Nemesis #1 Review

Well, Mark Millar and Steve McNiven have done it yet again. After the duo showed their artistic chemistry with Civil War and Wolverine: Old Man Logan, they whip up another series to complete the Marvel triumvirate. The obvious comparisons would be the down and dirty baddies vs goodies of The Boys with the in your face antics of Kick-Ass (also written by Scot Millar and on Marvel’s creator owned Icon imprint). Fans of either of those series will lap this up. When it was originally announed in a shroud of mystery, Millar cheekily summed up the concept as, “What if someone with Batman’s resources had the moral fibre of the Joker?”

Of course, fanboys lapped that up like hotel bookings at Comic Con. This first issue reveals very little about the titular “world’s only super-criminal.” There’s no origin, or even a name. What we do know is that, “he targets a policeman, moves into town, selects a team from the local hoods,” and causes manic destruction with the precision and planning of a Die Hard villain. The latest target of the white clad man with too much evil and time in his hands is Blake Morrow, a middle aged Chief of Police who doesn’t tolerate profanity (which means he wouldn’t read this book) or crime in his beloved city of Washington. In fact he’s decreased it by a whopping 60%.

As this debut issue opens Nemesis is holding a bloodied Tokyo cop hostage and disregards his life in a manner that defines overkill. Let’s just say there’s an exploding hotel and a falling train involved. Nemesis then decides his next challenge is to be found in America, as he considers Morrow, “a worthy opponent.”

The rest of the issue is a wise set up. Nemesis and Morrow won’t actually meet until next issue I assume. Here the pale force of destruction lands on the wing of the President’s plane, Air Force One with a gun almost as big as him, just to prove the point that no-one’s beyond his cruel reach. With such wild antics, surely Nemesis isn’t Batman by way of Joker after all. Does he actually possess superpowers? I mean the term “superhero” and “supervillain” get applied to non-powered characters too. Hopefully that will be clarified next issue. It may not seem like a big deal, but if Nemesis does possess powers, he’d be the only one who does in this world. That would be an interesting approach; if Nemesis is just wreaking havoc on the world because he can and doesn’t have an also-powered superhero to do battle with. He treats humanity as a cat would treat an injured mouse, as a killer whale would approach a seal before devouring it.

Morrow is set up as an interesting foil, but the core of his being seems summed up in a few mere sentences – Catholic, popular, family man. Got it. However this intro comes after he blows apart 5 armed robbers (none of whom have hostages) in a grocery store. It takes 5 armed men to rob a food outlet? Did they think they were walking into Fort Knox? That rash action seems at odds with Morrow’s fatherly demeanour, but then again, maybe those strong arm tactics won him that 60% crime decrease. Again, if Morrow disposes with all bad guys with the same cold manner that Nemesis uses against everybody, that conflict could be interesting, but it’s something that has yet to reveal itself.

Nemesis doesn’t scream of originality. We’ve seen all this before in any Punisher series in the last 10 years, but Millar does have a track record that requires our trust in what he’s setting up here. Like Kick-Ass there is the feeling that something special is being created and we’re in on the ground floor, before Hollywood brings it to everyone’s attention, which may just happen if Millar’s wonderfully honest afterword is anything to go by.

Steve McNiven’s art isn’t as detailed as his Civil War and Wolverine: Old Man Logan work. He’s doing his own inking here so there’s less spectacle and more simplicity. The mass destruction just doesn’t have the same visual impact it should. Nemesis’ costume is perhaps comics’ most simple yet, with just a white body suit and mask. No room for holsters, even? Perhaps he really is super if he doesn’t need a utility belt, or even room for spare ammo. However, the contrast of blood on the plain white suit, plus the use of white instead of black to represent evil, I guess was enough of an impetus to create it.

Nemesis obviously knows Morrow (even if the reverse isn’t true) and via the we’ve-seen-it-before approach of terrorising the city through a TV broadcast calls his latest attack, “revenge for a stolen childhood,” and refers to himself as, “the black sheep of the Anderson family.” Those narrative hints and the promise of more Millar/McNiven magic is more than enough for now to keep me around on this new series.

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