Kick-Ass and War Heroes writer Mark Millar’s violent and blackly funny Nemesis starts with the destruction of a speeding train in Japan and continues at a similarly blistering pace for the remainder of its 80-or-so pages.
Like an inverted Batman, the titular Nemesis is a bored billionaire who uses his wealth to wreck havoc across the globe. Having terrified the populace of Tokyo, Nemesis’ focus switches to the US, where veteran cop, Chris Morrow (a ringer for Viggo Mortensen), becomes the target of his torment.
Apparently influenced by the antics of Seven‘s John Doe and Saw‘s Jigsaw, Millar’s tale writhes like a serpent, and the punishment he metes out on his characters is, even by his own standards, remarkably, imaginatively cruel.
As a comic book thriller, Nemesis is genuinely compelling, the battle of wits between Morrow and his enigmatic, slippery quarry both engrossing and unpredictable right up to the final page.
It’s hardly surprising that Tony Scott is interested in adapting Nemesis for the big screen. Along with Steve McNiven’s lurid, detailed art, the book reads like the storyboard for an expensive action blockbuster. Buildings explode and jumbo jets tumble from the sky in scenes worthy of a Michael Bay flick, and Millar’s story will give Scott plenty of opportunities to employ his frenetic style of direction.
Dynamic though Millar’s storytelling is, the characters in Nemesis are barely given time to breathe beneath the explosions and bloodshed. Nemesis himself is a necessarily obscure, one-dimensional antagonist, but crumpled law enforcer, Chris Morrow, is a disappointingly stock hero, a generic male cop with a good aim and the usual family problems.
There are signs, however, that Morrow’s rather flat depiction may be intentional. Much of his dialogue is hilariously pompous. After preventing an armed robbery with deadly efficiency, he glibly reassures the freed hostages that a team of counsellors are on standby, and there are hints in McNiven’s art that he wears an ill-fitting wig.
Pitting a complacent, oddly unsympathetic cop against a lycra-clad tycoon with too much time on his hands is a neat riff on the usual good versus evil struggle typically seen in comic books, though it’s a pity that, in this instance, none of Millar’s characters leap off the page as memorably as they do in Kick-Ass.
At any rate, there’s barely a moment to analyse the motives of Nemesis‘ characters, its writer, or the story’s sometimes baffling leaps of logic. Relentlessly forging on like the introduction’s Tokyo express train, the story entertains right up to its final, delicious twist.
This collected, hardcover version of Nemesis may also be the perfect way to read it. As a serial, the constant interruptions to the story’s flow would, no doubt, prove frustrating, and its lean, simple narrative is arguably more effective when taken as a single slab of relentless action.
If Tony Scott can maintain the compelling, irresistible pace of Millar’s story, and perhaps find some time to round out its characters, Nemesis could also make a great big-screen action thriller, and Viggo Mortensen would be the perfect actor to add a little flesh to Morrow’s bones.
Nemesis is out now and available from the Den of Geek Store.
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