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Review From The Vault: Nemesis #4 — September 27, 2012

Review From The Vault: Nemesis #4

Nemesis, as a comic character, must be well up there with the most evil ever. He has a total disregard for mankind, in general, in his quest for revenge. He is also very clever, as he has planned his revenge against Chief Blake Morrow for years. He has kidnapped the president, wiped out the Pentagon, publicly humiliated Morrow, and, worst of all, he artificially inseminated Morrow’s daughter by her brother. How low can he go in his quest? I’m sure this final issue in the Millar/McNiven classic series will answer that question… or will it?

At the end of issue #3, we saw Blake wondering if Nemesis is someone he knows. Blake and his team head towards Howard Anderson’s house. Blake suspects that Nemesis and Anderson are one and the same. The swat team close in. As they storm the house, they see Anderson wired up to explosives with three seconds left on the timer. With no time to react, the swat team are wiped out in a massive explosion, which levels the house and knocks out Blake.

As he comes around, Nemesis stands above him, saying that he knew all about Kirby, the mole that Blake had thought was giving him good information. Turns out he was only saying what Nemesis wanted Blake to hear. Nemesis has turned the tables on Blake, as he introduces his own mole he planted in the police force: Stuart, Blake’s right hand man, steps forward, stating he couldn’t turn down $10 million. As Blake is stunned, Nemesis puts a bullet through Stuarts head. What’s going on here? The whole story about wanting to get even with Blake was just a front. Nemesis is just rich and bored, traveling the world, picking targets. He is in the business of pain and suffering and he is an expert. As the curtain comes back, the President and Blake’s wife are standing with bombs strapped to them. Throwing a remote at Blake, he tells him to take his pick between his wife and the President. As the countdown nears zero, the President walks up to Nemesis and tells Blake to detonate him. He does so, taking out Nemesis at the same time. Blake dives on the dazed Nemesis. As they trade punches, Blake picks up his gun and points it at him. As he is about to take his shot, they are both taken out from a helicopter above. Is there no killing these two? As they lie in a pool of blood, they grab a gun each and shoot each other. The police check the body of Nemesis to find he is dead, but the chief is still alive… but only just.

The surgeons battle to save Blake, as his family wait outside. His son look’s through his wallet at family photos. This is a good piece of writing from Millar here, as you actually want Blake to pull through and the scene with his son really pulls you into the story. As he stabilizes, his son looks at the clock. It reads midnight, just as Nemesis predicted. As he said, flatlines still count. We see Blake recovered, getting on with his family life, having a meal with his wife. During the last few pages, we get to read a letter that Blake was sent.

Whoever wrote the letter gives congratulations to Blake for defeating Nemesis, also saying he was pleased to see that his daughter had given birth to triplets and that Blake and his wife had adopted them. He also promises that they will be safe from the next supervillain. What does this mean? The letter is from a businessman who runs an operation allowing rich people to be supervillains and live out their fantasies. Stranger still is the fact that the letter was left for Blake ten years ago, only to be delivered when he turned up. The story ends with our mystery businessman drinking wine on the beach. Who is he and how does he know Blake so well? Roll on Nemesis 2.

If I could, I would give this final issue 11/10. It’s honestly that good. A genius bit of writing all the way through, but this issue was a class apart, with more twists and turns and knockout artwork. Perfection! Mark Millar must be up there with the best writers at present. In my humble opinion, anyway.

Review From The Vault: Nemesis #3 — September 2, 2012

Review From The Vault: Nemesis #3

Issue #2 left us with the image of Nemesis lying on the ground, surrounded by armed cops, and Chief Blake Morrow grinning wildly as he had finally captured him. As we know, though, nothing is as simple as it looks where Nemesis is concerned. Something is desperately wrong here and I think we are about to find out.

The correctional institution is getting ready for the imminent arrival of – what must surely be – their highest profile inmate. The guards are nervous – and rightly so – as Nemesis is on his way. The heavily-protected convoy speeds along and Nemesis sits inside the APC listening to the guards ridiculing him, silently taking it all in, as he knows his time to shine again is fast approaching. Plaudits come in from all around the world to congratulate Blake on his good work, but little do they know this is far from over.

As Nemesis – strapped to a table – is paraded through the prison, he tells the guards that Washington is going to burn tonight. At a press conference, Blake tells the world that Nemesis has been captured. Although his gang is still at large, they pose the public no problem. His gang consists of a demolition expert, a technology expert, and an identity thief, who just happens to be standing right next to Nemesis, posing as a guard. As the lights in the prison go out, gunfire echoes through the halls. As they come back on, all the guards are dead, except Gentle Joe, the imposter. Nemesis is free and, with a flurry of punches and kicks and a barrage of baton strikes, he takes out the remaining guards. They lie in pools of blood, mutilated by Nemesis. This sequence is expertly drawn, giving the reader a perfect example of the brutal nature of this character. As the inmates are released they are led to a mass of Audi R8s in the parking lot. We see them drive off as the city explodes in the background. The press conference gets interrupted with the news that Nemesis has escaped, backed by thousands of inmates. Worse news for Blake is the fact that his children have disappeared.

