To those of you who already met Horatio Hellpop, this is old news, but those who never met Mike Baron‘s and Steve Rude‘s uniquely original superhero, Nexus, read on. In today’s comic book environment people are used to Indie comics and don’t see any special about the existence of Dark Horse, Image, Dynamite, Boom!, Valiant, Action Labs or Aftershock. But, in the early 1980s in the superhero world there was DC, Marvel and limping on life support was Charlton.
Then the world changed with First Comics. Taking advantage of the new direct market, (see my tribute to Phil Seuling), First Comic sought to break the duopoly of Marvel and DC. With titles such as Mike Grell’s John Sable, John Ostrander’s Grimjack, Howard Chaykin‘s American Flagg!, Baron’s Badger (of whom Deadpool is a pale imitation) and of course Nexus, they produced one of the greatest bursts of creativity that the industry had seen in decades.
I remember the first time I saw First’s line. I was literally blown away. While all their titles were great, Nexus and Grimjack were my favorites.
Nexus was and is one of the most original and complex comic characters ever created. Nexus started life as a black and white comic in 1981 published by Capital Comics. Capital was the publishing arm of Capital City Distributors. In 1983, Capital City got out of publishing and First picked up Nexus.
For those who haven’t read Nexus before, I suggest reading Nexus Omnibus Volume 1, which will be the subject of the review. I will not discuss events after Volume 1 so as not reveal spoilers.
When first introduced to Nexus he owns and lightly runs a moon peopled by political refugees. They come to him, as he is beacon of hope against tyranny. Nexus, it turns out, has a mission to kill mass murderers. Throughout the galaxy he is known, feared by some, hatred and revered by others. He may be different things to different people, but no one really knows what drives him.
Unlike Frank Castle, the Punisher, he is not driven by revenge. He is also not driven by idealism or a sense of justice. Instead, he gets dreams of people who must die, and if he doesn’t act he is tormented by those dreams. The refugees are looking for a leader to lead them to fight tyranny, while Nexus is trying to preserve his sanity from the dreams which haunt him.
The comic does a slow reveal of Nexus and his world. In the second issue we are introduced to a reporter Sundra Peale in whom Nexus shares his backstory. He tells her that he is the child of a planetary governor who murdered the entire population rather than allow a successful revolution. The elder Hellpop and his wife escape to an uninhibited moon which contains wondrous technologies. After his mother dies, it’s just young Horatio and his father. Ultimately, Horatio grows to manhood and then is tormented by the dreams. In them he sees his father’s crime. In the dreams he is told “The dreams are painful are they not? Eventually, they will drive you mad. That is so, quite mad. There is one way to make them stop. You must eliminate the cause.”
The young Horatio seeks out his father, tells him “I love you, Dad,” and then kills him.
Nexus doesn’t know what drives the dreams, but he is not only haunted by them, but by his actions.
Baron and Rude have also provided Nexus with a number of interesting, and in some cases amusing companions. The comic addresses evil, responsibilities, duty and the cost.
Baron and Rude nicely balance the heavier themes of the comic with adventure, humor and romance. Nexus and Peale develop a relationship which grounds the hero and she provides him the emotional support so lacking in his life.
Nexus has too long been a favorite of only comic connoisseur’s and it’s high time he entered the mainstream.