The End of His Rope! last edited by ltjfleetwood41 on 08/10/18 11:04AM View full history

The Monitor sends another assassin after Firestorm at the behest of the shadowy 2000 Committee. Ronnie hits the game-winning free throw in a tense basketball showdown with rival Molloy High School. Lorraine Reilly calls Professor Stein. Firestorm learns from Lorraine that her father has been kidnapped. Slipknot attacks Firestorm at the Reilly home.

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

Squint hard into the night sky…and you will find not one but two moons circling our beleaguered planet…Luna’s baby brother is not a celestial scion…but a man-made one piloted by the man known only as the… “Monitor! The 2000 Committee grows tired of waiting!” the voice of Clarissa Clemens asks via videolink, “Can you put us in touch with someone who can help us regain Firehawk…or can’t you?” Monitor replies coolly, “Ms. Clemens…my sphere of contacts is far greater than either you or your much-vaunted committee can imagine!”

A woman in a magenta jumpsuit approaches Monitor. Her matching gloves carry a stack of papers. “Lyla, would you be so good as to show Ms. Clemens the operative I recommend for her rather sensitive mission?” Monitor asks. Seated in front of a command console, he reaches and takes the papers from Lyla. “This had better be good, Monitor,” the voice of Clarissa Clemens crackles from the screen in front of him, “Your reputation as a…shall we say, power broker stands or falls on this operation! It will decide whether or not we continue to do business with you!” Monitor waves a reassurance to the screen, answering, “I think this person’s work will be enough to…bind forever our relationship. Agreed?” Clarissa nods, replying, “Yes, I believe that person will do fine!” Monitor smiles at her, “Good. Then we’ll expect you to wire my fee as soon as you sign off! Now, sign off!” He flicks the switch and the video screen flickers and goes dark. “Ah, Lyla…How grand indeed this business can be at times!” he turns to his companion, “Once our client captures Firehawk…We can look forward to a steady stream of contracts from the 2000 Committee! We should well do…quite well for ourselves. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!”

No matter where Ronnie goes, life is sure to hand him more than his share of problems…But he’s about to meet a menace that is certain to leave him at…the end of his rope!

An enthusiastic crowd yells and cheers in the school gymnasium for the big showdown match between Bradley High School and the Molloy High School Marauders. Molloy leads by 2 points, 99 – 97, with just one second remaining on the clock. Ronnie drives to the net and jumps to take a shot as an elbow from an opponent jabs into his ribs. “Hey! What d’ya think you’re doin’?” Ronnie asks in mid-air. “What does it look like I’m doin’?” the Molloy players answers, “I’m keepin’ you from makin’ that shot!” Wheeeeeeeet! The referee blows his whistle and signals for a foul. “Foul! Foul against the Marauders! Number six!” the referee announces. The foul doesn’t alter Ronnie’s aim, and the ball swishes through the basket to tie the game! “Not today, you’re not!” Ronnie tells his opponent, “Takes more than a crumby poke in the ribs to get me off my game!”

The two teams line up for a free throw. “Next time, there won’t be enough of you left to finish the game,” the Molloy player taunts Ronnie, “And believe me…there will be a next time!” Jefferson walks over to talk to Ronnie. “Don’t let Marco rattle you, Raymond,” he reassures, “You got yourself a free shot, so take it…niiiice an’ slow.” Ronnie steps up to the free throw line as the crowd holds its breath in anticipation. The scoreboard in front of Ronnie reads, “Bradley – 99 Molloy – 99” in bright electric letters. One shot will win the game or send the match into overtime. “’Nice and slow,’” Ronnie thinks as he dribbles to prepare, “Easy for him to say! He isn’t sweating bullets….with the outcome of the game riding on him!” Doreen Day yells down from the stands, “You’ve got to make this one, Ronnie!” Next to her is Ronnie’s class nemesis, Cliff Carmichael. “C’mon, Raymond! For once in your ten-thumbed life…do something right!” he yells, nervously biting his nails.

