Friday, 17 September 2010
Nic's Sticky Notes: The Complete Nemesis The Warlock
The Complete Nemesis The Warlock Books 1-3
Writer: Pat Mills
Artists: Kev O’Neill, Bryan Talbot, John Hicklenton, Henry Flint, Jesus Redondo, Clint Langley, David Roach, Carl Critchlow, Tony Luke, Chris Weston (I think that’s everyone)
"Darkness has a new Champion."
Ripped lashing and screaming from the pages of 2000AD is Nemesis the Warlock, an ambiguous alien anarchist, leader of the rebellion against the imperial tyranny of Torquemada, Lord of Termight.
From a “one-shot” beginning inspired by a punk song (Going Underground by The Jam) Nemesis The Warlock grew into a complex, dark, funny, moving, grotesque satire on power and control in Thatcher’s Britain. Like most of 2000AD it is unmistakably British.
Pat Mills has never been shy about his politics, and many of his stories are explorations of those beliefs. Nowhere has this worked as well as in Nemesis where his brilliant, bristling hatred for all forms of intolerance and repression drives the narrative onwards at an amazing pace through a timeline twistier than the Terrortubes themselves. It’s a dimension-spanning, head-spinning shoot around terrorism, freedom, divine right, religion, racism, freewill and predestination – and believe me you won’t feel any better once the ride has stopped.
The over-arching story covers the running battle between the “arch-deviant” demon Nemesis, often aided by his human side-kick Purity Brown, and Torquemada, one of the best (and pointiest) villains in comics history.
The motivations of all the major players are complicated, sometimes confusing and often conflicted. We are given as much insight into the character development and workings of the villain as the hero, with Torquemada often taking centre stage for long periods. This means that, given the alien nature of Nemesis, readers are actually forced to a better, if uncomfortable, understanding of the villain, in all his awful humanity, than the hero. A neat trick and very well accomplished. The concerns of the story are beyond good and evil and as time passes the idea of any kind of simple line between “right” and “wrong” is erased in the kind of swirling chaos at which Pat Mills excels.
The art (whichever artist is drawing) is really a thing of beauty. A vicious, disturbing beauty, it’s true, but there is nothing like it. From the original sleek design of Kev O’Neill, through the more sensuous, softer lines of the classic Bryan Talbot era, to the scratchy, almost depraved, visceral contortions of John Hicklenton (which many people did not like, but I think are fantastic) this is comics art really pushing right to experimental edges of the form. There is a dizzying sense of vertigo, and, well, sheer “alien-ness” about it. You know how a roller coaster can make you queasy, but in a good, excited way..? Some of the artwork in Nemesis is closest you will get to “punk on a page”.
“I am the Nemesis, I am the Warlock, the Shape Of Things To Come, the Lord of the Flies, Holder Of The Sword Sinister… The Death-Bringer… I am the one who waits on the edge of your dreams… I am all these things and many more…"
Most of the material is black and white, although book three goes into colour towards the end. As well as the core story there is also “extra material” included, collecting stories from annuals, specials and so on. There is even a mystifying photostory of Nemesis meeting Torquemada in the original Forbidden Planet which really defies any explanation. In addition there are also some little essays by Mills, Talbot, and O’Neill.
If you feel like a few hours gazing into the abyss, put on some proper 70s punk, and give this a try.
Above all though remember, “Be Pure, Be Vigilant, Behave!”
Volume one collects books 1 -4 with intro by Pat Mills and afterword by Kev O’Neill, a covers gallery and pin-up art
Volume two collects books 5 -7 with intro by Pat Mills, afterword by Bryan Talbot and over 40 pages of extra materials including 2 “choose your own adventure” style games where you play as either Nemesis or Torquemada.
Volume three collects books 8-10 with a foreword by Pat Mills and is partly in colour.
Also, be sure to check out The Meknificent Seven and The Black Hole collections of ABC Warriors as they are crossovers and you really need them to make sense of the plot in book 2.