Bendis vs. Millar: Why Scarlet is better than Nemesis!


Prologue:

This is not a negative review. If I like something, I review it. If I don’t like something, I ignore it.

People who review comic books, novels, movies, TV shows, or any art form with the sole purpose of hurling insults is a douche.

It’s stupid, juvenile, and more than anything it’s a complete waste of time. Why spend hours complaining about something you claim to have no interest in?

Also pointless: writing a spoiler-filled recap of a comic book as if you’re about to hand in a 3rd grade book report. I assume that if you’re reading these words and have even a basic understanding of the English language, you can pick up a copy of Nemesis or Scarlet and read them for yourself.

This blog post is about proving one thing:

Why Scarlet is better than Nemesis.

Of course art is 100% subjective, and the title of this blog post was meant to cause controversy, but here is why, in my estimation, Scarlet is the more exciting piece of work.

I am a huge fan of the Bendis/Maleev combination. Their work on Daredevil was incredible. I couldn’t have asked for a better storyteller to capture the tone of this character; it was like reading the Daredevil movie that should have happened. And Maleev’s semi photo-realistic depiction with it’s grit and atmosphere – how every character seemed draped in a perpetual shadow – brought Daredevil to life in a way that is as close to flawless as I could have imagined.

Teaming up for Scarlet, the boys bring the same tone, the same darkness, the same visceral feel.

From issue #1 you know you’re in for a wild ride…as the story progresses the main character (ironically named Scarlet!) breaks the fourth wall and talks to you, the reader. She explains her actions, her past, and ultimately what led her to (seemingly?) lose her mind and begin her disturbing journey as a vigilante.

By the end of issue #2 I was invested. Hardcore. To the point where I want to pitch a tent in front of my local comic store and wait for the next issue to arrive (yes, I’m thisclose to going ‘Episode 1’…it’s that good).

How does this differ from Nemesis? Keep your pants on, I’m getting there…

Nemesis looks beautiful. Clean lines, sharp detail, and great storyboarding. It has more of a traditional superhero comic look to it, and it fits perfectly with the story.

If you don’t know anything about Nemesis, it goes something like this: a super villain – with Batman’s arsenal of gadgets and bottomless bank account – goes as crazy as, well…the Joker. He dons a white cape and cowl, and decides to wreak havoc across the globe, setting up Saw-like scenarios for decorated police officers.

And as the lucky viewers, we get to watch.

In Scarlet, death is monumental. It carries with it heartbreak and self-reflection, and more than anything, consequences – just as in real life when we lose someone close to us, it’s often a game changer.

Not so in Nemesis.

From the opening scene, death is treated as a carnival sideshow – it registers the same emotional impact you feel as when you run over a pedestrian while playing Grand Theft Auto. It’s slightly amusing at first, but quickly becomes tedious.

YES, I GET IT – we’re supposed to fear Nemesis. We’re supposed to be witnessing the sick, twisted mind of a madman, and darn it, Millar is going to show us just how sick this guy is whether we like it or not. Over, and over.

And over.

After 3 issues we’ve been treated to decapitations, evisceration, impaling, and for the grand finale we get tales of underage rape and incest, as well as…well if you want more details you’ll have to read it for yourself.

I’m not really sure where the esteemed Mr. Millar goes from here?

For issue 4 I can only imagine Nemesis takes the hero’s wife, chains her to a tree, and forces a herd of hippos to sexually assault her like in some demented Hentai video, so he can then upload it to YouTube and send high definition copies to her grandparents.

I appreciate Mr. Millar pushing the envelope, I really do. Violence, gore, and disturbing imagery are all part of that, and woven carefully into a meaningful story where I’m invested in the characters, it carries with it great weight.

But you can’t keep raising the bar on carnage without offering additional substance for the reader.

If that’s the direction he’s going, Millar’s body of work could start heading the way of a long-running horror franchise where the viewer simply munches popcorn and chats between brutal slayings because hell, what’s all this talking and stuff? Let’s just see the chick getting her skin ripped off!

I love Mr. Millar, and I have the utmost faith in his considerable abilities. He always draws me into his worlds, and every time (whether I’m completely invested or not) I stick around to the end, because I just have to know how things turn out.

So while I do prefer Scarlet to Nemesis (I’ll continue to buy both), please don’t take my word for it! Who am I, anyway – some wacky Canadian chick who’s obsessed with Twitter?

Go and read them for yourself, come back, and leave me a message explaining why you disagree.

