“What if Batman was the Joker?” Let your mind go the deepest, darkest regions of your mind as you think of what would happened if a psychopath like the Joker had the resources and technical skills of Batman. When you come up the thought that gets you most excited by that idea, go to the nearest comic book store and pick up “Nemesis,” the newest creator owned book by Mark Millar and his third collaboration with artist Steve McNiven. Their previous team up was the Wolverine arc, “Old Man Logan” and before that, the Marvel shattering “Civil War.”
Known only as Nemesis, a masked man has been targeting the top police chiefs of various countries in Asia for death, mailing a single card to them that says their name, their time of death and the simple line “Flatline still counts.” And he has succeeded every time, most recently dispatching a policeman in Japan in a rather gruesome and elaborate way. Now, his sights are set on one Blake Morrow, police chief in Washington DC, and not only does Nemesis have his continuing wave of murder to worry about, but it seems that this job, this attack on Morrow is personal and an act of revenge. Though what that all means will have to wait for issue two.
If there are two thing that let’s Millar succeed as a writer, it is a complete lack of decency and total creative freedom. His previous creator-owned book, “Kick-Ass,” was in that same vein of being completely wild and uninhibited. Millar’s books are like reading punk rock. The action is like a Michael Bay movie with lots and lots of swear words. Nemesis is not a character who wastes time and within the first eight pages, there are several mighty explosions and plenty of death, including one rather graphic one. And Morrow is an intriguing character as well, living to the word of the law of the land and the law of God, being a devout Catholic and a crack shot. This white vs. black dichotomy will be interesting to see played out over the three issue mini-series, especially since the characters feel so similar, as if two sides of the same coin.
And McNiven’s work is completely on pace with the quick, down and dirty narrative that Millar is providing. His work is a little looser than it has been in recent works, where his characters are done with very precise, very clean lines. The art for “Nemesis” is more in the vain of Leinil Francis Yu, who himself provides the variant covers to Nemesis. But this change in style doesn’t keep McNiven from showing why he is one of the best artists working today, with the various action set pieces looking striking amidst all the chaos that is happening. There are some beautiful explosions in this book. And his character design is fantastic. Nemesis’ costume, consisting of only white, is stunning in its simplicity. And Chief Morrow is drawn looking like a haggard Cary Grant, which only adds to his hero appeal.
This book is looking to continue Millar’s excellent trend for providing lasting works with his creator-owned ideas. Issue one came out this past Wednesday and three more issues remain. And with the shocking and thrilling way that issue one went, it’s only going to get more awesome from here.
All images copyright of Millar & McNiven/Marvel