm lands next to the officer and surrounds him in the asbestos sheet, smothering the flames. Turning back to face his foe, Ronnie summons a steely determination to take care of business. “Firehawk, you’ve crossed the line!” he yells out, “I’m bringing you down, even if it kills me!”
Senseless violence against innocent victims. In his mind it was just such violence that killed Ronnie Raymond’s father. Now the thought of it again striking drives Firestorm over the edge of rage - - and when he strikes, it is with a mindless fury - - and all his strength - - two flames meeting head-on! KAROOM! Firehawk is thrown out of the sky by Firestorm’s unrelenting attack as he grabs her in mid-air. They fall and smash through the walls of historic St Patrick’s Cathedral. Like a fire caught by an explosion, the impact and force is more than Firehawk can stand…and before she can act, her flame is out! Firestorm and Firehawk crash to the floor of the Cathedral that has been the site of papal visitations and Presidential memorials. Moments of joy and moments of grief. This moment is just one more…a human moment of crushing grief.
Firehawk lies in the debris, surrounded by wings that no longer trail fire. Her form is slowly changing. Ronnie looks on at her, catching his breath from the vicious battle. “We…we did it…Professor,” he says softly, “Impact…knocked out her flame…knocked her…Oh no. Oh no.” As the flames and adornment of Firehawk subside and fade away, she becomes recognizable to Ronnie. The nude form of Lorraine Reilly materializes before his eyes. Ronnie cradles her in his arms, agonized at what he sees and what he has done. Stein asks how this could be possible, how could this happen? “Don’t you understand, Professor? Everything I touch goes bad! Everyone I care for - - dies!” The minister, police officers, and people can only look on. They cannot console Ronnie’s pain. Pulling her close, Ronnie begs “Please don’t die, Lorraine…I’m sorry…I’m sorry…”
Epilogue: Deep beneath Arlington, Virginia. Henry Hewitt turns to address Multiplex and Maxwell. The image of Firestorm holding Lorraine Reilly can be seen on his viewscreen. “You’ve failed me Maxwell…and you as well, Multiplex,” Hewitt scolds, “The girl was no match for that flame-haired freak.” Maxwell is at a loss to understand. His sensory deprivation treatment did not affect Lorraine’s basic instincts. She held back and never used her full powers against Firestorm. Multiplex observes that the process itself that created Firehawk worked and was successful, suggesting to Hewitt that a more suitable subject like Maxwell be used in their next attempt. Hewitt says that will not happen. “I am under pressure from the 2000 Committee to produce results, not additional failures. We will repeat the procedure…but not with another underling. Prepare your equipment, Multiplex. Maxwell, help me out of this chair,” Hewitt orders his henchmen, revealing “The next Nuclear Man will be me!”