Rating: 3/5 – The Art Saves a Story Intended to Shock Me, but Never Did.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.
This past week I didn’t get my normal delivery of comics and even though my backlog of new comics to read is pretty huge, I decided to pull a hardcover off the shelf that may have been sitting there for too long without ever being read. That hardcover was Nemesis, a four issue mini-series by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven. To be honest, I thought that this book was released in 2013 or so, but it turns out that the first issue of this series was released in early 2010 and actually finished in 2010 as well. So the fact that this hardcover had been sitting on my shelf for about six years…well, that tells me I need to visit my shelf a bit more often! We know that Millar has had numerous successful hits in the past like Kick Ass, Chrononauts, and more, so I was expecting a great hook and a lot of fun, things Millar is known for. Unfortunately, only the art really delivered for me in this book that Millar back in 2009 described as, “What if Batman was the Joker?”.
Starting with the good, Steve McNiven’s art is a joy to look at. Throughout the entire four issues, McNiven uses a wide panel layout that extends from each page edge. Occasionally those wide panels are split into two, but for the most part there’s usually only three or four panels to a page. That wider area allows McNiven and Millar to give the book a movie like feel and gives the pencils plenty of room for action, of which there is plenty. Issue three may be McNiven’s strongest issue as Nemesis beats and kills close to one hundred prison guards using nothing but his bare hands and the guards’ batons. McNiven embraces the violence and the blood, which gives the all-white design of Nemesis’ costume even more of an impact since it rarely stays clean. The art delivered on almost every page, while the story rarely did.
Nemesis goes for shock value, twists and turns, but because the pacing of the story is just so fast, I never really cared for any of the characters which made those shocks and twists not really matter to me. The main plot of the story is that Nemesis is out to kill Washington D.C.’s chief of police, at an exact time and date for reasons we’re not really sure of until Millar gives us his backstory that somewhat relates to Batman’s, but has been done much better in the past with DC villains like Prometheus, or even the Wraith from the 1984 Batman Special. That backstory, again because of the rapid pace, is limited and I was never quite sure just how he became this ultra powerful killer. All four issues have Nemesis planning his kill, predicting, much like Batman would, every eventuality and outcome.
Throughout, Millar attempts to shock the reader with just how evil and calculating Nemesis can be, because I cared so little for Nemesis and the chief who he has targeted, I was reading the story mainly for McNiven’s action art. For example; Nemesis at one point kidnaps the chief’s kids and through a single panel with a CNN-like heading, we find out that Nemesis had fertilized the chief’s older daughter’s eggs with his gay son’s sperm while both under anesthetic. It’s shocking for shock value, but having never once seen either of the kids, and having the chief be a very flat character makes it all just seem silly. Also, the ending in its attempt to provide a twist we never saw coming, actually diminished the Nemesis character and made the whole story seem even sillier to me. Overall, except for the art, this was my least favorite Millar work and would be tough for me to recommend. Warner Brothers last year announced that they would be adapting this for film…let’s hope they can turn it into something better.
Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
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