Ronnie holds the ball at his chest, ready to take the shot. “Sweaty palms…making the ball slip outta my hands! What’s wrong with me?” he thinks nervously, “Must’ve done this a hundred times at practice! But…I have to do it now…when it counts! Can feel Coach Mason…and everyone in the stands…staring a hundred holes into my back! Can’t wait anymore! Got to let this one…”

He shoots and the ball flies towards the basket…BUZZZZZZ! The clock reaches zero, as the ball starts to come down from its apogee…to swish through the net! Bradley wins! The arena explodes in deafening cheers! Teammates hoist Ronnie onto their shoulders in celebration! “All right! Way to go, Raymond!” yells a jubilant Jefferson. “You mean…I did it?” Ronnie asks incredulously. Jefferson, surprised, asks, “You mean…you don’t know?” Ronnie confesses, “Are you kidding? I had my eyes closed the whole time!” The team carries him around the court as the crowd exults in the moment. “This must be that thrill of victory you hear about!” Ronnie thinks happily, “I showed what I’m made of…to everyone! To the Coach…to Cliff and…” Ronnie’s thoughts trail off as he sees Doreen standing alone at courtside. “Oh, boy. Doreen,” he thinks as he looks towards her. Doreen looks back, an expression of soft sadness in her eyes. “There was a time when winning a game wouldn’t have mattered to you, Ronnie,” she thinks, “Unless I was there to share it with you. But now…I can see…You’ve gotten over that!” She turns and heads for the exit.

The crowd joyously chants, “We’re Number One! We’re Number One!” as the celebration continues. On the Molloy sideline, the attitude is not quite as happy. “Get this through that pot roast you call a head, Marco,” the Molloy coach rips, “Your kind of tactics don’t win ball games! This was the last game of the playoffs, remember? Two weeks from now, we’ll face Bradley for the Championship. Think you’ll be in the lineup, pal?” Marco holds his hands up sheepishly, answering, “Aww, no, Coach! Y’wouldn’t do that to me!” The coach scowls, telling Marco, “I’ll decide that later! But for now…hit the showers!”

In the Bradley locker room, Ronnie and Jefferson soak in the hot water of the steamy showers. “Noo-mero ooooh-no,” Ronnie smiles, “I like the way that rolls out, hey?” Jefferson nods, answering, “Sure. Brag. Bask in the glory. But the way you treat Doreen is nothing to brag about!” Suddenly, Ronnie’s image starts to flicker and shimmer. “Awwww, no!” he cries out as he suddenly vanishes in an atomic ring of energy! Jefferson hears Ronnie call out and turns to look. “Uh, Ronnie? What I said, that was just supposed to be advice. Nothing personal,” he says, looking around to no avail, “Ronnie?”

Poof! Firestorm appears in a burst of energy in the evening sky! “Come on, Professor! In the middle of the shower?!” Ronnie exclaims as he gets his bearings in flight, “When we split up, I’m gonna wind up back at school without a stitch! Bad enough I’m running low marks in all my courses…but to show up butt-naked…what could be so important?” They soar above a busy street packed with cars. “You’ll change your mind, Ronald, when I tell you that Lorraine Reilly called!” Professor Martin Stein replies, “She’s been trying to reach us, and she called me at Concordance Research. Apparently, she’s in trouble.” Reee-reeee-reeee! Ronnie hears a siren approaching and turns to see an ambulance nearing the jam of traffic. “Should’ve said so in the first place,” he answers, “Lorraine. You know how I feel about her.” Stein does know, observing, “Puppy love. There’s nothing quite like it!”

Down below, drivers grow impatient. “C’maaaaaan! What’re ya afraid of? Let’s go up there!” yells out an irritated cab driver. Honnkk-honnnk! He lays on his horn, but nothing moves in front of him. “All right…If you don’t want to move…I’ll move myself!” He pulls into the oncoming lane and starts to speed into the intersection. “Whoa! What’s with that cab?” Ronnie says, pulling to a sharp halt in the sky overhead, “He’s bolting from the traffic - - right into that ambulance!”

Not paying attention to the oncoming emergency vehicle’s approach, the cabbie lights up a cigarette. “Oughta change this town’s name - - to Gridlock City!” he snorts. Ronnie sees the impending disaster. “Gotta act fast - - and use my atomic restructuring power to turn that empty construction truck - - into a ramp!” In an instant, the taxi wheels up the ramp, launching it over the ambulance just in time! “Ohhh, man! I’m airborne!” the wide-eyed cabbie exclaims, “If this rig starts talkin’ to me like that car on TV, I’m checking onto Bellevue!” Ronnie flies alongside behind the errant taxi. “Ronald, this is preposterous! Save this man at once!” Stein orders.

