Luke continues his whistle stop tour of the Lord of the Flies’ adventures. Kevin O’Neill taps out, Bryan Talbot enters the ring and more familiar faces reappear….
By Luke Williams
Seven robots to save an empire : Old OneEye would be a proud Mama : This tastes very Familiar :To the ends of the universe : Frecks ARE the new deviants.
Missed part 1 ? What is wrong with you????
Read it here….
Nemesis The Warlock : A Potted History Part 1 of 4
The last book left Nemesis on a high, saving the Basilisks from the terminators, oblivious to the death of Chira and the disappearance of Thoth. On his endless crusade, Nemesis next heads to save the Gothic Empire :
This was planned as the first Nemesis serial, and the first one written. But as O’Neill and Mills were working on it, they felt that it opened up so many questions on the universe that the book was put on hold and went back to fill in the gaps with books 1-3.
Termight’s ongoing crusade against aliens has reached the Gothic Empire. The Goths are a shape shifting alien race “infected” by the radio transmissions from early 20th century Earth and modelled their society on Victorian / turn of the century Britain and its empire.
Torquemada is still a phantom and has travelled to the Goth’s home world of Britannia seeking a cure. Aided by young Goths influenced by the earth’s radio signals from later in the 20th century and want progress, he seeks to defeat Nemesis once and for all, destroy the Gothic Empire and return to his physical form.
Nemesis’ offer to assist the Goths is rebuffed, the Goths don’t consider themselves alien and are baffled why Termight is attacking them. Undeteterred, Nemesis heads through the Goth’s devastated home system to Britannia.
On arrival, he checks into a hotel on Britannia, where he meets a very familiar valet.
Nemesis finds that the Goths are still disinterested and don’t want a “demon assisting the imperial space navy”. Rebuffed again, he begins the second part of his mission : find Torquemada.
In the meantime, in his phantom form and with assistance from his allies, Torquemada stalks the Whitechapel area of alien London, preying and feeding on Goths, drawing on their essence to maintain his phantom form. Inevitably, just after Torque’ has fed, the two enemies run into each other. In the ensuing mellee, the police arrive and mistake Nemesis for the killer. Nemesis escapes and using his diabolical powers, disguises himself and his companion Ro Jaws, and integrates them into Goth high society.
Ro Jaws isn’t the only ex Ro Buster to return. The hard pressed and over extended Termight forces look to bolster their numbers. They reform the old robot armies, recruiting all and sundry including one straight laced, red eyed, former Ro Buster and Mars veteran :
This is a tired, war weary, depressed Hammerstein. Despite re enlisting, his heart isn’t really in it. A series of incidents and his general attitude lead his commanders to doubt his loyalty and commitment and he is sent to Mek Quake for destruction. He is repreived at the last minute, reprogrammed and dispatched to lead a hit squad to assassinate the Goth Queen Victoria.
Nemesis stops the assasination, reprogrammes and recruits Hammerstein and plans to reform the ABC Warriors in a last ditch attempt to save the Gothic Empire.
Rather than go into the background of the Meknificent Seven here, I can heartily recommend reading this : ABC Warriors A Potted History part 1 (of 7)
Reforming the Warriors and bringing them into Nemesis forges a permanent link with the rest of the “Millsverse”, Mills then reinforces it by revealing that after years of worshipping Khaos, Deadlock and his “god” Khaos a.k.a Nemesis, have merged.
Reuntied, Nemesis and the Warriors are the last line of defence for Britannia.
Torquemada, successfully in “possession” of a new (though alien) body, and anticipating the double cross by the young Goths, escapes and reunites with the terminator armies for the final assault.
Despite a spirited defence led by Nemesis, he and the Warriors fail to throw back the Terminators. Purity arrives with the news that Chira and Thoth have been murdered by Terminators.
Enraged, Nemesis comes up with a desperate plan to halt the attack and save what remains of the Goth homeworld. The Warlock and the Warriors board the Terminator flagship and the final battle begins.
