Monday, June 21, 2010

Nemesis #2

You'd have to look far and wide to find a more polarizing figure in this industry than Mark Millar. He's a hot-or-cold prospect, an author the greater fandom can't seem to make up its collective mind about. Many view his writing as distastefully as they did the prospector-flooded era of the early '90s, a scourge upon the industry with no respect for what came before. Others see his work as a breath of fresh air in a typically stagnant mainstream. It's generally pretty lonely here in the in-between. I've read, and adored, my share of Millar but I've also been turned off by his habitual pursuit of excess, sometimes at the cost of a better story.

No matter which side of the camp you might find yourself in, Millar's new series is not going to change your mind. Nemesis may not share a threaded, overarching storyline with Wanted, Kick Ass, Old Man Logan or any of the writer's other preceding works, but you can bet your ass it's every bit their spirtual successor. If anything, it's one of his most honest concepts: in no way is he even remotely trying to convince his audience this guy is in the right: morally, legally or otherwise. He makes no apologies, cuts no corners, and delivers a protagonist that's rotten to the core. Thing is, he's also an utterly fascinating character, glistening with charisma and completely impossible to take your eyes off of. In the promotional materials that hyped this series, Millar promised "Batman as the Joker," and that's exactly what he's delivered. The Nemesis is a great creation, albeit one borrowed from a number of sources, who carries the series on his back with every panel.

On the occasions that the issue does force our eyes from the white-garbed embodiment of criminal mischief himself, Nemesis becomes one of Millar's more stereotypical yarns. With the exception of Blake Morrow, the target of our anti-hero's loathing, the agents behind the government response are completely interchangeable and crass to a fault. Something tells me that's kind of the point, though. If there's one thing this author could never be accused of, it's a sense of restraint and subtlety.

Joining Millar is his Civil War and Old Man Logan counterpart, artist Steve McNiven. Though his contributions on Nemesis are a bit different from what we've seen from him in the past, the shift in style is completely appropriate. I can't say this work is more subdued, because let's be honest here, there's nothing subdued about a man pulling a back flip off a speeding motorcycle while firing a rocket launcher at a pursuing helicopter. The book's got punches in bunches and McNiven is responsible for more than his share of their power, but he's taken a more tactical approach to delivering those moments. His compositions are more carefully orchestrated, offering an excellent blend of neutral space and rich texture. His renderings are more detailed, more grounded in reality than ever before, but they're no less explosive or extravagant. McNiven makes this book appallingly fun to read, managing to realize all of Mark Millar's craziest ideas while still finding a way to evolve as an artist.

One thing Millar's work never seems to lack is an intriguing introduction. And while several of his stories have started strong and fizzled out near the end, an equal number have somehow managed to one-up themselves with a fantastic conclusion. Nemesis is a proud continuation of the first half of that trend. Where it goes from here is anyone's guess, but no matter the outcome I don't think we could have asked for a more entertaining introduction. There's really nothing quite like this on the shelves today, and no creator more in touch with what they're trying to do. Millar is writing for himself, critics be damned, and if you just so happen to have a remotely similar taste in entertainment, you'll be hanging on his every word. He's got me hooked like a prized catch. Buy it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 9

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