Firestorm: The Nuclear Man #2 (1978)

Firestorm #2 (April, 1978)
“Danger Doubled is Death!”
Writer – Gerry Conway
Pencils – Al Milgrom
Inks – Bob McLeod
Colors – Adrienne Roy
Letters – Ben Oda
Editor – Jack C. Harris
Cover Price: $0.35

Back in the long ago, I was so annoyed at this issue.  Ya see, when I first started collecting in earnest, I came across a whole bunch of Firestorm in the cheap-o bins… among them was Fury of Firestorm #1… and the issue we’re about to discuss.

Now, being a youngling and not knowing diddly-squat about DC’s Explosions and Implosions… I didn’t even realize these were from two different series’… heck, two different decades!

I mean, I suppose the trade dress should’ve tipped me off… but, my fellow bin divers know that in those times where we hit “pay dirt” we narrow our already-tunneled vision onto issue numbers only.

The annoyance must’ve passed by quickly… because, up until I started this blog, I’d forgotten just how many (and which) issues of these series’ I even had!

Let’s hit it and git it!

We open with Firestorm descending on a pair of thugs hassling an old man about a debt he owes “the mob”.  Now, I’m no mafioso aficionado, but I didn’t think they ran around shouting words like “the mob” in broad daylight.  Anyhoo, Firestorm changes the atomic structure of the cement to a gloppy tar… and leaves!  I guess this takes out “the mob” in one fell swoop because the old man thanks the young her for saving his life?

Oh well, next for our flameheaded pal is… proving to his bodily-bunkmate Doctor Stein that he can still chat up the foxy ladies.  This doesn’t go so well for our Ronnie… he causes the foxiest of ladies to faint.  I do really like how the first thing folks seem to notice is that Firestorm’s hair is on fire.  Seems like such a human reaction to seeing him… I guess we do whatever we can to frame this kinda phenomenon in ways we can identify by sight.

Ronnie and the Prof have wasted enough time for the morning… and it’s time for the former to head to class.  They split out of the Firestorm Matrix… and Stein groggily hobbles away.  Ronnie reflects on what caused them to by joined in the first place… it all started with the muttonchopped menace, Cliff Carmichael.

To prove that he’s more than just a “dumb jock”, Ronnie joined the Coalition to Resist Atomic Power.  This group proved to be just a shade too extreme, in that… they wanted to blow up all of the nuclear plants, and let Ronnie take the blame… so yeah, a little nutty.  One of the plants they blew sky high belonged to Professor Martin Stein… only the explosion somehow caused Stein and Ronnie to merge into the Nuclear Man we know as Firestorm.

Back in the present, Stein is being questioned by the police.  The flatfoot don’t dig the nebulous nature of Stein’s timeline.  Place went boom… and he doesn’t remember a thing about it.  Just then, Stein’s assistant Danton Black saunters up… and he’s as mad as a hornet.  He says he’ll sue Stein for stealing his plans… then accuses him of blowing up the plant to cover it all up.  The cop… does nothing.  I mean, I don’t even think he took his hands out of his pockets.  Black then stomps off with a killer headache… one that causes him to see double.

After a day of being bullied for being a “mental midget” by Cliff Carmichael, Ronnie heads home.  There he finds his father, who hasn’t been home for dinner in quite some time.  They watch the news, and hear about Firestorm.  Ronnie’s Pop ain’t too keen on having another superhero in New York… man, try moving over to the Marvel Universe then.  Ronnie goes out for some air.  Meanwhile, a certain other news reporter wraps up his evening broadcast.

As Superman heads toward the Big Apple, Professor Stein attempts to salvage anything he can from his wrecked power plant.  He gets knocked on his keister by a pair of nogoodniks!  At the very same time, the Xamot to his Tomax also gets knocked back.  Ronnie knows the Prof’s in trouble!

Ronnie tries to find a quick way to Westchester… but all routes are pretty gummed up.  In desperation, he attempts to tap into the Firestorm Matrix… even though he and the Professor are separated by many miles.  And… it works!  Not only is Ronnie able to “flame on”, Professor Stein is whisked away from the dangerous duo out to beat him about.

Firestorm arrives at the power plant just as the two baddies are… well, it looks like they’re dancing at a rave… but, they’re actually absorbing as much atomic energy as they can.  Without thinking, Ronnie bursts into action… and gets double-socked for his troubles.

