The The Depths of Despair wiki last edited by Firestorm826 on 04/17/15 06:34AM View full history

Firestorm battles against the powerful illusions of Mindboggler. Firestorm is captured by Incognito. Ed Raymond is hired as City Editor by the new owners of his newspaper company. Ed is introduced to Felicity Smoak. Breathtaker strengthens Mindboggler. Firestorm confronts Mindboggler at Breathtaker's lab.

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

He’s seen them before…but only in the corner of his eye, in the shadows beyond his bedpost, in the gray clouds of a gloomy day. They’re the demons of his subconscious…His own set of demons we all hide…But now they bubble and froth from the back of his mind…to become his reality. What can any man say, when confronted with the horrors in his own heart?

“Eeyipe,” Ronnie utters, wide-eyed and mesmerized at the plethora of strange beasts surrounding him on a vast and barren landscape. Monsters and demons fill his sight, and animated plant-like tendrils wrap around his leg and torso. The beasts encircle him. There is no escape. “No…no…” Ronnie gasps, holding his hand over one overwhelmed eye while a tear falls from his other. “Words of denial! Do you seek to gainsay us out of existence?” a brown pointy-eared demon hisses, “We will remain alive…and well…whether you reject us or not!” A Tyrannosaurus-like demon steps behind Ronnie, tightly restraining his arms. “Don’t listen, Ronald! Shake it off! They’re not real!” Professor Stein pleads, trying to break through the hypnotic effect in Ronnie’s mind.

“…Not real…not real…” Ronnie mutters, trying to wriggle his arms free from the clutches of his captor. The demon behind him leans its head close and reaches its clawed hand around his neck. “We are all too real! As real as my grip against your throat! As real as my hot breath in your face!” the demon snarls.

Ronnie suddenly regains some control of his mind. In a blasting atomic ring that emanates from around him, he releases a burst of energy that blows the monsters and demons back! “Real? I’ll show you what’s real!” he yells, aiming his hands at them in readiness, “My name is Firestorm - - and I remake reality…every day!” But…as Firestorm of all people should know…reality is subjective!

Ronnie flies up into the blue sky. “A coupla dead-on force blasts should teach you beasties your place!” he yells down as restructuring bursts hit the scattered demons. In an instant, they transform into Alice in Wonderland holding the hand of the White Rabbit, a swarm of jumping purple frogs massing at their feet, and a tall giant mushroom. “Ronald! You’re not battling monsters! You’re in Central Park! Can’t you see where you are? Can’t you understand what you’re really doing?” Stein urges, struggling to help Ronnie snap out of the trance.

From the shelter behind a nearby tree, The Mindboggler watches her work. “He could be in Central Park…or in Tanganyika. He can trip merrily through the flower bed…or plunge into the dark night of his soul,” she thinks, holding a fist out toward him as she focuses, “I control his actions…because I control his mind. The man who created me named me The Mindboggler…and he named me well!” Her blue eyes stare intently at Firestorm as she plants her mystical energy into the depths of his mind. “Right now I have Firestorm believing he’s at the top of his game…but…by planting another suggestion in his mind…he’ll be feeling very differently!”

The Mindboggler waves her hand, and Firestorm falls from the sky to the ground, doubled over in a sudden, massive wave of nausea. “…Feel…so sick!” Ronnie groans. He kneels weakly to the ground. “Stomach churning…over and over…can’t stand!” he gasps, falling over limply into the grass. The Mindboggler sneaks out toward him. She takes his head under her hand, lifting the listless and motionless face of Firestorm off the ground. “At last! He’s completely under my thumb! Now to bring him to The Breathtaker,” she thinks, pausing to listen, “Oh, no! Sirens!” She drops Firestorm and scatters into the cover of the nearby trees and brush!

Two NYPD patrol cars roll to a stop along the grass. Officers get out and begin searching the area. “I saw him come down around here, Jacoby,” a patrolman tells his partner, “Tell the guys with the paddy wagon to swing around this way.” His partner shakes his head, answering, “Paddy wagon? They ain’t bringin’ no paddy wagon for that joker…we’re usin’ the Bomb Squad - - ‘cause with a name like ‘Firestorm…’ God knows, he could go off!”

Shortly after, two Bomb Squad technicians wearing heavy explosive ordinance disposal suits lift Firestorm gingerly from the ground and place him into the back of the Bomb Squad van. From the shadows, The Mindboggler watches undetected. “I could give the authorities a dose of mass hysteria…but I don’t dare because I don’t know how many more of them there’ll be!” she considers, “It’s too great a risk! Have to keep hidden…and let The Breathtaker know where they’re taking him!”

