In his afterword to this collected edition of Nemesis, Mark Millar admits that the book is his next movie script. It’s creator-owned, and ready and waiting to be picked up, so he and artist Steve McNiven can make their fortunes without having to share it with corporate comic publishers who don’t need the money.
Fair play to him. The downside, however, is that he’s created what may well be a very successful movie script, but which lacks the depth and sophistication we usually associate with a Mark Millar comic. I’m not suggesting it isn’t any good, but it’s no Kick Ass.
The crux of the plot is a classic ‘what if’ scenario: what if Batman were a villain, rather than a hero. The result is a series of violent, bone-crunching encounters between Nemesis, the character in question, and the Washington police department and judicial system.
Nemesis stays at least one step ahead of the police. Just when they think they’ve got him, he slips from their grasp, making them look like a bunch of goons as he makes his extremely well-planned getaways.
Millar has his plot tightly wound around this twisting central core. The writing is effortlessly good but you get the impression that Millar could do this sweary, ultra-violent fighting stuff in his sleep.
McNiven’s art is equally solid, particularly in the action sequences. His talking heads are sometimes less so, however, occasionally looking like they’re going to burst in their eagerness to spill their own blood. With so much blood splattered throughout the book, it’s hard to imagine how Millar is going to be able to take things much further, without descending too far beyond his own already skewed benchmark of taste and decency.
It’s a bit of a shame, then, that I found the ending to be a bit of a disappointment. It comes with something of an unexpected twist, but helps add to that overall feeling that Millar didn’t really know whether to end it or not. Certainly, while there is some conclusion here, it feels like sequel potential has been tagged on as an after-thought, as if to make it more Hollywood-friendly.
It’s this commercial cynicism that leaves the reader feeling a little used. Yes Millar has graced comics with another of his balls-to-the-wall stories of macho posturing, which remains better than most of the comics industry can manage to churn out. But you’ll almost certainly feel like you’re partaking in an advert for Mark Millar’s next movie option, which arguably isn’t really what the world of comics needs.