Mark Millar is far from my favorite writer, but he was on one helluva’ hot streak around the time Nemesis started printing, making it a must-buy book for me despite middling to fair reviews.
Why would I feel this way about a book written by a writer I’d describe as “far from my favorite?”
Well, shut up for a second and I’ll tell you.
The rule of thumb when it comes to Millar’s work, at least for me; is that many of his stories are only as good as his artists.
In this sense, when I heard Steve McNiven, one of my favorite artists in the industry, was going to be re-teaming with Millar for Nemesis, not just as the penciler, but as co-creator; I couldn’t help but be excited.
McNiven is a terrific artist, but he isn’t exactly the most prolific, making any work he does all the more special.
Sadly, the resulting product was far from equal to the sum of it’s parts…
Why It Sucks:
To clarify, Nemesis is actually pretty far from “suck-y.”
In fact, it’s actually quite good at times, however only at the rate of about once or twice per issue.
Mark Millar’s strength’s as a writer stem from his tendency to test the creative limits of his artists in rendering Michael Bay-like set piece sequences and fanboy moments.
His writing resonates most with an audience that isn’t afraid to tap their inner teenage self, and as such, his stuff can be a lot of fun if you’re willing to turn your brain off, laugh at poop jokes, and admire the pretty pictures for a few hundred pages.
That being said, Nemesis actually delivers in virtually every area you’d expect it to, however it does so clumsily and with less energy than one would hope.
The story makes itself out to be much more complicated than it actually is, and the characters are mostly bland, or in the case of the title character; impetuous and largely unlikable.
What’s more, backstory and history is largely ignored throughout, leaving most the characters feeling one-dimensional, and much of the plot feeling very much like like the writer is flipping you the bird and saying “Don’t worry, it’ll be explained in the inevitable sequel.”
Given that it’s a creator owned comic, consisting of entirely unique and unknown characters, I was totally prepared for generic characterization and poor plotting.
Like I said, Millar’s not my favorite writer, and as such, I was wholly expecting to have some problems with Nemesis on that end of things.
What really bugged me about Nemesis, was the fact that the art didn’t live up to my expectations.
Let’s get one thing straight:
By normal standards, Nemesis is one gorgeous fucking comic.
The problem is, when you’re dealing with Steve McNiven, normal expectations get tossed out the window.
I don’t know if he was working from a strict time table, or if the inker Dave McCaig fucked things up; but Nemesis just doesn’t seem to have the same love put into it that Civil War and Old Man Logan did.
It’s still great by most standards, but when you compare his pencils for Nemesis to his past works, they just don’t hold up.
Is It Still Worth Reading Anyway?:
Nemesis stands as a predictable progression of Mark Millar’s fascination with the concept of a realm of superheroes being dominated by it’s villains, (I.E. Wanted, Old Man Logan) and while it might not be the best permutation of it, it’s still fun in a brainless popcorn movie sort of way.
Like a big dumb summer blockbuster, many of the action sequences in Nemesis arrive without cause or meaning, robbing them of dramatic weight, however due to Steve McNiven’s stellar (but not exceptional by his standards) artwork; simply bearing witness to them can be thrilling in it’s own right.
While I didn’t care much for the characters or story, particularly the antagonist and title character, I can honestly say the brutal jailbreak fight sequence pitting Nemesis against 97 riot cops stands as one of the finest melees ever drawn in Western comics.
For this, and other such instances of over-the-top bloodletting, I’d say Nemesis is worth a read for anyone interested in that sort of thing (I.E. Me).
Just don’t expect to be sitting on the edge of your seat during the panels in between all the big action moments…