Luke breathes a sigh of relief as he reaches the home straight.However, this might be hardest stretch yet. The strip begins to meander, it finds the way home for a sprint finish over the last stage, only for the finish line to be moved on a few yards……..
End of the road : Sweet Candy : Warlock Holmes : The curse of painted art : False dawns : Terminators terminated
By Luke Williams
Before we go any further. Can I just say how much I love the image at the top of this page?
Did someone say “pause”? It was more than just a pause, it was a break in momentum which harmed the flow of the strip. There was a danger of Nemesis being redundant, like the colleague from work who takes a year career break to “find themselves”. Within a few months, no one misses them and you begin to wonder what purpose they served
Unlike that colleague, I was desperate to see Nemesis back. This final period, stretched out over a period of 8 years, there were a series of false restarts, recaps and teasers. “But why Seth?” you plead, “why did Nemesis take so long to return to the Galaxy’s Greatest?”
Pass : no answers here. Ask Pat or Tharg.
A series of artists came and went through this period, and unfortunately the quality of both script and art takes a bit of a nosedive. Mills had a number of different projects on the go at this time, working with a number of co writers, most notably perhaps was the lamented (by this writer anyway) “Toxic”. At the same time he was writing “Third World War”, and a few years later Mills starts working for the Great Satan (Marvel) in a big way with “Punisher 2099”. This last sequence certainly feels a little laboured.
Anyhoo. A long lay off, with a few interludes, including the “Enigmass Variations”, dealt with much further down the page. In the meantime, the story proceeds in the 1992 winter special, in a 16 pager wrapping up the whole Torquemada’s marriage thing.
Bride Of The Warlock
Following the events of books 4-6, Candida had been driven insane. Committed to an asylum, the ECT and the beatings haven’t had the desired effect, but a mysterious visiting jongleur has brought her round.
Seemingly cured, and deferential, Candida reconciles with the Grandmaster, and he sees that her place is by his side and they set a date to remarry.
Of course there is a complication, Torque is still married to Sister Sturn , but that is quickly resolved, with a literally mind blowing kiss. So, remarriage on the cards, all well and Richard Burton and Liz Taylor. Except that the jongleur was Nemesis in disguise, successfully “corrupting” Candy, revealing himself at the altar and running off with her jilting a vengeful and furious Torque.
Torquemada is expending his ire on one of the asylum attendants just before the inevitable happens and Nem’ arrives and it all kicks off.
As a one-off, this starts well, but peters off toward the end. The battle is superfluous, predictable and drags out the strip unnecessarily. The art on the other hand is gorgeous. Chris Weston is a fantastic Nemesis artist, a missed opportunity and should have had a regular slot on the strip.
Shape Of Things To Come
Drawn by Paul Staples, this one-off is more there to remind everyone “Hey, we have this really cool character who we aren’t doing anything with at the moment, let’s see if we can set up some interest in it.” Plot : something weird is going down in Termight. Turns out Nemesis has surrounded the planet in a psychic shield (fnar) that reflects the negative energy created by the planet and its inhabitants back onto the planet. T & N fight, N chews T’s hand off, only for it to miraculously regrow in the next (distant) installment.
Fail. Staples is a good artist, but not on Nemesis. Stylistically it’s also a backward step. After Hicklenton’s divisive, but exciting art, and Weston’s meticulous work, Staples’s work is a bit too conventional.
Hammer of Warlocks
In case you had forgotten within less than half a page, (or reading as it was being published 77 progs) the psychic sheath (snigger) still surrounds Termight. Anything negative the termites think of Torquemada, harms him. Credo membership is growing and resistance against the empire grows. Torquemada feels that he is at the end of the line. He can’t beat the Warlock, until Brother Berthold makes a discovery.
In an old book Berthold finds a reference to the Hammer of the Warlocks, which contains the essence and power of the previous rulers of Termight. This is a weapon that not even a Warlock can withstand.
Because of the long lay off, this acts as a prologue and set up for book 10, which would work better if Book X didn’t take another 5 years to arrive. Now, I forgot about my reviews of the phone books a few years ago. In them I suggested that Clint Langley’s art for this strip looked like he’d used algae to paint. And yep, I stand by that. My favourite Clint Langley work is his linework, beautiful stuff. Let’s just say he’s come a long way
You get the feeling that this needs to be wrapped up now and Pat Mills is summoning up the energy and inspiration to do it. 3 episodes of that, and another break until :
Book X : The Final Conflict
So. Finally. Starting in Prog 1165, a full 5 years from the “Hammer of the Warlocks”, Henry Flint comes on board and Mills starts to wrap up the strip after 20 years.
Deadlock had reluctantly assisted in saving the galaxy and preventing the black and Torquemada now has the the Hammer of Warlocks to protect him from Nemesis’ attacks. But for all the build up, turns out it isn’t as effective in saving fascist far future dictators.
