Goldenrod attacks the offices of the Benton & Benton law firm. Firestorm assists the police investigating the attack and meets Detectives Mackey and Wilson. Clues lead Firestorm to the Ollins Medical Lab, a prominent research facility. Firestorm skirmishes with some street thugs. Firestorm battles Goldenrod at Ollins Medical. Further clues lead to the home of an Ollins Medical scientist where Firestorm confronts Goldenrod.
Firestorm826's Panel-by-Panel Story Summary (Spoiler Alert)
Prologue: Manhattan at midnight - - a time shared by romantics, night watchmen… and the ruthless. It is a night like any other for night watchman Bernie Jones. He sits the lobby of the Benton & Benton Law Firm Building munching on a sandwich. “Just two more weeks and I retire to a sweet little condo in Tampa,” he thinks as he takes another bite, “No more city noise, no more dirt, no more…pollen?” Jones’ nose is irritated by a pollen smell, and he sneezes heartily. Behind him, a strange humanoid shape lurks in the shadows. Its outline resembles leaves or brush and it seems to be looking right at Jones. “Thought I heard something - - behind - - Wha--!” Jones cries out as he turns to look around.
Retirement can come at any time…for Bernie Jones, retirement is about to come two weeks - - early! A vine wraps tightly around his neck as the humanoid form springs out from behind a tree in a lobby display. “Help!” Jones cries, reaching to grab the vine that is squeezing his ability to breathe. The humanoid form reaches out his hands and yellow dust emanates out from his fingertips towards the helpless Jones. “Scream if it helps, old man. I screamed, too…once. But no one came for me,” the humanoid hisses at the watchman, “And no one is going to come for you!”
Anguish haunts these words spoken by a shadowed, bizarre figure as clouds of pollen shoot from his hands - - causing an immediate and severe allergic reaction. First, hives - - then, choking asthma - - and finally - - death! Jones collapses to the floor. His face is swollen and puffy, covered with hives from the reaction. “Rest in peace, old man,” the figure tells his victim, “Believe me, there are fates worse than yours.” For a moment, the figure seems shaken by what he’s done…then visibly steeling himself, he turns and stalks off towards the elevators…End of Prologue.
An hour later, Firestorm flies over the evening Manhattan sky. Professor Martin Stein is lecturing Ronnie about why he doesn’t see the need to spend their nights as Firestorm out fighting crime. Ronnie says his Dad was right, he has been unreliable. But not anymore, Ronnie vows, he is now acting out of responsibility. Stein wonders if Ronnie’s newfound motivation might have something to do with trying to impress Lorraine Reilly. “Who, me?” Ronnie replies, “Nah…it’s just now that Dad’s back, I feel I’ve got to own up to my own destiny!” Stein worries if Ronnie’s being a bit melodramatic. “And don’t you mean - - our destiny?” he asks. Seeing a gathering of a crowd and police in the street below them, Ronnie banks them downwards, telling Stein, “Sure, sure, whatever turns you on…Wonder what’s up down there?”
Firestorm comes in to land in the street. Police, news crews, and curious onlookers fill the block outside the Benton & Benton Building. Eyes turn, cameras click, reporters babble excitedly as the Nuclear Man swoops from the sky. “Look, it’s a bird - - it’s a plane!” a reporter calls out, “Nope, it’s Firestorm.” Ronnie greets the crowd, asking if anybody needs a hand. The reporter waves a microphone in front of Ronnie, asking if he’ll be helping the police on this case. A gruff police sergeant steps up and loudly announces, “No. He’s not.” Sergeant Michael Mackey walks up to Firestorm and interrupts the news reporter. “Buzz off, hothead!” he tells Firestorm, “There are enough weirdos out tonight!” Stein tells Ronnie that Mackey does have a point. Mackey’s partner, Sergeant Wilson, suggests giving Firestorm a break. “You said the killer had to be crazy, so…” Wilson offers. “So, we use one kook to nail another,” Mackey replies, “Right, Wilson. Okay, c’mon, Match-Top.”
