The Brave And The Bold #172: "Darkness And Dark Fire"

 The Brave And The Bold #172
 "Darkness And Dark Fire"
 March, 1981

 Gerry Conway: Writer
 Carmine Infantino & Steve Mitchell: Guest Artists
 John Costanza: Letterer
 Adrienne Roy: Colorist
 Paul Levitz: Editor

 Elsewhere in the city, there is life and light. Here in the business district, the citizens of Manhattan sleep. But even that fitful sleep is about to be disturbed by the arrival of the Darknight Detective. Someone has been watching the Concordance Research Inc. building for an hour. It's time the Batman found out why!

 Sliding down the Bat-Rope, he comes face-to-face with Jason Bard, the private investigator. He is freelancing for Concordance's security department and has been hired to follow a new employee of theirs, Professor Martin Stein. The physicist was a top nuclear designer who started having blackouts. After having hit the skids, Stein has been given a second chance by Concordance, and they have noticed his frequent disappearances. Concordance is worried about their top-secret government contracts -- and hired Bard to follow the physicist. The private detective lost track of Stein this afternoon. The physicist showed up at Concordance one hour ago. Security contacted Bard and he has been waiting for him ever since.

 When he turns to ask the Batman why he is here in New York City, the Masked Manhunter is already leaving. Moments later on the rooftop, Batman has a feeling that he and Jason are working on two sides of the same puzzle. While Jason is investigating a physicist experiencing blackouts, the Darknight Detective is keeping tabs on a fellow Justice Leaguer with an identical problem. He has tracked him to this building an hour ago after leaving the Justice League Satellite. A bright light may be seen in one of the windows of the Concordance Research building and from out of it comes the Nuclear Man!

 Batman was going to follow his fellow JLAer since he insisted on keeping his problem personal -- but with Jason Bard involved, he intends on having a talk with Firestorm now. After tying the Bat-Rope onto his Batarang, the Masked Manhunter swings towards his flying friend, only to find his Batrope has been turned into confetti! The Nuclear Man has used his power of atomic-restructuring and Batman is heading for a fall! He spots a movie marquee directly below...

 The Darknight Detective wraps his hands in his cape and uses the lettering on the marquee to break his fall! Jason Bard has seen the whole thing and has managed to reach Batman as quickly as his limp would allow him. The Masked Manhunter can guess what's on the private investigator's mind.

 He cannot answer the question of there being a connection between Professor Martin Stein and Firestorm because he doesn't know. If one of them manages to find the connection, it will have to be up to Jason Bard. The Batmobile is now heading north and Batman remembers how Firestorm was asking his fellow Justice Leaguers for advice without telling them what was really bothering him... The Nuclear Man wondered if one of them ever went crazy, would the others drum him out of the League?

 When the Red Tornado asks for specifics, Firestorm mentions he has been having blackouts, and remains silent when pressed for further information. The Amazon recognizes a desperate cry for help when she hears it. The Man of Steel wishes they could find out what was troubling their newest member -- and the Darknight Detective volunteers to get answers.

 After following the Nuclear Man to Concordance Research, Firestorm disappeared, and Professor Stein appeared. What did the physicist have to do with the blackouts? If he weren't so sure that his fellow Justice Leaguer was a young man, he might have suspected him of being Stein -- But Martin Stein couldn't be Firestorm and may be responsible for the Nuclear Man's blackouts. Firestorm's next stop is East Side General Hospital... FTOOM! He makes a memorable entrance which startles the hospital staff and patients alike.

 One needs not be a detective to follow so easy a trail. East Side General Hospital has got its own experimental research departments... including one devoted to nuclear medicine -- and the study of radiation's role in healing. The Nuclear Man's attention is upon the waldos, remote-controlled mechanical arms for use in handling radioactive materials... Firestorm is now well-armed.

 The Batman watches from the corner of the outer corridor, seeing the Nuclear Man with a pair of waldos, and delaying their confrontation for further pursuit via the Batmobile!

 Jason Bard is at the Concordance Research building, where he learns more about Professor Martin Stein's mysterious disappearance. Security has seen him on the phone in his office... and when they looked in on him again, the physicist was gone. The private detective notices the open rolodex and the card of the person he called last... Ronald Raymond.

