Writer: Mark Waid
Penciller: Howard Porter
Inker: Dennis Janke
Cover Neron stands in the centre (near enough) being attacked by a group of heroes. Starting in the top left hand corner and working clockwise are: Batman; Wonder Woman; Green Lantern; Captain Marvel; Flash; Blue Devil; and getting a demonic fist in the face is the Ray.
Page 1 – Panel 1 The narration mentions that Daniel Cassidy doesn’t believe in an afterlife. Cassidy is the alter ego of Blue Devil and to say he doesn’t believe in an afterlife is a little unusual given the fact that he’s battled actual demons.
Page 1 – Panel 2 See? Even the captions agree he’s met real demons – and yet he doesn’t believe in an afterlife?
Page 1 – Panels 3 and 4 Marla Bloom, Blue Devil’s best friend, gets a mention as well as Devil’s dream: to be a big star in the movies. As we saw at the end of the previous issue, Neron offered Devil something and here we find out that it was to make him a star if he destroyed an unmanned power station.
Page 2 And with just a blast of his trident, he does just that.
Page 3 With the power station destroyed, Blue Devil’s part of the bargain is complete. While he’s not entirely happy about his actions, he’s confident that no-one will suffer from them and that he and Marla will profit when he becomes a movie star.
Page 4 – Panel 1 Left to right are: Trickster; Abra Kadabra; Neron; Lex Luthor; Dr Polaris; Circe; and the Joker. Neron is about to head off and, as we’ll see later, try to add to his collection of heroes and villains, leaving Hell in the hands of his underlings.
Page 5 – Panel 1 Abra Kadabra begins a round of confessions for the top villains, revealing he traded his soul for genuine magic rather than simply the advanced technology he has used for years.
Page 5 – Panel 2 As mentioned in the previous issue, Luthor was until recently a wasted husk of a man before bargaining with Neron. The “two minds” line leads nicely into . . .
Page 5 – Panel 3 . . . Dr Polaris who reveals he’s finally of one mind thanks to Neron. Previously, as he says, his was a split personality between Polaris and his alter ego Neal Emerson. Note that he refers to selling Emerson’s soul, not his own, even though the two men are one and the same.
Page 5 – Panel 4 Circe just wanted enough power to avenge herself against Wonder Woman.
Page 5 – Panel 5 The Joker has been biting the heads off the Batman shaped cookies before revealing he sold his soul for . . .
Page 5 – Panel 6 . . . a box of cigars!
Page 6 – Panel 3 Neron seems to be entrusting Trickster with a lot of responsibility which is odd considering they’ve just met and, even by his own standards, Trickster isn’t a big player.
Page 6 – Panel 5 Trouble is, Trickster’s been spotted and is dragged over to the “inner council” by . . .
Page 7 – Panel 1 . . . Dr Polaris who presumably used his magnetic powers on the metal in Trickster’s boots. Presumably. As Luthor says, they’ve noticed Neron cosying up to Trickster.
Page 7 – Panel 4 The acid Joker squirts from his button hole is obviously enough to cause Trickster pain but not enough to leave any scars. It’s probably home made to a special recipe.
Page 7 – Panel 5 We’re not the only ones to notice all the souls he took ended up in the soul jar. Whether Trickster knows Neron’s power comes from there or if he’s just guessing is up for debate.
Page 8 – Panel 2 This is the Flash in St Louis, helping to contain fires caused indirectly by Neron’s first appearance on Earth; as the fires have been burning for two days, it’s obvious this refers to Neron’s first appearance in the previous issue rather than him leaving Hell a moment ago.
Page 9 – Panel 1 This is the business Neron had to attend to and the Flash is the first of the heroes to be tempted.
Page 9 – Panel 3 Neron reveals to Flash that he was the cause of the Rogues’ death, again seen last issue.
Page 9 – Panels 4 and 5 And Flash’s heart’s desire? The return of Barry Allen, his uncle and the man who wore the Flash suit before him. Allen died in Crisis on Infinite Earths and, when Underworld Unleashed was published in 1995, was one of the few major comics characters to have died and remained dead.
Page 10 – Panel 1 Standing next to Neron is, of course, Barry Allen. Neron’s right that the heroes never found Allen’s body, only his costume.
Page 10 – Panel 3 Flash, however, isn’t buying it and rejects Neron’s offer.
Page 10 – Panel 4 At the end of the previous issue, Trickster wondered what Neron’s real plan was; here, Neron states he is after “a far purer soul” which is the first hint of what he’s searching for. Of course, it’s not explained whose soul it is.
Page 11 – Panel 1 Back in Hell, left to right, are Dr Polaris; Abra Kadabra; Circe; Lex Luthor; and the Joker, all of whom are staring at Neron’s soul jar.
Page 11 – Panel 3 Luthor and the Joker teaming up? Oh, nothing good’s going to come of that.
