Brimstone wreaks havoc on the streets of Manhattan. He unleashes a massive fireball that causes a wave of destruction. Angered that Firestorm did not saved their loved ones, angry citizens confront Firestorm. Firestorm escapes and returns to Vandemeer, where a G. Gordon Godfrey follower, Jack Sawyer, creates a disturbance at the University Library. Firestorm confronts Sawyer and his followers.
*** Note: This issue is Chapter 7 of the Legends crossover story arc. Many characters have cameo and flashback appearances. The full list of Legends issues can be viewed here: Legends. ***
An avalanche of stone and steel and glass fall in the canyons of Manhattan. In its grip - - Firestorm!
“Got to reduce my own nuclear density to zero! Let this gunk pass through me!” Ronnie thinks as jagged debris cascades around him. “Maybe you should keep out of the nuclear reactor labs like the one at S.T.A.R. here in New York, Professor,” Ronnie suggests, “Odd things tend to happen when you’re around. “
Stein recalls standing in a radiation suit as S.T.A.R. Labs technicians work on the reactor. “Come, be fair, Ronald,” Stein replies, explaining, “This Brimstone creature would have erupted from the reactor whether I had been there or not. My being there simply allowed us to put Firestorm quickly on the scene.” He remembers Brimstone suddenly appearing and how he then set in motion the fusion transformation.
Ronnie thinks back to the moments just before they fused. “I think we need to talk about your sense of timing, Professor,” Ronnie answers, “I was in the shower when you…’called.’ And it seems to me we weren’t tremendously effective either.” He thinks of seeking out assistance.
“Well, you did the prudent thing, my boy,” Stein continues, “getting help from your Justice League associates.”
Ronnie recalls conferring with the Justice League at Headquarters. “Maybe, Professor. If it had been the old JLA, as it was, we got on the scene just as big ugly was thrashing…What was his name again? Cosmo Boy?” Ronnie asks. “And then Brimstone turned his attention to us.”
With a last rumbling mutter, the hail of masonry settles like gravel on the streets. Ronnie floats above the rubble, scanning it for signs of life. “The JLA! They must be under all that!” Ronnie cries out.
“While Brimstone remains an active threat,” Stein cautions.
Ronnie picks up speed and gains altitude. “And we’re the only one still in the fight, right?” Ronnie asks, adding, “As a set of choices, Professor, this really sucks.”
Technicians rush up to the rubble. “A.J., Eric - - are we on line yet?” one asks.
“Squad’s going to need every scrap of data we can gather,” another answers as crews set up equipment. “Coming through fine, Adam,” a technician answers into his headset. “Get what you can and get out, understand? Leave the rest to our ‘heroes.’”
Brimstone stands towering over buildings. He smashes his fists into them as Ronnie approaches. “Brimstone’s pounded us twice, Professor,” Ronnie recalls. “I’d appreciate any thoughts on how to avoid a third drubbing.”
Stein has been thinking of a strategy. “I’ve a calculated guess or two, Ronald,” he explains. “Given point of origin and subsequent behavior, I’d say we’re dealing with a being comprised of sentient nuclear plasma.”
Ronnie asks, “Plasma? Like they have in hospitals?”
Stein continues, “Nuclear plasma. Hydrogen superheated to millions of degrees Centigrade. Highly unstable. So hot it could be contained only in a magnetic field. A series of them must be giving Brimstone his form.”
Ronnie watches Brimstone rampaging. “So who has the technology to do this?” he asks.
In an unknown location, Darkseid watches Firestorm on a large view screen in a darkened control room. “No one on this world, Ronald,” he tells the screen. “You begin to suspect the hand of Darkseid, Professor? A pity. Far, far too late.”
Ronnie flies down in front of Brimstone and launches a nuclear burst into the gigantic creature’s neck. “Well, if this guy’s in a fever, let’s see what happens when I chill him out a few thousand degrees!” he says.
FZZAM! “BWA-HA-HA!” Brimstone cackles as the burst hits him. “Great. He gets the giggles and I get the chills,” Ronnie groans. FZZAM! Ronnie fires another burst into Brimstone’s chest.
“It’s no use, Ronald!” Stein frets. “Even the cold of space only slowly absorbs the heat of a star and Brimstone is made out of essentially the same substance. Brimstone is like a nuclear furnace, Ronald. The energy in your beams only feeds him!”
Ronnie backs away a bit from Brimstone. “Okay. Let’s try a slightly different attack,” Ronnie replies. “We’ll try form instead of substance and see what happens when we create a magnetic field to disrupt his!”
FZZAM! Ronnie uses restructuring bursts in the air above Brimstone. Instantly, two giant magnets appear aiming at Brimstone. “YAARRRG!” Brimstone groans, looking up at the magnets overhead.