In a one on one battle, Torquemada and Nemesis are evenly matched. But when struck by a stray laser blast, Torque’s alien body begins to mutate. Surrounded by his terminators who see his betrayal, he takes his own life. Seemingly the battle between Nemesis and Torquemada is over.
Which of course it’s not. Otherwise the next 6 books would be a bit dull. Because (let’s face it) Torquemada is the star of this strip.
Throughout this book there are references, pastiches and homages to period stories, famous figures throughout the strip. Gladstone and Isambard Kingdom Brunel turn up, there are nods to that era’s fiction and events, “Murder on the Orient Express”, “Frankenstein”, “Murders in the Rue Morgue” and Jack The Ripper.
By the end of the book, Mills begins to shifts the focus away from the battle with Termight, to the more personal battle between Nemesis and Torquemada, and particularly the sub plot of Thoth and the vengeance he will wreak on the galaxy, which occupies the next 3 books, and sets up the finale of the strip as a whole.
O’Neill draws only the first two episodes, and I believe they hark back to pre Nemesis book 1. At the end of Book 3 O’Neill had begun working in the US and unable to continue to work on the strip. Tharg engaged Bryan Talbot, then making a name for himself with “The Adventures of Luther Arkwright”, which had been flitting between publishers, and the odd Future Shock (“The Wages Of Sin” with Alan Moore is a classsic).
O’Neill’s work is so inventive. There is so much detail and it’s incredibly imaginative , airship footwear, steam powered shoes, flying harnesses and air velocipedes. It’s only two episodes but if feels like more, everything but the ( Heath Robinson’s ) kitchen sink is here.
Talbot’s art is a big step away from O’Neil’s angular, surreal and savage linework. Heavy on the blacks, very shadowy. Talbot makes subtle design changes . By the end of the book Nemesis loses the cape and and the sword and sports a hussar style tunic. Dark, and more gothy than a Sisters of Mercy reunion, Purity in particular looks like she was modelled on Patricia Morrison.
Talbot manages to maintain the tone and makes it his own strip very quickly, imbuing it with the feel of a Victorian adventure serial, like “The New (Space) Adventures of David Livingstone”, which I guess is the point. Steampunk before it became fashionable.
This is my favourite Nemesis book, and my favourite single run in 2000AD, if not all comics and the reunification sequence of the ACB Warriors still makes me give out a fanboy squeal like an 11 year old girl on a mainlined cocktail of concentrated sugar and caffeine. You can hear more about it (in between my ums, ahs and stacatto rhythmed mutterings) here courtesy of Mr. Eamonn Clarke:
Anyway, enough of my gushing. Onto :
10 years on. Magna and Nemesis are an item, and Nemesis has mellowed, he is indifferent to the plight of the galaxy. Magna continues to scheme, and begins offing Nemesis’ companions. Poor Grobbendonk the first to depart, becoming a light snack for the female warlock.
Termight still venerates the memory of Torquemada, but is now ruled by Grand Master Krassan and Grand Dragon Mazarin. Under their leadership, Terra’s attitude to aliens has become more tolerant, diplomatic relations have been established and trading agreements signed .
Thoth has grown, but is still living with Sir Hargan and his wife, and spends his time tormenting his mother’s murderer, but is developing a scheme to wreak revenge on his father and his father’s greatest enemy – despite him being very definintely, dead.
Thoth has severe abandonment issues.
Thoth has spent the last ten years exploring the time wastes of Termight, the underground tubes where the overspill and leakage from the black hole used for interstellar travel was sent. Using the control room to hop back and fore through the ages, Thoth plucks Torquemada from the time line, just before the events in Nemesis Book 1, and brings him to the present. The Grand Master arrives just as Krassan and Mazarin are saying their farewells to an alien diplomat. Torquemada runs true to form, dispatches the hapless alien, and is captured.
