Comic: 2 out of 5
Ashcan: 4 out of 5
This has an interesting genesis of which I wasn’t aware, and that Steve speaks to in the opening: with Nexus, over its multiple decades of existence, having functioned as the partnership between two often opposing mindsets – writer Mike Baron and artist Steve Rude – the duo had the idea to allow for a sort of split narrative in which Mike would take the reigns of one split (which, as I understand, produced the newspaper strips) and Rude the other – hence this Thuneworld tale, being first-time-written-by Steve, alongside his art.
And now we have an ashcan of the first issue of that series.
As a comic, it frankly has its flaws, many of which are, indeed, those “first timer” type flaws: it’s definitely over-exposited, and it doesn’t quite have the blend of offhandedness and terseness that’s typical of Baron; many of the characters also come across as sounding exactly the same, and I can’t tell you what the focus of the book is – scenes change without much transition on every page. Their often overwrought dialogue does have the pomp of Golden / Silver Age comics-style writing that we know obsesses Rude, but I don’t think it was necessarily intentional to have that water down the book’s personality. The story seems to take place after the Sunday Strips, and maybe concerns an old villain coming back to haunt Nexus, preceded by a Dave-piloted ship crash-landing on Ylum.
That said, we are dealing with a character (and characters) and world with plenty of history, and Rude knows that history, so even with a fairly dry tone, the book benefits from that. It falls much too flat to really incite much interest for an issue two, but Steve’s art does pick up a lot of that slack, imbuing pages with his unbelievably consistent flow and energy, using his dual writer / artist role to work some magic with integrating the words into that flow. Nothing splashy, exactly, but when the script is your own, you can rearrange things a bit more liberally to suit your needs.
As an ashcan / preview book, though, this thing is generally pretty amazing. It’s not clear if Steve is excluding page directions from his reproduced scripts – we get side-by-side script to page comparisons – or simply left them out and added the directions into his thumbnails – also provided, and sometimes blown up for reference – but I love seeing how he adds and subtracts lines to the scenes. There’s also indication here of how his day job is, first and foremost, artist: the thumbnails are damn close to the final pages, and Steve’s explanation of thumbnails – that an image should be able to be “read” even at a reduced size – really lays clear how much emphasis the artist puts on page design, and thus why he’s so dern good at it. We also occasionally get roughs of the pages; on those, it’s interesting to note which foreground elements Rude draws in detail, and what he’s comfortable leaving to be filled in later.
That said, as the book goes on, the script starts to vary pretty drastically from the art, with large sections of text completely missing, and/or possibly moved to other pages. I found this somewhat distracting – one note explaining this would’ve been helpful, since I don’t think it’s unreasonable to do a script-to-page comparison when the two are printed side by side, and when they start to diverge into different ways of telling the story, it’s odd to not have some context on that.
So as a Nexus fan, I’m overall satisfied: this is a fantastic process book, executed with a balance of behind-the-scenes and educational priorities, and then enough of a start on a new series to have me interested to see how Steve might evolve as a writer along the way, not to mention seeing if the bits and pieces will congeal into a more streamlined story.