We have always been each other’s greatest nemesises? Nemisi? Nemises?

Nemesis review

2012 Icon/Marvel

100-ish pages $15

This book got lots of hype when it was initially released, with the premise somehow being the big deal.  It was basically:  What if Bruce Wayne were a villain?  What if the main character of a book has the wealth, intellect and drive of Batman, but with The Joker’s desire for mayhem?  Not the most original premise, but it has been fertile ground both recently and in the past for telling some very good stories.  The best of these have been by the likes of Mark Waid in Irredeemable, but this was more of an exception than the rule.  Another book that comes to mind when I read this one is Mat Wagner’s Grendel.  The sections of that series referred to as “The Incubation Years” and what came after seems very heavily borrowed from by the time you finish reading this book.

This volume collects the four issue series by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven from 2010 and it is one of the fastest reads I have ever experienced, and not in a particularly good way either.  The above outlined premise is all you need to know about the story except that this is a fairly violent book.  That is not a problem for me or the book itself, but the action and violence in this story does not really do much of anything FOR the story.  In Millar’s Wanted, a much better book to be sure, everything fit together very well.  The violence served the story and the story needed the violence for impact and much of the narrative flowed around the violence.  Here the violence just seems to fill pages space and make the book read faster.  Again, not in a good way.  The master storytellers in comics control the pace and manipulate the reader to create the feel of a book and force the reader to keep up.  In Nemesis the story is fairly shallow and the characters are underdeveloped, so using them to flesh out the story is not an option.  The bulk of this book is action and it is not impactful violence.  They could have easily replaced all the action scenes with blank pages and text describing the action like a movie script and that would have been more exciting and interesting.

McNiven’s art is decent, but he has had much better books.  The Old Man Logan book being my personal favorite.  The art here is just not very strong in a storytelling sense.  Millar has had some great comics; this just isn’t one of them.  The first issue is pure set up, the second more set up really, just telling us what a bad ass everyone is.  It was not until the third part that things got even a little interesting.  Here we begin to see the real threads of the plan.  Some of what we are shown is misdirection, and all of it feels a bit forced. The final revelations lead very nicely into the second series, coming out currently.  There is enough here to make me want to read the next volume, but unless there is considerably more substance to that volume I doubt it will hold me for very long.  Currently in development as a film, directed by Joe Carnahan (A-Team), this might make a decent action film, as the less substance in a story, the better basis to start from for modern films.

This is a fairly thin review of a fairly thin book.  When the review takes longer to write than the source material, that is never a great sign.  There is a fair bit of smoke here, but not much fire.  As the first part of a greater story, this might be worth it, but as a stand alone story, there is nothing here to be all that interested in.

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