Retro Review: Underworld Unleashed #3
The best DC crossovers always start from a clear, specific and cool gimmick. Justice Leaguers from the 853rd Century come back in time to challenge our Justice League to olympic-type games? Cool, simple (the idea, anyway) and well-written. A "Godwave" rebounds off the edge of the universe and steals/changes powers of super-heroes and it's all barely tied into some confusing New Gods story you probably weren't reading to begin with? Uh, not so good.
Underworld Unleashed has that kind of a gimmick: a demon upgrades the powers of many lame and/or cheesy villains. A great idea: it's simple and it provides a ton of storytelling opportunities for tie-ins (whether those opportunities were squandered or not, different question). The main mini-series works well, too. Mark Waid pulls off what Geoff Johns would later do with Blackest Night in that he makes it fairly open-ended and easy to tie-into. The first issue is about the rise of Neron and him tempting the villains of the earth. The second issue is about him tempting the heroes of the earth. The third issue is where the real plot of the story takes place.
The third issue is the real story here, as it is a fantastic and creepy descent of the heroes of Earth into Hell. Neron is a supreme mastermind and Waid weaves Neron's plans skillfully, all through the unlikely protagonist of The Trickster. The artwork by Howard Porter is perfectly Dark Age and works well for depicting Hell (one can assume his handling of large-scale events and heroes is how he eventually got the job on Morrison's JLA, which debuted a year later).
The surprise ending is one of the best I've seen from this era of comics, and like all good surprise endings, you notice that it's a surprise and think it's one thing, but then it turns out to be a third thing you didn't see coming and makes perfect sense for the story.
Really, I can't reccomend this highly enough. It's the height of "big event" storytelling for DC in the 90s (Final Night being a better character story and DC One Million suffering from tie-in fatigue).