A fight is on… and it would seem that the Mulitplex Duo and inexperienced Firestorm are pretty evenly matched at this point.  Firestorm takes the fight outside… away from all’a that delicious atomic energy.  At this point, it just so happens that a friendly Justice League recruiter is passing by.

Firstorm gets sent skyward by a busted fire hydrant… and lands right in Superman’s arms.  Ronnie lets his fanboyism take over for a moment… and in that moment, the baddies are able to get away.

Superman’s all “ehh, no big deal kid… we all make mistakes”… even though, I mean, the stakes are literally nuclear, right?  Oh well… Professor Stein reminds Ronnie that wherever Multiplex went off to, it’s likely to be a place where he can suck up some atomic energy.  Ronnie deduces that the closest place would be… New York’s own, State University.  He bids Superman adieu and heads out.

Turns out Ronnie’s first instinct was the right one!  He heads to State U, and uses his powers to change the delicious and nutritious uranium into phosphorescence.  So, when Multiplex went for a drink… they actually got weaker!  Firestorm takes ’em out with a BALAMMO punch.

We wrap up with Firestorm explaining how he bested Multiplex to Superman.  They then unmask Multiplex to find… gasp… two Danton Blacks!  He eventually settles into a singular body… but Ronnie knows it’s likely not the last he’s seen of this threat.  Before Superman leaves, he giddily tells Firestorm that, if he keeps this up, he’s a shoe-in for Justice League membership.  Wow, they were really pushing this early!

This was okay.

Full disclosure… despite owning most issues of Firestorm, I haven’t been able to get all that far in any Firestorm-themed “reading projects”.  I always get really excited to give it a shot… but, it never holds my attention for more than a handful of issues.  Now, I say this from a position of ignorance, but… I dunno, there’s just this real “boilerplate” vibe that I can’t push through.  Maybe this go-round will be different.

For this issue, I appreciated the refresher on Firestorm’s origin.  Not that it was necessarily needed, but it’s always a good idea to catch people up.  Only taking a portion of a page to tell it was also welcome.

I also appreciated the fact that both Martin and Ronnie are still acclimating to this dynamic.  There isn’t really a contentious relationship there… which, would have probably been easier to write.  I really dig that they’re both learning as they go.  On some level a Professor and a “dumb jock” are at the same point developmentally… and, I dunno… it’s neat.

I like how the normal folk are reacting to Firestorm, both his appearance… and his very presence in New York.  I said it last time, and hundreds of folks have said it before that… this feels very Spider-Man.  Not a novel observation or anything… just something that “is”.  I dig that there’s a little bit of trepidation here.  Usually DC’s heroes are just accepted.  This is different, and is better for it.

Then… there’s Superman.  Dude shows up just to dangle the Justice League carrot… and, wow… they’re pushing this hard right out of the gate.  These days we talk about “forced” storytelling quite a bit… usually in reference to some sort of “agenda” the writer has.  Well, it’s plain to see what Conway’s “agenda” is here… he wants Firestorm on the Justice League… and damned if he won’t get his way pretty quick!

Other silliness includes… the scene featuring “the mob” early on.  Like I said during the synopsis… I’m not very knowledgeable on the subject… heck, never even seen The Godfather… but, I’m not sure mobsters actually shout that they’re with “the mob” on crowded public streets.  Is this a case of just a couple of jamokes trying to sound more important than they are?  I remember going to a fast food joint a while back… that had a manager who wouldn’t shut up about the fact that they were “the manager”… on the way out, I says ta him, “if you gotta keep tellin’ people you’re in charge… you’re not.”  I’m getting similar vibes from these two jerks… who I clearly have thought farrrrrr too much about.

There’s also the officer rattling Stein’s cage.  I mean, dude’s there for answers… however, when Danton Black accuses Stein of blowing the roof off the joint himself, the officer just stands there.  I mean, I don’t expect him to make an arrest off of one dude’s rantings… but, c’mon… at least look like you’re paying attention!

Overall… happy to report that I had more fun with this than I’d expected.  Not going to rock everyone’s socks, but there’s certainly a good time here.  This issue is available digitally and has been collected in (the seemingly out-of-print) Firestorm: The Nuclear Man trade paperback.

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