Thousand Faced: Nexus


Written by Mike Baron

Illustrated by Steve Rude

Nexus is classified by many as a super-hero series, and although I have a special fondness for those sorts of tales it is actually a fine example of a science fiction space opera.  First Comics published it from 1986-1991.

Horatio Hellpop, the son of a Sov system tyrant is sent dreams of mass murderers, the first being his father. The dreams are from the perceptions of their victims. When Horatio awakes he emerges from his tank of alien’s blood as Nexus. Given many powerful gifts Nexus must hunt down the murderers and murder them in turn or be plagued by horrible migraines sent to him by The Merck, his alien benefactor.  The compulsion drives him until he must obey. Throughout the series he tries to find a way to be free of his mission but always with disastrous results. So the fun just keeps on coming.

I read all of Nexus nearly twenty years ago and re-read it in the last few weeks. Within that run, except for some bad guest artist months and the obligatory First secondary series, it is one of the finest comic experiences I’ve ever enjoyed. There is a gleaming elegance to how Mike Baron’s story is propelled by the clean powerful lines of Steve Rude’s artwork. Although very much futuristic, there is an organic fluidity to Rude’s illustrations. It looks exactly like what you want to think of when you have space dreams. In every issue there is a wealth of this done with really clever layouts that charges the work with colorful energy.

Nexus is a complex man seeking some kind of reason for his existence. He desires justice but must suspend it when he can if his own emotions and loyalties are endangered by it. When he sends his Gucci-trained assassins, The Quatros to eliminate a list of bad guys they become poisoned by their own violence and go on a rampage on the Mars colonies killing over three thousand citizens in their murderous zeal. They become mass murderers and yet Nexus forgives them, presumably until his sponsor super alien, The Merck, sends him dreams of them. He’s made himself the protector of a planet full of refugees he’s rescued including thousands of severed telekinetic heads that also bring fusion power to those who can buy and wield it. You see how fun this is?

Characters? Oh yeah there is one weird-ass ensemble. Nexus’ best friend is a hi-tech Neanderthal named Judah Macabee  raised by some wandering rabbis when he lost his Dad Dave after a bicycle factory on Thune became a death camp. Judah is a free lance adjudicator. In other words, if you can’t get Nexus to kill your killers then you hire “The Hammer”. Judah also has the coolest warriors mohawk ever. Tyrone, is the blue-skinned , dorsal-headed  President of Ylum, Nexus’ refugee planet. There is Swerdlow, the consummate bureaucrat with literally an ass for a head. Nexus’ love interest is an assassin from the intergalactic council called The Web of the Worlds who was to spy on and eliminate her lover when commanded. There’s Mez a rock star rescued in the first wave of refugees to come to Nexus. Vootie!  There is a mammoth toy box of aliens and way cool science fiction devices and spacecraft. Oh and did I mention all of it is beautifully drawn, inked and colored.

This series is rich in everything that counts. There is an ongoing rumour in the fan community that one day this legendary series will return. Nexus is a masterwork. If there is love in your heart for that which is done well you owe it to yourself to inhale this one. Eat it up. Yum!

By Bill Hilburn

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