I love you guys! (but you already knew that, didn’t you?)
Blake xox

PS: Want a new BFF? Be my friend on Facebook! I’m just getting started but I’ll try to check it more often.

PPS: And of course follow me on Twitter. I WILL follow you back, I promise.

PPPS: In case you missed it, I’m periodically posting updated on ComicsOnline.com, so go read my latest entry there, where I burn every possible bridge with DC comics and accuse them of being greedy asshats.

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25 Responses to Bendis vs. Millar: Why Scarlet is better than Nemesis!

  1. Shaun says:

    Interesting article, but I have to disagree. Scarlet is well trodden ground for Bendis, he’s done it before, its nothing really new. Sure it looks good, and its well written, but its nothing new.

    Nemesis on the other hand is a twist on the classic hero story. Its the Villain thats got the super powers, there are no super powered heroes at all, just regular chaps holding up their end. The mad view of nemesis himself is the polar opposite of the classic superhero comics, its not gratuitous, anymore than the last issue of superman was gratuitously ‘good’.

    • I DO enjoy the twist on the classic hero story – no complaints there. I just feel that for the most part, Nemesis is more slash than substance. I’m going to reserve total and final judgment until I’ve finished both arcs, and I’ll write another ‘review’ or sorts then.

      Thanks for the comments, Shaun!

  2. webhoserx says:

    I think Nemesis is what you get if you mix Batman, a sociopath, and the juvenile imagination of Garth Ennis.

  3. horondan says:

    Cant talk about Scarlet as i havent readen it yet (i will soon, after your review) , but id like to give you my thoughts on Nemesis
    1) The scary thing about Nemesis are not his gadgets, the violence he employs or the absolute disregard for human life. He is an example of foreplanner, the master strategist that outthinks his enemies. He really doesnt do anything superhuman (with the exception of the 1 vs 100 fight in issue 3- i didnt like that, it spoils the feeling) , everything he achieves is because he is way smarter than you and makes 3 moves in his head when you only make one. He reminds me a lot of Jigsaw or the Heath Ledger version of the Joker in cinema. Ive got a soft spot for that kind of villain. The truly scary foe is not the one that can tear through a brick wall or jump a building; its the one who knows what youre going to think before the thought pops in your head. Thats why Hannibal Lectern worked so well
    2) Even though Miller throws at us this interesting character, the real protagonist is not Nemesis but the cop who haunts him. Nemesis hijacks planes, kills 100 cops at once in hand to hand combat, cavorts through the comic book like a mad monkey on meth, but all the moments with real interest and dramatic tension belong to the cop. Nemesis best dialogues are directed at him. I guess Millar is keeping an Ace in his sleeve about the real personality of this man and why the villain really hates him so much (weve been given a red herring, the cop arrested his father, im sure theres something more) I guess well have to wait for the last number to see if theres a twist that makes us see all weve seen in the first 3 numbers in a different light. If Millar works that one out, i think this could be a masterpiece . Please forgive the bad english, not my native tongue

    • Not your native tongue? Wow…that was articulate!

      Excellent points about Nemesis. After I purchase issue #4 I think I’ll re-read them all in a row and see if I can get more into the character.

      (the ending of issue #3 was just super-gross though)

  4. Justin browning (inane geek) says:

    This has made me want to buy Scarlett. I agree hat Nemesis is just trying to shock people which if you’d read a lot of stuff over the years then it doesn’t. Its the comic version of what i call a popcorn film, no thought required but enjoyable escapism. The art is lovely though.

    • Definitely pick up Scarlet – at least read issues #1 and #2, and if you’re not hooked after that, you probably won’t be.

      I noticed that as soon as I mention Mark Millar on Twitter or a blog post I attract a disproportionate number of Brits!!

      Thanks for joining the conversation, Justin!

  5. Paul Hummer says:

    I haven’t read Scarlet, so I can’t compare the two, but I think you’re right with respect to Nemesis. The prose is a bit dry. The lure of Batman is that he’s got this dark past, so you get a little insight into why he is the way he is. I don’t care about the Nemesis character at all. You could tell me his back story and I probably still wouldn’t care.

    An great example of the violence is Frank Miller’s “Sin City.” It’s prose is AMAZING, so much so that I didn’t really notice the violence until my younger brother wanted to read it.

    • Excellent points! I agree completely about Sin City. Thanks for joining the conversation, Paul!