Firestorm walks with the detectives into the lobby. Two ambulance techs wheel a stretcher past, and a technician tells Sergeant Mackey that they are taking the body of the night watchman to the morgue. Mackey leads Firestorm to the elevator. “Eye this,” he explains, “After icing the old man, the killer tore a hole in the elevator door and stuck a plant through.” Ronnie kneels at the hole. Mackey says it’s too dark to see much inside. “Then what we need is some light!” Firestorm replies. He leans into the elevator shaft and uses a beam of energy to light up several floors above. He looks in and tells the detectives, “Wow…there’s a vine in here going up to the fourth floor!”
Thirty minutes later on the building’s fourth floor, Firestorm and the detectives look around at a ransacked legal office at Benton and Benton. Vines stretch around the room. Ronnie looks around at the upended furniture. “Professor, you’re the brains in this outfit,” he whispers, “I need your advice.” Ronnie overhears Mr. Benton nearby saying, “He was here, Sarge.” Stein sees a file folder partially covered by vines. He asks Ronnie to promise they will get some sleep after this. Ronnie agrees, and Stein tells him, “Check that file under those vines.” Ronnie picks it up, brushing off a coating of dust. The dust makes him sneeze. It’s not dust! “Pollen! Then whoever was here, was looking at this file,” Stein exclaims, “It must be important!”
The label on the file reads “Special Testing Procedures ‘Ollins Medical Lab.’” Just as Ronnie reads it, Mr. Benton snatches it out of his hands! “Get him out!” Mr. Benton barks. Wilson reminds Benton that they did ask for Firestorm’s help. “This is my office,” Benton snaps, “Do you want me to call your superior, Sergeant? I want that freak out now!” Ronnie takes the “subtle hint,” and lowers his molecular density to pass through a wall. VOOOM!
Moments later, a fiery figure streaks above the sooty skies of Manhattan. Stein figures that the Ollins file must be central to what happened at the law office tonight. Ronnie concurs, considering the way that Mr. Benton grabbed it and then chased them out. Stein resigns himself to another sleepless night as they land along a street. Ronnie tells him that Times Square should have just what they need. Firestorm walks up to a telephone booth, observed by a group of three street punks. “Hey, there’s that guy Firehead!” one tells his cohorts, “I bet he ain’t so tough!” His friend suggests they find out.
In the phone booth, Ronnie sees what he was looking for: a phonebook. Before he can reach for it, a voice calls out from behind him. “Hey creep,” a punk named Biff announces, “this is my book…and this is my turf!” Ronnie looks around at the three miscreants. Biff doesn’t like weirdos, one of his friends says. “So make tracks before we snuff your fire,” the other says, “Get it? ‘Snuff his fire?’” Stein suggests that it is time to go, and quickly. Ronnie scowls at the idea and declines. A thug whips out a switchblade and opens it, saying “I think Creepo needs some - - persuasion!”
Unimpressed, Ronnie replies, “Now, now, dollface - - knives are for sissies.” With a wave of his wrist, he aims an atomic restructuring beam at the knife-wielding punk and ZZAP! The beam hits his clothes, and suddenly he is wearing a Little Bo Peep outfit, complete with bonnet and shepherd’s staff! “My duds! What did you do to ‘em?” he exclaims. Ronnie tells him it was just a little atomic restructuring, and pays him a compliment, “You know what they say - - the clothes make the man!” Turning to another thug, Ronnie aims a restructuring beam at the sidewalk below him. “Next, how ‘bout a - - stool for a toad!” ZANG! A giant mushroom springs out of the sidewalk, leaving the punk struggling to hang on to it as it grows quickly 12 feet up in the air. He dangles and yells out, “Ye-ahhh - - Help!” Ronnie turns back to Biff. “As for your fearless leader,” he says, “Clam up!” A restructuring beam envelops Biff inside a giant clam shell. With a loud snap, it closes around him and clanks over onto the sidewalk. Nearby, onlookers howl with laughter as Firestorm subdues the street thugs. Stein warns Ronnie about showing off. “Call it having fun, Professor,” Ronnie laughs, “Whoops - - I almost forgot what I came for.” He reaches for the phone book as Biff crawls out of the clamshell. “Uncle!” Biff cries as he emerges. Firestorm leaps skyward. The audience of bystanders claps and cheers. “You’re the best, Firestorm!” one yells after him.
