Nexus: Space Opera
Written by Mike Baron
Penciled, painted and co-plotted by Steve Rude
Inked by Rude, Gary Martin, Al Milgrom and Bob Wiacek
Colored by Glenn Whitmore
Lettered by Todd Klein
Published by Rude Dude Productions
Here’s the thing about superhero comics: none of them have the slightest thing to actually say. In the end, it’s all about their own mythos, their own “universe.” It’s pure plot, pure mechanics. At best, it’s fun, but eminently forgettable, a puff of sweetness, gone in a second.
Then there’s Nexus. If you don’t know: Horatio Hellpop, orphaned son of a war criminal, was given godlike powers by an alien being and charged with being humanity’s conscience. Driven by nightmares, he seeks out and kills mass murders, while trying to create a home where his philosophical soul can find peace. Or something like that. It’s more classical tragedy than corn-fed cheese, I promise.
I read Space Opera when it was serialized, making a very, very rare exception to my long-standing revulsion of the serialized comics form. But I felt that until Steve Rude was able to stabilize his self-publishing venture, comics of Nexus’ exceptional quality deserved some under-writing. Alas, even with my support, the venture was not a commercial success, but even in the worst case scenario that Baron and Rude are never able to return to their signature hero, at least the series went out in good shape.
Nexus is a superhero comic with intent. Within the pages of Space Opera – now collected into a minimally designed book edition – Baron and Rude address political and religious freedoms, extremist religious zealotry, parenthood and the conflicting desire for personal freedom opposed by societal necessities. You won’t always agree with Nexus’ viewpoints – heaven knows I don’t, but the intelligence and ambition of the series makes nearly every other superhero comic around look like it’s still wearing footsie pajamas.
Sure, sometimes they reach a little too far, as in the hamfisted political parody flashback to Sundra’s youth, but wouldn’t you rather a series that oversteps rather than one that doesn’t even stride?
So, Baron’s a smart guy, and he jams as much information onto each page as possible, offering glimpses and teases of dozens of alien races, letting readers extrapolate the details for themselves. He similarly raises human issues, but leaves room for the reader to come to his or her own conclusion.
Steve Rude, the Dude, can sometimes overwhelm a reader with his idiosyncratic pages, but his draftsmanship is nearly unparalleled in the industry today, his character designs positively sing, and deep down in all those quirky layouts, there are some really striking page designs and, more often than not, strong visual storytelling.
Nexus: Space Opera collects four issues’ worth of Nexus goodness, including the birth of Horatio and Sundra’s son, multiple assassination attempts on the newborn lad, and all the moral and social complications of a rising tide of violence from the Elvonic religious order. It’s probably not the best place for a new reader to start, but if you’ve been in the water, it’s a very welcome reason to return. If you’re not a convert, Dark Horse’s Nexus Archives series is waiting. Once you see what the hubbub’s about, you’ll catch up before you know it.