Nexus, written by Mike Baron and drawn by Steve “The Dude” Rude, debuted on comic store shelves in 1981. Alongside such books as Elfquest and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Nexus was a pioneer of the independent comic boom of the early eighties. Nexus continues to be published, although sporadically due to Baron and Rude’s well-documented inability to get along. Now, Dark Horse Comics brings us the first volume of the Nexus Omnibus, reprinting in softcover the three black-and-white issues of the original mini-series from Capital Comics, as well as the subsequent eleven issues published by First Comics. It’s been over thirty years since the series debuted, and over two decades since the book’s initial run concluded. All this time later, how do these books hold up?
First, the story. Set four hundreds years in the future and scattered across the galaxy, this book is part superheroics and part space-opera. Horatio Hellpop is compelled by terrible, debilitating dreams to hunt down tyrants and mass-murderers across the cosmos. Imbued with great power by the same source that causes the dreams, he becomes the hero, Nexus.
Assisted by a ragtag group of political refugees he has rescued, he strikes out against injustice from his an oasis-like planetoid which he has dubbed Ylum (as in asylum). As he carries out his crusade, Nexus discovers the hidden source of his nightmares and his powers, and comes to understand that not all cases of justice are black and white.
Back in what I now sometimes refer to as the “ancient eighties,” I was a big fan of Nexus. Picking it up again, decades later, I realized how strongly themes of the Cold War run through the series, with references to “banana republics” and futuristic Soviet dictators. Despite that, I found the storytelling as compelling as ever. Baron’s scripts are well-composed, particularly in this age of decompressed comic writing. There is a lot of story in these pages!
As for the art, Steve Rude is in a special class with a handful of other artists, Alan Davis and Art Adams among them. Anytime they do interior page work, it is cause for celebration. His work here is clean and slick, harkening back to classic artists like Wally Wood. The dynamism and character work impresses with each issue.
Revisiting these stories was a joy for me, and I recommend this book to all fans of epic storytelling and great art. I can’t wait for the next volume of the Nexus Omnibus!