The Bomb Squad van arrives at the precinct house a short while later, and officers lead the still-dazed Firestorm inside. Upstairs, they process him in for booking. “Get him into the tank! That’s the only way we’ll keep him from the press!” a flustered officer directs to those escorting Firestorm, “Took all afternoon just to get him fingerprinted! What a side show!” They guide Firestorm to the holding cells. Ronnie wraps an arm around an officer for support, still affected by the Mindboggler’s mental influence.

Firestorm and the officer shuffle past the women’s holding cell. A group of curious prisoners step to the bars to watch the strange sight of a Nuclear Man being brought to jail. “Look at this one, girls! He’s just bursting with passion, can’t you tell? See the way his head turned all bright when he saw us?” a working girl giggles to her friends. “You never mind. Go about your business, honey,” the officer helping Ronnie answers. “If I could go about my business, they wouldn’ta shut me up in here,” she counters back.

Once inside the holding cell, Ronnie sits on the metal bench with his back slumped against the cold concrete wall. A shirtless, muscle-bound, bald-headed thug suspiciously eyes the new arrival. “Well, look what the tide washed up! A lawman! We loooooove to get lawmen in here!” he announces with a smirk to his cellmates, “And it’s not just any lawman…It’s one o’ dem super-lawmen…One of those guys in the flashy duds who belong to that high-tone club…that Justice League!” Another thug asks him, “You impressed?” The bald-headed miscreant points at Firestorm. “Nawww. He don’t leave much of an impression on me,” he answers. He then draws back his fist and slams a vicious punch into Firestorm’s face! “But I can sure as hell make an impression on him!” he barks as he makes contact.

Jeers erupt in the crowded cell as inmates scramble to get a view of the beat down. “Ronald! Ronald, can you hear me?” Stein calls, directing, “Shake it off!” The bald-headed thug rears back for another strike. “Yeah, you high-n-mighty creeps think you’re on the side o’ the angels!” he growls, slamming another punch across Firestorm’s undefended jaw, “When I get through with you, pally, they’ll hand you a halo!” Stein looks on in abject shock, yelling out, “Ronald! Why are you taking this!? Do something! MOVE!!” Another punch lands hard, hitting him square on the nose. It seems to jar a slight reaction. “That’s the way!” Stein yells, “Move your fingers! Make a fist! Fight back!”

The thug lands a nasty uppercut into Firestorm’s abdomen, doubling him over and throwing him back towards the cell wall. “C’mon! Let’s see if there’s anything you got that’ll back up the flashy outfit!” the thug taunts, “Stand up to me! Damn you, stand up to me!”

The cell door flies open, and several police officers run in to quell the chaos. “That’s enough, Mason!” one directs the aggressive bald-headed bully. They quickly subdue Mason, restraining his hands tightly. “He bothering you, Mason? If you like, we can make sure you get a nice cozy cell all to yourself!” an officer asks him, holding his billy club tightly across Mason’s chest to prevent him from lunging free. “You’ll cross paths with ‘Brick’ Mason again, lawman! Rely on it!” Mason yells to Firestorm as officers lead the handcuffed Nuclear Man out of the cell. The jail supervisor walks in, glowering at his officers. “Is that the way your charges get treated in this lock-up? I’m lucky I got here when I did,” he says, watching as Firestorm is escorted away, adding, “I’ve got the authorization to move him - - to a maximum security site. One where he’ll be safe from your idea of incarceration, I should hope!”

Outside…Two officers load Firestorm into a heavy NYPD Maximum Security truck. “An armored truck for this guy? What’s the deal on him?” one asks the supervisor. “Yours not to reason why. Just make doubly sure he can’t offer any resistance…” the supervisor orders. The two officers busy themselves securing Firestorm to the bench inside the truck. The supervisor flings a small object towards the two unsuspecting officers. “And while your attention is turned from me,” he thinks, “I have ample opportunity to release…this pellet…which bursts instantly into powerful…”

“Gas! C-can’t breathe!” one of the ambushed officers gasps as a noxious green cloud quickly envelops the area. “Perceptive! They trained you well at the Police Academy!” the supervisor calls out as the two officers collapse. “Profuse thanks for entrusting me with this charge!” he tells them, walking completely unaffected through the gas cloud, “I’ll take good care of him…Much better care of him, in fact, than you could ever administer!” He slams the truck’s cargo door shut and locks it. Climbing into the cab, he quickly puts the truck and gear and speeds away.

