Like many now reading these adventures I was introduced to them by a friend at a young and impressionable age. I was enthusiastic and read the 2000ad books that were lent to me voraciously. What I wasn't, at that young and tender age, was discerning and critical, something that I hope I am now. So don't get me wrong, I love these stories, though maybe not as much as I did all those years ago. Begun almost 30 years ago they are almost as old as I am. And despite my criticisms I am still going to order the next two installments of 'The Complete Nemesis the Warlock'.
For those of you who are not familiar with the books it goes like this:
Thousands of years in the future in a universe that contains many various and imaginitive forms of sentient life, humans have still not managed to destroy themselves. Humans are now part of an empire that spans a large part of the galaxy. As they have not managed to destroy themselves they instead want to destroy all aliens. 'Die, die, die' they chant as they hack and cleave at the many aliens who refuse to defend themselves.
Now these humans are lead by a quasi-religious cult of whom their leader is the infamous Torquemada. His slogan 'Be pure! Be vigilant! Behave!' (more about this later) echoes through the pages. It is his dictatorship that has lead to the wilful genocide of anything other than human.
But, wait for it, one alien refuses to lay down and die. Nemesis, of the species Warlock, is our hero. He leads a cabal of resisting worlds/species (although why all aliens under threat don't join up for membership, given that the alternative is the genocide of their species, is beyond me!) that defy the evil humans and their leader Torquemada.
Sounds good? It is.
The narrative is interesting, full of action (although blood and dismemberment, and all that carnage, is suggested rather than portrayed) and progresses swiftly. However, the confrontation between the two 'arch-enemys' at the end of all but one of the four books that comprise this volume is greatly undermined by the repetitious, predictable, and ultimately pointless defeat of Torquemada, given that he lives on as a spirit only to return in the next sequence.
Or does he? Yes, we can assume he does given that there are two more volumes. The ending of the fourth book, however, gives room for more scope of narrative in the sections that are to follow. (Particularly the Nemesis' son storyline). Also Kevin O'Neill's artwork is phenomenal and incredibly suited to the subject matter.
One major drawback, however, is that the story was originally serialized and consequentially had to re-explain the story-so-far at the begining of each episode so that new readers would be able to follow even if they came in at the mid-point. (Think of the 5 minutes of 'Lost' wasted every week due to the same thing and how irritating it becomes).
The final point I want to raise is to do with the 'Be pure! Be vigilant! Behave!' slogan. Both the writer Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill state in the foreward and afterward, respectively, how proud they are of the 'ultimate compliment' of this slogan having been writen on the Berlin Wall. What I would question is the sense in being proud of such an achievement, given the sort of people in Germany who would graffiti slogans about racial purity, when this book is clearly targeted against that sort.
There, I'm done! I could have just writen: Buy it, it's good but not great!