Sunday, October 21, 2007
I’ve been a huge fan of the Nexus series since the late 1980s, but even though many of you may have never heard of the book before, I’m going to skip the collaged, fast-motion history of the character and creative team. Look it up online. Suffice it to say that Nexus was the most exciting independent action/adventure comic of the 1980s, something like a new wave Space Ghost. The writing was razor sharp and the art was better than anything else out at the time.
So what happened since then? Why haven’t we seen this comic in ten years, or on a regular schedule for almost twenty? Well, for one thing, the comics market basically collapsed in the mid 1990s (“The ’90s were a train wreck,” said Gary Groth at an SPX panel in 2006), but beyond that I think the real reason Nexus went away is because Steve Rude is a perfectionist. He can’t maintain a regular schedule. He may be the heir apparent to Jack Kirby (who else is there?), but unlike his hero, Rude has serious deadline problems.
When I heard that Nexus was returning, and on Rude’s own label no less, I was thrilled. I’d followed the sporadic Nexus mini-series that were published through most of the ’90s, and really did mourn its absence over the last decade. The new book was announced and then word came that, no, in fact there were creative differences between Baron and Rude and that it was off. Then it was back on. But by then I didn’t believe it. So when I found out that it was actually coming out I was relieved and excited. Finally a good regular monthly comic to follow besides All Star Superman. (I like Frank Quitely’s art. Geez. What? You don’t?)
As a true Nexus fan, I read issue #99 carefully and slowly, and savored every second. It’s a remarkable return to form for Baron & Rude, masterfully and beautifully done. That said, it also feels like they tried to cram in too much “set-up” for the next few issues. There’s an amazing action sequence in the middle that puts Paul Gulacy (Rude’s other hero) to shame, but then the book stumbles through the next few pages with more set-up, and ends with an ostensibly big moment — the birth of Nexus’s son — that feels flat and uninspired. A few pages earlier, momentum was building well, and despite all the set-up, it seemed like there would be a fitting coda to the first Nexus comic in ten years. Instead we’re left to wait until “next month” (or so we’re told) for the implied showdown between good and evil.
That’s a problem. Nexus #99 debuted a couple weeks before the San Diego Comic-Con in July. I’m writing this in late October and still no new Nexus. Whatever momentum that it received from the comics press is dying down, and it seems, like the story itself I’m afraid, that the return to form is exactly more of the same from these guys: sporadic issues here and there of a great comic for an ever dwindling fan base. I’d rather wait ten years for a complete story than be promised something the creators and publisher (read: Steve Rude) can’t deliver on a regular schedule. What possessed Rude, after waiting ten years to get back in the saddle again with Nexus, only to release the first issue of a four-issue mini-series before finishing even the second?! Common sense dictates that after such a long hiatus, the entire series should be finished before the first issue goes to press, thereby insuring the uninterrupted flow of the dynamically paced series, where the loss of momentum is the kiss of death to both enjoyment and sales.
It’s still probably the best action/adventure comic I’ve read all year. A solid piece of genre comics that expands the form’s conventions while remaining firmly rooted in tradition. I’m simply worried that it will be completely over new readers’ heads. Tastes have changed since Nexus was cutting edge. And if I’d never read Nexus before, I think I’d probably wonder what’s really happening on planet Ylum (where the story takes place). Is Nexus president there? What is all the unrest about? As an old reader, I can figure it out, and piece together my recollection of past adventures. But I worry that if Nexus the comic wants to recapture its glory days, then Baron and Rude are going to have to work a lot harder and faster this go round.
One final note: While writing this, I discovered that the Nexus: Origin one-shot is slated to be reprinted in November. Anyone inspired by this review to give Nexus a shot and would like a quick (and cheap) way to get up to speed is advised to grab a copy upon its release.