“Oh, I’ll save him all right…” Ronnie answers, “In fact, I’ll create a hole in the street - - to save him a seat on the subway!” An atomic restructuring burst opens the pavement below, and the taxi falls right through it! KLANNG! It lands on the subway tracks in front of a train as shocked bystanders look on from the platform. “Watch the closing doors! Double-R to Astoria! Next stop will be…” the subway conductor calls over the intercom. He turns to look down the tracks, seeing the wrecked taxi now blocking the track. “Er…there’ll be a slight delay,” he continues hesitantly to his passengers. The cabbie covers his eyes in frustration. “What am I gonna do? Louie’ll kill me when I bring this in!” he groans, “Bring it in? How’m I gonna get it outta here?” From the platform, a bystander asks his friend, “Not a bad show for ninety cents, huh?” Professor Stein grows agitated, chiding Ronnie, “This is outrageous behavior, Ronald! Rectify this situation, immediately!” Ronnie aims a burst of energy at the disrupted pavement. “Okay! Okay!” he answers, “I’ll patch up the hole! Happy?”

But before Professor Stein can answer…Firestorm has already arrived at Senator Reilly’s townhouse apartment…to find… “Lorraine!” Ronnie calls out, landing in the greenhouse courtyard, “Sorry to say so, kid, but you don’t look like you’re in much trouble to me. Matter of fact, you look pretty good from here.” Lorraine turns to face him, looking concerned. “There’s nothing to joke about, Ronnie,” she replies, “I’m not the one who’s in trouble. It’s my father. He’s gone. Disappeared!” Ronnie walks next to her, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Forgive me, honey,” he tells her, “I didn’t realize. As days go, this one’s been a real roller coaster. Why don’t you tell me what’s going on…from the beginning?”

Lorraine sits on an ornate stone garden bench, and Ronnie slides in next to her. “I’ve been worried sick,” she says, “My stomach’s in knots. If I didn’t know I could call on you for support - - I don’t know what - - I’d do…” The two look into each other’s eyes as her voice trails off. Ronnie reaches for her chin, and they kiss. Suddenly, a noose drops from overhead, quickly tightening around his neck!

“Ulllk!” Ronnie gasps, “Wh-where did that come from?” The rope yanks back hard, pulling him up off the bench. “Good…God!” shrieks Lorraine, horrified. Ronnie reaches up and grabs the rope with both hands to pull and take the pressure off his throat. A mysterious figure in a black form-fitting outfit bearing a rope noose symbol and an obscuring mask pulls the rope from up above! “You’re not going to be able to hang on to that line forever, Flyboy,” the ambushing attacker snarls at him, “You’ll twist slowly, slowly in the wind! You’ll gasp my name with your last breath - - Slipknot…your own personal hanging judge!”

“Ronald, do something!” Stein yells out, “Use your nuclear powers on that noose…before he chokes the life out of us!” Ronnie struggles to free a hand while trying to keep the rope’s pressure off his trachea. “Here…goes…” he gasps. He hits the rope with a restructuring burst and the energy flows right back into him! “Yaaaahh!” he cries out, “No good! Getting…power feedback!” Slipknot pulls on the rope, calling down, “That’s because the noose is made of rawhide, chump! Your powers are useless against stuff that’s organic!” Ronnie launches a nuclear burst into the greenhouse framework! “I don’t need to hit the noose directly, genius,” he answers, “Not when I can wipe out the structure you’re standing on!” The burst knocks Slipknot off balance and Ronnie is able to break free of the rope! Slipknot leaps to the roof as Ronnie pursues. “I’m free of your noose now! And I’m hopping mad, and ready to…” Slipknot interrupts, “Take me on? Don’t make me laugh!” He dodges out of the way. Firestorm sails past him, striking against a building wall with a resounding WUMP!

Down below, Lorraine watches the melee. “This is more than I can take!” she says angrily, “I’ve got to become - - Firehawk!” She moves to take a step and a rope suddenly tightens around her right ankle! “Unnh! Caught in something!” she cries out. The rope yanks back from a tree limb, snaring Lorraine. “It’s a trap!” she yells, “Slipknot set another tra…” CONGK! She falls over as her foot is pulled into the air!

