After a Decade, Nexus Returns


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In the early 1980s, if you liked superheroes but wanted to see a different take on them, there was one place to go: independent comics. Sure, Frank Miller on Daredevil and Alan Moore on Swamp Thing were expanding the boundaries of what a mainstream book could be, but the most inventive development of the superhero was done with the smaller companies.

It was in the independents where you would find characters such as Cerebus, Flaming Carrot, Mage, Grendel, Normalman, American Flagg and Badger. Each of these titles contained elements that you could find in DC and Marvel books, only with a unique and daring twist on them. One of the best examples of this phenomenon was Nexus.

Mike Baron and Steve Rude met in the late 1970’s in Madison, Wisconsin. Baron was a writer/artist who was looking for an artist better than himself to work with. Rude was a skilled artist who was working for free for a student newspaper and looking to earn some money.

Together, the two men started working on comics, trying to break in at Heavy Metal magazine and other places. Their quest continued for almost a year before they were directed to Capital Comics, a comic company owned by Capitol City Distribution. Baron and Rude gave them a sample of what would become Nexus. They loved the concept and agreed to publish it. The first issue of the first Nexus series arrived on shelves in 1981.

Nexus borrows heavily from the science-fiction superhero genre. The series tells the tale of Horatio Valdemar Hellpop, a young man who had received super powers from an alien force called The Merk. He used the powers to defend his homeworld of Ylum. But the powers came with a price. The Merk expected Nexus to be a tool for vengeance in the galaxy, slaughtering a certain number of mass murders a year.

This was before the Punisher received his own series, so the idea of a bloodthirsty vigilante was at the time unique, novel, and too risky for the Big Two to handle. Going even further, some of the mass murders Nexus is forced to kill had repented and gone on with their lives. As a matter of fact, the first murderer Nexus was sent after was his own father, who was responsible for millions of deaths before Horatio was born.

Capital Comics published 9 issues of two Nexus series’ from 1981 to 1984. First Comics then took over with issue #7 of the second series, and continued to give the title a home until 1991, issue #80.

Dark Horse Comics then picked up the reins with a number of limited series and one-shots. Dark Horse published six separate Nexus series, but each individual issue counts towards the overall numbering of the series. So, the last Dark Horse issue, 1997’s Nexus: Night Mare in Blue #4 was actually Nexus #98.

This means that it will be Nexus #99 coming to us tomorrow. This time, Baron and Rude are going the self-publishing route, with the aptly named RudeDude Productions. Not only does this new series mark Nexus’ return to comic pages, but it also marks his return to full color (the last Dark Horse miniseries was published in black and white in order to cut costs).

Tomorrow’s issue is supposed to be a good jump on issue for new readers and old fans alike. But if you want to find out more about the character, you could see if your local comic shop has any copies of RudeDude’s Free Comic Book Day offering, Nexus’ Greatest Hits, which gives a Cliff’s Notes version of the character’s history. There are also several volumes of the Nexus Archives still in print. Published by Dark Horse, these book collect the early issues of Nexus into a hardcover form.

Nexus was one of the most exciting and fun titles of the 1980’s. It is good to see it return. Hopefully, a new generation of fans will discover it and give it a long life on the shelves.

Also out this week:

• Annihilation: Conquest-Wraith #1

One of the surprise hits of last year had to have been the Annihilation event. Running concurrent with the Civil War crossover, not many people gave the series’, featuring Marvel’s little known and seldom used sci-fi characters, a chance at success. But Annihilation was able to carve out a readership of its own.

As is the case with all success stories, Annhilation has received a sequel. Following a similar format to last year’s event, our heroes face a new and deadly threat from the Phalanx, a dangerous alien race that has plagued the X-Men time and again. The Phalanx feel the universe, still reeling from Annihilus’ attack, is easy pickings for conquest. Our heroes would like to have something to say about that.

Javier Grillo-Marxuach (W), Kyle Hotz (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

• Green Arrow: Year One #1

Last week, we featured Black Canary #1 in this column. Now it’s time to focus on her husband to be, as the Green Arrow’s origin receives the "Year One" treatment. And the story couldn’t be in any better hands than Andy Diggle and Jock.

This marks a reunion for the creative team, who had previously worked on the excellent, albeit cancelled much too soon, Vertigo book, The Losers. In my opinion, that was one of the best comic books published in the last ten years. I am excited to see if they recapture some of that magic for this series. Their gritty style lends itself to the telling of how Ollie Queen went from dilettante playboy to one of DC’s greatest superheroes.

Andy Diggle (W), Jock (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Six-Issue Miniseries.

• Clubbing

DC’s MINX line continues on with it’s latest installment, featuring the work of two indie icons—Andi Watson (Geisha, Skeleton Key) and Josh Howard (Dead @ 17, Black Harvest).

