Graphic Novel Classics: The Complete Nemesis The Warlock
2000AD / Rebellion
(EDIT: This review was written before the terrible news last week of the all too early death of John Hicklenton – we offer it as more appreciation of a wonderfully talented and unique artist. For more on John Hicklenton, see Pat Mills’ eloquent remembrance here)
Time for some classic 2000AD, from the greatest short serial comics writer around; Pat Mills. Co-created by artist Kevin O’Neill Nemesis is far better, nastier, darker and funnier than anything else in 2000AD – equal parts social commentary, satire and out and out action Sci-Fi.
Here, humanity is the villain and the aliens the oppressed heroes. Nemesis is a cloven hoofed, disciple of chaos, with torpedo shaped head and bizarrely twisted body leading the alien resistance movement against the tyranny of the Human Termight Empire.
(Kevin O’Neill’s brilliant work on Nemesis, a style that would define the character.)
Nemesis’ arch-enemy in all this is Torquemada, ruler of Termight and full of the overblown psychosis and ridiculous behaviour that befits a truly great villain. Torquemada rallies his troops with the cry of “Be Pure, Be Vigilant, Behave” but he’s willing to bend this rule once he becomes a wandering spirit, inhabiting human and alien alike, and becoming the deviant he so hates in his obsession to destroy Nemesis. But whilst we see through Torquemada immediately, Nemesis is more opaque – his motivations and morals always remain deliberately hidden, alien to the last.
The Complete Nemesis the Warlock Volume 1 collects books 1-4 of the saga. Of the artists it’s O’Neill that captures the sheer otherworldliness of Nemesis best, getting every dirty, grotesque detail onto pages of incredibly detailed, unsettling and graphic artwork. But plaudits should go to Bryan Talbot’s Gothic Empire, as Talbot goes wild with the concept of aliens modelling themselves on Victorian Britain in a riot of spectacularly crazed cyberpunk imagery.
And that’s just Book 1. It actually gets stronger, stranger and more twisted in the next two books, including the introduction of John Hicklenton, who incredibly manages to produce art even more disturbing, maniacal and grotesque than O’Neill. Hicklenton’s artwork may have been a jarring change from O’Neill, but once you get used to it, the art and storylines get more and more depraved together in Volumes 2 & 3 of The Complete Nemesis The Warlock.
(Nemesis and Torquemada by the warped mind of John Hicklenton.)
Nemesis is truly great Sci-Fi, by some of Brit-comics greatest. It’s by far the best 2000AD has ever offered us. Judge Dredd? Tame by comparison.
Be Pure, Be Vigilant, Behave.
(That Torquemada, always with the last word.)
(the Complete Nemesis Book 1 is the latest Classic title to be picked for our weekly comics newsletter; we’re offering 40% off until Wednesday 7th of April)