Page 11 – Panel 4 Joker’s pen and paper? Remember, Neron said Hell would provide what they needed. And note Luthor’s promise that “the balance of power” will alter.
Page 12 – Panel 1 The Batcave, beneath stately Wayne Manor, and the Batmobile being driven by . . .
Page 12 – Panel 2 . . . the Batman of course.
Page 12 – Panel 5 Neron’s waiting for him in front of the display case that holds the costume of the second Robin, Jason Todd.
Page 13 – Panel 1 As Neron says, Jason Todd met his end being badly beaten with a crowbar by the Joker before dying in an explosion also set by the Clown Prince of Crime.
Page 13 – Panel 3 And here’s Neron’s pitch: the return of Jason Todd.
Page 14 – Panel 2 At the end of the corridor, the shadowed figure of Robin stands, whispering Bruce (which is, of course, Batman’s real name – I know just about everybody on the planet knows that but give me a break!)
Page 14 – Panel 3 Neron knows he’s pushing the right buttons, that Batman doesn’t have a great deal else that Neron can use . . .
Page 14 – Panel 5 . . . but still he says “No.”
Page 15 – Panel 1 Neron vanishes and Robin walks away.
Page 15 – Panel 4 It’s not often that Batman’s reduced to a wreck but listening to the sound of Robin being beaten seems to do the trick.
Page 16 – Panel 1 This is Superboy, the young clone of Superman, based in Honolulu, who appears to be having trouble with normally restful students freaking out.
Page 16 – Panel 3 And here’s Neron once more, come to make his sales pitch.
Page 17 – Panel 1 With Superman still around, Neron reasons, Superboy will never graduate beyond that name, remaining inferior forever. His mention of Superman cheating death refers to the Death of Superman storyline and the subsequent Return.
Page 17 – Panel 2 Superboy rejects Neron’s offer and he again mentions his desire for a purer soul.
Page 17 – Panel 3 Neron describes the S on Superboy’s shield while saying that Superboy and his target have something in common.
Pages 18 and 19 A two page spread of the heroes that Neron tempted. In the top left corner are (left to right) Warrior; Lobo; Max Mercury; Damage; and Captain Atom. Across the bottom are Hawkman; Ray; Triumph; and the Spectre being separated from Jim Corrigan, his human host. These last heroes (from Hawkman on) accepted Neron’s deals.
Page 20 – Panel 1 Marla Bloom, film producer and Blue Devil’s best friend.
Page 20 – Panel 3 Those power lines look awfully familiar don’t they? Kinda like the ones Blue Devil shorted out right at the start of this issue.
Page 21 With no warning lights on the lines (because of the destroyed power station) Marla’s helicopter gets entangled and comes crashing down.
Page 22 – Panel 2 Watching news reports of Marla’s death is Blue Devil.
Page 22 – Panel 4 A message of condolence is left on Blue Devil’s answer machine; condolence and the chance of a job, to become a star . . .
Page 23 – Panel 1 . . . and another . . .
Page 23 – Panel 2 . . . and another . . . and Blue Devil realises the price he’s paid for dealing with the devil.
Page 24 – Panel 2 Above Central Park in New York we have Green Lantern Kyle Rayner who, at the time of the story, is based in the Big Apple.
Page 24 – Panel 4 And here comes Nero, offering yet another deal.
Page 25 – Panel 3 Neron refers to Alexandra ‘Alex’ DeWitt, former girlfriend of Green Lantern who was murdered by Major Force and, as Neron says, stuffed into Lantern’s refrigerator. As an aside, anyone with an interest in comic book analysis will likely have come across a site involving noted comic book author Gail Simone; the site’s called Women In Refrigerators (in case that link goes down, here’s the connected Wikipedia article) which examines why many female characters in comics end up being killed, depowered or injured simply as a plot device. The site takes its name from the incident mentioned above in Green Lantern #54 when Alex DeWitt was killed and is well worth a read.
Page 26 – Panels 1 and 2 Green Lantern rejects Neron tempting offer and attacks him.
Page 26 – Panel 3 Lantern refers, by inference, to himself as a “good man” which might sound presumptuous or even a little arrogant but, to be fair, he has done a great deal of good so we’ll give him that one.
Page 27 – Panel 1 Neron is completely unfazed by the attack, however, and admits that he’s after “tainted souls.”
Page 27 – Panels 3 and 4 Choice is what makes souls sweeter for Neron, the choice people make between good and evil, super-hero or super-villain. Free will’s a bugger, isn’t it?
Page 28 – Panel 1 A Venusian cheating on his womb-mate? It’s likely this is a throwaway line but with Mark Waid writing you can never tell when it’s a reference to some obscure event that happened in one issue of a forgotten comic from the 1960’s!
Page 29 – Panel 1 Neron “can’t resist making a deal.” Remember this as it’s going to be important.