Mazarin confirms his identity, and fearful of destabilising the new order (Hooky has already done that Bah-dum, tish), sentences him to death. A watching Thoth places the doomed Torquemada in a time loop, meaning he will undergo his exectuion burning at the stake for ever. However, the time stream disruption this causes hasn’t gone unnoticed
Purity arrives at Nemesis’s wedding (bride and groom wearing very contemporary 20th century clothes, most un Warlock like) to deliver the news of the time disruption on Termight. Nemesis concludes that only a Warlock could cause that kind of disruption, sees through Magna’s plan, and in a bid for one of the shortest marriages in comics, “cuts the marital bond”and heads to Termight to meet his son.
Thoth continues to plot. He has smuggled a “pet” into Sir Hargan’s flat, and we are reintroduced to another of Mills’s old characters
Nemesis & Purity arrive on Termight in Seth the Blitzspear, disguised by psychic projection, but are detected by Thoth. Thoth invokes the Dark Power which plays havoc with Seth’s complexion and he begins shedding his skin, alerting the tube police and soon Purity and Nemesis are fighting for their lives. In an attempt to escape, Nemesis boards a school bus, which happens to have Torquemada and his wife, Candida’s children, on board. Nemesis escapes, but everyone else on the bus perishes. (Killing kids is really quite bleak for what was still essentially a children’s comic).
Suitably disguised again, Nemesis and Purity reach Thoth’s apartment, where they find the little whippernsapper and his 50ft tall & black murderous king of the cretaceous, now with fire breathing attachment. T & S make their escape, whilst N & P watch as Torquemada burns at the stake, like a Harvester Chicken, (but not as dry and without the free all you can eat salad bar). Nemesis has realised that only Thoth was capable of arranging this (a bit of a leap considering he has never actually spoken to him – but hey, they are Warlocks, who knows?) and decides that rescuing Torquemada will bring Thoth out of hiding.
Nemesis and Purity approach a sobbing and vengeful Candida for assistance, who after a wee bit of a catfight, Purity puts her in her place and comes on board agreeing to rescue this earlier version of hubby.
Cutting a long story short, Torquemada is rescued. (Re) united, the four make a break for it, Terminators in pursuit. Thoth -miffed, lets Satanus loose.
Is it time for another gratuitous Satanus shot readers? Yes. I think it is.
And of course there’s this:
The scan doesn’t really do it justice. But even my amateurish IT skills can’t stop the genius shining through. Any lucky sod reading this got the original art?
Any road up. Thoth turns on his Dad and his “buddy”, but even Satanus can’t withstand the onslaught from the forces of terror. So Thoth and Satanus beat a hasty retreat into the time wastes, the tubes where the waste from the black and white holes of Terra are “pumped”. Nemesis resolves to pursue, but not before regrouping with the ABC Warriors, and offering some TLC to Seth. Torquemada has explored the time wastes in his youth, and will act as a guide.
Between books Mad Ronn, Hammerstein’s comrade from the battle for the Gothic Empire has died, but never fear. Nemesis has found a replacement :
Grand Master Krassan and Grand Dragon Mazarin enlist a guide to pursue Nemesis and Torquemada, Nostradamus, Tomas’s mad and hideously scarred older brother. Betrayed and left for dead by his younger sibling on an expedition in the Time Wastes, he was explained away as his grandfather (in bizarre story logic, which makes no sense whatsoever – but perhaps more now than it did then with politics as it is) and locked up in an asylum.
Suitably suited and booted, Nemesis and co (but not without grumbling from Hammerstein), head down the time wastes after the homicidal homunculus and his reborn, ravenous, rampaging reptile.
And so ends book 5.
Talbot has made the book his own now, and Mills seems to be feeding off that, the focus had moved away from the galactic struggle, and its interesting that both protagonists’ families are portayed in this book (even if Torquemada’s are dispatched quite coldly), but it’s useful in that it hints at a darker side to Nemesis, he isn’t so heroic as he was first portrayed and there are hints there is more to the warlock than you think.
We join team Nemesis in their scoopship, racing through the time wastes, chasing the walkabout warlock and his toothy pal.