A message is sent to the police from Nemesis, telling Blake that he has his children and, in order to get them back, he must tell him three of his deepest family secrets. The strain is building between Blake and his wife, Peggy, but they have been forced to tell these terrible sins. The first secret is that Blake’s wife had an affair with his partner, but he blames himself for not paying Peggy enough attention. Secret two is Blake’s son is homosexual, but, again, he blames himself, as his son kept it a secret, thinking he would be angry and disgusted. Finally, secret three is that Blake’s daughter had an abortion, again without telling him. Nemesis has succeeded in publicly humiliating Blake, but as he kept his side of the bargain, he will keep his. Nemesis tells him his kids are safe inside a truck outside. We know how devious Nemesis can be, but he is about to pull his worst stunt yet. Blake’s daughter turns out to be pregnant. Her eggs are fertilized under anesthetic and her womb rigged to collapse, if she has another abortion. Peggy has had enough and turns on Blake, blaming his dedication to his job on everything that has happened. Blake calls for the help of Alex Kirby, who has been undercover working with Nemesis on some of his smaller robberies. He has a complete file on all of his gang and Nemesis himself. As they look through the file, the notice that Nemesis has been posing as someone they all know – someone Blake had suspicions about all along. Blake, standing with a shotgun, ends this issue. One more to go. How will it all end? I sense a standoff here… and I can’t wait.

This rollercoaster just keeps going, taking us from high action sequences to thought-provoking dialogue. The story is getting better issue by issue and is building up to an explosive end. 10/10 again from me, without hesitation.

Review From The Vault: Nemesis #2 — August 29, 2012

Review From The Vault: Nemesis #2

Issue #1 introduced us to Nemesis, a psychopathic killer who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Leaving a trail of dead police chiefs across Asia, he is now in the USA. Washington D.C., to be precise. His next target is Chief Blake Morrow. Nemesis has already brought Air Force One crashing down in the streets and he has the President captive. Why has he picked Morrow and for what reason? Read on and hopefully things will become a little clearer.

Issue #2 starts in the Anderson household 20 years ago. The police are in the house wanting to speak to Mr. Anderson, the father of Matthew Anderson, who will later become Nemesis. The police enter a room to find Matthew’s father has hung himself. The sight of his father hanging lifeless damages a young Matthew. This was no ordinary family, though. His mother and father had been running a hunting club, enabling rich friends to molest and kill teenagers. Matthew was adopted by his uncle, but ran away and worked his way up the ranks of crime to become who he is today. As his mother sits in the electric chair, she tells him to destroy Blake Morrow. Matthew is now Nemesis and is after Morrow to avenge his family. He has used all his other targets as practice to get to the man he wants.

Nemesis sits in his home, surrounded by the gang he has recruited from the criminal element of Washington. He has already caused an explosion at the Redskins Stadium, stolen the Hope Diamond, and battered two old spinsters… all designed to discredit the chief. Morrow visits The Anderson Foundation, which was set up to try and bring back some credit to the family after the atrocities of 20 years ago. Matthew’s Uncle Howard is under suspicion for funding his trail of destruction, but Howard wants Matthew brought to justice, to put an end to 20 years of shame.

In the Pentagon, a meeting takes place, which Chief Morrow is chairing. The head of Homeland Security and a top level general are in attendance, amongst others. Nemesis has sent them one of his riddles and the team desperately tries to figure out where the planned gas attack will take place. After much deliberation, Morrow is shocked when he figures it out. It’s happening right where they are. It’s happening at the Pentagon. Before long, all twenty thousand people are dead, apart, that is, from Morrow and another cop. Nemesis appears, telling them that he put the antidote for the gas in their coffee. He has put the footage of the gas attack on the Internet, again to discredit Morrow. Nemesis leaves, ridiculing the chief, as he goes, telling him he thought he was smart.

Somehow, the chief might have a plan to trap this madman. As Morrow and the remains of his team travel in a car, over the radio they hear what they were waiting for: Nemesis has taken the bait.

