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“Atomic Nights”

  • Writer: Dan Vado
  • Pencils: Marc Campos
  • Inks: Ken Branch
  • Colors:Lee Loughridge
  • Letters: Kevin Cunningham

In previous issues of Extreme Justice, we learned that Ronnie Raymond (formerly one half of the super-hero Firestorm) is dying of leukemia.  In Extreme Justice #3, he was sitting on a park bench in Pittsburgh with Oberon (formerly of Justice League International) and Skeets (Booster Gold’s old robot buddy from the future) when he suddenly burst into flames.  In Extreme Justice #4, Captain Atom, Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, and Amazing Man caught up with Ronnie.  They were able to siphon off his excess energy, leaving him in the form of Firestorm once again.  At the end of Extreme Justice #4, Ronnie received a telepathic message from Martin Stein (the other half of Firestorm), who said he was returning to Earth from his space explorations (see Firestorm the Nuclear Man #100).

As the Elemental Firestorm (Stein) approaches Earth, Ronnie suffers an almost-crippling headache.  Stein is speaking to Ronnie but only Ronnie can hear him.  As he gets closer, the whole team can hear Stein.

The Elemental Firestorm’s arrival over Pittsburgh causes an earthquake.  He is gigantic, easily as large as most of the surrounding downtown buildings.  Stein also generates so much heat, Captain Atom is afraid he’ll melt the whole city.  Cap and Booster Gold set out to create a fire break while Ronnie tries to get his old partner under control.

Stein wants to share his experiences in space with Ronnie but Ronnie’s primary concern is getting the Elemental Firestorm to turn down the heat.  Amazing Man and Blue Beetle seek refuge in Beetle’s Bug, which they discover has heat shields.

Booster flies to the rescue of a city bus that is too close to the fire.  He makes a reference to Keanu Reeves, which is a reference that is now horribly dated (of course it wasn’t at the time).  The bus’ gas tank ruptures, so Booster rips a hole in the side so the passengers can flee.  A kid Booster shelters from the ensuing explosion tells him his new armor sucks.

Booster wants to get the Firestorms out of town, but Cap wants to give Ronnie more time to talk Stein down.  Meanwhile, Stein is telling Ronnie how he’s discovered exceptions to Einstein’s rules and that there is a complete lack of rules and order in the universe.  Ronnie finally gets through to Stein, who looks around at the devastation and says “Oh, my.”

Stein shrinks down to normal size and the flames dissipate.   Amazing Man doesn’t know how his teammates can handle their jobs and asks Beetle if he ever gets scared.  “Almost constantly,” is Blue Beetle’s reply.

The Elemental Firestorm tells Ronnie he wants to take Ronnie back to space with him.  Stein tells him once the two Firestorms merge, Ronnie’s leukemia will disappear.  He also says it won’t be like it was in the past.  Ronnie will be absorbed into Stein, and will be part of the Elemental Firestorm.  Firestorm turns Stein down.

When Stein says he needs Ronnie and they must be together again, Captain Atom steps in and tells the Elemental Firestorm that no means no.  Stein bats Cap away like he’s a fly.  He then drags Ronnie up into orbit with him.

When Ronnie asks why Stein needs him so badly, Stein says he has lost what little humanity he had.  He needs his old friend’s sense of humanity so he can feel the awe and wonder of the cosmos.  When Ronnie again refuses, Stein points out he gave himself over to the Firestorm persona so Ronnie could “play hero.”  Of course, Ronnie points out, that isn’t the same.  Stein still had a life to go back to at the end of the day.

Seemingly resigned, the Elemental Firestorm says there is only one other thing he can do.

Back at the Bug, Cap, Amazing Man and Beetle are looking for signs of Ronnie when the instruments pick up something speeding toward them.  The two Firestorms blast back to the surface and Cap flies out to meet them.  Ronnie apologizes to Stein.  Stein says he isn’t angry with his old friend, merely disappointed.  “It may even be that in that disappointment I will find some trace of my humanity,” he says.  “For that I shall be in your debt.”

Then Stein blasts Ronnie.  He assures Cap that he hasn’t harmed his old friend.  He also tells Captain Atom that he expects Nate to watch over Ronnie in his absence.  The Elemental Firestorm says Cap needs to get over his differences with Ronnie.  He tells Ronnie that he has removed the illness and he will miss his friend.  He then leaves Earth again.

Watching the Elemental Firestorm fly away, Captain Atom asks Ronnie to join the team.  They agree to put aside their differences and work together.

And with that, the classic Firestorm returns to the DC Universe.
extreme.justice.05This issue gives the term “hot mess” a whole new meaning.  I was not always particularly fond of Campos’ take on Captain Atom (it was hit-or-miss), although I am liking his Firestorm.  And Dan Vado manages to pull off a 22 page comic in which very little happens.  Sure, Booster got to be all heroic and Ronnie’s sickness was cured, but the story left me wanting so much more.  And I agree with the kid, Booster’s new costume sucked.

Honestly, at the time this book came out, I was just happy Captain Atom and Firestorm had a regular series.  It was good to see Ronnie and Professor Stein finally get some kind of closure.  Also, Cap and Firestorm burying the hatchet was way overdue.  I’d say this was a B story with C art.  A really great comic is just right off to the side somewhere.