Comic Book / Underworld Unleashed

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Underworld Unleashed was a DC Comics mini-series published in 1995, written by Mark Waid and drawn by Howard Porter.

Several super-villains get black candles. When they light the candles, they are summoned to Neron, a demon who offers to enhance their powers in exchange for their souls. His real goal from empowering the villains is to get Captain Marvel's soul.

After Neron is defeated, the villains keep their new powers without having to uphold their deal with Neron.

This comic book series provides examples of:

  • Badass in Distress: When the heroes find out that Neron's looking for a certain pure soul, everyone automatically assumes it's Superman he's going after and, since he's MIA, he's in Neron's grasp. Turns out that wasn't the case - the entire Superman family was embroiled in "The Trial of Superman" storyline, forcing them all off planet.
  • Break the Badass: The Trickster comments that when villains want to scare each other, "They tell each other Joker stories." It's a running theme among henchmen as well; whenever you see henchman engage in small talk, invariably the Joker will come up.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu / Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: Neron allowed any villain to leave if they didn't want to trade their soul for power. Mongul made the mistake of also trying to attack him. Neron promptly snaps his neck and consumed his soul.
  • Circles of Hell: It used this model for Neron's hell.
  • Clone Degeneration: Lex Luthor had a cloned body, but it, too, suffered from this trope until he sold his soul to Neron.
  • Crisis Crossover: The story has Mark Waid killing off 90% of The Flash's rogue's gallery who he felt were too silly even for his Silver Age tastes (though this didn't last long and Waid was proven wrong in a BIG way later on) and introducing Neron, the de facto Satan of the DC Universe proper. It also saw a ton of DC villains selling their souls for grim and gritty revamps, of which only a small handful actually stuck.
  • Cross Through: Many titles feature their protagonists being targeted by the powered-up villains or by Neron himself while they're in the middle of a situation. After they go through the encounter, they're back focusing on their respective predicaments.
  • Deal with the Devil: Lots of villains (and a few Anti Heroes like Blue Devil) sell their souls to the demon Neron in exchange for additional powers. (Well, most of them. Lex Luthor did it to cure his cancer. The Joker did it for a box of Cuban cigars.) Many find that the gifts have nasty side effects. The demon's ultimate plan was to corrupt, and then buy, the soul of Captain Marvel. When Cap selflessly offers his uncorrupted soul in exchange for nothing but the safety of his friends, Neron has no choice but to accept the deal, even though Captain Marvel had offered exactly what Trickster had told him, and so was safe: Neron could not collect if there was nothing in the bargain for the other person.
  • Deus Exit Machina: The comic runs with this: Neron seeks to obtain the purest of souls and immediately everyone assumes Superman. However, he's not there and many people think Superman was captured by Neron already. This wasn't the case: he was captured by off-world aliens and dragged through "The Trial of Superman" storyline, taking him, Superboy, Supergirl and Steel with him.
  • Did You Just Scam Cthulhu?: Trickster cons Neron out of his victory. Afterwards he decides to go straight, on the grounds that when he dies he really doesn't want to be where Neron can get hold of him.
  • Dying to Be Replaced: The FranchiseBatman foe Spellbinder was shot by his girlfriend after turning down an offer for demonically enhanced powers, so she could receive them (and his identity) instead.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: This ends up costing Neron badly when he reveals that his stream of deals with various DC villains and heroes was done solely to get Captain Marvel to cut a deal with him. Unfortunately, Neron thought that the Big Red Cheese would ask for something selfish. Instead, Cap asked for something completely selfless ("Let everyone else go and I'm yours."), which meant that when Neron tried to take Cap's soul, it burned him so badly that he fled. Neron gets similarly burned when he buys the love between The Flash and Linda Park. It causes him to start developing feelings for the souls in his possession, and he doesn't understand why. He ends up giving it up in disgust.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: You ever hear the line "When villains want to scare each other, they tell Joker stories"? This is the story that line comes from.
  • Five-Bad Band: Neron's big 5:
  • Good Hurts Evil: Okay, so Neron is making all these deals so he can get his claws on one particular soul. But when Captain Marvel offers it to him in exchange for the Selfless Wish of letting everyone else go free, his sheer innocence and nobility leaves Neron in agony.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Neron gets what he wants: Captain Marvel's soul. However, since Captain Marvel gave it in a selfless act, it's too pure for Neron to have it.
  • Horrifying the Horror: As stated by the Trickster, when super-villains want to scare each other, they tell Joker stories.
  • Irony: Neron spends the entire story making the classic offer of giving people what they desire at such a small price — said price being everything else that mattered to them. In the end, he gets what HE desires most Captain Marvel's soul and loses everything he gained all through the story.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Neron going after the soul of Captain Marvel, because he was the most pure of the heroes. However, his soul was so pure a demon couldn't touch it.
  • Killed Off for Real: Mongul. Neron allowed any villain to leave if he disagreed with Neron's plans, but defying him is another story.
  • Mark of the Beast: In the final scene the villain Major Disaster is shown gloating about how he got to keep his powers even though Neron was destroyed. Then he sees his reflection in a window, and sees the Number of the Beast etched into his forehead...
  • Quick Change: The Trickster does a variant near the start of the story, with rueful narration about how a charter member of The Flash's Rogues Gallery is now reduced to conning pizza boys.
  • Red Skies Crossover: Due to the nature of the saga, most crossovers were unrelated to the main story and only dealt with the corresponding hero facing an enhanced villain. An extreme case is the Aquaman crossover, where Major Disaster's appearance wasn't even part of the main story of the issue and he didn't even face Aquaman, but killed the villain Thanathos after mistaking him by Aquaman himself.
    • The Batman issue had it even worse. All its ties to the crossover were a single panel of Mr. Freeze vaguely referencing dealing with Neron and battling Green Lantern earlier in the crossover.
  • Say My Name: During this saga, anyone tricked by the Trickster screams his name angrily.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Neron shows up in The Ray calling himself Kathy Noren. Vandal Savage isn't fooled for a second.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: The core of Flash's comparatively irreverent and small-time Rogues Gallery dies horribly in the first pages. The Trickster perhaps the most outwardly ridiculous one of all prior to this survives and reflects bitterly on the days when he "[rigged] bombs up the butts of rubber chickens. What was I thinking all those years?" He doesn't entirely give up the rubber chickens, though.
  • Super Empowering: Most villains got power boosts from their deals.
  • Supporting Villain Protagonist: The Trickster.
  • Took a Level in Badass: The main goal of the story was to create this effect in villains who had fallen from grace.
  • Wasteful Wishing: The Joker sells his soul for a box of cigars. It's up for debate as to whether this was wasted or not, as there is no doubt that Joker was going to hell anyway, and he makes it clear that they're good cigars.
    "They're Cubans!"
  • The Worf Effect: Neron effortlessly Neck Snapping Mongul, a guy who had previously held his own in personal combat with the likes of Superman and Wonder Woman.

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