3 out of 5
After the exciting collision of agendas in the Next Nexus miniseries concludes, Mike Baron successfully breathes new life into his and Steve Rude’s title – not that it was needed, but that’s because Mike has been generally good at shuffling us through movements such as this along the way – by having The Merk run through auditions for another taker of the title. This gives the writer an outlet, once more, for his goofier side, but it’s paralleled against the life crisis Horatio is experiencing, trying to figure out how to bring value to a world as a regular Joe (albeit one with many resources) when that world seems ready to get in his altruistic way at every step with political and social squabbles.
For as compelling as this setup is, though, it feels like we never get very far with it. The Merk quickly settles on a man named Stan, a history teacher, as a good Nexus candidate, and this is part of the exciting / underwhelming dynamic: Stan is a greatly conceived character, diverging from Horatio’s sensibilities with a more confident and bold approach, but very much guided by logic – he’s not a U.S. Agent type, just less emotional than Hellpop, and with an agenda to improve upon what he sees as the original Nexus’ great acts. There’s a humorous undercurrent to this, with The Merk suddenly half-heartedly doing his “job,” leaving Stan stuck between being hired and being auditioned, but that ends up not being the focus, instead diverting for several issues to one of Stan’s elusive targets.
It probably doesn’t help that the art becomes rotating guest spots each or every other issue, with Rude only on covers; all of the artists are quality, but it prevents the strip from finding a rhythm (as happened when Badger went through constant artist rotations as well). And unfortunately, the backups featuring Judah start to suffer as well, with soon-to-be art stars (Steve Epting) looking pretty rough in early stages, and the scripts pretty loose and uninspiring as well.
Volume 5’s issues are not an unfun read, but it’s not the tighter experience of Nexus’ best runs, and seems to sit on some really great concepts and ideas without exploring them deeply enough.