Last Christmas my brother gave me a booster pack of random, non-sequential issues from a variety of popular comic book titles that syndicated in the late eighties to mid nineties. The nineties was a time of groundbreaking work in the comic community that gave birth to the age of modern comics. Sometimes, not so much. These are snapshots of the industry at its best and worst. This is Brian’s Comic Book Grab Bag.
Nexus Volume 1 #32
Writer – Mike Baron
Penciler – Jackson Butch Guice
Inker – John Nyberg
Letterer – Ken Bruzenak
Everyone seems to share their mutual distrust for mass murderers. Killing people is a hell of a ringer for bad publicity.
Imagine if someone wrote a comic about putting them down?
Mike Baron of the now defunct (but possibly revived) First Comics imprint wrote a comic about just that, a superhero named Nexus, to star in his own eponymous series, which has the likeness of the old fashioned space operas of the 60s. I’m thinking of Flash Gordon, even though I’ve never seen it. “Space Opera” just sounds like something grandiose, a flamboyant explosion of science fiction fantasy. Star Wars, which actually is more of a western (so I’ve heard), has this down pat, with a wide array of far out muppets and eclectic technologies, and, over the years, the influx of exotica has fueled an undying fanbase. Nexus is like all of what I just said, only completely inconspicuous.
The universe of Nexus is very dualistic (as it should be), featuring A and B moral paradigms which would make Ayn Rand swoon with delight. Evil has a place in the Nexus universe, specifically to be stomped out by Nexus and his taskmaster “The Merk,” who crusade against mass murderers. This is morbidly amusing to me, as I wonder how the Merk distinguishes between those to be killed and those to be passed over. Apparently grand larceny and sex trafficking aren’t capital offenses? Also, isn’t the Merk supposed to be insane? Maybe his thirst for Hitler blood is the onset stages of dementia. My conclusions at the end of the issue, when Nexus returns to the Merk, is that he has “the mind of a child,” and Nexus is Mel Gibson sparing a titanic retard in a cosmic opera. Or maybe this is just Lennie Small, and Kimbo, the Merk stationed on Earth (yes, there are a few of them), failed to pull the trigger? I want to hate it, but it’s just too good!
Independent comics, as I’ve mentioned before, are beloved oddities in the expansive community of comic making, for their lack of executive control. My colleague, Greg Carpenter, wrote a fantastic article in February of this year (2014) eulogizing the worth of fouled up comics. Horrible, horrible comics, like All-Star Batman, and most of Frank Miller’s work, are often so far out on the ledge that something about them seems bizarrely novel. Nexus himself is like an avatar for Space Ghost, with many of his side kicks and likeness invented into his costume and supporting cast. Odd to think that a Hanna-Barbera cartoon could inspire an 80s, almost-gritty superhero. Stranger things have happened. (Looking at you, Super Friends.)
What is so profound about Horatio Hellpop, the alter-ego of Nexus, is how plagued and tormented he is as a character. This shouldn’t be confused with the aforementioned movement that occurred during the late 80s which endeavored to make our beloved heroes suddenly cynical and gothic. The lighthearted dialogue puts much distance between the Miller-esque extremes that captivated the readers of Dark Knight Returns. The imagery of Nexus is colorful, expressive, featuring an array of supporting characters that are stylistically “cartoony” to enhance that distance. Nexus is better suited for Saturday morning television or late night anarchy (depending which side of the millennium you grew up on) than comics. Nevertheless, Horatio himself is a phenomenal character, with plenty of dimensions to keep the reader invested. Issue #32 is all about the titular hero smuggling himself to his ex-wife’s castle to see his own children, two twin girls with telekinetic powers. He also receives traumatic visions that inflict psychic pain on his body until he kills the men/women/aliens responsible, only growing stronger the more he delays. The issue of power addiction is a notable enhancement to Nexus’s obligatory service. Even if he wanted to hang up the mantle of power that he possesses, the hunger for power consumes him, which is incredible, considering his first act as Nexus was killing his own father, a rogue warlord living in exile for killing ten million people.
The mood of the comic is intensified by the imperative for justice. Batman doesn’t get PAS (pre-adjudication syndrome) from abstaining from crime fighting; neither would Superman (provided a disembodied pastor wasn’t eavesdropping on him). Nexus, on the other hand, “must-needs” waste some intergalactic scum bags, otherwise it causes him tremendous pain. In the issue, when he dispatches two loyal henchmen, Sinclair and Kreed, to take care of business while he is away trying to contact his daughters, Ylum is wracked by cosmic disturbances and earthquakes. The entire universe seems to scream for justice and blood. Earth’s merk, Kimbo, is attuned to a disparate frequency, advocating a message of rehabilitation and peace. Why, I am not certain; though I am very curious to see if these merks represent a larger paradigm at work here. I am doubtful that all merks savor the same justice as Drizripool (Nexus’s patron merk) and GQ, another resident merk on Ylum.
Nexus is something like Eternal Warrior, only with a strong protagonist that is fleshed out and dynamic. Nothing about his costume is groundbreaking or revolutionary, but his backstory is solid, with a sincere plight that motivates him to continue. Horatio isn’t Spiderman either; he does not pursue the mantle of the Nexus because of guilt, but power. He thirsts for the same power that sustains his planet, his home, but his power is also the very same force that threatens his homeland from criminals seeking to kill him and his loved ones. His confidant, Judah Maccabee (AKA The Hammer of God) is also equally formed, a refugee indebted to Nexus for saving his people. They travel together, converse together, both on equal footing without the cliched role disparity of the initiate/master relationship. Judah’s general demeanor is winsomely charming, both witty and profoundly adept at small talk, coercive and assertive in all circumstances. For all its victories, my qualms are few and I highly recommend purchasing the Dark Horse reprinted editions. Just don’t do it before me!
10 Fusionkastings (of 10)