“Be very careful, Ronald,” Stein warns, “If his field ruptures, we’ll have to deal with all that superheated plasma!”
KKKRAKKLE! Brimstone pivots back, smashing a building with his fist. “Adam! The pavement’s buckling!” a technician yells out. Several technicians stand observing Brimstone as he walks nearby. “Keep on your feet and keep recording! This is exactly the stuff HQ needs!” Adam answers as he aims a camera.
“Master! Aid thy servant to do thy will lest I stumble now and perish!” Brimstone yells. He then seems to gain strength, calling out, “Ahhhh. Blessings, Master.”
Adam aims a camera at Brimstone. “Got a power flash. Might be where his control center is. Got it, HQ?” he asks. A voice crackles in Adam’s headset earpiece, “Yes! Now get out!”
FZZAM! Ronnie keeps the magnets poised over Brimstone. SCHRAAAK! Brimstone raises his arms up towards the magnets as energy reverberates around him. “He’s fighting it, Professor! Got…to try…to increase the load!” Ronnie says. FAMM! FZZAM!
“Ronald, your field is already adversely affecting Earth’s own magnetic field! The pressure’s crackling the Earth’s mantle! And what do you expect to do with the creature? We cannot hold it? Are you prepared to kill it?” Stein asks anxiously.
Ronnie watches Brimstone for a moment. “I…There’s gotta be another way!” he thinks.
If there is, there’s no time left to find it. SCHRAAK! FWOOOSH! “Now I am free to do my Master’s bidding and scout this site of its graven images!” Brimstone yells, “And so earn my Master’s love.” SWOOOSH! RRRRRRUMBLE! SSSSS! Brimstone lets loose a giant fireball! It rolls and tumbles through the street.
“Mayday! Mayday! TFX-1, we’re going down!” Adam yells as he and the technicians flee in panic. The fireball sweeps over them. “GYAAHHHH!” cries a technician as he and his team are incinerated.
WHOOMP! The explosive fireball’s energy stuns Ronnie and blasts him out of the air “Ronald!” Stein calls worriedly.
“Thy will has been done, O Master. What is thy bidding now?” Brimstone asks. A moment later he answers, “In my mind, I see the images thou hast placed. I rise to thy calling.” SWOOOSH! Brimstone leaps up and flies high into the sky over the city.
“Ronald!” Stein calls out.
Ronnie slowly lifts himself up off the ground. “…s’okay, Coach. Just point me towards the goal line…” he mumbles.
Stein asks him quickly, “Ronald, are we all right?”
Ronnie takes a few breaths and tries to clear his head. “Barely. Blast…blew us out…away,” he answers, asking, “Where’s Brimstone...?” He looks up and gasps. “O no..!”
The asphalt has boiled off the cracked and broken pavement. Stone and steel have melted like wax down the front of the buildings to lie in flaming pools of slag upon the blistered earth. Thousands of people had remained in those buildings during the battle, trusting the stone and steel, trusting to their champions, the heroes gifted with powers and abilities far beyond the abilities of mortal mankind. To protect them and keep them safe from harm. Of those people, not even ash remains.
“…No…No!” Ronnie yells in horror as he looks out at the wave of devastation. Tall buildings stand broken and burning. Debris and smoldering vehicles covers the streets. Slowly, those who had less faith return.
“Is it safe?” “Is it over” “Are they gone?” “O no! My husband was in there!” “My life’s work...! Susie? Susaaan!” The voices of stunned and shocked people call out in a harmony of emotional trauma. Several people rush towards Firestorm.
“Why didn’t you - ?!” “Couldn’t you have saved..?!” “You saved yourself! Why not her!” they yell at him, quickly growing angry.
Ronnie leaps skyward. “I gotta get away..!” he says as they quickly gain altitude. “Lord, Professor, did you feel it? The sheer hate they had for us?!” Far below, people on the street yell and gesture up to him.
“We taught them to depend on us, Ronald, that we would always save them. And now we’ve failed them,” Stein replies.
Ronnie looks around at the swath of ruins. “Those buildings…the people inside…the JLA…” Ronnie says with worry.
“Let’s go home, Ronald,” Stein suggests sadly, adding, “Brimstone is gone and there is nothing more we can do here. We need to rest. Home, Ronald! Please take us home.”
Pittsburgh: The bat of an eye later. Ronnie sees police cars blocking the street below and as a large crowd gathers. “Great! Some sort of flap going on down on the street,” Ronnie observes, turning to dive down. “I see Len down there with his men,” he says with a sigh. “Guess I better offer a hand.”