In the street outside, a van with darkened windows sits parked outside the Reilly townhouse. Strange communications arrays are on its roof. Slipknot swings overhead, suspended from a building by his rope. Inside the van, Clarissa Clemens observes the ambush. “Excellent! Everything is going off like clockwork!” she says, “It’s time to move in…and grab the girl!” She reaches for a microphone and radios the signal to begin. From nearby vehicles, an assault team cadre leaps into action. “We copy!” the leader answers Clarissa on his radio, “Beginning invasion!” They storm the front entrance. The Reilly's butler stands just inside, yelling, “Go away! Go away! You can’t come in!” He tries to bolt the door quickly, but the assault team blasts it down with an explosive ram device. “When you’re armed to the teeth, Pops, you can do as you damn well please!” the squad leader replies as he leads his team inside.

Meanwhile, above… “Winded,” Ronnie puffs, “Can’t get a bead on the sucker!” Slipknot tucks and rolls along a parapet wall, somersaulting off a chimney to fly across a street to another rooftop. Three nuclear bursts in quick succession from Firestorm miss the nimble assassin. “Your nuke powers don’t mean much, Hot-Head,” he taunts, “if you’re too groggy to aim straight!” A chimney next to Slipknot erupts into a cascade of brick and mortar debris as he narrowly dodges another nuclear burst. Slipknot lassos an adjacent building and pulls himself skyward, just as a nuclear burst rips into a TV antenna behind him. “He’s right!” Ronnie calls out, “All I managed to do that time was louse up somebody’s cable reception!”

Ronnie wishes his adversary would quit bouncing around. “He isn’t called Slipknot for nothin’” he thinks, “But he’s got to slow up sometime…and when he does…I’ll get him!” Ronnie launches another burst at the speedy Slipknot, but it slams into a fire escape. “Nice try, Toaster-Top,” Slipknot yells back as he dodges, “You’ve spent too long using your brains to roast marshmallows!” Slipknot slingshots himself with an acrobatic leap off the fire escape to a nearby roof, disappearing over the ledge. Ronnie flies up quickly, landing on the roof. “Clever, Knothead!” he answers as he scans the rooftop, “Come a little closer and - - Now where did he go?” Ronnie moves towards a roof corner, saying, “He’d better hide! First chance I get, I’ll pull him apart link by link!” Slipknot silently emerges from the shadows behind and above Firestorm. He leaps! “Got to keep watch!” Ronnie thinks, back turned to his oncoming opponent, “He’s bound to show up sooner or later!”

Slipknot drops from the air onto Firestorm’s shoulders, suddenly locking his legs tightly around Firestorm’s neck! “Heads up, Hotpoint!” he sneers as he lands, “I’ve forgotten more about hand-to-hand combat…than you’ll ever know!” Ronnie bends under the sudden weight and Slipknot flings out his rope. “Sloppy, boy, real sloppy!” he teases from his shoulder perch, “If you’re gonna let me ride you like some rodeo bronc - - I’ll treat you like one - - and I’ll break you like one!” Slipknot cinches Firestorm’s wrists together behind his back and wraps his ankles together in a tight chain. “Ronald! Shake yourself out of it! Fight back!” Stein pleads. Slipknot leaps off Firestorm’s back and pushes him to the roof edge. “Ha! Got you bound together…like so much firewood! All that remains - - is to put the fire out!” Slipknot gloats. He shoves the tightly bound Firestorm over the side! “Ronald! Do something…quickly…or this is how it’s going to end!” Stein urges. Firestorm plummets toward a crowd of bystanders in the street below. “You mean…with me strung up like some salami?” Ronnie answers, “Not a chance, Professor!”

People on the street start to flee. “Look out! That nuclear guy’s gonna hit!” one yells. “Nuclear? You mean like ‘The Day After?’ We better scatter!” another cries. “Use your nuclear powers - - on something! Anything!” Stein directs, “You’re only human! You’ve got to break your fall!” Firestorm is now just a few feet above the sidewalk. A shocked produce pushcart vendor in his path runs for cover. “Santa Maria!” the vendor exclaims, “Thirty years in this spot - - and now this! I’m getting a new location - - Florida!”