      PS: Why is your website a .org? Are you running a non-profit organization? Just asking…

  6. philbyday says:

    Nemisis I’m pretty much done with. Being one of the few ppl in my click that enjoyed Millar’s & McNiven’s OML (minus the last issue) I was looking 4ward to they’re revisionist take on Bats, but as I was reading the 1st ish it was clear 2 me he thought shock 1st and substance 2nd if at all. Where as we’re pretty much in agreement (give or take) with the story……..

    ……….,on the art-front that’s where we’re a bit divided. Athough I do agree w/u that art is subjective. From my p.o.v. McNiven’s work shines more…primarily because it looks 2 be more from his imagination (although he may be working from reference) Maleeev may be a better storyteller, however in my opinion he comes across as a str8 up tracer. Folks that give me that impression I don’t usually favor.

    That aside, I’ll still check Scarlet out when it comes out in trade.

  7. Deemar says:

    You joke but Millar just might use Hippo rape in one of his comics one day.

    Excellent review

    Deemar out!

  8. Adi says:

    I am a big fan of MM but Nemesis has left me a little disappointed to be honest. I was very confused, I wanted to like it but the first two issues were just lazy in my eyes, there was nothing that creative or new.
    My feelings on the run when issue 2 was out
    Nemsis 1+2 review

    Issue 3 was a welcome turn around though, it wasn’t amazing but it was much better than the other two in my opinion. I’m looking forward to seeing issue 4 and doing a full re-read.

  9. Jo says:

    Hi ComicBookGrrl,

    i have to say that i love your review style and admire you pursuing your comic book loving lifestyle! Way to go grrl!

    Be brutal, but nice!

  10. I have not read Scarlet, but will be snagging it now. I do have to say, I enjoy the simple twist Millar has taken with Nemesis. I am a fan of turning the Batman vision on its head. Seeing the horror after horror does make for a repetitive action, but I think we can take a huge turn by introducing a anti-Nemesis so to speak. But then were treading in Incorruptible territory.

  11. Very good take both books. I really enjoy both books. I will say this from what I read on Millarworld I think Millar has something up his sleeve for issue #4 of Nemesis. We soon shall find out.

  12. PCRK says:

    I love both writers, they really have their moments of awesomeness, but i agree, Scarlet is incredible, moving, exciting and entertaining.
    I’d be lying if i said i wasn’t enjoying Nemesis but that really is purely on a visceral “look at Steve McNiven’s pretty pictures” kind of way. Millar seem’s to suffer from some of the same tendancies as his fellow Celtic writer, Garth Ennis, in that he does constantly want to push things just a little too far. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes he can really hit the nail on the head, look at Ultimates, but it seems to be that when he writes his creator owned projects he eats a bag of sugar, drinks a whole crate of Relentless and loses his mind with a typewriter.

  13. Robert Lee says:

    I enjoy your site. Great writing. Great subject. Good fun read. I apologize in advance for the babbling.

    There has always been a major difference between Bendis and Millar for me. To spell it out in film terms, Bendis has always been the Quentin Tarantino. He likes talking for the sake of talking. Characters sit down and discuss what happened in the last ten issues, how they feel about it, and what they plan on doing next. He had the longest run of Daredevil comics in which Daredevil never wore his costume, but there were some very eloquently and snappily written conversations.

    Millar on the other hand is like a Tony Scott meets a sadist version of Steven Spielberg. A Millar book is an adventure that hits a breakneck speed and will not slow down.

    You mention the breaking of the fourth wall in Scarlet… Which is really just a Film Noir re-tooling for comics by Bendis. He has done this on many occasions before. Is she really talking to us? Or is it going to be revealed that she is talking to some other character who shouldn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t want to know her story?

    The purest Comicbook example of a fourth wall break is in Grant Morrison’s Animal Run. There is a moment in that series where you actually become personally invested. In a way, he brings us and our world into the story. Millar has also done this on two occasions; the entirety of the book 1985 and the last page of Wanted (Which was a sickly awesome way to end that book.)

    I enjoy your writing, and am sure to visit often. Keep up the great work.

  14. Did it even need to be argued that Scarlet was/is better than Nemesis on pretty much every level? I suppose some people out there would disagree because they like mindless action, but I like some thought with my violence.

  15. ladyserenity92 says:

    I like you, shouji(sister!)
    You remind me of me!
    Come drink with me at Starbucks.
    Come fly with me to England and Hong Kong.
    Rendvous with me on my blog!
    L.S.

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