Two opposing crowds have squared off in the street, angrily pointing and chanting at each other. One side holds protest signs that read “Save Our Heroes” and “Save Firestorm.” They smile and cheer as they see Firestorm approach. “Al-riiight! Stick to yer guns, buddy!” one yells. “Up with the heroes! Down with the system!” another cheers.
On the opposite side, people boo and catcall as Firestorm lands. They hold signs reading “Down with Firestorm” and “No Heroes.” They wave at him angrily. “Fake!” one yells. “Menace!” beckons another. “Gonna cook Pittsburgh, too?” another asks.
Ronnie walks up to Police Captain Leonard Davis. “What are you doing, kid?! Didn’t you hear the President order all you super-types to lie low?!” Davis asks.
“No! Been too busy getting stomped, Len,” Ronnie answers.
“Chief Ferguson’s suspended your Special Deputy status for the duration, too,” Davis explains, adding, “C’mon, take off, willya? You’re causing a riot here!”
Ronnie leaps back into the air quickly. “Sorry, Len. I…ahh, skip it!” he yells down.
FZZAM! Moments later, Ronnie phases through the wall into his dorm room. “Hope you don’t mind our going to my place, Professor,” he says. He lands and begins the reverse transformation. In a burst of fission, Ronnie and Professor Stein appear in their individual personas.
“But, as conspicuous as Firestorm’s become, I might be more so if I’m seen wandering around naked,” Ronnie says, quickly toweling dry and getting dressed.
“Quite all right, Ronald. I’m so tired, I don’t think it matters where I fall over,” Stein answers.
“I hear you, Professor,” Ronnie replies, suggesting, “Listen, why don’t you just crash here on the couch?”
Stein nods. “A generous offer, my boy!” he replies, adding, “I believe I shall accept it. I feel positively ill.”
Ronnie leans on the couch. “No sweat! I think I’ve got some reasonably clean sheets and stuff,” he answers, “We’ll both get a good rest and tomorrow we’ll figure out what our next move is.”
Stein sighs. “As Firestorm? We don’t have a next move,” he worries. “You heard Commander Davis. The President has ordered a temporary cessation of all super-powered activities. Ergo, no Firestorm.”
Ronnie argues, “C’mon, Professor! It’s just part of that bilge that G. Gordon Godfrey’s been spewing and you know it!”
Stein thinks for a moment. “Maybe I don’t know that, Ronald! Did we do anything but harm today in New York? Here in Pittsburgh?” he replies. “I question what public good our activities as Firestorm have done. I know the disaster they have made of my private life.”
Ronnie blurts in frustration, “Seems to me you screw up your private life pretty well on your own, Professor.” He quickly realizes the personal affront. “Sorry, didn’t mean that. Popping off without thinking again.”
“As you wish. But my mind is made up, Ronald,” Stein continues, “It takes the both of us to form Firestorm and I refuse. So the point is moot.”
Ronnie flips open his bedroom door and walks in. “Don’t bet the farm on that, Professor,” he thinks.
Late night. In a dorm. The TV lounge has been abandoned to the restless, the lonely, the disaffected, the alienated. To guys like Jack Sawyer. Sawyer’s one of these people who drift from major to major, from ideology to ism, looking for something to which he can dedicate all his pent-up, frustrated passion. Tonight, on Nightline, he finds it.
“Far from being heroes, these super-powered beings are menaces - - to our property, our lives, the lives of our children, to the very fabric of society,” G. Gordon Godfrey tells the camera’s eye. “What do they teach us? That violence is the solution to our problems,” Godfrey continues. Sawyer sits watching and listening intently.
“Throughout history, the pursuit of the so-called heroic ideal has begotten nothing but war and conflict,” Godfrey explains, “Hasn’t mankind matured enough to put aside this childish need for heroes, for legends. What we truly need is to root out - - eradicate - - from our hearts, from our culture, this appalling preoccupation with ‘heroes.’” Godfrey glares at the camera. “You, sitting there and watching!” he continues, “You must choose! Act! Now!”
Sawyer’s eyes get wider as Godfrey calls for action. “…Yes…Yes!” he answers the screen.
Morning. Professor Stein and Ronnie walk together on campus. “I’m sorry, Ronald, but I remain adamant! No more Firestorm!” Stein explains.
“Great! Let’s not even talk about it!” Ronnie argues “Let’s go join G. Gordon Godfrey’s zomboids.”
Stein takes his glasses of and cleans them with his handkerchief. “Hrumph!” he grunts, putting his glasses back on. “The man is objectionable but he raises some valid points, Ronald,” Stein replies.
“All I know is no one asked me if I wanted these powers,” Ronnie answers, asking, “So why should I ask anyone’s permission to use them?”
Stein tucks his handkerchief back in his pocket as they approach the University Library entrance. “Sophistry, Ronald?” he asks.