Nemesis drives across the Beltway, with two helicopters in close attendance. A roadblock lies in wait for him. Could this be the end for Nemesis? Not a chance! His car splits in two to reveal a motorbike. As it speeds towards the roadblock, Nemesis opens fire, disintegrating the police cars ahead. Through the roadblock, there is only one place to go. He heads towards the river and the police in the helicopter above think they have him. As the motorbike flies off the end of the pier, Nemesis somersaults off the bike, holding a bazooka. He targets the helicopter above and blows it out of the sky. Nemesis swims to a pipe under the water and, once through, he makes his way into the sewer tunnels. Climbing a ladder to the streets above, he thinks he has outsmarted the police again. As he exits the manhole, Nemesis discovers, to his horror, that he is surrounded by police and, standing proudly with a gun pointing at him, is Chief Blake Morrow. As Nemesis lies on the street with hundreds of guns trained on him, he utters some chilling words to his captors: “You think I didn’t plan all this?” It isn’t over!

This story has class written all over it. I get a slight feeling of disappointment when each issue ends, as I can’t wait for the next. You get a sense of excitement as the story unfolds, desperate to know what happens next. Again, the art of McNiven is spot on. Not overcomplicated, but clean and precise. Yes, I am a huge Mark Millar fan, but that doesn’t play a part in my giving this issue another 10/10, as it’s simply outstanding.

Review From The Vault: Nemesis #1 — August 26, 2012

Review From The Vault: Nemesis #1

Nemesis is another masterpiece from the imagination of Mark Millar. It’s a rollercoaster of blood and violence, but underneath is a clever storyline full of twists and turns. Coupled with Steve McNiven’s brilliant artwork, giving us a potent and explosive mixture. So buckle up and get ready for the ride of your life.

As the police storm a hotel in Tokyo, Nemesis has the police chief tied to a chair. The reputation of Tokyo’s police chief has been slowly eroded by Nemesis, as he set the police case after case that they couldn’t possibly solve. Two miles away the police burst in to save their chief, but Nemesis had led them to the wrong building. Before they can react, it explodes, bringing it crashing down on the railway line below. The next panel shows that the chief’s chair is also tied to a railway line and the train is fast approaching. As Nemesis promised, he will die at 10:35. Right on time, the train wipes him out completely, but, knowing Nemesis, it is never as clear cut as this. The railway line that the hotel fell on is the one used by the train. We see the train plummeting to the ground as Nemesis soaks up the plaudits from his gang. The world’s only Super- Criminal is now heading to America.

In Washington D.C., bullets rip through the heads and chests of armed robbers holding up a store. The man responsible for these lethal shots is Blake Morrow, Washington D.C.’s chief of police and a man who likes to get his hands dirty, taking no shit along the way. Two special agents alert him to the fact his life might be in danger. A card from Nemesis only proves it. As we know, Nemesis likes to humiliate his prey, as he has done to the previous police chiefs he has targeted. Chief Morrow has an all-American life of goodness: a family man, highly respected by everyone, and a perfect target for Nemesis.

Air Force One is out of control and someone is heard running along the top of the plane. As the pilot is instructed to shake him off, he is faced with the figure of Nemesis reigning machine gun fire through the cockpit window. As the President panics inside, Nemesis enters the plane through the window and takes control. As he flies the plane lower, toward Washington’s sky-scrapers, we fear the worst. Flying towards the ground, the wing of the plane rips through a building, opening it up like a tin can. As the president lies on the floor with a security guard on top, the plane hits the ground. Bodies fly everywhere as they are sucked into the plane’s engines, ripping them to shreds. With the plane on fire, it careens towards the tunnel. Entering the tunnel, the wings fold like paper as it enters, taking vehicles and people with it in a huge fireball. At the other end of the tunnel, a petrol tanker has jack-knifed across the tunnel’s exit and a father holds his baby, as the plane gets nearer. He hopes for a miracle that doesn’t come. A massive explosion takes everything out… or so we think.

A message is broadcast from Nemesis, telling the public that the chief can’t protect them, because he managed to get to the President without any problems. Nemesis calls himself the black sheep of the Anderson family. No doubt, we will find out more about this in future issues. The humiliation of Chief Blake Morrow has begun, leading to his death at 12:00am on March 12th. This issue ends with a brilliantly drawn frame, showing Nemesis sitting with a battered and helpless president.

10/10 is a controversial score to give as perfection is so rare, but I have no hesitation in awarding Nemesis #1 this score. It is fantastic to read, fantastic to look at, and it’s signature Millar, with dark, disturbing writing and plenty of humour, at times, but class throughout. Steve McNiven’s artwork suits the story perfectly, capturing every aspect with vivid and immersive drawing. Roll on issue #2, because I want more.

