Unearthed: Nexus Prelude

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends… but probably will someday, let’s be honest. But today, we’re doing something different. Until now we’ve been making fun of older comics ’cause it’s entertaining and usually pretty easy. But we genuinely love comics, and specific comics in particular. So today we’re looking at Mike Baron and Steve Rude’s Nexus.

Now, there’s a bit of business at the top to take care of, here. Nexus began as a black and white comic published by Capital Comics. These earlier comics established Nexus as a character, his universe and his primary motivations. However, Steve Rude’s art, while definitely serviceable, wouldn’t come into its own fully until the later color comics. But let’s see some of the better points of the black and white stuff first.

Early Rude art here. His inks aren’t yet as refined as they’d later become; Nexus’s (the character facing us) left shoulder and bicep seem a little odd, as is the perspective in his reaching out. His shading techniques will even out as Rude defines his style.

Also, the line ‘See that my costume is laid out and pressed’ is emblematic of Mike Baron’s dialogue: he can go from serious to deadpan comedy between two balloons, and sometimes even in the same balloon. More to come.

An overhead shot of some complexity. In color, this might not read as confusingly, but already you can see Rude’s comfort with this extreme angle, especially in the figures.

Despite the scene before this one, look at the remarkable composition of these two panels. The dominant figure gets the heavy blacks because he’s the speaker giving the orders, but to his left, the wife is being escorted to safety. The henchman handing out the ammunition expresses a typically Rude-ian pose: his upper torso angled in an unusual way that nevertheless adds a dynamism to what might otherwise have been a dull, standard stance. This will be a repeated visual motif of Rude’s throughout the series.

In the second panel, a reverse shot that keeps the speaker’s clenched fist in view, emphasizing the urgency of the action. The two thugs look off to the right, anticipating Nexus’s grand entrance in the final panel of the page:

Power! But it’s not just the extreme angles displayed by the flying bodies to note, nor the superb anatomy rendering in the lower right corner that make this scene work. It’s the Dutch angle, the broken lights in the upper right corner, the petals falling off the plant in the lower left corner… and the deliberate lack of detail in Nexus as he blasts through in the middle. This isn’t the reveal, you see…

This is. And it’s funny to note this, but for us there’s a strange disconnection in rendering styles between the man on the table and Nexus himself. Vega, on the table, is wonderfully foreshortened and displayed in an abject pose, with some excellent shadowing.

Nexus, on the other hand, seems almost two-dimensional with his hatching-defined musculature and odd-looking pointing hand. And while this is one of our favorite costumes ever, the rendering of the oblique muscles above the belt line make the briefs section look like a gigolo affectation, especially when combined with the thigh-high boots. But again, Rude gets a grip on his style later as we’ll see.

It’s clear he does have a solid grasp of anatomy, and later we’ll see he does work from photographs of friends at times, but these early issues sees some forced work. The above sequence could easily have been just two panels; it works better without the thin middle panel.

But! Look at his masterful use of the reverse shot again. It’s not just for show, either. The top panel reintroduces the wife and puts the eye on Nexus’s growing power blast. The bottom panel gives us the payoff in a number of ways. Again, notice the poses he uses for the struck man and his wife in this panel. Dynamic and unusual, two words we’ll use again and again to refer to Steve Rude’s artwork throughout.

This nice sequence makes great use of eschewing the gutter between panels to emphasize the back and forth of the ‘camera’ to emphasize the chaos of the action, set off nicely by the balloonless exclamation of the soldier in the first panel.

And the final justification of Nexus’s violence, laying it on a bit thick, but putting a little mystery into the reader: how is this self-defense? Nexus as a story is more nicely complex than this first sequence would lead you to believe, and we’ll get to it!

This is just the start. It’s late, Real Life got so busy today I have to cut this short. But we’ll make it up by putting out a new episode tomorrow instead of Friday. Can’t wait to show you more Nexus!