Another Kick-Ass Book
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by Mark Millar & Steve McNiven
Published by Marvel
Nemesis is the pseudo follow-up project to Kick-Ass by Mark Millar. By now, you're probably well aware of that property, as the movie has been out in theaters for about 2 weeks. Both projects were published by Marvel... sort of. Icon is the creator-owned imprint/subdivision of Marvel. Basically, whatever is published under the line is owned by the people who created it, not the publisher. Some of my favorite titles have been released under this system, including Powers, Criminal, and the previously-mentioned Kick-Ass.
The thing of it is, as Millar mentions in the afterward of this first issue, he and Steve McNiven pretty much made this book for free. With standard publishing agreements, writers and artists would typically get a page rate for doing the work, so that if not a single issue is sold, they still get paid for the time it took to do the thing. Now, I don't know if Millar and McNiven are getting a piece of the backend for Nemesis (royalties and such after sales), but it's still a hard thing to do to devote a bunch of time into something that may or may not ever pay off. However, when your name is Mark Millar and a book you wrote gets made into an Angelina Jolie movie (WANTED) and Hollywood knows your name well enough to pay you boatloads of cash to adapt Kick-Ass, then maybe creating a book like Nemesis isn't such a risk.
Millar and McNiven also have some other high profile work behind them, including the award-winning company-wide crossover, Civil War. You might be a little familiar with that if you played Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, which was based on that story. They followed that up with Old Man Logan, a truly monumental account of Wolverine's later years. So these guys are pretty established in the industry. Putting their name on a book is like printing money, and you can bet you'll be hearing about a movie deal pretty soon.
Still, when you own a book and can do anything you want with it without the publisher insisting on any sort of creative direction, you better damn well do whatever the hell you want with the book. Millar does exactly that. Some publishers may be a bit skittish depicting the ultra-violence that seems to come so natural to Millar, but he isn't hampered by any of that in this case. Nemesis comes from the villain of the book, who is pretty much the main focus. He's basically this dude who goes to the major cities of the world and vastly humiliates the chief of police, just because he can. His newest target is Blake Morrow, top cop in Washington, DC. Morrow's no pushover though, as seen in a pretty kick-ass (pun intended) scene, where he takes out some dudes holding up a convenience store. But do some strong hand-to-hand skills really give you the chops to go against the guy who can jump on the nose of Air Force One mid flight and down the plane in a major metropolitan area? Guess we'll have to find out.
My biggest issue with this book, though, is the art. Don't get me wrong, I think it's awesome and perfectly suited to the story being told. It's gritty, rough, unpolished, and at times, dirty. That style goes so well with the action and intensity of almost every page. What's bugging me is that it doesn't look like McNiven's other work. A buddy of mine hates McNiven's work, and says that he steals techniques from other guys. I don't care as much about stealing technique, as long as you don't rip exact poses or page layouts. You might as well be a tracer at that point - and not the "inking-is-tracing" kind, which anyone who knows what they're talking about will tell you inking is very much a complicated art form of its own. No, my issue with McNiven's work here is that it doesn't look like his other work. If you check out the aforementioned Wolverine or Civil War, or his earlier work on Fantastic Four through Marvel Knights, you'll see that his previous work is far cleaner, more polished. It's very refined and has an almost painted look to it. I'm wondering if the style seen in this book, which again, works, is because he was doing it for free. I hate to say it looks rushed, because it doesn't. But I can safely say that it looks to me like he didn't spend as much time on it as his other work-for-hire stuff. I couldn't hate on a guy who is penciling a book on what is essentially his free time if he didn't spend as much time on it. I can't stress enough, though, that this particular style does not hurt the book. If anything, I might be a little turned if it was as polished as his other stuff.
And don't let my flip-floppiness about it deter you from getting the book. It's good, dammit.
Who should read this book:
People who like bad guy stories.
People who liked Kick-Ass.
People who work on developing robots that can love.
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