Meanwhile, Purity and the resistance launch their final assault on Termight. The regime collapses, Torquemada is overthrown, Purity takes over and becomes President and puts the former Grand Master on trial.
Torquemada, wily cad that he is, manipulates the court by (occasionally) fair and (overwhelmingly) foul means.
Dissatisfied with the way the trial is going (and flying in the face of their estrangement and all story logic), Purity hands Torque over to Nemesis for him to deal with.
Nemesis has been keeping himself busy, torturing Terminators, ripping out their hearts and turning them into zombies.
It’s Torquemada’s turn next, but he escapes, pops his heart back in (using the same magic that Nemesis used to remove it) and half inches Seth, and aims to head off the planet to gather his remaining forces to overthrow the new government of Termight.
In the meantime, Purity has been making friendly overtures to alien races. The first alien races she welcomes are the Nagas and Manticores, the beings that imprisoned Torquemada as a boy. Torquemada gets wind of this, and changes his plans. He comes to the conclusion that Termight is so debased beyond redemption and can no longer be saved. Luckily, he has a doomsday device designed to kill only aliens and alien/human half breeds, for just such an eventuality.
Nemesis catches up with the former Grand Master, and they fight to the death (again – but this time for real) over the bomb. In his last act Nemesis merges with the bomb, Seth and the Grand Master, into one being, to travel the universe forever looping through the black hole bypass.
The strip ends with an appropriate fate for the two bitter enemies, even if bringing them to that point was a bit hit and miss, and in places just doesn’t make sense. Henry Flint is an apt choice for the final book. He brings an old school feel to the strip, without making it retro. And besides – he’s Henry Flint, he’s a genius. Kevin O’Neill draws the final episode, finishing what he began, but weirdly I think I would have preferred Flint to finish off the run.
But that’s not the end, of course.
Published in the numbered Prog’ 2000, this one-off picks up after the events of Book X. After thousands of years, Seth is drawn home, breaking up the Nemesis / Torquemada amalgam, freeing the Grand Master and sending him back to the past.
He finds Nemesis debasing family artifacts, inevitably they fight
Torque loses and is sentenced to eternity on a crucifix looping through the black hole bypass forever and ever.
I can understand why for the numbered Prog 2000 they resurrected the strip, but you know, sometimes you can’t go back. This is a good example. It adds nothing to the strip, was confusing, made no sense and diminished a reasonably satisfactory ending to a classic strip. Still., it is drawn by Kevin O’Neill, so not completely pointless. But a better coda is the “Deadlock” spin-off by Mills and Flint, where the titular ABC Warrior takes over.
Stand Alone Strips
Alongside the main storyline there were a few one off strips in annuals, specials and the odd prog’.- All written by Pat Mills
Secret Life Of The Blitzspear
Drawn by Kevin’ O’Neill, a wonderful one-off, done in the style of a nature documentary detailing the origin of Seth, and his capture by Nemesis. Excellent work, a classic.
The first of two Nemesis photo stories, pictures by the late Tony Luke. Hunting Thoth, Purity and Nemesis visit a very familiar shop in London. The costumes are unconvincing and the story is a bit silly.
A Bedtime Story
Nemesis visits Candida in the asylum, sowing the seeds of discord and attempting to cure her madness. Photography by Tony Luke. This works better than Forbidden Planet, but not really essential
A Day In The Death Of Torquemada
Still in his phantom form, we catch a glimpse of Torquemada’s family life, starting his day with sacrificing a terminator to give the Grand Master a body, so that he can spend quality time with his (terrified) wife and family. Art by Kevin O’Neill. Slight, but fun.
Drawn by Kevin O’Neill, where you play Nemesis, in the short-lived “Diceman” 2000ad spin-off. Nemesis pilots the Blitzspear through the tubes, pursued by the terminators. Depending on the choices you make and the number you roll on your dice dictates how the story ends. Lovely art.
Garden Of Alien Delights
The second and last of the Nemesis themed games in “Diceman”, drawn by Bryan Talbot. Torquemada finds himself trapped by Nemesis on a planet inhabited by aliens. To escape he must ask the aliens for their help. It plays the same way as Torture Tube.
Fantastic one-off, Brother Kev’ on art. A downtrodden, henpecked termite gets caught up in the ongoing conflict between Torquemada and Nemesis.
Torquemada’s Second Honeymoon
Beautifully drawn by Kevin O’Neill, Torquemada tries to rekindle his marriage to Candida. But he can’t stop being Torquemada. Unfortunately reprinted as greyscale in the Rebellion ‘phone books, rather than the gorgeous colour found in the 1988 annual.
