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Unearthed: Nexus… now in COLOR!

Unearthed: Nexus… now in COLOR! published on No Comments on Unearthed: Nexus… now in COLOR!

As promised, True Believers, we now move into the next phase of Nexus… the Next-us Phase, as I never call it… in which we get to see Horatio Hellpop in glorious color!

Steve Rude’s clean-lined style truly lends itself well to color. Les Dorscheid does amazing work throughout this series… as someone who’s just now beginning to understand how color in comics works, I’m amazed he was able to achieve so much. Just the simplicity of assigning hues to differentiate secondary characters from the mains, as above, is an art in itself.

And hey, check out the amazing ‘camera’ view from above here!

And again, great use of silhouette to evoke, not just a sense of mystery, but also as a way to lead the reader’s eye in to this character. Then we push in ever farther in the second panel to humanize Ursula’s character.

But hey, we’re just prolonging the anticipation of one of the greatest characters in comics… enter:

Judah Maccabee, the Hammer! Seriously, go find collections of Nexus and glory in this amazing guy. It’s not our intention here to present every panel of every issue of any comic; these stories are more than worth the asking price. But if this website introduces more people to great comics they might otherwise not have known about, then it’ll all have been worth it in the end!

Also, recognize that cowering table pose?

Steve Rude will always use perspective and camera angle to heighten a scene’s drama and action. Here the focus is drawn to Judah’s hand as it powers up with energy, and the inset panel of Nexus’s hand interrupting it — with accompanying color change! — is perfectly rendered.

And then these two panels that continue the scene… look at how the framework of the dividing wall puts the eye’s focus right where it should be: in the first panel, where Nexus is gripping Judah’s wrist. In the second panel, framing the astonishment of Judah’s face. This is next-level stuff, humans. You just don’t SEE this kind of composition anymore.

Rude also knows when to break panel, as in Judah’s sword above, and the shards of glass in the panel below.

Lothar’s comeuppance was only briefly interrupted. You might think that Rude could have used a more straightforward shot of Judah firing, but by showing him in the mirror, the artist maintains the placement of the characters in the room. His spatial sense is second to none, and it’s something not a lot of comic artists seem to care about.

And I don’t know if it’s in the script, but it’s a nice touch to show the couple on the left’s reaction to the violence. And again, Dorscheid’s colors help the eye visually identify where the focus should first be.

In Judah’s apartment, Nexus reflects on his own culpability for Judah’s chosen profession as “independent adjudicator”. It’s just one thought balloon, but that’s all that’s needed.

Rude’s characters display such natural body language, it’s a genuine pleasure to see. And this is the only nod to Judah’s name that the series gives.

Also of note are Steve Rude’s transitions. You see characters naturally entering and exiting rooms all throughout the series. And look how much he gets out of not even showing Nexus’s or Judah’s faces!

Remember the framing in the restaurant scene? Rude does it again here. He’s so thoughtful about composition it’s kind of ridiculous.

And then, in the midst of all this violence and drama, this bit of slapstick. This has to be part of the actual script, right?

The horrifying moment when Judah returns, headless. And not to detract from the horror, but look at the unusual pose Nexus displays here. You only get this kind of angle when you work from photos, I think. But you also have to have the kind of visual mind that invents this pose in the first place.

And if you don’t get a thrill from this scene, I don’t know what to tell you. But look at the careful attention to detail in the clothing of the background characters, and the way Nexus’s right pectoral tenses up! And I’m not sure, but that red-and-white costumed character behind Nexus HAS to be an homage to Beast Boy, right?

And finally, a look at the cover of the next issue of Nexus, all covers of which were painted by Steve Rude:

It’s a little crude, compared to what he would later execute, but look at the way he leads the eye’s focus from the brightest point to the darkest; from the green guy’s expression to Nexus’s bloodied face and cracked visor.

But we’re done with Nexus for now… honestly, I could rhapsodize about this series for the rest of forever, but this website is about more than this! Drop back in on Monday to see who we’re tackling next! Great Goulessarian… it’ll be fantastic!

Unearthed: Nexus Prelude 2

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We’re back with more black and white Nexus.

Dave’s tale of his past oppression brings us this masterful second panel. We can’t see the light source that’s generating those stark shadows on the wall, but it serves its purpose: somehow this scene is more brutal for it.

Look at the clever use of panels here: somehow it renders this space — which could have easily just been one long panel — as larger than a single panel would have made it.

The final panel here is a fun display of the varied sizes of the exclaimants.

But Mike Baron, the writer, is doing his work too. Nexus is on his way to assassinate Zieffer Mierd, a ruthless dictator of his people. But here Baron shows us a different side of him…

And here, after Mierd’s announcement, the reaction of the crowd, nicely varied and rendered by Rude.

Mierd loves his wife, and she kills herself to wait for him on the other side.

In the end, Nexus cannot bring himself to kill Mierd, but the thug who requested his death takes his shot himself. Rude uses his wide panels nicely here, and again, in the final panel, we see his love of unusual poses.

And Baron doesn’t let the matter rest there. He’s aware of the repercussions of Nexus’s non-action, on both sides.

A brief explanation of Nexus’s dreams. He dreams of mass murderers, and experiences each death personally.

He keeps having these dreams until he kills the person responsible. And in this case, he dreams of his own father.

Steve Rude has a wonderful sense of the drama of a scene. Few artists use silhouettes better than he does.

Baron also writes the most interesting dialogue. Sundra Peale, journalist and love interest, examines Nexus’s feelings about his first assassination, which was of his father. But in the next panel:

Nexus himself is the product of a Communist upbringing, but he’s also a voracious reader of philosophy, so we get some of that here.

Also, Mike Baron is a lover of puns.

TOMORROW! We dive head-first into the COLOR Nexus comics! By Grabthar’s hammer, the SAVINGS!

Unearthed: Nexus Prelude

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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!