Floating amidst the clouds high over the city, Stein lectures Ronnie. “Was that performance necessary? Those boys were hopelessly outmatched!” he says sternly. Ronnie says now they know what it’s like to be beaten. He explains that he needed some simple action to break the tension over recent events with his Dad and Lorraine Reilly. “And I thought it was a textbook case of over-active adolescent hormones!” Stein tells him. Opening the phone book, Ronnie looks up Ollins Medical Labs and finds the address. Turning in the sky, Ronnie drops the phone book. Stein calls to Ronnie as the Yellow Pages fall away. “Don’t worry, Professor Stein - - my glands won’t let me forget the street number,” Ronnie replies as they fly off, “Hi-yo, hormones - - away!” Without a backward glance, the Nuclear Man charges through the sky, while behind him, a forgotten telephone book drops. It narrowly misses a pigeon, and lands with a thud startling a couple canoodling on a rooftop.
Shortly after, on the other side of Manhattan, Firestorm approaches a gleaming two-story structure, the headquarters for Ollins Lab. Stein explains that during the Vietnam War, Ollins was a big chemical warfare lab. When peace came, they shifted to making cosmetics and cold capsules. Ollins Lab actually offered Stein a research position, but he turned it down. Ronnie, impressed with the sterling appearance of the building, says that Stein may have made a mistake by turning them down. “Just a good image-front for a second-rate lab, I’m afraid,” Stein replies, “Exactly why I rejected their offer.” Lowering his molecular density, Ronnie passes inside the lab. “Look at all this equipment, Professor!” Ronnie exclaims. Stein says he sees something more interesting. Hunched over lab equipment, a leafy humanoid form stands!
“Get out! Don’t make me kill again!” it yells at Firestorm. Ronnie asks Stein if what they see is a plant or a man. “Some of each, I fear!” Stein tells him. Flying close, Ronnie tells the humanoid that the plant nursery is across the street. The humanoid spins suddenly to face Firestorm! “Good! Goldenrod can buy flowers there for your grave!” Before Firestorm can react, he is engulfed in a cloud of deadly pollen, causing a choking, blinding numbness that even Professor Stein’s thoughts cannot penetrate! Hives break out across Firestorm’s face and his eyes are irritated by the pollen dust. “Professor - - where are you?” Ronnie calls out. Suddenly, a second pollen cloud bursts from Goldenrod’s hand with the force of a sandblaster. SSSSSS! The yellow cloud pounds into Firestorm. “Whoever your Professor is - - he can’t save you now!” Goldenrod snarls, “I warned you - - I warned you!”
Burning and blinded by the allergic reaction, Firestorm is too weak to resist as a tornado of pollen strikes with incredible force - - blasting him backward through a glass wall out of the building and into - - fresh air! Firestorm lands with a thump, striking his lower back against the building wall. Goldenrod pursues him. Swollen-faced and puffy-eyed, he tries to get to his feet. “Ronald! Answer me for the love of…” Stein yells out. Ronnie finally does, and Stein asks if they are hurt. “Only our looks!” Ronnie replies, regrouping, “Otherwise - - we’re just fine! Not like that night watchman, the one Golden Boy here must have wasted back in Manhattan. He’s not so fine, and by the time I get through with Goldilocks, he won’t be so fine either!” ZANNNG! A restructuring burst transforms the ground next to Goldenrod into a giant mousetrap. The trap triggers and WHAM! It lands harmlessly as Goldenrod dodges out of the way!
Goldenrod raises his hand - - as if commanding the grass and plants under Firestorm’s feet to obey - - and instantly, incredibly, vines and branches wrap tightly around his arms and legs. “You should’ve used weed killer instead of a mouse trap, Ronald,” Stein suggests. “Now you tell me! I could’ve used the advice before my hands were tied!” Ronnie cries out, “My power’s no good against anything organic! Grass - - tight as steel!” Roots curl around his body as he reaches towards Goldenrod. The human plant runs off while Firestorm struggles, trailing a cloud of pollen behind him. Vines twist around Firestorm’s neck. They are choking him! Stein sees a natural gas pipe on the edge of the building and urges Ronnie to try and free his hand. Muscles strain…a finger is freed…and then…VOOOOOM!