Review From The Vault: Batman #416 (1988) — June 10, 2012

Review From The Vault: Batman #416 (1988)

Once again, Blue Raven Comics reaches into The Vault to spotlight a memorable issue from the past. This one being Batman: The New Adventures #416, from 1988, which features the very first meeting of original Robin, Dick Grayson, and his successor, Jason Todd. This has always been a favorite issue of mine for a few very special reasons. For one, it was written by the legendary comic scribe, Jim Starlin, with art my premier Batman penciller, the late Jim Aparo. At this time, there was no bigger creative team for a Batman title. Another reason this remains a favorite was that this was the first time I was privy to the fact that there was another Robin besides Dick Grayson. Before this issue, I was primarily a Marvel Zombie, with a few DC issues scattered throughout my collection here and there, so my DC knowledge was limited to the cartoons and general knowledge my brother had passed on to me. But, most importantly, this comic means a lot to me because this was actually the first Batman comic I ever owned. From there on out, I was hooked.

The issue opens with an inexperienced new Robin, Jason Todd, busting a cocaine processing lab, where he crosses paths with former Robin, Dick Grayson – now Nightwing – who was also working the same case on the same night. Nightwing, of course, is quick to point out that Jason’s handling of the case left much to be desired, as Nightwing, himself, was only casing the location, in the hopes that it would lead to the main shipping area of the narcotics. That is, until novice Jason crashes through the skylight head first, with no other intention than busting some bad guy skulls. Back at the Batcave, Jason tells his mentor and legal guardian, Bruce Wayne (a.k.a. Batman), of his meeting with Dick and expresses concern that Dick may want his old job back as Robin. Later that evening, Nightwing also shows up at the Batcave unannounced, to confront Batman about why he chose to take on another partner, after relieving Dick of his duties as his sidekick all those years ago. The confrontation is dramatic and poignant, as we learn, via flashback, just what happened in the time since Dick had been away. The issue ends with Nightwing and Robin teaming up against the drug ring at the shipping docks, bonding in the process and mending their wounds. Dick agrees to become sort of another mentor to Jason, if he ever needs him, with a smiling Batman looking on in secret from above. Starlin hits just the right notes to draw the reader in and the revelation of why Batman chose another Robin hits right at the center of the reader’s heart. It’s clear that Bruce and Dick love each other the way a parent and their child does, but there is also a lot of resentment and misunderstanding. Something that many people, in general, can relate to when it comes to family. Jim Aparo’s art is unparalleled, even today. His renderings of Batman, Robin, Nightwing, etc. are classic and his facial expressions of the characters are very well-drawn. If you can manage to find this issue in your local comic shop or in a bargain bin at a flea market, I highly recommend that you snatch it up. It just might become one of your favorite comics, as well.

Review From The Vault: The Infinity Gauntlet (1991) — May 2, 2012

Review From The Vault: The Infinity Gauntlet (1991)

The early nineties… The years of pure inspiration. So much going on like Michael Jordan, the last years of Woodstock, Tony Hawk and I can go on. For many it was things like this that sparked this generation and as I was following these trends my true bane of existence did not come to me until 1997 when I got my hands on the first issue of the Infinity Gauntlet series. My life forever changed and at the age of seven, I vowed that I would not finish this series until I got all six in my possession. This series was my Infinity Gems to my Thanos, and in 1999 my conquest was over. Though I was eight years late, I spent an entire weekend reading this battle between the Ultimate villain and the Universe he threatened to rule.

For those of you unfamiliar with this series, there is an eternal mutant named “Thanos” who finally possessed all six Infinity Gems. These gems were made into a Gauntlet, which he wore on his right hand, that granted him the ability to complete control over the universe. All six gems resembled the control over power, space, time, anybodies mind, soul and reality itself. In order to fancy “Death” he wiped out pretty much half the earths population, including most heroes. After learning about the casualties, Earths best try to stop him and fail. Eventually, the cosmic overseers and controllers of the Universe were called to help; people such as Galactus, The watcher and company. Even they were unsuccessful at bringing Thanos to a halt. Much like most villains that share his same vision, his ego was his own undoing. He decides to take the form of the Universe itself and leaves his body vulnerable. His grand-daughter “Nebula”, who was nothing but a corpse, got her hands on the gauntlet and un-did everything Thanos had achieved. After another tussle with the Heroes of the Universe, Thanos is bested by Adam Warlock and appears to have committed suicide. In the end he is found at a barn in complete disappointment and utter sorrow.

Jim Starlin would forever be a man who changed the way I look at comic book series‘. He set the standard so high that I have such a specific taste in what I read. George Perez and Ron Lim packed so much action in every one of those panels that it was an adventure going through them all. You don’t really see that too much in comics these days and re-reading this series always brings that purity back. I sometimes wish they would bring back the gems or at least something that closely involves every Marvel character there ever was. That’s what this series had that no other had… Everything. To those who have not read this series yet, what are you doing reading this? Go and find this series because it is a must read if you are into not just the Marvel Universe, but comics as well. I know most people say that the Civil War is a must read and it is but, this is a great way to look back and realize how much comics have changed, at least in my opinion. You could probably find this at your local shop if not, look for it online regardless on how you find it, I guarantee you it’s worth looking for.