“They deserve to have their precious prisoner taken from them…” he says, “if they cannot pick me as an impostor…from among their dull blue rank!” As he talks, his features begin to change. His face strangely starts to lose its appearance, seeming to melt right off! In mere seconds, the recognizable face and uniformed body of the police supervisor has completely vanished! Only a shadowy black and opaque humanoid form remains! “But then, I have forged a reputation…as Incognito, the Unseen!” he relishes, “I told The Breathtaker that Firestorm would soon fall into my grasp - - but he chose instead to disparage my methods! He will come to regret doubting me…when I command the Nuclear Man’s powers…for my own purposes!”

Firestorm slumps face-first onto the floor of the swiftly moving van. Incognito can be seen through the cab’s partition window shaking his fist triumphantly as he drives. Inside the back, Stein has overheard Incognito and continues anxiously to try and snap Ronnie out of his trance. “He can do it, Ronald…If you don’t lift a finger to stop him!” Stein cries out desperately, “Whatever influence has possessed you…you must work past it. Take control of your own mind…your own power again!”

Elsewhere, in mid-Manhattan… “Mr. Raymond?” a secretary calls across her desk. Ed Raymond gets up from his chair in the waiting area of the upper floor office. “Mr. Bryant is ready for you now. Go right in,” she tells him. Ed stands and collects his thoughts for a moment. “He’s ready for me…But am I ready…for whatever he’s selling?” he asks himself, “After all, he only bought the paper I worked for out from under everybody…and fired the management!”

Ed takes a deep breath and heads inside the conference room. Mr. Bryant greets him, extending a friendly hand. “Good meeting you, Raymond. And…I’m glad to have you on my team. I’m going to need someone with your experience on my paper!” Mr. Bryant says as they shake hands. “It’s a…er, pleasure,” Ed answers guardedly, “But I’m still not clear on what you need ‘someone of my experience’ for! Last I heard, you were folding the paper!” He leads Ed from the doorway to the conference room table. “I’m folding its management. Not aggressive enough. Want to get a hungrier crew…especially when I start a new national edition,” Bryant explains, “That’s why I’m bringing you in as City Editor.” Ed is surprised at the prestigious position being offered. “City…City Ed…” he stutters, trying to process his good fortune.

“Here’s another innovation,” Bryant continues, gesturing to introduce a woman standing near the table. “A special section on computers. Like that? This is Felicity Smoak. She’ll be heading up that Department.” She and Ed shake hands. “How do you do?” she asks, explaining, “I had a software company of my own…and Mr. Bryant wanted someone with hands-on experience. But I, um, have never done any professional writing, so…” Ed finishes her thought. “So you’ll need help? Fine, you can learn a few things from me. At least now I’ve some idea what I’m doing here!” he replies. Felicity thinks to herself for a moment. “Oh, I know what I’m doing here, all right,” she plots in thought, “I’m staying on to earn enough money to press my class action suit against Firestorm…for driving my business to bankruptcy!”

Meanwhile, on Riverside Drive…Incognito wheels the heavy police truck along. “The Breathtaker wants Firestorm…But only to destroy him…or turn him over to the 2000 Committee! What a waste!” he scoffs, annoyed at the idea. “None of them think of the possibilities…the doors that would swing open wide…if we could learn to manipulate…and use his power!” he considers, “I’ve heard it said his powers are too grand…too dangerous to be harnessed! But there is no one whose will cannot be broken!”

In the back of the truck, Ronnie still lays prone on the floor. A curious mouse sneaks out from its hiding place to sniff at his hand. Stein continues trying to rouse the nearly completely incapacitated Ronnie. “He’s talking about you, Ronald,” Stein tells him, “What’s happened to you is pathetic. The man who won’t be beaten. Can’t be beaten. You’re not even trying. You’re so…beyond helping yourself…you won’t even stop that mouse from scurrying over you!” Suddenly, a small nuclear burst flings from Ronnie’s fingertip! The truck floor turns sticky in front of the mouse and snares it. “Happy now, Professor?” Ronnie says, annoyed, “I’m alive and well, got that! Now, cut the Reader’s Digest ‘Words to Live By’ and let me get some sleep.” He leans his head back against the cold metal floor, thinking, “I got a feeling we have a real battle ahead of us!”