 The Batmobile has arrived at the Hudson Nuclear Facility, an experimental nuclear plant that seems to be the Nuclear Man's destination. As the Batman leaps over the wall, he remembers reading about the plant, and its designer... Professor Martin Stein! Seeing his fellow Justice Leaguer passing through the plant, the Darknight Detective knows the next few minutes should prove very interesting.

 The Nuclear Man is using his unique powers to place the waldos in their chosen position. The nuclear pile of fissionable material is the core of the plant. Its reactions are controlled by damper rods of carbon and other materials... It is here that the nuclear reaction is created and sustained... As far as the general public knows, the Hudson Nuclear Facility was closed down several months ago. The puppet has done its work and its master has got hands to match its mind. It will no longer require the puppet to do its work. It will be able to act out on its own with the hands it has been given. Clad in a radiation suit, Batman sees the nuclear pile has become sentient and it has used its intelligence to control the Nuclear Man's mind! The nuclear accident that merged Martin Stein and Ronnie Raymond into Firestorm also created a nuclear life-form! It had been barely aware of its own existence and was sightless... without thought, and impotent.

 As it reached a new critical mass, it came to understand what it was, and it began to think. It read the minds of Stein and Raymond, learning what it knows now from the physicist. Its newfound comprehension led to a newfound desire, and control over Firestorm. The young hero was a puppet who retracted the control rods that had kept it from experiencing its full power. The second mission involved the acquiring of hands. The puppet's final mission is to destroy the Batman! It knew he was here and the speech was for his benefit. It was now using the Nuclear Man to commit murder!

 The Masked Manhunter meets the challenge... head-on! He knows Firestorm's power are a form of nuclear fusion -- the anti-thesis of nuclear fission! Perhaps one of his nuclear blasts could damage the reactor core. He will have to use treachery and cunning. His fellow Justice Leaguer does not know what to make of his desperate plan... and his nuclear blast's effect on --

 FTOOM! The nuclear fusion blast and the fission reaction cancel each other out... silencing the core forever. Martin Stein feels like he has awakened from a strange dream! Ronnie Raymond remembers everything now... and as Firestorm, he drains the radiation from Batman's body into himself! His actions save his fellow Justice Leaguer's life and repay the debt of having freed them from the living reactor's control over them.

 Once the Darknight Detective has told them about Jason Bard's interest in Martin Stein and the Nuclear Man... they remember a clue the private detective may have found in the physicist's office. They are about to throw Bard off the scent. The Batman does not know how Professor Stein ties into this and who Ronald Raymond is... but he does know that the two of them should be a match for the deductive skills of Jason Bard. Ronnie Raymond is thanking Martin Stein for the interview for the school paper when the security consultant arrives. The private detective is certain there is a mystery present and one day, he will solve it.

 On the cover of The Brave And The Bold #172 by Jim Aparo, the Nuclear Man is dying, and the Batman is unable to survive the heart of a nuclear reactor long enough to save him!

 Firestorm was created by Gerry Conway and Al Milgrom.

 Carmine Infantino was the artist who brought Batman his "new look".

 The Darknight Detective makes the marquee de save in slowing his fatal fall.

 Mr. Infantino also drew the Scarlet Speedster's first appearance in Showcase #4.

 Leave it to the Masked Manhunter to find out where's the waldos.

 Doctor Otto Octavius used his own mechanical arms to handle radioactive materials from a safe distance.

 Danton Black was also present at the plant and became the villain known as Multiplex the Multiple Man.

 The Nuclear Man saved the life of another Justice Leaguer by draining the radiation from the Scarlet Speedster's body in The Flash #293 (January, 1981).

 As drawn by Carmine Infantino and Steve Mitchell, Ronnie Raymond seems younger than the high school basketball player he was in his own ongoing title.

 Olan Soule voiced Martin Stein and Mark L. Taylor voiced Ronnie Raymond/Firestorm on the last two Super Friends TV series.

 Victor Garber will be portraying Martin Stein and Robbie Amell will be portraying Ronnie Raymond on the new Flash TV series.

 Steve Chung
 "Darkness And Dark Review"