Writer: Mark Waid
Penciller: Howard Porter
Inker: Dennis Janke
Cover Working from the top and clockwise are Captain marvel; Wonder Woman; Martian Manhunter; Warrior; Flash; and Green Lantern. Looking over them are the eyes of Neron.
Page 1 – Panel 2 The newspaper headline reveals the tension in the world at the moment as the “US Prepares for Global War” Sat on top of the newspaper dispenser is . . .
Page 1 – Panel 3 . . . the new and improved Major Disaster who with a single shot at a traffic light causes chaos. This might seem small right now, but we’ll come back to it soon.
Page 2 I’m not going to bother annotating a single page where every character is clearly identified with a caption! The heroes, following the meeting held last issue, have decided to enter Hell to rescue Superman who they believe to be held by Neron.
Page 3 – Panel 1 The Flash and Captain Marvel fight their way through the damned.
Page 3 – Panel 3 As the Ray says here, he met Neron and dealt with him although it was soon revealed the Ray had not completed his side of the bargain, thus neither losing his soul nor gaining any benefits.
Page 3 – Panel 4 Firestorm and Blue Devil fighting demons. Blue Devil mentions Dante who is, of course, the author of The Divine Comedy which in part deals with Dante’s travel through Hell.
Page 4 – Panel 1 Firestorm and Maxima blast their way through to the next level.
Page 4 – Panel 2 The Ray and Captain Atom “hold off the horde!” Below them, heading into the hole, are Martian Manhunter; Wonder Woman; Flash; Firestorm; and Warrior.
Page 4 – Panel 3 Aside from those mentioned in the last panel are Captain Marvel and Blue Devil. The caption refers to “those blessed with the strength of Hercules and the speed of Mercury” which are two of the sources of Captain Marvel’s powers.
Page 4 – Panel 4 Over on the right of the panel is Green Lantern aiding Martian Manhunter. The two members that the heroes have lost are the Ray and Captain Atom.
Page 5 – Panel 1 Again referencing Dante we can clearly see eight of the nine circles of Hell mentioned in The Divine Comedy. As the heroes have just broken through from the surface, they are standing on the first circle.
Page 6 – Panel 1 This is Neron who wears the shrunken form of Sentinel around his neck; Sentinel ended up this way after the events of Abyss: Hell’s Sentinel.
Page 6 – Panel 2 Behind Neron’s throne is the Trickster while Satanus kneels in front of him. Neron who is unhappy with the former’s actions which, presumably, took place in a tie-in issue. Satanus is more than willing to sell out his own sister to save his own hide . . .
Page 6 – Panel 4 . . . which is an offer Neron simply can’t refuse.
Page 6 – Panels 5 and 6 The Trickster watches and reminds the reader that Neron is after “one specific, perfect pure soul” which everyone assumes is that of Superman.
Page 7 – Panel 1 Appearing in the cage is Blaze, sister of Satanus.
Page 7 – Panel 2 Neron states that “Ultimately everyone is selfish” a perception which will turn out to be important later on.
Page 7 – Panel 3 Satanus inadvertently lets Trickster know that a certain word, if spoken in Hell, might cause Neron some trouble . . .
Page 7 – Panels 4 and 5 . . . a fact that Neron is not exactly pleased with.
Page 8 – Panel 1 Left to right amidst the demonic babies are Maxima; Blue Devil; Flash; and Green Lantern. As the caption states, Maxima falls to the babies.
Page 8 – Panel 2 Starting in the top left and going clockwise are Firestorm; Flash; Purgatory; Artemis; Wonder Woman; Green Lantern; Martian Manhunter; and Warrior. Artemis was the Amazon who, for a while, took over the role of Wonder Woman after defeating Diana.
Page 9 – Panel 1 Back on the surface are Triumph; Mystek; and Gypsy battling gargoyles.
Page 9 – Panel 2 Top to bottom are Booster Gold and Blue Beetle.
Page 9 – Panel 3 Left to right are Black Condor; Damage; and Green Arrow.
Page 10 – Panel 1 This is the nightclub owned by Tannarak from which the sorcerors entered Hell as shown in Abyss: Hell’s Sentinel. At the top is Deadman; below him is Fate; to the right of him is Zatanna; and in front is the Phantom Stranger.
Page 10 – Panel 2 Dr Occult has his own battle.
Page 10 – Panel 3 As does the Spectre.
Page 11 – Panel 1 Remember that traffic light Major Disaster shot out in Gotham City at the start of this issue? Here’s the result.
Page 11 – Panel 3 And it’s no coincidence that one of the vehicles caught in the traffic jam happens to be carrying a nuclear warhead!
Page 12 – Panel 1 Left to right, attempting to steal the warhead, are Metallo; Blockbuster; and Gorilla Grodd.
Page 12 – Panel 2 And trying to stop them are Robin and Batman.
Page 12 – Panel 4 Black Canary takes on Gorilla Grodd . . .
Page 12 – Panel 5 . . . with little success.
Page 13 – Panel 1 Swooping in and grabbing a grenade belt is the Huntress.
Page 13 – Panel 3 Black Canary’s caught in the blast that takes the villains out. It seems her entire appearance in this scene was to be thrown around without even a single line of dialogue – screaming “Aieeee!” doesn’t count.
Page 14 – Panel 1 Back in Hell, left to right, are Captain Marvel; Martian Manhunter; Green Lantern; Blue Devil; Warrior; and Wonder Woman.
Page 14 – Panel 5 Apparently Neron was known as The Howling One on Mars in the dim and distant past. Oh, and that’s Flash behind the Manhunter.
Page 15 – Panel 2 Captain Marvel is stunned by the appearance of his long-dead mother and father . . .
Page 15 – Panel 4 . . . before tearing his way down to another level of Hell.
