Nexus Newspaper Edition (#1 – 7) – Mike Baron

4 out of 5

You caught me: I’m way late to the whole Nexus / Badger shindig.  What’s oddly appealing, though – ‘oddly’ because I don’t think this attribute works for every strip – is that I’m not sure it matters.  While Nexus’ history is certainly a bit more linear than Badger’s purposefully re-re-re-retconned existence, writer Mike Baron applies a similar open-endedness to each title, allowing it to slip into and out of storylines instantly, and thus by extension, the sake being true for the reader.

So the digital comic strip edition of Nexus – printed up in over-sized newspaper editions, which is what I read and am reviewing – while essentially inheriting its 35 years of prior on/off history, is still easy-peasey to pick up and run with.  And yet, instead of this meaning that events feel like they have no consequence (which is why I mention this doesn’t normally work for other books), the storyline absolutely builds addictively off itself so that its rewarding to keep reading.  How exactly is this pulled off?  Exactly?  No clue.  But the secret, I think, lies in a trait apparent also in Steve Rude’s art.

“The Dude” (Steve’s moderately annoying nickname for himself) has a breezy, almost simplistic way of drawing – like a less flighty Allred, married to a distinctly 80s classic Marvel / DC look – that belies an innate understanding of layout, pacing, and character design.  In other words: It looks simple but it ain’t.  He can render the alien Larp in a completely inhuman fashion (like a bugle with tentacles) and give it a full personality; he can whip up a page with few distinct panel borders but never confuse the viewer’s eye.  And so Baron does something similar in writing, with his zippy, vaguely philosophical dialogue always hanging on the edge of nonsense but with a clear drive toward plot and character at the same time.  It all sounds very silly, but there’s clear narrative momentum all the same.

So these two masters of off-handedly great comics zip through an origin retelling before Nexus is off battling planet-devouring bugs, and Kirby-homage Silver Surfer and Galactus riffs.  Stuffing the Badger in there feels a little too winky, but the dream-like dimension in which he’s inserted gives our creative duo a good chance to have Nexus take stock of his experiences, reminding / showing us, in turn, how expansive his world is.  Steven Legge assists on digital colors, which are a bit flat on occasion but are kept bright and bold to really pop off the print edition.

Which is… gigantic.  And while I think its a cool item to own, im not positive I’m fully sold on the format, or maybe I just wish it was a bit more mindful of how the page falls above and below the fold, as it’s a bit unwieldy to read.  If you have space to lay it out, you can’t see the whole page in one glance, and then if you’re holding it up to do so, the thick and stiff paper stock – though appreciably quality – makes it hard to wrangle with and rather weighty.  So its cool, but imperfect.  Each newspaper seemingly collects a month of weekly strips, and then you get some bonus strips, and / or a letters-y page, and / or extra content from Rude / Baron.  It’s definitely pricey for the amount of content – you’re paying for it being a premium item – but if you have the storage space and know what you’re getting, it’s good fun.

The story has continued past this issue but it seems subscriptions might be on hold until a family illness is at a better point.