Current Reviews


Nexus #99 (a.k.a. Nexus: Space Opera #1)

Posted: Thursday, July 19, 2007
By: Thom Young

Writer: Mike Baron
Artist: Steve Rude

Publisher: Rude Dude

I knew I hadn’t seen a new issue of Nexus on the shelves for a while, but I had no idea that it had actually been ten years! Time flies . . . even when you haven’t necessarily been having an entire decade of fun. Back in May, I picked up the “special issue” of Nexus that was given out on Free Comic Book Day, but I didn’t get around to looking at it before reading issue #99.

After reading #99, I took a look at that special and discovered that not only was the last Nexus miniseries published in 1997 (by Dark Horse), but it was released in black and white—probably an indication that Dark Horse just wanted to meet their contractual obligations to Mike Baron and Steve Rude because the title wasn’t selling well.

I probably bought that last Nexus miniseries from Dark Horse. If I did, I would have placed it in one of several long boxes filled with comics that I planned to get around to reading some day—comics which have all since been sold for a nickel a piece to a comic book store in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Ah well. Do you see what this release of a new Nexus comic has done to me? It’s caused me to reminisce and feel all nostalgic. In fact, July has been a month of reminiscences and nostalgia for me. I spent the Fourth of July week in my hometown of Boise, Idaho—which is where I first came across the original black and white Nexus magazine that was published in 1981 by Capital Comics.

That same year, Pacific Comics began publishing monthly books—starting with Jack Kirby’s Captain Victory and followed by his Silver Star. (In fact, the collected Silver Star also came out this past week in a hardcover edition published by Image—more nostalgia and reminiscence). The Hernandez Brothers’ Love and Rockets debuted in 1981 as well. It was really the Golden Year for alternative comics.

Back then I was a young punk with a Mohawk (or some other hairstyle that would change every few months), and I was buying anything that was an alternative to DC and Marvel—which basically meant the complete offerings of Eclipse Comics, Pacific Comics, and (suddenly) Capital Comics. (Power Comics, the B&W alternative of my childhood, had ceased publication in December of 1977—leaving Eclipse as the only alternative option for almost three years, at least as far as I knew).

I had always loved superhero comics, but I was disenchanted with what DC was offering in the late 70s and early 80s (after the infamous DC Implosion of 1978). With the exception of a few series, I had never been a huge Marvel fan, so the publication of Nexus in 1981 was a welcomed event.

Although it was his first story in national distribution, it was obvious that Steve Rude was a top-caliber illustrator from the moment that first B&W magazine appeared. Mike Baron, on the other hand, was a writer who seemed a little rough at the time—but I didn’t care how amateurish the writing in that initial story seemed because it was like nothing that DC or Marvel were publishing.

See, I told you this new issue of Nexus was making me prone to reminiscing—and it all ties back into the Fourth of July week I spent back in Boise. I got a new tattoo while I was there—my first in 15 years. My best friend from those days of my youth, Erik, has owned his own tattoo parlor for the past 13 years or so, and he’s the only artist I let put the ink in me.

He and I haven’t really kept in touch since I left Boise 14 years ago, so I spent the six hours in his chair reminiscing with him about “the good old days” while he dug his needle into my arm.

He no longer buys comics (except when Mike Mignola does a new Hellboy), so I decided to tell him about Morrison’s All-Star Superman since he had read Animal Man back in the 80s and Frank Quitely’s art was the type Erik would have loved back then. However, he didn’t seem the least bit interested. It was good to reminisce with Erik.

In some ways it didn’t seem like it had been almost 14 years since we last were together for an extended period of time—except, of course, for the fact that we spent that time talking about the old days and catching up on what old friends are now doing.

What does all this have to do with Nexus #99? Well, despite its ten-year gap in publishing, it appears that Baron and Rude picked up the story exactly where they left off. In fact, I think I may have stopped reading Nexus around issue #52 or so (probably around 1989), and this latest issue almost seems to simply be a continuation of those stories I read almost 20 years ago.

And that’s the problem with this series. Nostalgia and reminiscing are fine, but after reading this latest issue I’m more interested in tracking down the Nexus stories from the early 1980s than I am in reading the next issue. Back then, there was a sense of mystery and wonder to the series as Horatio Hellpop explored the ruins of Ylum to learn more about the ancient civilization that had once thrived there.

In those seminal issues, we were given puzzling clues about Horatio’s “imaginary” childhood friends Alpha and Beta, about the godlike Merk who manipulated his life, and about the strange dreams he had that possessed him to track down and execute mass murderers throughout the galaxy—beginning with his own father.

Back then, I couldn’t wait for a new issue of Nexus to come out so I could learn more about the world that Baron and Rude were creating. Now, even though Baron has become a polished writer and Rude is still as excellent as ever, the series doesn’t interest me as much. The mystery is gone and the events seem to just be a continuation of what the story had become by the late 80s.

This latest issue is a good book, and I wish Baron and Rude all the best in continuing their creation. However, I can’t imagine anyone other than old Nexus fans finding much of interest in it—and then only those old Nexus fans who are feeling nostalgic and haven’t yet had their fill of reminiscing.

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