The Crapbox goes to Hell!
Underworld Unleashed #3
Not as good as it should be
“Seduction of the Innocent”
Writer – Mark Waid
Penciller – Howard Porter
Inker – Dennis Janke
Colorist – Rick Taylor
Letterer – Chris Eliopoulos
Assistant Editor – Alisande Morales
Associate Editor – Ruben Diaz
Editor – Brian Augustyn
Underworld Unleashed sounded like a pretty good idea: Use the supernatural Devil stand-in that existed in the 90’s DC universe for a company-wide crossover that would breathe new life into stale villain concepts by upgrading their powers to things that fit the 90’s esthetic of flashy action. In addition, milk the story potential of tempting the heroes with bringing back dead characters that might be fan favorites. Oh, and sell a short couple of mini-series to go along with it.
I have no clue how sales for all this racked up and can only guage based upon impact in the DC universe that I remember. And that memory is flawed with age. However, I don’t think Underworld Unleashed did….anything of permanence. The villains were all depowered at some point. The heroes that died were brought back to life in short order, somehow.
More DC savvy minds may intervene and tell me I’ve missed a thing or two.
So Underworld Unleashed? Utter failure. Story isn’t even good upon first read through, and I typically like Mark Waid and Howard Porter’s stuff. What fell into the Crapbox is the ending issue of the limited series. Neron is near causing a total meltdown on Earth of all society.
Supervillains have died or had their powers supremely tweaked. Hero’s wills and moral centers have been tested. Neron has been monologuing about needing a power, innocent soul. The audience’s patience is at an end as we know the bait-n-switch Superman for Captain Marvel moment is coming.
And here it is:
We start off with a masked gunman shooting traffic lights to cause panic. Call him “Stuck in Traffic-Man!”
The heroes, some guilt of siding with Neron and some still holding on to their values, arrive in hell and start battling demons. In truth all of these pages are just a lot of recycled flash and crap from Image comics. I’m so disappointed in this book.
And the book shows us after three pages of this crud that there will be more and more of it to come as the JLA fights its way through all nine layers of Hell. Settle in folks, this is gonna be one long ride…
Meanwhile, Satanus (another DC Devil) is pledging his momentary loyalty to Neron while the Trickster (Flash rogue) watches from the wings, giving exposition bon mots about how Neron needs one pure soul to send him “over the top”. Then we watch as Neron inspects a caged Blaze, Satanus’s sister-demon. Seems she was the coin Satanus used to get on Neron’s good side. But that good side isn’t all that good as Neron blasts Satanus into dust.
And while her helm rolls toward Trickster, we get back to more zappy-zap-pow with the Justice League. Fights that quickly become one panel cameos of everyone in the DC universe because there is no actual plot to this part of the book. The heroes' big plan is to get close to Neron and punch him, I think. Let’s hope they get that over with quickly.
In a battle that does get a little choreography, Batman, Robin, Huntress, and Black Canary take on Blockbuster, Gorilla Grod and Brainiac, in what has to be the most one-sided battle in DC history. The heroes somehow get the villains to retreat by blowing them off the bridge, but this is just some ridiculousness.
Then we jump back to the JLA, with Martian Manhunter getting all spooked by who they are facing and Captain Marvel seeing his late parents trapped in Hell…
And then all of a sudden, the band of heroes is through and the ultimate battle with Neron starts. Yay, maybe this will be over soon!
Blue Devil, who traded blowing up a power station for fame, is first out the gate. That power station killed his long-time flame, so all that pent up anger at being tricked by Neron flows out of him…
…and does great at disabling him for a moment, if yah know, he’d had some backup…but instead the rest of the JLA just let him get fried by Neron while they stand with their mouths agape.
While Neron fades away…the heroes break through to his …other throne room? Who designed this level of Hell?
Anyhoo…the next room causes all the JLA’ers present to become temporarily evil and attack Captain Marvel (in hopes he kills one of them while fighting back, thus sullying his soul enough for Neron to possess it. Blaze gives CM back a connection to the Shazam-force, or whatever and the big red cheese starts dishing things out on the evil JLA.
Almost too well as he gets Martian Manhunter pinned with Neron rooting for Billy to kill him. When suddenly…
…Blue Devil reconstitutes and pops out of the floor to deck Neron. Note the new Blue Devil costume which are also stylistic overdone duds. *sigh* 90’s!
Trickster gets a chance to urge Marvel to stop and to use “the special word that Blaze says will hurt Neron” even though Trickster doesn’t know what she is talking about.
So Marvel Shazam’s the JLA back to good guys…
…they start punching Neron…
And their punches free Sentinel a/k/a Green Lantern #1, who punches the crap out of Neron…
…but it is all for naught, as he knocks everyone’s lights out, being the personification of pure evil and all. Thankfully Trickster has one more up his sleeve. He whispers into Marvel’s ear…
And Marvel ends up offering a deal to Neron: his soul for his friends lives.
Neron agrees, as his one fault is he can’t say no to a deal…
Thus he gets Marvel’s soul but it is pure and offered in an altruistic way, as Trickster does the narration of Neron’s end…which is a big green snotball of a bang…
…and then everyone, including Captain Marvel is back on Earth, none the worse for wear. Okay, maybe Blue Devil is, because that forced costume change is the shit.
And we get two pages of Trickster patting himself on the back and deciding to not be a villain anymore…and Major Disaster finding he’s got the number of the beast now tattooed on his forehead.
This was 90’s excess at some of it’s worst. Even with good writers and artists, the story for this was claptrap. And I liked Major Disaster pre-serious villainy. Trickster gets the only good bits out of this, but it is Waid writing a Flash villain so that’s pretty easy thing to accomplish. Sad note to end on, but we have earned our way out of Hell…and on to better books, I hope.