Nexus #21, 22, 24 (1986)

Nexus was perhaps the greatest comic book space opera comic of all time. Combining the amazing artwork of Steve Rude with the vibrant and charming writing of Mike Baron, Nexus was a breath of fresh air, a harbinger of newer and greater comics, and a wonderfully original and creative comics experience. In short, it was everything that comics should be.

Nexus the man is a killer. That’s his responsibility and his curse. In return for the amazing powers he controls, Nexus is haunted by dreams of mass murderers. He is compelled to hunt down these murderers and assassinate them because he is ordered to do so by the Merk, a bizarre and sometimes insane alien who lives on Nexus’s home world, Ylum. Ylum is a free world where refugees from around the universe go, a planet where people can escape the repression of the Sovs – hey, it’s ’80s sci-fi – or the boredom of the Web, the free part of the galaxy. Ylum is home to refugees and misfitsm and also home to a group of disembodied telekinetic heads. Oh, and Nexus’s best friend is named Judah Maccabee, who’s the son of Dave. And… umm…

Maybe I just put my finger on what’s both great and frustrating about this comic. It has its own idoisyncratic, in-jokey beat. Nexus’s universe is full of odd references- there’s a pirate ship in issue 21 called the Zatoichi Maru, and Nexus is friends with a great Gucci assassin – that make the book feel like the coolest thing in the room. For long-time readers, the book is a constant joy of new discoveries and long-unfolding plotlines. But for newcomers this world has to be frustrating as hell. Who are these superpowerful disembodied heads? What’s with that alien slang? And if Nexus is supposed to be an assassin, why does he do stuff other than kill? It has to be baffling as hell, as if the whole thing is a bizarre joke that everyone but you gets.

There’s no ambiguity, though, about the art of Steve Rude. Rude is a real master. His figures are animated but real, passionate but intelligent, fun but serious. He has a clean line style that is so graceful, so full of life, that it’s a joy to behold. It’s a shame Rude never became a real star, because his work is wonderful.

I’m part of the cult of Nexus. Great Goulessarian, I love this stuff!

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