Aliens, Soviets and More in a Must Have Collection: A Review of ‘Nexus Omnibus Vol #1’ TPB

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Nexus Omnibus Vol 1Title: Nexus Omnibus Vol #1 TPB

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Writer: Mike Barron

Artist: Steve Rude

Inker: Eric Shanower

Colorist: Les Doscheid

Cover Artist: Steve Rude

Pages: 416

Format: Softcover

Genre: Superhero, Classic, Action/Adventure

Retail Price: $24.99

I have to admit it – I love the Dark Horse Omnibuses. I’ve been picking them up from Day One, Aliens, Predator, Terminator, Buffy, the Comics Greatest World stuff, the Mask…everything.  I love the compact, uniform format.  I love how the rarities are collected (an absolute gem in the Star Wars collections – which also reformat things into chronological order). I love how I don’t have to dig through “The Archives” in the stacks of long boxes in the garage to get to those old Marvel Indiana Jones books). There are drawbacks – no extras or text pieces as you might find in a trade collection, and most egregiously, most of the covers aren’t reproduced, but overall, well worth the purchase price. The format is so successful that IDW aped it and my Omnibus shelves also contain Ghostbusters, Angel, and Star Trek (and hey, IDW, how about some more Star Trek omnibus editions please?). Recently Dark Horse has mined some earlier work and transferred it from Archive format to Omnibus format, and I couldn’t be happier.

If you’re not familiar with Nexus, first of all, shame on you. Second of all, Mike Baron and Steve Rude’s Nexus, originally published by First Comics from 1981 to 1991, chronicles the adventures of Horatio Hellpop, recruited by the alien Merk to kill mass murderers. Nexus is driven by dreams and physical pain to assassinate murderers, no matter if they repentant, ignorant of their crimes, or reveling in their mischief.

The first story truly shows how set in the early ‘80s the stories were, as a large portion of the Nexus universe is ruled by Soviet-era communisms (with statues of Lenin and “comrades” galore). The villain himself is a relic of the Cold War USSR, in more ways than one, and, even though this is issue #12 of the series, a central conflict of Nexus – that he is forced to kill and attempting to avoid his mission has catastrophic results – is made clear. There are several interesting ethical quandaries in the story (Nexus is not infallible) and nearly killing an innocent being one of them, and these are explored throughout the series.

In the second issue in the collection, for example, an agonized Hellpop has had implants surgically added to prevent him from sleeping and dreaming. Obviously, ultimate cosmic power of a man slowly going insane from sleep deprivation is a bit of a mistake, and some of Hellpop’s friends pay the ultimate price. While the universe goes on without him, taking some time to look in on side characters and concepts (including several intervals with a reptilian comedian named Clonezone), Hellpop descends into sloth and is reborn with the help of his two childhood imaginary (or are they?) friends. It’s an interesting story and statement on destiny.

Nexus gets back to (relative) normal just in time to take on Soviet assassins, the president of the main galactic government, and the revelation he’s a father. Then we take a breather to check up on Judah Macabee, the Hammer of God, who, along with some of Nexus’s friends are worried he’s swung too far to the other side of the emotional spectrum, and ultimately Nexus discovers the source of his powers and dreams and is able to take control of his own future. Later stories involve the attack of the Soviet government on Nexus’s homeworld of Ylum and an exploration of justice vs. revenge as Nexus is given more freedom in his missions.

The art…well, come on, it’s Steve Rude. It’s clean, detailed, and dynamic. There is a Keith Giffen fill-in, and while I adore Keith Giffen, it’s a bit of a shock that brings me down a bit. While his aliens are fine, the human characters just don’t match. The Clonezone back-ups are amusing and diversionary with some fine Mike Nelson and Hilary Barta work, and I’m glad it’s there for completeness sake, but they do interrupt the flow a little bit which is unfortunate.

I loved this. I balked at buying the Archives, although I’ve managed to get a couple for cheap, but this is the perfect way to experience these stories. Nexus has had many fits and false restarts the last several years and I really hope this is the beginning of some consistency with the character, and the start of more reprinting of books of that era in omnibus form.

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