Firestorm twists in the air in the last few feet before impact. “I won’t bore you with the physics regarding the impact of a falling body in contact with the Earth…suffice it to say…it will hurt!” Stein observes. “Relaaaax, Professor! Slipknot can tie up my limbs…but he’s gotta go some - - to block my nuke blasts!” Ronnie wriggles a finger free and points it at the pushcart. ZAKKA-BOOM-ZAZ! A cascading avalanche of fruit, vegetables, and pushcart parts glares brightly in an atomic restructuring glow! When the light fades, the shocked crowd sees Firestorm…casually lying on a large canopy bed! “Rubberneckers! They’re all alike!” Ronnie scoffs while propped up nicely on a pillow, calling to the crowd, “Well, don’t just stand there looking stupid, stupid-looking! Get me outta this!”

The assault team exits the Reilly townhouse and steps back onto the street. One of them carries the limp, unconscious form of Lorraine Reilly. The squad leader beckons to Slipknot. “We got what we came for!” he reports, “You’ll be well-rewarded for this job! Count on it!” From above them a voice surprises them, calling out, “Is it okay if he uses his fingers?” A radiant light starts to envelop the area. Slipknot, partially blinded, looks around asking, “Wh-what? That…that light…” From over a nearby building, a streak of fire flies straight towards them! It draws closer…and closer! A voice from within the center of the fireball yells out, “It’s not Halley’s Comet…It’s me! And I’m not - - very - - happy!” Firestorm appears at the peak of the fire streak, angrily focused on Slipknot. “Of course…I could get into another line of…” Slipknot starts to say. As he tries finishes his sentence with the word “work…” Firestorm smashes into him!

“I’ve just about had it, Slipknot…you hear?” Ronnie snarls, “Every nut that shakes loose from every bolt in this town thinks we’ll just hold still while the louse up our lives!” The assault squad scrambles to get away as Firestorm arrives. “Let’s vanish! He’s out of control!” the squad leader calls out. They set Lorraine down on the sidewalk and try to flee another observes, “I’d hate to see him in control!” Firestorm blasts through the assault squad like a bowling ball striking ten pins, knocking them stunned to the ground. He then slams into Slipknot with his shoulder in a massive impact that leaves Slipknot curled at the midsection over Firestorm’s back like a helpless sack of potatoes. “Well, it ain’t so!” he answers the squad, “And I’m about to prove it - - very graphically!”

Ronnie turns in the air with Slipknot wrapped in his arm and flies down to street level. “What are you doing, Ronald?” Stein asks. “This here is a physics experiment!” Ronnie answers, “Remember that old chestnut about what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?” Slipknot twists his head around and sees they are flying straight towards a brick wall! “We - - we’re going to hit!” he yells in panic. Turning in a collision course with the wall, Ronnie answers, “Not ‘we,’ just you!” In the next microsecond, Ronnie lowers his molecular density and passes through the brick wall, leaving Slipknot to slam into the wall in a massive collision of bone-numbing deceleration! Slipknot limply crumples to the sidewalk as Ronnie banks to his left and comes out the other side of the building. “I can become immaterial before impact…to go straight through the wall!” he calls back to the limp Slipknot, “I’d explain how…but your ears are ringing too loudly to hear me!”

Ronnie lands near Lorraine as she starts to come to. Her eyes register a blurry image of the Nuclear Man asking her, “Lorraine…can you…hear me? Lorraine? Are you….” Her eyes clear and she focuses. “Firestorm!” she yells out in relief, “I was so worried about you!” She pulls him down by the shoulders to kiss him. “You were worried? About me?” Ronnie answers, “I’ll make sure you never have to worry about me - - or anything else again! ‘Cause this is the part they call - - happily ever after!”

The Monitor watches from his orbiting station, unhappily taking in the scene. His shakes his fist in frustration as he watches Firestorm promise Lorraine a “happily ever after,” clawing towards the image on his screen in anger. “That’s quite enough!” he snaps, sinking in his chair to gaze over the Earth, “Switch off the remote, Lyla. You watch it. For once, I can’t. He’s cost us a great deal of business this day. A great deal!” But…what fate has befallen Lorraine’s father? The end? Never!

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