Images & Words – Nemesis #1
[images & words is the comic book pick-of-the-week at OL. equal parts review and diatribe, the post highlights the most memorable/infuriating/entertaining book released that wednesday]
Spoilers Ahead. Forreal.
In a strange way, I had hoped that Nemesis wouldn’t end up getting the Images & Words spotlight. The reality is that I’m a Mark Millar fanboy and so is Caffeine Powered. On top of that, we’re particularly fond of the writer’s collaborations with Steve McNiven, such as Civil War and Old Man Logan. With these comic book Mega Powers reuniting, we’ve been ranting and raving for months about how sick Nemesis is lining up to be. Which, to be completely candid, calls our objectivity into question.
Hell, the OL wad might’ve already been shot — there’ve been two posts about the comic before I could even get my grubby, powdered-sugar dusted hands on it. With this much hype, picking Nemesis as the week’s top comic seemed like a foregone conclusion. And I didn’t want to know which comic released on Wednesday was best before reading them. I wanted to sit down with my stack of funnies and say, “Let’s see who wows me!”
In fact, I even said, “Maybe Nemesis won’t even be that good. Maybe Millar’s played out. Maybe the new Streets of Gotham is going to rise to the occasion. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.”
Maybe I shouldn’t have acted a damn fool.
The first chapter of Nemesis is fucking awesome. As promised, Millar delivers an ultra-violent, wonderfully vulgar twist on the billionaire-superhero archetype. The reader gets to see what would happen if someone had all of the resources and ambition of Bruce Wayne, but not a single ounce of his altruism. Matt Anderson is the end product of replacing the philanthropic sentiments with sheer lunacy, and then stripping away every good intention so that they can be raped in the bathroom of an abandoned bowling alley. He is the Nemesis.
The titular character hunts for sport. But, as a maniac, he conducts his very own rendition of The Most Dangerous Game; he finds the best law enforcement officers in the world and then sends them a card that tells them exactly when they are going to be murdered. This game that Anderson plays is both incredibly cerebral and shockingly destructive. Not only does this predator toy with his prey, savoring the moments leading up to the killing stroke, but he makes sure to make a spectacle of the event as well.
In the opening sequence, Nemesis reminds a Japanese inspector of all the recent crimes he has failed to prevent. He then informs his target that the men coming to the rescue are on time, but two miles away — in a hotel that Nemesis has rigged with explosions. Then, in a grand twist, the inspector realizes that he is bound to a chair that is on a train track; not only is he killed by the oncoming transport, but the train derails as wreckage from the hotel bombing interferes with the train line. This is the undiluted, masterfully-executed plan of a homicidal genius.
Opposing Nemesis in this series is Blake Morrow, the thematic equivalent of Jim Gordon. The reader is introduced to the Washington D.C. Chief of Police as he shotgun blasts a bunch of crack-heads that have taken hostages in their attempt to hold up a convenience store. This dude is the archetypal old man bad ass, the aging dude who has paid his dues but still isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. Take for instance, this exchange with younger officers;
Officer: What the Hell? How’d you even get in here, Chief?
Morrow: Well, crack-heads tend not to count their hostages, son. I just wandered in the back door wearing a baseball cap.
Sergeant Lee: You are something else, boss. I had your job, I wouldn’t come near this shit.
Morrow: Language, please, Sergeant Lee. We’re supposed to be an example here.
Of course, Morrow isn’t one to piss his pants when he gets the death-sentence card from Nemesis. Instead, he remains calm and decides to put together a plan to take on the world’s only supervillian. Which is even more impressive when the reader realizes that this is an impossible task — to prove his dominance, Nemesis hijacks and crashes Air Force One. He then televises his challenge to Morrow, informing the public that “It’s time you hailed your new fucking Chief” as the President of the United States kneels before him beaten and whimpering.
Thus far, the most intriguing aspect of Nemesis is that I’m not sure who I’m rooting for yet. I’m not even sure if the reader is supposed to favor one character over another, as Millar introduces Matt Anderson as Player One and Blake Morrow as Player Two. Perhaps this is all just a game to sit back and enjoy, not worrying ourselves with getting too invested in either side. In effect, both players can be lauded for their respective supremacy.
Yes, Matt Anderson is a fucking lunatic whose atrocities would never be praised in reality. But this is comics. And moreover, the character has a swagger about him, exuding a confidence and fuck you attitude that most of us wish we had a little more of. And to top it all off, Millar intimates that Anderson has some sort of troubled past, as the character declares,
“Washington shall suffer just like Tokyo before it, but my new campaign has a personal touch. Call it revenge for a stolen childhood. The black sheep of the Anderson family has returned to burn these idiots who believe that you protect them.”
Even if you end up hating Matt Anderson, I have a feeling that you are going to love to hate him.
I genuinely think I could read Millar’s script and be on the edge of my seat. Fortunately, I don’t have to, as the mighty Steve McNiven rocks that shit out of this book. The highlights include three splash pages, two of which I foresee becoming requisite posters for every comics shop. Seriously, within the first issue McNiven’s visuals help convince the reader that Matt Anderson is a bad, bad man.
The only other note pertaining to the art is that I perceive a slight difference between Nemesis and McNiven’s other work. In this book, some of the art seems to have more lines. It’s not as sketchy as Leinil Yu’s art (which I adore), but keeps a sincerity that is sometimes inked right over. The art speaks as though it is proud of itself, and not as a comic that desperately wishes it were a movie or television show. Again, I know very little about formal art, so take that for what it’s worth.
Nemesis #1 is a sick book. You should read it if you like any of the following:
Old Dudes Who Beat Ass
Condemnations of Society
Crack-Heads Getting Shot