The gas line fractures and erupts in flame after a nuclear burst. The fire spreads along the grass, burning the vines and roots and allowing Firestorm to escape! “It worked - - I couldn’t burn the grass myself - - but I could ignite that gas pipe,” Ronnie exclaims, “We’re free!” Flying upwards, Firestorm turns back to face the flames. A second nuclear burst lands on the ground with a WOOOSSH and extinguishes the blaze. “Nice work, Ronald,” Stein observes, “I think you’ve recovered from that allergic reaction. Now - - let’s find out what Goldenrod was after here!”
Back in the lab, Ronnie sits at a computer terminal. “Look, Professor!” he says, “Weed-Face left the computer display on.” Reading the screen, Ronnie sees information about a drug called Nuevafed. An experimental hyperallergenic, it was developed by Ollins Lab researchers Christie, Sayers, and the team leader, Bonwit. It was set for primate studies and human testing, and is listed as being on hold for FDA approval. Ronnie says he’s never heard of Nuevafed. “That’s because it’s a drug that failed to make it past the FDA,” Stein explains, adding, “What worries me - - is that Bruce Bonwit developed that drug!” Stein knows Bonwit, and he was just another reason that Stein rejected the job offer at Ollins. Bonwit is an irresponsible genius who advocates human testing, Stein tells Ronnie, who begins to understand the details Stein reveals much like puzzle pieces starting to fit together.
An instant later, Firestorm speeds across the Hudson River toward Matawan, New Jersey. Stein warns Ronnie to use caution because of the many jumbo jets that fly through the area waiting to land at J.F.K. airport. Thirty seconds later, they come to a landing outside a dark, lonely mansion. It appears to be heavily damaged by some recent calamity. Looking around, they see vines, roots, and brush covering the area and the mansion. “As we feared,” Stein looks, “Goldenrod got here before us! That’s Bonwit’s house or - - what’s left of it!” Ronnie worries they may have reached a dead end. Stein hears a soft noise. A voice groans from just ahead! “There’s someone alive under this rubble!” Ronnie says, running towards the sound. A nuclear burst clears away the debris to reveal a man struggling for life. “My God - - it’s Bonwit!” Stein exclaims. As Firestorm, Ronnie Raymond and Professor Stein have seen many things - - but the bloated, dissolving flesh of the dying man before them chills their very souls!
Bonwit, blinded by hives in a massive allergic reaction, asks for water. “Who’s there? I can’t see,” he calls out softly. Stein tells Ronnie to say it is him. Ronnie uses a nuclear burst to create a glass of water. “I’m - - Martin Stein!” Ronnie tells Bonwit, “Here - - drink! Then you can tell me what happened!” Bonwit struggles to sip the water. As he drinks, he remembers - - and trembles in horror as he speaks in a cracked whisper.
Bonwit describes Nuevavfed, a new form of anti-histamine, potent beyond belief. He and his colleagues Christie and Sayers worked to produce it. Human trials were the next logical step, but Ollins Lab thought otherwise. The Lab declined Bonwit’s request to start human testing. Bonwit went to his patent lawyer, Ted Benton, Jr., known for his ability to fix anything - - for a price. Bonwit and Benton met to plan their next move with Nuevafed. Bonwit has identified a human test subject. “I’ve got the perfect guinea pig,” he tells Benton, “Fred Delmar - - a Harvard Golden Boy - - until his law firm went bankrupt. Now, with a wife and a new baby, he’s - - desperate!” Benton concurs that Delmar is perfect, a Golden Boy for a Golden Drug, “A billion dollar drug,” he smiles, “Excellent!”