“Lies!” a voice yells, attracting Ronnie’s and the Professor’s attention. Jack Sawyer stands at the top of the Library steps. A group of students stands at the base of the steps, listening and getting worked up. “They chain us with their lies, their books, to a cycle that we can never break!” Sawyer pontificates loudly.
“Who’s this yo-yo?” Ronnie asks Stein as they get near.
“They tell us to be greater than we are, than we can ever be. Tell us legends, of heroes! As if it wasn’t enough to be human, common people like you and me,” Sawyer angrily tells the crowd. He points at them as he talks, holding an unlit torch in his hand. “This is our hour now - - the hour of the common man!” Sawyer cries out, “Time to break the cycle of lies! Seize the books! Burn the lies!”
They are flames burning and he has ignited them. Angry students, whipped into frenzy by Sawyer’s rantings, storm into the Library. Sawyer stands pleased, watching as they pass him. “Burn the lies!” the students yell.
He felt the power within him, the power of Godfrey’s ideas - - ideas and a power he has taken and made his own. “Burn the lies! Burn the lies!” the students yell. They shove people out of the way and start pulling books by the dozens off the shelves.
Jack Sawyer they would never have listened to - - but his power now is that of G. Gordon Godfrey’s acolyte. He has never felt so alive. “Burn the lies!” the students yell as they pile books on the ground in front of the Library. “Bring the gasoline,” Sawyer tells a student approaching with a large armful of books.
“And we’re just supposed to watch all this?” Ronnie asks.
“Ronald, I’m as deeply appalled as you,” Stein answers, “More, because I use the Library. But this is not out job. It belongs to the police. I will not form Firestorm!”
While amidst the broken stacks…A man peers out from the book shelves. “Glad I decided to check out the campus while waiting to play our game,” he thinks, “I mighta missed out on this. Hawk.”
Jack Sawyer stands opposite his crowd of followers next to the huge pile of books. A student pours gasoline from a can onto the pile as others look on and cheer. “Well done!” Sawyer tells them, “The pyre we make of their lies shall be a beacon to others. We shall be a scourge and scour their lies with fire!” He raises the torch over his head as the crowd applauds and voices their agreement.
“Good heavens. He sounds like that Brimstone creature!” Stein says as he watches the spectacle.
Ronnie starts to run, looking for a secluded spot. “That tears it! I’m not letting anything like that happen ever again!” he cries, “I’m doing something about this guy! And you’re going to help, Professor! Like it or not!” Away from the crowds, Ronnie stands and focuses his mind to begin the Firestorm fusion.
“Ronald! Stop! I…Noooo!” Stein yells , fighting against the transformation, “Noooooo!”
Firestorm appears in the air above campus. “Loose let me loose I won’t I won’t no no no!” Stein yells in rambling anger.
“Professor! Will you stop fighting it!” Ronnie yells back, “I can’t…I can’t…focus…with you screaming!”
Ronnie starts to lose altitude. “…Can’t…fly!” he says as he sinks lower to the ground. “Look!” one of Sawyer’s minions yells, pointing at Firestorm.
“Can’t do…anything!” It’s all I can do to keep us from splitting!” Ronnie thinks nervously. “Professor, what are you doing to us?! Stop!”
Ronnie hits the ground and stumbles as a battle of opposing wills rages in his subconscious. “Look at him! Look at this mighty ‘hero’!” Sawyer taunts, “He stumbles and falls and do you know why? Because you no longer believe in him! He and the others of his ilk have strutted like gods, but they are only men and I will prove it to you!” Sawyer waves his torch in one hand. He bends down and picks up a large rock with the other.
WHAK! Sawyer whips the rock and it strikes Firestorm on the head! “He bleeds! He falls! Prove it to yourselves! He is no better than any of you! Strike him down!” Sawyer bellows. Frenetic students grab rocks and unleash a barrage. WHAM! THUD! WHOK! WHUD! Firestorm shudders as the rocks smash into his body!
Ronnie staggers under the assault and falls onto the book pile. Sawyer stands glaring at him, torch in hand. “There are no heroes. There are only men. And lies,” Sawyer announces, “And we will be purged of them.” He flings the torch onto the book pile. Flame meets gasoline, and instantly, the book pile becomes an inferno.
“This is our power, my friends,” Sawyer says with a gloating smile as he watches the flames surround Firestorm. “I wield it in your name. I am your acolyte, acting on the truth revealed by G. Gordon Godfrey,” Sawyer preaches to his masses. “Together we are great.”
Ronnie lies stunned, face down on the books. The flames get larger and closer. “Can’t focus…shift density…nothing!” Ronnie thinks with fear, “Professor’s still screaming in my mind! I’m burning!”