Tired of amoral Superman parodies? The Batman ones are worse.
This cover’s untouched by Photoshop or editorial. Meet Nemesis, one of my favorite things ever printed. I need pain to feel alive, putting Nemesis among the worst crimes preserved in ink. Somewhere between Cheney’s Visual Guide to Nation Building and The Punisher Breaks Your Arm in Real Life.
It’s a neurotoxic miniseries drawn by Steve “Better Than This” McNiven and written by Mark “Perfect For This” Millar. Some writers are consistently good or bad, and Millar finds that shit boring. He has comics of every letter grade, generally concentrated around the Bs and Fs.
The first cover sets the tone:
I’ve never raised an eyebrow in real life, but that tagline’s tempting. I liked Kick-Ass. It tapped vigilante fiction’s appeal and pratfalls with a fresh voice. Hearing “I see you were into all that character stuff or whatever, but we’re done with that cuck shit” makes me nervous. I’ve lost kneecaps in the MillarWorld casino before.
That inconsistency grates more than outright incompetence. I know the author of Pick-Up Lines for Lost Souls couldn’t write Superman: Red Son. A Mark Millar fuck-up feels like a choice. When I read Nemesis, I know that less/more/better drugs could have elevated it to a B and spared America’s brain another polyp.
The festival of edge opens in Japan, one of the six countries that exist in action media. The mysterious Nemesis gloats, unlike his later scenes where he is bragging and boasting.
This might take a while. Since we’re in a future film, let’s fast-forward.
Give him a moment.
In the above mess, Nemesis executes a simple plan: commit Payday 2 heists across Tokyo, announce the police chief’s time of death, kidnap said chief, leak his location, blow up his fakeout location, hit the chief with a train, derail the train into an orphan factory, and explain every beat to awed minions and/or victims. That’s a migraine-inducing sentence, but you need it to understand the concept: combining the plot armor of Batman and The Joker into one mistake.
I tell students there’s no wrong way to write, because I’m a liar. It’s the easiest thing in the world to fuck up. For example, the second worst way to make a character cool is having them declare their radness. The worst is having someone else do it. Every page of Nemesis does both.
After blowing up Japan, BatJoker turns his eye on DC. His gimmick is hunting elite cops, presumably as research for the ultimate drill album. Leading to our star:
Blake Morrow, the middle point between an electable Bush and mid-franchise John McClane. He even has a diversity sidekick. A second draft’s title would be Batman vs. Die Hard. Hopefully DC gets to that idea before Discovery turns them into an NFT marketplace.
Only Blake’s not really our star. He’s a medium for BatJoker, who kidnaps the President from Air Force One.
Absorb this moment. Whether you’re in or out, the comic peaks here. It’s the purest power fantasy, with the least gloating or pointless gore. My inner child can’t reject a gunman surfing a plane. I’d even accept him kickflipping it.
Keep the 2010 publishing date in mind: the target is neither senile nor addicted to snow/Twitter/his daughter. For once, we don’t have to be told BatJoker is cool. He just does something interesting. It’s a hard beat to ruin.
There we go.
As the Cabinet’s current supercop, Blake searches for information. This hunt has dramatic potential, so BatJoker directly exposits his origin.
Remember, Batman has the most widely riffed-upon origin this side of Batman. Parodies, tributes, and shameless copies of the Dark Knight anchor their own blockbuster franchises. Hotep Batman made a billion dollars in theaters, Depressed Batman saved Netflix, and Depressed Hotep Batman is my next book. If you commit to a 21st century Batman parody, you have to come correct. Here’s what Nemesis delivers:
The takeaway: Batman would be a worse person if his parents were death row sex criminals. This is a special species of dumb, rarely seen in the wild. The logic chain and conclusion are fine. The base question is so stupid that thinking about it hurts your headsponge.
While we’re on Batman: did you consume anything between The Dark Knight and The Batman? It was a golden age. Not for any nation on our dying planet, but for plans where the villain intended to get caught.
The world held an openweight cop-out tournament, and Mark Millar won. While mortal creatives waited five or six minutes before revealing their villain’s genius, Nemesis gloats on the same page.
I want this page in a museum. It’s a scene too attached to one power fantasy to set up another. We’re at the end of issue two, the ancestral home of the cliffhanger page. For flow, Nemesis just needed one page without BatHogan resting a testicle on God’s forehead. Instead, he plants both.
Six pages later:
I can’t criticize a Dynasty Warriors rampage through Corrections. My rom-com pitch had two. But imagine the impact if BatJoker spent six pages on the ropes. Or two. Or a panel.
Then again, we’re not in the restraint game.
The magic of Nemesis (and the nearly identical Wanted) is that it’s exactly what my Mom thought comic books were like. Decades after proving three homophobes in one suit invented the Comics Code, the industry produced this. IP violations kidnapping presidents, decapitating riot cops, and rigging womb bombs.
Hold on, rigging what?
I’m getting ahead of myself. Narratives are about the journey to the womb bomb. The quiet moments between genital implosions. In this case, a costumed game of Truth or Dare. Sleepover games are a little mature for this reading level, but it’s good to challenge the audience.
