The Complete Nemesis The Warlock
Review by Seth
This third and final volume features the climax of the seemingly endless (and to be honest, getting a bit repetitive now) conflict between Torquemada and Nemesis. Interestingly it probably is the most varied of the 3 volumes, featuring contributions from artists whom offer their own very distinct interpretation of the alien freedom fighter and his universe.
Volume 2 had ended with the remarkable “Two Torquemada’s”, featuring grotesque art by the mercurial John Hicklenton. Torquemada is pursued by Nemesis through the time wastes after escaping from the 15th Century inquisition-era Spain, leaving Torquemada’s namesake and Thoth, Nemesis’ son dead in their wake. The galaxy is still threatened with annihilation thanks to the imminent collision of the white and black holes on either side of Termight, set in motion by Thoth.
Volume 3 begins with “Purity’s Story”, written as ever by Mills and drawn by David Roach. Purity and Nemesis exit the time wastes in pursuit of Torquemada. Leaking time radiation removes a block on Purity’s memory and she begins to recall her early days with the resistance and her first meeting with Nemesis. As much an origin story as setting the direction and establishing important plot points for the strips last lap. It also raises questions over Nemesis’ motivation, the Warlock treating the conflict as a game, which conflicts with some of what precedes it and what follows, though arguably this just proves that Nemesis is a force of Khaos . Art wise, “Purity’s Story” is sandwiched between the Hicklenton books of “Two Torquemada’s” and “Deathbringer”. The difference between the two artistic styles is almost jarring. Hicklenton has the ability to draw things seen in your worst nightmares. His characters, even the heroes and heroines of the story, are grotesque beings with distended bodies and limbs contorted into unlikely shapes and fearful facial expressions (even when they are smiling); the stuff of acid flashbacks. Roach’s art has almost a woodcut look about it, and maintains the spirit of the early O’Neill strips, though the designs are not so outlandish. Beautiful art. I have a page of it on my wall dontcha know.
“Deathbringer” – the penultimate of book of the series, continues directly from “Purity’s Story”. Nemesis has reinforced the spell on Purity to prevent her remembering anything else she shouldn’t. Torquemada has spent 10 years in the modern era, and established himself as the head of a paramilitary group called the “Oy Boys” with a sideline in a nationwide chain of bed and breakfasts. Nemesis’ attempt at blocking Purity’s memory had been unsuccessful and Torquemada and Nemesis battle for her allegiance. The contemporary (ish) setting and the artist give it the feel of a lost book of Mill’s “Third World War”, with Torque’ taking the place of villain Inspector Ryan. Hicklenton’s art feels slightly more reigned in here, but contains some startling images. However, by now the strip had begun to slip into the routine of the climactic battle of all battles between Nemesis and Torquemada, which you knew wouldn’t actually be resolved. The last few Nemesis books had become one overlong chase scene through the time wastes, kind of like a gothic “Road Runner” cartoon. It was time for this to be resolved. But this wasn’t going to happen for another 10 years.
In the lay-off between “Death Bringer” and the final book “The Final Conflict” there were a number of one off or short runs that were used as fillers setting up the final book or just to keep the plot bubbling along and remind readers what these characters were about.
The first of these “The Shape Of Things To Come” drawn by Paul Staples, very definitely falls into the filler category – adding nothing to the ongoing saga. Staples art, though capable, was a significant stylistic change from Hicklenton, moving away from the gothic tone and into a more mainstream vein. Staples is a good artist, though his images tend to be bit static and conventional for a strip that had previously been drawn so distinctively by Hicklenton, Talbot, O’Neill and Redondo. It seemed to be a false start, and the strip was further rested until 1994.
The 3 part series “Hammer of the Warlocks” was to be a prologue to the final book, drawn by a nascent Clint Langley. Torquemada has found the answer to the increasingly savage conflict with Nemesis, the titular Hammer of the Warlocks. Langley’s art has come a long way, here he comes across as a more coherent Simon Harrison, but with equally organic textures, with so much green on some pages it looks like he has painted with algae.
We had to wait another 5 years before Mills with the genius of Henry Flint in tow was to complete the saga. The team brought the series full circle. Torquemada had returned to Termight to take charge again, Purity heading up the now independent human resistance. Nemesis returns to Termight to finish the feud with Torquemada (and seemingly contradicting his earlier statements of the reason for his involvement). Torquemada is overthrown and put on trial, escapes and he and Nemesis square up for the final confrontation, fittingly drawn by Kev O’Neill. Flint reverted to the “sword and sorcery” atmosphere of O’Neill and Redondo, from the science fiction, gothic and steam punk drift of Talbot, Hicklenton and Roach. Slightly anti climatic, perhaps a tad rushed and most definitely overdue, the strip was put to rest and the characters met a fate quite fitting for the tone of the series.
The volume also collects as “bonus” material strips that.
“Warlock and Wizards” from prog 700, acts as a prologue to the “Enigmass Variations” which ran from the first all colour prog : 723. Written by Pat Mills, with co writer Tony Skinner and painted by Carl Critchlow. A tongue in cheek Agatha Christie who dunnit style fantasy strip, it co stars Deadlock from the ABC Warriors. “Bonus material” is an odd term for such utter dreck. Mills and Skinner’s plot and script are hackneyed and clichéd, and in places just plain painful (see Nemesis donning a Sherlock Holmes deerstalker and pipe) and with both leads acting agonizingly out of character. What were they thinking? The strip suffers from the mid 90s painted art syndrome. Critchlow employs muddy, dark colours and his characters weren’t great. He’s definitely gone onto better things.
The final strip in the collection was published in the 1992 Winter Special and is set between “Deathbringer” and the “Hammer Of The Warlocks” and drawn by the great lost Nemesis artist Chris Weston, striking the right balance between the O’Neill and Talbot interpretations. The strip resolves the triangle between Nemesis, Candida and Torquemada and puts paid to some significant characters on the way. Unfortunately, it does end with yet another Torque / Nem’ slugfest, laboured even in 1992. This isn’t bonus material and should have been published in this volume as it fits within the strips’ timeline.
A good package, with some spectacular art from Roach, Weston, Flint, Hicklenton & O’Neill, but by now the strip itself had become tired, and like all good things, it had to end. (And please – not revived).
But let’s all pretend that the “Enigmass Variations” never happened.