Wednesday, 13 January 2016

The Complete Nemesis the Warlock volume one

Pat Mills, Kevin O'Neill, Jesus Redondo & Bryan Talbot
The Complete Nemesis the Warlock volume one (2006)

Considering how much I enjoyed this, it seems strange to think that Nemesis the Warlock was instrumental in my giving up on 2000AD way back whenever. Specifically it was a combination of regular strips going down the toilet along with slightly shitty new material such as The Mean Arena, Meltdown Man and Comic Rock. Okay, Comic Rock only ran to three episodes, but even at the age of fifteen I could tell that the premise of Thargtastic thrills based on top pop parade hits was a bit of a dad in a backwards baseball cap.

'Fuck this!' I exclaimed, throwing the sponge with which I'd been washing shoe polish from a pig into the murky waters of the tub. 'I'm going to spend my fourteen pence on something else.'

Then about a year later a friend gave me a big stack of more recent water-damaged 2000ADs which had been ruined when the pipes burst in his house during a cold spell. I hadn't really thought about the comic since I stopped buying, but it looked like it had got some of its mojo back so I got to work on drying them out, one issue at a time. I didn't recognise half of the stuff in there, and it took me a while to recognise Nemesis as having spun off from its Kenny Everett cameo-having origins as suggested by the album Killer Watts, the tough lovin' hard rockin' collection that brought you Journey, REO Speedwagon, Ted Nugent, Rick Derringer's Need a Little Girl (Just Like You) and many, many more - woaoao
aoaoaoaowoaoaoaaarrrrggghhhhhhhhh yeeeeeaaaaahhhhh! Let's rock!


Nemesis the Warlock, as you probably already know, was essentially dystopian future as one of the more disturbing works of Heironymus Bosch with the forces of exciting weirdness pitted against an evil censorious state based on the Inquisition, and it could really only have come from Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill with the perfect combination of piss and vinegar in sledgehammer scripting offset by what probably remains some of the weirdest, most hallucinatory material that O'Neill ever drew. The beauty of Mills writing is revealed here - if beauty is quite the right term - as something big, crude, and of sufficient stupidity to work as a kids' comic strip told five pages at a time, garnished with genuine wit and a strong sense of purpose; and he's probably never quite enjoyed the reputation of a Morrison or Moore because he made it look so easy, and because of how quickly we forget all the stuff like Meltdown Man which may have aimed for similar effect but got the balance hopelessly wrong.

The importance of O'Neill becomes apparent in this collection with books two and four of the saga, drawn respectively by Jesus Redondo and then Bryan Talbot. Whilst it may be a minority view, Redondo remains one of the greatest artists ever to draw for 2000AD in my opinion. Every panel is beautiful, a real work of art, and yet with the possible exception of Mind Wars, he never really seemed to get the break of a regular strip with which his name would become associated, and by which he could really show what he was capable of. His work on Nemesis is characteristically wonderful - not least the sequence of the Vestal Vampire, having taken a vow of silence, attempting to mime that which she has been told by the disembodied spirit of Torquemada - but in the wider context book two sadly remains a Nemesis strip which wasn't drawn by Kevin O'Neill. The same is unfortunately true of Bryan Talbot's Luther Arkwright variant, The Gothic Empire - it's fucking brilliant, but it still isn't Kevin O'Neill. I've encountered the additional criticism that The Gothic Empire was the point at which Nemesis the Warlock lost it a bit as Mills started throwing various ABC Warriors into the mix, but that aspect doesn't bother me. It's just the sort of thing Pat Mills does, and that's why we love him. Moaning aside, this is still one of the finest British comics ever published by my estimation.

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