After waltzing out of prison, BatJigsaw kidnaps Blake’s kids and demands the hero’s darkest secrets. Which, to his credit, Blake nails. Brass balls are the only heroic trait Nemesis respects, and Blake’s clang together when he walks.
The abyss is staring back into me here. It’s hard to confess to our more forward-thinking readers, but I’ll be honest. In my heart, I assume most marriages work out this way. No matter how much you love and trust someone, BatLecter will steal your kids and make you both podcast about cheating. It’s the simple human truth.
Years later, I still can’t read this panel without choke-laughing. I wish I knew why. It’s not as regressive in context: Millar pins Blake as old-fashioned from the jump. It’s much less outlandish than Batman kidnapping the president. It might be the simple brevity, the stilted wording, or the one-two punch of “I can’t fuck” and “My son can, but blasphemously.”
Okay? That’s not how escalation works. A bombless abortion can’t compete with the rest of this book. Pre-lunacy, the CDC reported 194 abortions per 1000 live births, and zero buildings gassed by Batman. You’ve set a higher standard for edge–three pages ago, someone’s teeth got punched out from the inside. This is like a Mortal Kombat sequel about couple’s therapy.
Now, let’s get back to what matters.
“But why?” Strap in.
When I cover a book, I have one scene in mind. Here’s the Nemesis edition. While spamming the words womb bomb, I’ve left out “incest.” Thank you, Lucifer Morningstar, for helping me type “incest womb bomb” before a once-trusting audience. I enact your will in this world, master. The genitalia of the Elohim shall burn in your light.
I’ll never say that Mark Millar isn’t an artist. Art makes you think and feel. And I’m full of searing emotions and searing-er questions. Why a womb bomb? Was that a last minute idea, or is this entire comic written around the womb bomb? Why didn’t I come up with the womb bomb? Is this commentary on abortion, or just thoughtless? Are there real womb bombs? Are there testicle bombs? What is the CIA hiding? Am I one Lee Harvey Oswald joke away from my junk exploding like Mount Vesuvius, and not in the fun Spring Break way?
That’s a stupid idea, because I’m stupid now. This comic made me stupid, and I needed to pass it on to you. With my junk shredded by bat-shrapnel, it’s the only way I can reproduce.
Surviving Maury unlocks the last level. BatMengele holds the president hostage in the White House, which should be a commentary on something and isn’t. As the boss arena loads, Blake’s black sidekick emerges as a mole, gets shot, and falls back out of the story. Then the ensuing cutscene reveals the twisted, unimaginable, boring truth.
And more gloating. There’s always more gloating. Nemesis would thrive if it stole Batman’s “stoic silence” schtick.
That origin I dumped on earlier? Millar didn’t like it either. BatJoker’s real origin is no origin. Which is the Joker’s origin. He’s the Joker with triceps.
This is getting complicated. Let’s sketch this plan out.
The president sacrifices himself to stop JokerJoker. That doesn’t sound dull, but life finds a way. Imagine gloating interrupted by a campaign ad and you’re there. I’m here to talk about the denouement.
After surviving a Saw and Air Force One crossover, Blake Morrow retires to raise his inbred grandchildren. Until he gets a note with the real, original origin of Nemesis. Picture a nesting doll made of smaller and smaller brains. Now put the smallest brain on Air Force One and tre flip it into a mountain.
Nemesis is a vacation package for billionaires. A clever commentary on Batman’s…nothing. This says nothing about Batman. Or society, beyond the fresh observation that “the rich are less than pleasant.” If Bezos tried ghost riding a plane, we’d still be laughing at gifs of him hitting tarmac. With one page left, I can’t imagine making this dumber.
Ten years? Amateur hour. I’ve plotted my revenge for twelve.
Parody’s fun. I know a website with some solid ones. Yet Nemesis doesn’t touch Batman’s bizarre ideology or platoon of child soldiers. It’s laser-focused on preptime, an element that doesn’t matter. Even a little. This is a four issue deconstruction of Aquaman’s haircut. Whether you love Bruce Wayne or think clowns have Miranda Rights, there’s more to work with.
As parody, Nemesis falls short of this:
That’s assuming there is a real parody here. Vegas odds say there’s nothing smarter going on than “what if Batman killed people?” An idea DC mined to death themselves:
We live in the best of all possible worlds, because a Nemesis screenplay is marching along. I believe in the project. I need that pain to not only feel alive, but transcend God’s failed creation altogether. The ritual begins. You nerds can enjoy dodging water thieves in The Wastes, I’m out.
Until then, I’m calling two shots. If in vitro incest makes it onscreen, it’ll be the last meme. Bane can’t compete: we’ll quote BatManiac until the sun and jokes are long dead. That said, if the rest of Nemesis makes it onscreen, it’ll be the last superhero movie. Not because of the deconstruction, but simple failure as a story. Cats killed musicals by non-Spielbergs, and Nemesis may divorce capes from the American imagination. This is the stumble that buries spandex next to disco, arena rap, and bipartisanship.
This article was brought to you by our fine sponsor and Hot Dog Supreme: Max Baroi, who will forever be associated with the search terms “incest womb bomb.”