Meanwhile, back on Termight. Grand Dragon Mazarin plots to ensure Torquemada never returns from the time wastes. Planning to pursue both Warlocks into the wastes and to destroy them both. In the meantime, seeing as aliens are no longer the enemy, termites need another target. The Arch Bigot of Necropolis, Broeder Kruger believes he has the answer :
Being a freck, and to add insult to injury, ginger, it’s probably a double whammy for me. Luckily this kind of thing would never happen in reality……
Leaving the Arch Bigot in charge, Grand Dragon Mazarin, Nostradamus and a squad of terminators head into the time wastes.
On the scoop ship, Candida and Tomas are sort of happily reunited. Willing to work with Nemesis to save Terra and the universe despite his causing the death of their children . Nemesis himself is preoccupied, desperate to be reunited with his son, Purity fears he may put Thoth above the universe.
The Warlock’s party tracks Thoth and Satanus to 10,000 million years into Earth’s future. The sun has turned into a red giant. Man has gone. It is the end of time. But Torquemada has been here before.
Rising from the sea to greet our expedition come the Primords, the ultimate evolution of man. In the far future, humans had evolved to the extent that they had complete control over their bodies. Man had achieved all they had needed to, they desired peace and sought nirvana. Future man broke his body down into a liquid form, returning to the “primordial slimefrom which he sprang”, the “human race gave up” floating on the surface of the ocean.
And then the Torquemada brothers arrived.
They discovered that the liquid Primords were a source of fuel, similar to the hydrocarbons used in the 20th century and began “refining” them. The Primords want to “cure” the hate and anger festering withing Torquemada by having him join them into their liquid form.
Torquemada is clearly not having this.
As the two parties discuss what to do with the “pollutant” that is Torquemada, they are attacked by the Monads. The Monads are spirit creatures created by Torquemada, the vengeful “waste” by product of the processing of the Primords, the “useless” spirits from the liquid bodies.
The battle turns three sided as Grand Dragon Mazarin arrives with his force of Terminators
Torquemada and Candida take the opportunity to do a runner. But Candida, stressed to conkers with the death of her children, the death and “resurrection” of her husband desires nothingness and oblivion with the Primords.
Torquemada is clearly upset, but soldiers on.
The Monads turn on the Terminators, and Nemesis, Purity and the Warriors head off after Torquemada. Torque is now surplus to requirements, Nemesis no longer needs a guide, the Primords have told him where Thoth is in time. The plan is to finish him off, but to take their time doing it. But everyone wants a piece though not necessarily for revenge.
You can always rely on Mek Quake for some comic relief.
Nemesis decides to throw the Grand Master to the wolves, turn him over to the Terminators for them to wreak their revenge for him consorting with the deviant. But the Warlock has underestimated the hold Torquemada has over his people.
With little difficulty, he turns tables on Mazarin and Nostradamus, regains control and vows to continue his crusade across the galaxy.
The pursuit for Thoth continues, and Nemesis’s priorities become clear.
Nemesis relents, and adopts a new strategy. He and Purity continue their pursuit of Thoth, whilst he sends the ABC Warriors to repair the damage that Thoth wrought on the Black Hole control room.ABC Warriors : A Potted History Part 3 of 6
A few steps ahead, Thoth and Satanus continue their rampage through time targetting figures from human history responsible for unspeakable atrocities.
It’s here that doubts over Nemesis’s altruisim begin to creep in, he exhibits contradictory behaviour and cannot seem to keep to a decision. Thoth’s seemingly random acts of searching snacks for Satanus have a purpose, yet to be revealed.
By now the message in Mills’ scripts is becoming more overt (not that it was particularly subtle before). He’s not quite hammering it home, the sledgehammer is still in the shed, but the 1/4lb ball pin is to hand. In the nicest possible way, this book is quite static, lots of sharp dialogue and exposition, but mainly set on a beach at the end of the world. Don’t expect much interaction with the ABC Warriors, this book belongs to Torquemada and Nemesis.
For his swansong on the strip, Bryan Talbot pulls out the stops, with some beautiful double page spreads and page compositions. He bows out in style. The next episode in the saga sees the return of the strip’s co creator. But who comes after him can best be described as divisive.
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