Unfortunately for Charlotte "Lottie" Brock, she spent a little too much time looking at purses on eBay and not enough working with Photoshop. The result? Getting caught with a fake I.D. at a West End club.

Her parents, wishing to keep her out of trouble and safe from danger, send Lottie out to live with her Grandparents in the English countryside. But keeping Lottie safe and out of danger is hard work due to the fact that it seems to follow her. Because while she’s there, she stumbles upon a murder mystery that she feels compelled to solve.

Andi Watson (W), Josh Howard (A), DC/MINX Comics, $9.99. Graphic Novel.

• Stephen Colbert's Tek Jansen #1

How’s this for Meta: The faux-Conservative talk show host’s faux line of sci-fi novels becomes a real comic book series this week. Steven Colbert’s Tek Jansen makes his way from his animated adventures on the Colbert Report to the 2-D realm of comic books thanks to Oni.

One gets the feeling that Colbert is a comic book fan. From his coverage of Marvel’s Civil War and the Death of Captain America on his program to his personal meet and greet with comic writer Peter David as related on David’s own blog (http://peterdavid.net/, February, 24, 2007 entry), he seems to know just a little bit too much about the hobby than a complete outsider should. If he is, he should come forward and become a spokesman for the art form. A newsman of his stature would bring an added respectability to it.

John Layman & Tom Peyer with Jim Massey (W), Scott Chantler with various (A), Oni Press, $3.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.

• Nicolas Cage's Voodoo Child #1

Speaking of famous comic book fans, we come to Nicolas Cage. While he has not come out and said he’s a comic collector, all the signs are there. Need proof? The former Nicolas Coppola took the last name of Marvel character Luke Cage as part of his stage name. Several years ago, he sold off a comics collection worth well over a million dollars. He has been attached to a variety of comic book movies, including Superman, Spider-man and Constantine, before finally hitting the screen as Ghost Rider. He even named his son Kal-El for goodness sakes!

If you need further proof, he and his teenage son, Weston, are the creative forces behind this new Virgin series. It is a supernatural tale that spans 245 years. In 1860, a voodoo bokor places a spell on a dying boy. In 2005, a detective name Robert Julien is investigating a kidnapping when he comes in contact with an otherworldy force. How are these two things related and will Julien live to find out?

Mike Carey (W), Dean Hyrapiet (A), Virgin Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

• New Avengers #32

If you have been living under a rock and haven’t read New Avengers #31 yet, you had better skip down to the next blurb, because this one will spoil that issue for you. Go ahead, we’ll wait for you.

All right, let’s move on. The revelation of last issue that Elektra was a Skrull has turned our team on its ear. Who else is a Skrull? How deep does the conspiracy lie? Can they trust their allies, their friends or even their families? The New Avengers knew they could rely on only one thing, their trust in one another. Now that trust has been shattered. Can the team survive? Or has this shocking information done something that countless villains or even the Civil War couldn’t do—destroy the team?

Brian Michael Bendis (W), Lenil Francis Yu (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

• Silverfish

David Lapham has garnered some mainstream attention from his work on Detective Comics, Tales of the Unexpected, and the Daredevil vs. Punisher miniseries. But the writer/artist, who started with the now defunct Valiant Comics, first made a splash with the Eisner Award-winning, critically acclaimed Stray Bullets series. He appears to return to the noir of that series in his latest work, Silverfish.

Mia snoops around her new stepmom Suzanne’s possessions, finding money, an address book and a blood-stained knife. She makes the mistake of calling one of the numbers, one for a man named Daniel. Unfortunately, Daniel is a killer who believes he is possessed by demonic silverfish. Now Mia must decide whether or not she can trust Suzanne before Daniel comes there and kills them both.

David Lapham (W/A), DC/Vertigo Comics, $24.99. Graphic Novel.

• Anita Blake-Vampire Hunter: First Death #1

The Anita Blake-Vampire Hunter: Guilty Pleasures series was an unexpected hit for Marvel and the Dabel Brothers. The adaptation of the first of Laurell K. Hamilton’s 15 book Anita Blake-Vampire Hunter series has consistently landed in the top 100, with sales for the most part increasing from issue to issue.

The first half of Guilty Pleasures is done and there will be a slight hiatus before the second half starts. To whet the fans’ appetites, Laurell K. Hamilton herself has co-created a special two issue series that acts as a prequel to Guilty Pleasures. And it can only be found in comic form, as it is created specifically for Marvel/ Dabel Brothers. This makes this series a must have for all-fans of Anita Blake.

Laurell K. Hamilton & Jonathon Green (W), Wellington Alves (A), Marvel/ Dabel Brothers Comics, $3.99. Two-Issue Miniseries.

# # #

William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer. He also writes periodic comic reviews for PopMatters and writes title descriptions for Human Computing’s Comicbase collection management software. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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