Page 29 – Panel 4 Green Lantern is to be Neron’s messenger as he repeats his claim that he’s after a “far more noble soul” and that it belongs to someone known to Lantern.
Page 30 – Panel 1 Back in Hell we have Abra Kadabra, Circe and Dr Polaris all working to open the soul jar following the instructions of . . .
Page 30 – Panel 2 . . . Lex Luthor with the Joker behind him.
Page 30 – Panel 3 The strains really showing on Luthor – just look at him sweat!
Page 30 – Panel 5 The soul jar erupts, allowing access to the collected power within.
Page 31 – Panel 1 Something’s not right, though, as the three science and magic users are swept up . . .
Page 31 – Panel 2 . . . and into the soul jar . . .
Page 31 – Panel 3 . . . which instantly reforms, having swallowed them whole.
Page 32 – Panel 1 Luthor and the Joker high-fiving each other? It really is the end times.
Page 32 – Panel 2 A close-up of the paper Luthor was writing on shows he was simply doodling rather than making incredible calculations as his dialogue on Page 30 suggested. Note that the paper shows a game of noughts and crosses (or tic-tac-toe) which is slightly odd. Given that X usually goes first, the fourth O should not have been placed as the fourth X would have won the game. It’s at moments such as these I realise I really should get out more.
Page 32 – Panels 4 and 5 Luthor realises that someone’s missing . . .
Page 33 – Panel 2 . . . that someone being the Trickster who’s watching the whole thing from the council table.
Page 33 – Panel 4 Neron returns, apparently already aware of what has happened while he was on Earth tempting heroes.
Page 34 – Panel 1 Every other villain or hero has been offered a deal of one sort or another except Trickster.
Page 34 – Panel 2 Trickster shows he isn’t as dumb as some would believe and knows better than to trust his apparent new best friend.
Page 34 – Panel 4 Trickster follows Neron away from the meeting place.
Page 35 – Panel 1 The Justice League satellite as seen at the start of the previous issue.
Page 35 – Panel 3 The heroes have gathered to try and defeat Neron. The main speaker is Green Lantern; using him as a divider, to the right of the page, from the top down are Captain Marvel; Huntress; Booster Gold; Atom; Martian Manhunter; Wonder Woman; and Warrior. To the left of him and behind the table are (left to right) Superboy; Triumph; Firestorm; Mystek; Maxima; Gypsy; and Blue Beetle. Those on the left in front of the table (top to bottom) are the Ray; Batman; Flash; Black Canary; Captain Atom; Green Arrow; Amazing Man; Black Condor; and Damage. It may be a sad reflection on the state of the League at this point in time that the majority of these characters can justifiably be called second-stringers.
Page 36 – Panel 1 Left to right are Firestorm; the Ray; Martian Manhunter; Captain Atom; and the Flash. The Flash’s comment about heroes succumbing to Neron’s offers refers to those (and others) seen earlier this issue.
Page 36 – Panel 2 Ray here regrets making his deal with Neron which, to say the least, was more than a little complicated as it involved his father, a video game character come to life and Neron pretending to be a woman. Best to gloss over it.
Page 36 – Panel 3 Flash and Green Lantern mention what Neron said to them about wanting a pure soul and jump to an obvious conclusion:
Page 36 – Panel 4 “Superman.” says Captain Marvel with Superboy backing him up. Superman, as Marvel says, is “nowhere on Earth” at this time as, unknown to the heroes, he was off-planet and facing the Trial of Superman.
Page 36 – Panel 5 Wonder Woman suggests that Superman may not be missing but rather already captured by Neron.
Page 37 – Panel 1 Left to right are Warrior; Captain Atom; Martian Manhunter; Flash; Firestorm; the Ray; and Wonder Woman. The heroes decide to split into teams, one to face Neron and (hopefully) rescue Superman, the other to hold the fort on Earth. But how to get to Hell . . . ?
Page 37 – Panels 2 to 4 Blue Devil appears, still with the remains of his candle that can transport them to Hell.
Page 37 – Panel 5 Left to right in rows from the top to bottom are: the Ray; Martian Manhunter; Firestorm; then Captain Marvel; Wonder Woman; Blue Devil; Warrior; then Maxima and Flash in front of them on the left; and Captain Atom and Green Lantern in front on the right.
Page 38 – Panel 1 Neron is shown watching the heroes depart; note his human hand changes . . .
Page 38 – Panel 2 . . . into a hideous tentacle.
Page 38 – Panel 3 And that shadow on the wall shows he’s kinda tentacled all over as well!
Page 38 – Panels 4 and 5 Trickster, looking on, realises he has to help beat the Devil.
Deaths this issue
- Marla Bloom – killed due to Blue Devil’s deal with Neron
Before heading to the Next Issue, check out the tie-ins that (sort of) take place between issues #2 and #3 of the main series: