Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The last and first memories: Rom meets Firefall

Fear is...Firefall!

Writer Bill Mantlo Art Sal Buscema Letters Jim Novak Color BobSharon Editor Jo Duffy
“The Fire, the Friend, and the Foe!”

The West Virginia night steams with the presence of living fire, as two inhuman cyborg warriors clash above. One is Rom of Galador, here to find, reveal, and battle the Dire Wraiths; his opponent is their pawn, the human criminal Archie Stryker. If you’ve been reading along, you know how he’s been set up to battle Rom, seen as a murderer from the stars. What he’s yet to realize is the cost of wielding this spaceknight armor. Its power, Galadorian Living Flame, makes him a potent match for the starborn savior.

Airborne opponents clash with strength and powers; the Neutralizer’s effective against the fireball attack, but as Firefall divebombs him again, Rom wonders will he have to break his oath and take a life?

The F.B.I. agents from last issue drive without a sound across the highway, while Brandy Clark questions them futilely. The communicator they use at last appears strange enough to confirm she’s in Wraith hands, so Brandy tries to wreck the vehicle. Along with menacing exposition, one agent covers her face with a chlolorform-fumed handkerchief. What’s this obscure dot of motion in the rear window? Steve Jackson tails them, watching the crazy driving, The floor heater vent he recently repaired struggles with the cold, but the chill in his leg follows concerned questions, as he fears her independence has placed her in dangerous company indeed.

The hills light up with Firefall’s gleaming attack, which would be so beautifully colored today. Rom’s completely aware now his banishing Neutralizations of the

Wraiths is mistaken for killings. His circuits seem paralyzed by the living fire, he drops to Earth in imitation of his awesome arrival alone some nights ago. From the mines rush moonlit figures, firing weapons that identify them to Rom: Wraithkind. Firefall descends, appalled at what appears to be flaming deaths of torture, unable to see the shadowy forms that fall into the outer dimensional limbo! It’s the same as the night at the Lansing Laserium, when Rom blasted the laser works manager they’d planned to rob: he feels sickened. We revisit Archie Stryker’s origin as Firefall.

Now when they battle, Rom overhears Stryker say he felt the Neutralizer “through my armor!” He contradicts him with the truth: he felt it with his armor. He will soon become as inhuman as Rom himself, as the graft completes its connections with Stryker’s nervous system.

Steve decides to step on it and glimpses Brandy, apparently unconscious in the FBI car. Out comes the laser, and now Steve absolutely believes her. Not only that, but she’s resourcefully held her breath upon identifying the chloroform---she’s one of comics’ early lady lab technicians, and boy was that something neat forgotten mostly.

Rom’s cyborg circuitry’s repaired itself to the point he can generate intense, “space-like” cold on his external surface. In the case of living flame, it becomes “sluggish---malleable! Allowing me to hurl it back to its fiery master!” Now his rocket pods ignite, and as the ranting Firefall swiftly follows him upwards, a special pattern manifests in flame.

Rom pities the fool: “your last outburst completed the neuro-linkage! You are joined with the Firefall armor now... you can never be human again!” (He must assume the conversion process couldn’t be done with Earth tech, and the Wraiths probably wouldn’t bother with an extraction process that would leave one alive.) Stryker denies this, observing only the power.

The power, Rom says, is stolen from one “far more deserving of it than you!” A point that would’ve been intriguing to make earlier in the fight: this armor belonged to Rom’s best friend.

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