As the truck heads uptown… “I’m stuck!” Incognito frets, “Can’t move any further…It’s a roadblock - - and not an official one by any means!” A large wooden spool and various debris blocks the isolated section of road, stacked intentionally for nefarious purposes. “I can’t let this stop me! I’ve got to get through! I must get through!” Incognito worries as a street gang emerges from the shadows. Their leather jackets bear the colors of the River Rats.

“You can complain to the Mayor for all the good it’ll do ya,” the gang leader says as he and his men swarm in front of the truck’s windshield, “But when you’re drivin’ up here…You’re drivin’ through River Rat territory - - and nobody gets by…without an inspection!”

Elsewhere… “You’ve made me as happy as a proud parent, my dear!” The Breathtaker gushes, “Your powers nearly snared the quarry! Once we extend your abilities...he will not elude you again! Are you ready to begin?” The Mindboggler stands with him in a large laboratory. “I - - I don’t want to do this!” she answers apprehensively, “It - - It really hurts. You don’t know how much it hurts! I don’t think…I can go through this again, Breathtaker!” The magenta-robed figure glares at her, arms resting on his hips. “You must!” he orders, “Your powers will diminish…and fade entirely…unless you replenish them periodically! It is the only flaw in the gift of power I have given you!”

Mindboggler walks slowly and carefully along a catwalk leading to a large chamber. “It’s going to hurt!” she fears. Breathtaker pushes switches and buttons on a control panel as he watches her step inside. “That’s it! Enter the portal! Let the energy beams envelop your body!” he says with satisfaction, “Ah…my dear…You will be such a wonder! Pain is fleeting. But power…power is infinitely rewarding!”

Pinkish-purple energy flows inside the portal around Mindboggler. She recoils in discomfort. “I - - I can’t stand it! I won’t do it, I won’t! I won’t!” she yells in pain. She twists and grimaces, eyes tightly closed, trying to resist and moving to try to exit the portal. The Breathtaker abruptly appears next to her, grabbing her wrist tightly. Her eyes spring open, startled. “You will…” he quietly commands, “For you are far too valuable…to have a will of your own!” Suddenly he strikes her! A backhand slaps across her face, knocking her down! “No! No!” she cries in shock.

The impact forces her back into the portal. She is surrounded by transforming clouds of purple energy. “God in Heaven above!” she cries, tears streaming down her face as she gets to her feet, “Every muscle…every tissue…feels like…it’s being ripped apart…and thrown back together!” she groans in excruciation, “I can’t take anymore! What can possibly be worth…all this pain…all this suffering?!” Satisfied that she can no longer resist, The Breathtaker returns to his control panel to continue to procedure. “Victory, my dear,” he answers her, “Victory!”

The River Rat gang swarms around the NYPD truck. “All right! Time for a little conversation wit’ th’ man!” the gang leader yells, standing on top of the truck’s cab. His men shove Incognito along. “Cooperative guy. Helped us push his truck allaway to the docks,” a gang thug says. “Anybody’s cooperative when you outnumber ‘em twenty t’one!” another answers.

A man in a long black trenchcoat and fedora strolls calmly down the dock towards Incognito. A machine-gun with extended clip rests from a sling over his shoulder. “I didn’t realize you would have to be coerced into fulfilling your part of the agreement, Incognito!” he announces. Incognito stands nervously before him, the path behind him blocked by a large group of River Rats. “I don’t have what you want. Not yet. But I can get it. You’ll see, Fixx! You’ll see!” Incognito nervously tries to explain. Fixx looks him over contemptuously. “Let’s cut it out, shall we?” he replies, “The boys found you leaving town in an armored truck. If you weren’t carrying dangerous cargo, you might as well have taken Amtrak! No, no. Our deal was for you to deliver The Breathtaker’s big brainchild…his Mindboggler! My client thinks she would make a fine addition to his stable of weapons…”

Fixx stands right next to Incognito and points to the NYPD truck parked nearby. “It’s my educated guess that she’s inside that truck,” he continues, “And that you’re on your way to set up a more lucrative deal, yes?” Incognito pleads nervously, “No! No, listen to me!” Fixx scowls at him, not believing his explanation. “I don’t like listening to anyone! That’s why I’m in this business!” he answers. Wheeeeeeeeeet! Fixx blows a whistle to signal the gang. “I want a look at what’s in that truck, boys!” he yells.

Several gang members race to the truck. One goes to work picking the lock on the rear door. “He blows that whistle and calls the shots!” he says, “I’ll have this off in two shakes!” The lock is quickly removed and the cargo door swings open. They look inside and are shocked. “Whoa! I wasn’t ready for this!” exclaims the lockpicker. Quickly, four thugs reach in and drag Firestorm out of the truck. They carry him along on their shoulders. “You’re supposed to be holding him up, Doorknob! Your Mama could do a better job!” one scolds. “Whatchoo sayin’s about my Mama?” Doorknob snorts back.

Firestorm is carried out onto the dock and dropped in front of Fixx. He readies his rifle. “Firestorm!” Fixx thinks, seeing the unexpected bounty, “The weasel wasn’t lying, after all…No Mindboggler…but this! This is a real prize! Just think…if I could control the Nuclear Man with my ultrasonic whistle…as easily as I control the River Rats - - the possibilities for conquest are enough to frighten anyone - - except me!” Quickly, he kicks at the River Rats that carried Firestorm, shooing them away. “Get away from him there!” Fixx growls as his foot lands on the backside of the lockpicking River Rat. “Yowww! Hey! Y-You’re the boss!” the bruised thug yells as he runs.

“The River Rats know it! I am the boss, Incognito…And you’re about to be fired!” Fixx tells the faceless shadow of a man. He aims his rifle at the startled Incognito. “Why didn’t you bring me the Nuclear Man?” Fixx demands. “I can explain!” Incognito sputters fearfully. “Explain it to the Devil in Hell, cretin!” Fixx yells as Incognito turns to run in terror, “Because that’s where I’m sending you!” He squeezes the trigger…just as a nuclear restructuring burst hits the rifle!

“If you’re gonna play travel agent - - you’d better get yourself the right equipment!” Ronnie calls out, getting to his feet, “I’ve already turned the shootin’ iron you’ve got…into just so much scrap metal!” The rifle has expanded to a mass of tangled metal ten times its normal size. It falls with a thud to the dock as Fixx struggles with it helplessly. “So…heavy! Can’t even hold it!” he says in surprise. “That’s the idea!” Firestorm agrees.

Fixx blows his mystical whistle in reaction to Firestorm’s unexpected attack. “That’s the man’s whistle! We gotta go after him!” a River Rat yells as the gang swarms around Firestorm. “You’ve got as much chance of stopping me - - as Ed Koch has of becoming Pope! So it’s time I gave you River Rats - - a more appropriate place to play!” Ronnie yells to them. He aims a restructuring burst at shipping crates stacked on the dock, instantly transforming them into a giant hamster wheel. Several River Rats find themselves running but going nowhere inside the wheel. He aims another restructuring burst at another group of the gang. “You others get helium balloons…to lift you up and out over the water!” Ronnie tells them as they float upwards, “They’ve got slow leaks…I hope you goons can swim!”

Weeeet! Fixx blows on his whistle, trying to rally his troops. “We’re fightin’ a losin’ battle!” a dismayed River Rat says. “Fixx keeps blowing that whistle! We gotta keep at ‘im! We got no choice!” another answers. “Why am I wasting my creativity on you characters?” Ronnie asks them, “I should save it for the super-villains! A simple force blast’ll knock the last of you into the water! But wait’ll you see what I did to the water!” Ronnie knocks the remaining River Rats off the dock with a nuclear burst from one hand. Simultaneously, he aims a transforming burst into the water with his other hand.

The overpowered River Rats stand waist-deep near the dock. “This isn’t what I think it is, is it?” one asks, looking around. “Move slow. Move very, very slow,” another answers, “He turned the entire river…to quicksand.” Stein looks on in dismay. “You’ve really done it this time, Ronald!” he scolds, “You’ve created a real menace to navigation!” Meanwhile, Ronnie has transformed dock crates into a giant ice cream scoop. He flings the scoop around, catching Fixx inside. “The only menace is this Bozo here, who I’m about to ice,” he answers Stein, “But first, I’ll turn his cutesy houseboat into a house of cards…and watch him hit the deck!” The deck structure of Fixx’s adjacent houseboat transforms into a stack of giant cards. Ronnie flips the ice cream scoop over, dumping Fixx into the card house with a collapsing thud!

