Nexus Archives v.10
Written by Mike Baron
Illustrated by Steve Rude, Steve Huston, Greg Guler, Mark McKenna, Tom Baxa, Tony Akins & Hilary Barta
Colored by Les Dorscheid
Lettered by Clem Robins
Published by Dark Horse
Judah the Hammer backups
Written by Roger Salick, Ian Carney & Peter David
Illustrated by Steve Epting, Phil Hester, Mark McKenna, Paul Fricke, ChuckWojtkiewicz, Tom Baxa, Brandon Peterson & Steve Huston
Colored by Les Dorscheid
Lettered by Jim Massara, David C. Weiss, Diane Valentino & Huston
Just three issues of Steve Rude artwork in this Archive, as Greg Guler and Tony Akins handle the other five chapters. Graphically, it’s a clear step backwards; neither of the replacement artists provides the quirky background details or stylized action that fleshes out and defines the world of Nexus. Granted, at least Rude’s still present. The ensuing Archive won’t have that going for it.
Fortunately, even without Steve Rude’s illustrative prowess, Mike Baron’s scripts keep this series compelling. Let’s establish a little background first though: in the future, Horatio Hellpop is Nexus, the cosmic executioner, tasked by the alien Merk to assassinate humanity’s worst mass murderers. After Horatio quit, disgusted by the Merk’s whims and the consequences of his assignments, Professor Stan Korivitsky approached the Merk to become the new Nexus.
This being the tenth volume in the series, it’s not the easiest place to start reading Nexus. Much of it is devoted to Stan’s struggle to understand the Merk’s alien rationale, though readers familiar with the Nexus-verse will fine plenty to enjoy. Baron’s character work with Stan stands as some of his best, a study of a cocksure young man, an intellectual and scholar of history, sufficiently arrogant to willingly step into a role that has altered recent events to legendary degree. Yet under Baron’s pen, Stan retains the self-awareness to admit his ego and the creativity to prosper as Nexus even when the Merk strips him of his powers.
The lead half of the book focuses on a particular assignment for Stan, to execute the CEO of the Scorporation. It’s not one of the series’ best arcs – the lack of serious ethical complications ranks it far below some of Horatio’s most challenging kills – but it’s smartly plotted and full of interesting twists. The big finale is a bit of a deus ex machina. The latter portion of the book finds itself caught up in bureaucracy a little too much, but Baron’s laying some solid groundwork for future storylines that will come to fruition in v. 11 and v.12. The theme of religious zealotry never seems to lose relevance.
On the art side, Rude’s an idiosyncratic artist, but his unusual layouts add to the personality of the series, its alien cultures, its focus on details like the art, music, learning and commerce of the universe. His streamlined designs simplify the details, creating pages that are full without being cluttered. Guler and Akins provide effective work, but cannot deliver the details or sense of motion that enrich this comic. As he writes the introduction to this volume, Les Dorscheid deserves some credit for his detailed and nuanced coloring, particularly good work when compared to the technological limits that shackled many contemporary colorists at the time.
(Each issue also features a backup tale starring Horatio’s longtime friend, Judah Macabee, the Hammer, in bounty-hunting adventure. Early work by Steve Epting and Phil Hester shows a hint of the promise both men eventually unearthed. Scripts by Roger Salick, who focuses on morality issues similar to Baron’s best Nexus tales, Ian Carney, who spins tales of humanity with Judah appearing only in small roles, ala many of Will Eisner’s Spirit strips, and Peter David, a twist ending in true PAD-fashion, are solidly entertaining while being large forgettable.)
It’s not the best Nexus Archive you’ll find, but after nine volumes of pure excellence, every series is allowed a slight lull. And if you’ve come this far, you’ll appreciate what Baron’s doing in building his little democracy in space on the moon Ylum. Witnessing the new dynamic created by Stan Korivitsky, as well as the new twists on the role of Nexus and his place in the universe, should provide enough thrills to make Nexus Archives v.10 worthwhile.