Page 16 – Panel 2 The effects of Hell suddenly crash in on Flash and Warrior who seem to think there’s no point to anything.
Page 16 – Panel 3 Captain Marvel repeats the heroes’ belief that Superman is being held prisoner in Hell while Neron tells him otherwise.
Page 17 – Panels 1 and 2 Blue Devil dealt with Neron, selling his soul for fame and fortune without knowing the cost would be the death of his friend Marla Bloom as seen in the previous issue. Not surprising then, that he’s more than a little pissed off at Neron.
Page 18 – Panels 1 and 2 Blue Devil unwittingly plays into Neron’s hands stating he “can’t live like this!”
Page 18 – Panel 4 Neron blasts him with that lovely green colour he’s so fond of . . .
Page 19 – Panel 1 . . . leaving him a charred lump of rock that gets kicked down the hill.
Page 19 – Panel 3 Neron stands in front of the doors to his throne room, at the same time fading away.
Page 19 – Panel 4 The heroes burst through. A quick re-cap: Green Lantern at the top; Maritan Manhunter below him; Captain Marvel on the left; then Flash; Warrior; and Wonder Woman.
Page 20 – Panel 1 Neron sits on his throne with Blaze chained beside him and Trickster behind.
Page 20 – Panel 2 Captain Marvel’s still convinced Neron has Superman.
Page 20 – Panel 3 While Trickster realises that it was always Marvel himself that Neron wanted.
Page 21 – Panel 1 The heroes, except Captain Marvel, all succumb to the effects of being in Hell or perhaps, more specifically, Neron’s throne room.
Page 21 – Panel 3 Goaded by Neron’s words, the other heroes attack Marvel.
Page 22 – Panels 1 and 2 Captain Marvel suffers from the old possessed friends attacking him but he’s unable to fight back because they’re his friends syndrome. You may have seen it once or twice before in comics.
Page 22 – Panel 3 Neron laughs at Marvel’s predicament. Note he still wears Sentinel around his neck.
Page 23 – Panel 1 Blaze, in chains at Neron’s feet, has no love for him and betrays him . . .
Page 23 – Panel 2 . . . by healing Captain Marvel and allowing him full access to his abilities.
Page 24 – Panel 2 Neron urges Captain Marvel to kill his friends, the only way to stop their attacks.
Page 25 – Panel 1 Trickster apparently realises what Neron’s aiming for – the corruption of Marvel’s soul.
Page 25 – Panel 3 Looking different, Blue Devil erupts from the floor and attacks Neron.
Page 26 – Panel 2 With Neron distracted by Blue Devil’s attack, Trickster sets out to help Captain Marvel.
Page 26 – Panel 4 Trickster mentions what Satanus said back on Page 4 about a single word being spoken in Hell that would give Neron pause.
Page 26 – Panel 5 Captain Marvel speaks the name of the wizard that granted him his powers.
Page 27 – Panel 1 And the mystical, magical lightning descends into Hell.
Page 27 – Panel 2 Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Warrior (and presumably Martian Manhunter as well) are all brought to their senses.
Page 27 – Panel 3 This is Billy Batson, Captain Marvel’s alter-ego.
Page 28 – Panel 1 The lightning strikes again as the heroes attack Neron and (off-panel) Batson becomes Captain Marvel once more.
Page 28 – Panel 2 A blast from Warrior’s gun strikes Sentinel, knocking him from around Neron’s neck.
Page 29 – Panel 1 Sentinel wastes no time in attacking his former captor.
Page 29 – Panel 4 As the other heroes fight, Trickster coaches Marvel having worked out a way to end this.
Page 30 – Panel 2 Neron ends the heroes’ struggle with a single blast.
Page 31 – Panel 1 Captain Marvel, however, approaches and offers him a deal, something he can never refuse.
Page 31 – Panels 3 to 7 He offers him his soul purely for the release of his friends and Earth and nothing else.
Page 32 – Panel 1 The Trickster, perhaps unwisely, eggs Neron on.
Page 32 – Panel 3 Captain Marvel’s soul leaves his body. Note that while every other soul Neron has taken was green, Marvel’s is pure white.
Page 33 – Panels 1 and 2 Neron finds Marvel’s soul is still a little too pure for him to absorb.
Page 33 – Panels 4 and 5 Trickster helpfully spells out Neron’s plan and his attempts to corrupt Marvel’s soul just enough to get a grip on it.
Page 34 – Panel 2 Neron realises he’s been played by the Trickster . . .
Page 34 – Panel 4 . . . before exploding!
Page 35 – Panel 3 The Soul Jar, used to hold the souls of those who had dealt with Neron, breaks, presumably releasing the contents.
Page 36 – Panel 1 The heroes reappear on Earth, including those they lost along the way to Neron’s thron room. Left to right are Captain Atom; Green Lantern; the Ray; Firestorm; Maxima; Warrior; Martian Manhunter; Wonder Woman; Flash; and Captain Marvel.
Page 36 – Panels 4 and 5 Blue Devil has also made it back but still with his new, demonic appearance.
Page 37 – Panels 1 to 5 Trickster has also returned and muses on whether to be a better man in the future.
Page 37 – Panel 6 The man in the hooded coat walking passed Trickster is . . .
Page 38 – Panel 1 . . . Major Disaster.
Page 38 – Panel 2 He, like all the others, still retains his enhanced powers despite Neron’s defeat.
Page 38 – Panel 5 But there’s a price still to pay at some point in the future. The three sixes on his forehead is a reference to Chapter 13, verses 16 to 18 of the Book of Revelation in the Bible which reads:
13:16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
13:17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
13:18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.
Page 38 – Panel 6 Like all good villains, it seems all too likely that Neron will return.