Two nights later, disguised for their protection, Bonwit’s team had their first meeting with Fred Delmar in a rented lab. “Are you sure this drug won’t hurt me?” Delmar asks, sitting shirtless on an exam table. Bonwit draws a dosage of Nuevafed into a syringe, telling Delmar that the new drug will cure all that ails him. Bonwit hands Delmar a check, payment for his participation. Bonwit recalls that Delmar was half-drunk, his head full of broken dreams when Bonwit injected him with the serum. The Nuevafed took effect almost instantly, but not as the researchers had expected. Delmar clutched his hand to his throat, unable to breathe. “We watched, helpless and horrified…as Delmar suffered agonies that no man could bear…and live,” Bonwit tells Firestorm, adding, “Then it was over. Delmar lay lifeless on the lab floor.” Bonwit, Christie, and Sayers looked at his body in shock. They loaded Delmar’s body into a car and drove away.
“What could we do…but cover up our ‘mistake’ by dumping Delmar’s body in a field upstate,” Bonwit reveals, “We pledged never to speak of Nuevafed again! We thought it was finished…But Delmar didn’t die! He - - was in a state of - - transition!” Covered in hives from the massive reaction, Bonwit is no longer able to speak coherently. Ronnie stands as Bonwit utters the rambled ravings of a dying man - - until finally, mercifully, there is silence. The silence is broken by the snap of a twig. Ronnie turns to face the noise. “Footsteps…” he says, “Hello, Delmar.”
Goldenrod stands before him, arms outstretched and poised to strike! “You’re wrong! Fred Delmar is dead!” he spits at Firestorm, “Only Goldenrod lives! How unfortunate for - - you!” Ronnie explains that he does not want to fight. Goldenrod tells him he has no choice! As Goldenrod speaks, tree roots shoot from the ground, snaring Firestorm - - and flinging him whip-like to crash against the wall of Bonwit’s ruined home. Stein begs Ronnie to take action! “The guy’s sick, Professor!” Ronnie answers, “I don’t want to hurt him!”
“False pity won’t save you. I hurt more than you can imagine,” Goldenrod says. He steps to stand over Firestorm, who lies on his back on the vine-covered ground after the impact. “Bonwit did this to me,” Goldenrod fumes, “I had to kill that watchman so I could kill Bonwit…and now…I’ll have to kill you!” Ronnie reminds Goldenrod that Bonwit is already dead, “And if pity won’t save me,” he says leaping up, “a nuclear burst will!” KRAAAKKK!
Amidst flames, a large crevice opens in the ground under Goldenrod’s feet, and with a shriek, he plunges into darkness. Sudden silence replaces the violence of moments before. Ronnie dejectedly feels he had no choice. Not able to fight against Goldenrod’s organic power, he was forced to take action to defend himself. “I hope you rest in peace, Goldenrod,” he says as he stands over the earthly tomb. Hesitantly, he seals the crevice with a restructuring beam. “Sometimes - - I do the right thing and still feel ashamed, Professor,” he says, asking, “Why is that?” Stein tells Ronnie that he is growing up. They turn to walk away. Ronnie thinks that maybe he should retire and just be a kid. “You can’t - - any more than I can,” Stein replies. From behind them, a low rumble underground begins to be heard. “Uh-oh,” Ronnie says softly.
The earth tremors - - then explodes! Firestorm is lifted off his feet as Goldenrod erupts skyward in a spray of pollen and plant fragments! At the epicenter of the eruption, the tormented visage of Goldenrod can be glimpsed for an instant, like a fading memory of a dream. “He’s coming back, Professor,” Ronnie cries out in the maelstrom, “The guy keeps coming back!” Stein looks closely at Goldenrod. “Not this time, Ronald!” he yells out, “Some vestige of the human Fred Delmar remains - - don’t you see what he’s doing? Goldenrod is seeding - - he’s destroying himself!” WHOOOOOSH!
Goldenrod thrusts skyward, propelled up on incredible energy. A trail of pollen, dust, and debris extends behind him as his form literally begins to come apart. Suddenly, the last of his mass explodes into the sky overhead! A huge cloud of dust and pollen spreads out and begins to drift in the wind. “Ashes to ashes,” Stein says. “Dust to dust,” Ronnie replies.
As a lark begins a morning serenade, Firestorm looks skyward. “Is that the end, I wonder? A death of remorse - - and self-contempt? Is it over?” Stein asks as they look at the remains of Fred Delmar wafting softly in the air. “I hope so, Professor,” Ronnie tells him, “For his sake and - - ours!”
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