The Complete Nemesis the Warlock Volume 2
Review by Seth
“Nemesis The Warlock” is my favourite strip in 2000ad. Ever. The story of an alien fighting the evil human empire of Termight and its leader Grand Master Tomas De Torquemada. Nemesis’ alignment is ambiguous, is he good, is he evil? His motives are shadowy and his actions contradictory.
This volume chronicles mid period Nemesis and contains work form the 3 main artists from the strips run (not denigrating the work of the great David Roach or Jesus Redondo). Torquemada has been dead for 10 years, killed at the hands of his own Terminators. Termight has begun to make peace with the rest of the galaxy. No longer wishing to exterminate all alien races, the new leader of the Empire tries to encourage co- operation and trade. Nemesis himself has all but retired, influenced by Magna his fiancée (?!?!), the warlock who caused the death of his wife Chira and the apparent death of Thoth his son.
Thoth now lives with Sir Hargan, the leader of the Terminators who killed his mother. Seeking revenge, Thoth rescues an old 2000ad favourite from the past; a certain Black Tyrannosaur from the Cursed Earth who had a wee run in with a well known 22nd century lawman. He dubs the deadly, demonic dinosaur “Thing”, kills Sir Hargan and his wife, and kidnaps Torquemada from the past. Thoth brings Torquemada to the present day, where he is executed for impersonating the one true Grand Master, but trapped in a time loop by the young Warlock, he is executed again and again.
This kind of time manipulation and sorcery is detected by Nemesis who senses his son is still alive and rushes to Termight, rescues Torque’ from the time loop to bring Thoth out into the open and to be reunited with him. Thoth has other plans, explaining to Nemesis that he has destabilised the black and white holes on either side of Termight (Earth), which will ultimately destroy the planet and sterilise the universe. Escaping and taking “Thing” with him, Thoth disappears into the time wastes, hunting down and killing Torquemada’s previous incarnations, destabilising the existence of the Grand Master.
Pat Mills is never one for subtlety, but the anti racist subtext of the earlier books becomes far more overt here. Particularly with the introduction of the previous incarnations of Torquemada, the Arch Bigot and Torquemada’s oratory and extends into commentary on capitalism, environmentalism, and politicising subjects very close to Mills’ heart. There are some genuinely hilarious, though equally disturbing moments : the Arch Bigot’s declaration that “frecks are the new deviants” and Torquemada’s rants on the beach at the end of the world. The ABC Warriors say little, which Mills gives an explanation for in the introduction, but I’m just happy looking at Talbot’s renditions of them.
By the start of this volume Bryan Talbot is firmly entrenched as the regular artist on the series. Very different from the mad genius of Kevin O’Neill, but brings his own sensibility to the strip, a radically different style, still in keeping with steampunk feel, though technology seems to have developed quite considerably since the early strips. Not as bizarre or as imaginative as O’Neill, but his renditions of the ABC warriors are sublime, and quite frankly the double page spread of an oversize Tyrannosaur fighting terminator war machines in the Abyss, is a thing of beauty, if someone has these pages please sell them to me (if I can get them past my wife).
Talbot leaves after book 6, and O’Neill returns for a short sequence entitled” Torquemada the God”, wrapping up plots involving the Grand Master’s wife Candida, and setting up plots that will see the strip to its conclusion. This is later period O’Neill, it is gorgeous, manic, depraved and comical. His Ken Reid influences showing through, at least if Ken Reid was on acid, anyway.
As much as the O’Neill to Talbot move was a dramatic stylistic shift, Talbot to the next artist Hicklenton was a revolution and took some getting used to. Hicklenton was clearly nuts, but though I remember at the time thinking that this really didn’t work for me (if I was being polite), now I can see that he is a great “Nemesis” artist, grotesque and disturbing – even if his story telling occasionally lacks clarity.
Also included in the package are reprints of the “Diceman” Nemesis and Torquemada games, which are fun if you have the patience, plus there are some Nemesis photo strips with some decidedly dodgy costumes and make up. Pre Photoshop, this is what “American Reaper” would have looked like. One strip, set in a branch of a well known comic shop, is far too jokey, whereas the other, revolving around Candida, would have been far better served drawn by any of the three other artists in the collection. Finally, there is a Torquemada and Candida strip, sadly reprinted in black and white, the original is glorious O’Neill full colour.
I’m biased, but this is brilliant (even with the dodgy photo stories).