Warlocks & Wizards / Enigmass Variations
Nemesis appeared in a one-off in prog 700, trailing a series co-starring Deadlock.
“Warlocks and Wizards” can be summarised thus : Deadlock assisted the ABC Warriors in preventing the black and white holes from colliding (ABC Warriors : Black Hole Mission). Nemesis has helped prevent the end of the universe, and helped restore order. Both have betrayed Khaos (so Nemesis has betrayed himself? eh?) and undergo a ritual to atone. Or in other words, they beat each other up.
“The Enigmass Variations” begins in 723, the first full colour prog’ and a relaunch. Published roughly the same time as the full colour “Toxic” appeared (the price changing with 724 from “45p” to “only 45p” compared to the 99p of its “Indy” rival).
Nemesis and Deadlock attend a gathering of mystical beings at the Festival of Kaligo. The plot (such as it is) is as follows: one of the patrons begins to bump off the others. To cut a long story short, it was the one you suspected.
Unfortunately, this is just filler,and occasionally painful to read. It joined a “stellar” line up: the debut of Mark Millar’s Robohunter, Tao De Moto, and new strips from Bix Barton and the continuation of Michael Fleischer’s Rogue Trooper “The Golden Fox Rebellion” – our cup of thrillpower runneth over. This, ladies and gentlemen, was the 90s. (but it wasn’t all bad).
I’ve spared you the need to have to read it. Really don’t bother. The script is cliched, facile, lumpen and full of bad jokes, and not the “so bad, it’s good” kind. Exhibit “A” :
It seemed like Mills had run out of ideas, despite (or perhaps because of) being joined by co writer Tony Skinner.
The “Engimass Variations” is not one of the icebergs that sank the good ship Prog 723. But it could have been one of the lifeboats saving the passengers.
This was Carl Critchlow’s earliest work on the prog’. The aftershocks of Mills and Bisley’s “Slaine : The Horned God” were still being felt, paint was “in”. Critchlow applies a palette more suited to military jungle camo schemes. The full spectrum, from olive drab to khaki.
Carl Critchlow is a great artist. His recent “flat” linework is a joy, and his “Thrud the Barbarian” work is class; but ewww, this isn’t good.
Tomb of Torquemada (Poster Prog’))
Brother Kev’ is back again. Fully painted and completely gorgeous. The story is not great, but fun enough. Torquemada inspects the construction of his tomb, being built by Brother Murphy (you can see where this is going). It all goes a bit wrong when Nemesis has infiltrated the tomb, and the two enemies go at it. They fight, inflict hideous injuries on each other, curse and withdraw. You know, the usual.
The momentum that was established in the early books, dissipates halfway through. The intensity of the early leads to longer more drawn out installments, and a formula which usually culminates in Torquemada and Nemesis fighting to the “death”. Occasionally story logic starts to fail towards the end, and Mills either runs out of ideas, or worse, interest. The plot meanders and direction wavers.
Still, other than the odd bump the art was almost always brilliant throughout, particularly startling are Kevin O’Neill’s images of Termight in Book 1, Bryan Talbot’s end of the world in Book 6, and Hicklenton’s 17th Century Spain. Summary, starts strongly, meanders and ends on anti climax.
A fantastically original strip that all the creators involved should be proud of. For all it’s wrinkles and flaw it’s a great piece of work, and a classic 2000ad strip.
Where to get it (collected editions)
Titan Collected editions : Collect everything from Book 1, 3-9. Excluding every colour strip and the Redondo drawn book 2. There was also a compilation of the short stories of the Book 1 stories, Book 1 and Book 3 called “Nemesis : The Beginning”. These are the best books for reproduction (so long as the spines haven’t fallen apart). Titan did finally collect Redondo’s book 2 in a compilation titled “Death To All Aliens”, which collects everything from the “Terror Tube” through to Book 3.
Nemesis the Collected Editions 1-3 Rebellion (collects everything bar the Nemesis Poster Prog). Almost complete, handy compilations, but the print quality can be a bit hit and miss. Book 2 includes “Torquemada’s Honeymoon” from the 1988 annual, but reprints it in grayscale. It also misses the poster prog, but if you can’t find the original it was reprinted (sans poster) in the Best of 2000ad Special Edition from 2000.
Nemesis the Warlock : Termight Edition / Deviant (hardback) edition. Collects the colourised books 1-3 as published in the american format sized Eagle Comic reprints. Kevin O’Neill added art to the pages, rather than have the pages stretched. Worth buying for that reason.
Best of 2000ad Monthly issues (collects the main books up to and including book 8) 5 – 9, 38-39, 43-45, 48, 56, 100, 108, 116. Cheap way of getting the early stuff? Collects books up to and including Book 8, they skip most of the one-offs.
(I’m afraid I’m copping out and not listing the Eagle & Quality reprints)