A Coast Guard patrol boat tries to approach in the thick, mucky river. “You there! Firestorm! The quicksand is dangerous! How could you do something so irresponsible?!” a Guardsmen yells over. Ronnie stands commandingly over Fixx on the houseboat’s deck. “What is this? I ought to open a Complaint Department!” he replies, “For your information, gang, I never turned the Hudson into quicksand - - I turned it to oatmeal!” Ronnie smiles in satisfaction, an ooze of gooey oatmeal dripping out of his hand. Then, a fleeting shadow figure in a dark blue business suit catches Ronnie’s eye!

“One second…There’s a rodent who’s trying to scamper out of my trap,” Ronnie says, turning in pursuit. “I hope that’s a track suit you’re forming on your body to outrun me, pal,” he calls down to the sprinting Incognito, “’cause another disguise won’t help you - - once I turn the concrete beneath you to…” Instantly, four giant silver robot snakes spring up from the street and surround Incognito. “Snakes!” he yells, stopped in his tracks, “They’re all around me!” The snakes wrap tightly around Incognito’s waist and legs, immobilizing him. Firestorm floats down next to him. “Robot snakes, to be precise, chum…But that doesn’t make them any less eager to take a chunk outa your butt if you’re uncooperative,” Ronnie tells the squirming shadow man, “I saved your life, and here you try to hide from me in a suit from Barney’s Bargain Basement. Is that gratitude? Gratitude is takin’ me to your real employer, deal? Take all day to think it over.”

Incognito quickly agrees. “D-d-d-deal,” he stutters nervously.

The Mindboggler stands inside the portal of The Breathtaker’s laboratory chamber. The shadow figure of Incognito strides into the lab. “A hero’s welcome I did not expect…but demand…upon returning with Firestorm,” he announces triumphantly. The Mindboggler turns to face him. “Firestorm? Is he…alive?” she asks in surprise. Slowly, the shadow transforms into Firestorm, his flaming hair lighting the room. “Alive?” Ronnie answers, “Honey, he walks…he talks…and when you pull his string…he gets mad…real mad!

REEE-REEE-REEEE! The laboratory alarm activates loudly. The Mindboggler stands on a large pedestal looking down on Firestorm. “Thank you for doffing your disguise, Firestorm,” she says calmly, “You have only made it easier for the security system to finally recognize you as an intruder…But worse yet…now that I can see you for what you are…I can crush you completely!” Her eyes flare wide as she concentrates and channels her powerful mental energy.

“I can start by making you ill! Very, very ill!” she cries, raising her arms high as she unleashes her invisible fury. Firestorm finds himself suddenly off-balance as the floor, walls, and ceiling ripple in unpredictable waves of chaotic motion. “Some-something wrong with my…equilibrium…C-can’t keep my balance,” Ronnie stammers, using every effort to try to remain standing. He falls on the wildly undulating floor. “C-can’t…stand…up…Got to…regain control…” he gasps as beads of perspiration form on his forehead. “Keep - - keep moving. If I can’t walk…I’ll…I’ll…” he mumbles weakly. “You’ll crawl!” The Mindboggler yells down to him from her pedestal, commanding him, “Crawl to me…on all fours…like a dog!”

Ronnie bends down and starts to crawl slowly, struggling for every inch. “Shor - - short of breath. Throat so dry…” he blathers, sweating profusely. “It’s all in your mind, Ronald! It’s her mental suggestion! Fight it off!” Professor Stein begs feverishly. “Can’t…breathe! Feel…my hot sweat…pouring down my face…in rivers!” Ronnie moans, crawling next to Mindboggler’s pedestal. “It’s not happening! It’s not real!” Stein implores to him, “Block it out! Stand up! Stand up!” The Mindboggler watches in quiet satisfaction, arms tight across her chest, unblinking blue eyes staring incessantly at him. Ronnie finds a small reserve of energy…and hope. He tries to get up. “I…I…will…I’ll try!” he answers Stein, fighting to stand. The Mindboggler blasts his consciousness with another torrent of suggestion. “No! God, no!” Ronnie yells, falling back to the floor, “Gorge…rising…Can’t see…Feels like…a hundred hands pulling me down…” He collapses, unable to move. “Don’t give up! Don’t…” Stein anxiously tries to encourage him. But it is too late. Ronnie is defenseless.

“Excellent. You take commands well, Firestorm,” The Mindboggler victoriously announces as she looks down on him, “Get used to it. If I have my way…you will remain my puppet…my plaything…for the rest of your life!”

Has Firestorm walked his last mile on all fours? Will the Nuclear Man spend the remainder of his life on his knees? Wherever you go…Whatever you do…Be here next issue!

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