by Michael Hutchison
This one issue of Catwoman has really gotten my dander up! Although I don't read Catwoman (I just don't enjoy comics that follow the adventures of unrepentant criminals, which is the same reason I avoid Lobo), I snatched it off the rack the moment I saw that Nemesis was featured on the cover. Nemesis has been a favorite of mine since his initial run in Brave and the Bold. I loved the depth which John Ostrander brought to him in Suicide Squad, especially his finally-requited love for Nightshade. Nemesis and Nightshade have been neglected since the demise of S.S., and their relationship has been ignored as Nightshade joined a third-rate group called I.N.T.E.R.sect in the pages of Superboy and the Ravers. So, joy of joys, someone finally remembers poor old Tom Tresser and brings him back!
What's that saying about "Be careful what you wish for "?
First, the "plot" (for lack of a better word): Nemesis poses as a fence of Catwoman's in order to make contact with her. Catwoman sees right through the disguise. Nemesis states that he's going undercover as a thief and wants to study with the master. Catwoman agrees to train him. They then undergo some training, all of which seems very basic stuff that Nemesis could have learned from anyone. Nemesis seems to develop a crush on Catwoman, although it's pretty forced. Also, Tom Tresser seems to have developed identity problems from all of his disguise work. The time comes for Tom to pose as a thief and meet a crimelord, in order to make contact with a deep cover agent who hasn't reported in. As soon as the crime lord and his flunkies leave the room, Tom approaches the other agent and finds out the other guy has switched sides. Tom is fatally wounded from a gut wound and quickly dies. Catwoman has a few parting words with Tom, then leaves his corpse behind.
This story well, it's so uniformly bad that the word "sucks" is quite accurate. Nemesis is terribly out of character. Instead of a dark, grizzled, 30-something professional who has had extensive experience with criminals, we get a naive, rookie 20-year-old with mental problems. Plus he's drawn like a cross between the average anime hunk and Leonardo DiCaprio, with the standard anime huge eyeballs and Hanson-esque pouty lips.
I can tolerate a bad story if it's something we can overlook later, but this story KILLS HIM OFF! Unlike Nemesis' original "death" in the pages of Brave and the Bold, which did honor to his character and gave him a great send-off, this death is pretty permanent and it besmirches his memory. In this, his last appearance, Catwoman sees right through his disguise; in other words, he fails at the one thing he's good at! That's like having Barry Allen tripping over his feet or Green Lantern unable to think of something to make with his ring! Nemesis makes mistakes throughout this story, and ultimately, he dies because he was too naive.
I've learned from friends of Devin Grayson that she really liked Nemesis and wanted to make him a supporting character in this book, but The Powers That Be at DC Comics decreed (and this is really hard to believe) that they wanted Nemesis killed off. She could only use him for one story, and he had to be dead at the end. Let me tackle these things separately.
First, if Devin Grayson is such a fan of Nemesis, how could she be so wrong about his characterization? I know "wrong" is a matter of opinion, but I have yet to hear from anyone saying, "Yeah! She nailed him! That's Nemesis to a T!" I suspect that she read the Brave and the Bold issues, because she remembers that he's an inventor and other elements of his background, but if she read Suicide Squad she either didn't pay attention or discarded much of the work done by Ostrander and Yale. To be fair, it could be that Devin had something completely different in mind for this issue and then had to do a half-assed job when she got the decree from DC, but that can't explain all of the things which are out of character for Nemesis.
Secondly, if this story about DC's decree is true, it's just one more example of the company's bad, incomprehensible decisions. Some have said that it's because Steven Grant's new series will feature a character called Nemesis, but Grant insists that his editor wouldn't have requested the death of Tom Tresser and that the timing of such a decree would have been long before the development of a new Nemesis. Regardless, two characters with the same name co-existing is not rare, although DC has expressed a desire for there to be only one Green Lantern, one Flash, etc
In my opinion, this is yet another case of DC making a bad decision and then making it permanent (as permanent as anything in comic books, of course; they can find a way to reverse any decision if they want to). "Making bad decisions semi-permanent" could be used to describe most of DC's 1990 comic books, from Zero Hour to Underworld Unleashed to the horrible Metal Men mini-series to the granddaddy of bad stories, Emerald Twilight.
As I say, even the rather graphic, on-camera death of Nemesis in this issue can be undone. Rather easily, even. I'd like to pretend that Nemesis was on a mission to discover Catwoman's real name and faked his death so that she would reveal it to him. John Ostrander can probably think of something even better, should he ever choose to re-visit this great character.
What bums me out is that I was writing a story featuring Nemesis, and now I have to write around this! :-(
My vote: 2 out of 10
All characters are DC Comics
This column is © 1998 by Michael Hutchison.
The scanned covers are © 1998 DC Comics.