Nexus Omnibus vol. 6 (DH SC edition) – Mike Baron

4 out of 5

I’ve read quite a bit of Mike Baron, and a lot of it is… pretty messy. So I look at his oeuvre, and that’s how I see it: jam-packed with ideas and some great books, but also, y’know, messy. And then I read Nexus, and it makes me want to start building up my Baron collection again, because Nexus is so damn good.

This concept of a nightmare-fueled killer-of-killers, set on an alien planet, just seems to have been the perfect platform for allowing Mike to explore all of his interests, while being grounded by some of the title’s human elements. So he can go bonkers, and include Badger and Flatlandia, but then he’s also purposefully limited himself with the politics of the Web, and the moralistic churn of his lead, Horatio Hellpop. And for as huge as the world of Nexus can be, it’s also proven miraculously linear in its plotting, drawing some clear lines from start until… here, the collected issues which form the end of volume 2 of the series. In which Nexus sub Stan finally gets pushed over the line, or perhaps just becomes his “true” self, and starts to enjoy his tasks as Nexus a bit too much. From there, this requires Horatio to step back into the mantle, but this is so, so far from a typical hero vs. fallen-hero setup; Baron has fully allowed Hellpop to not be Nexus, and if not for reading this series after the fact, I could’ve been fully convinced that the future of the book could’ve / would’ve been other Nexuses, while Horatio continued to find himself via his travels. And yet, Baron has also avoided other stereotypes of a hero’s return: it’s neither celebrated, or treated as tragedy; Horatio just makes the decision logically, and then tries to treat his new relationship with the Merk with the same logic, earned by his past experiences and witnessing what’s occurred with Stan. To top this off, there’s a dang twist at the conclusion, which has actual ramifications for where the series goes from here.

The issues after the Stan conflict are partial wrap-up – a summary issue which is a nice recap – and promise of things to come, with Ursula having taken in the Elvonics, and plotting some deviousness. I don’t know what the comics landscape looked like for the book at the time, but this is a great “ending,” giving us a stopping point if so desired, but also allowing plenty of room for further adventures and growth.

The Judah backups are a little wandering, even though they’re intended to form a tight story. I don’t really understand how you do a multi-part tale with a different author for each part; whether directly as a result of that or not, it just seemed disjointed, and never very engrossing. But perhaps when I read the mini-series dedicated to this, it’ll clear it up a bit. Even though the backups get a fair amount of page space overall, I tend not to knock the main contents for them, as they do seem like bonuses – Baron doesn’t short us on story or pages, and since others besides Baron have taken up the writing of these backups, they also don’t feel forced like the Clonezone stuff occasionally did. Just, y’know, not especially interesting.

Somewhat similarly, the one knock on the Nexus material is that the artists keep changing, issue by issue. Eventually, we settle into mainly Hugh Haynes, but he never quite establishes a set look, with even Horatio and Stan and Sundra somewhat shifting in their character models as things go along. I’d hate to be as reductive as “these artists aren’t Steve Rude,” as there have been a lot of great people working on the book, and Hayes definitely delivers some great pages, but in this collection specifically, no one especially knocks it out of the park

Also includes “the Nexus Files” – text rundowns on all the major characters, up through the last issue of the volume 2. A great resource to remind you of how things have progressed.