Today, a book I genuinely love, and one that I think has influenced me a great deal, for good or ill. From 1988, Nexus #50, written by Mike Baron, art by Steve Rude.
This 52-page issue wrapped up a number of storylines, including the six-part Badger crossover...y'know, that wasn't really a crossover as much as a guest-spot. Nexus, Judah, and Badger have returned to the mysterious Bowl-Shaped World to enlist the help of its creator, Ashram. The manta-like alien could manipulate black holes and suns, but had been overthrown by the tyrant Sklar. Sklar, for his part, is overthrown and fried early on this issue; and the weakened Ashram plans to reach into our universe to drain power from a star...but Nexus has an idea.
In our universe, the black hole/gravity well project at space station Stacy is nearing implosion, which would probably destroy earth's entire solar system. Mars, for its part, seems unperturbed, but does postpone the execution of the mass murderer Kreed. (Kreed was one of Nexus's closest friends, yet he and Sinclair had gone kill-crazy trying to cross names off Nexus's list of mass murderers.) As panic grows, and refugees swarm to the now-swamped haven of Ylum; Nexus and Ashram plan to save both Ashram's sun and the gravity well. But first, Ashram wants to tell Nexus how he finds Ylum:
"But Ylum's a mess! Housing shortages! Overcrowding! Crime!"
"Au contraire, Nexus. It is a most exciting experiment in democracy...even taking into account those Ylumites who don't understand democracy...who have no hope of ever comprehending democracy..."
I've mentioned that exchange before, I've always liked it. Again, I'm not sure that this was Baron or Rude's intent, but I've always felt like it meant that Ylum is great because it's trying to work with people that don't understand democracy, don't wanna understand democracy, and may never understand democracy. And I've always really liked that idea. It makes me feel like used properly, a democratic society will eventually wear down extremists, tyrants, and opportunists. It's a hopeful line, that even though it seems like no one gets along and everyone is filled with generations of hate, eventually people will work it out. I don't know if either Baron or Rude would agree with me on that now, though. Hell, I don't know if I agree with me now, but it still makes me hopeful.
Ashram sends our heroes--and tinpot used-car salesman and chiseller Honest Crocus--back through the black hole, where Judah and Nexus are able to use their fusionkasting abilities to help stabilize Ashram's sun and the black hole, saving both. (Badger is sucked back through the black hole, presumably back to his own book! Judah and Nexus aren't terribly broken up, perhaps expecting such to happen, or perhaps six issues is a long time to spend with Badger.) Having saved the solar system, Nexus lobbies for greater acceptance of his world Ylum, as well as commuting Kreed's sentence. Kreed begs to differ, that saving him sends the wrong message: Nexus argues some people would always say such, Kreed argues back that with his death...they would say it less. With a final farewell, Kreed dies, apparently willing himself to do so.
Although Ylum and the rest of the universe seem to celebrate him, and Horatio is glad to be back with Sundra, he claims he is through being Nexus. His boss, the alien Merk, can "find another sucker." Sundra worries that it seems wrong...as the Loomis sisters, daughters of one of Nexus's victims, find a tank not unlike the one that gave Nexus his powers, on neighboring Headworld...and one of Horatio's daughters, Scarlett, has a terrifying vision of a man with "a long scar running down his left eye..." That would be Grimjack, who with Dreadstar would face Nexus in the Crossroads crossover.
While several new plots were being warmed up there, this issue felt a lot more like an ending than a beginning. Co-creator Steve Rude would be drawing the Next Nexus mini-series, while Paul Smith drew the main title for four issues--and you could do a lot worse than Paul Smith! Rude would return with #58, but would only stay until #60, then not return until the series' relaunch with Dark Horse and Nexus: the Origin.
Also this issue: a glimpse into Baron and Rude's process. Baron gives Rude rough layouts and dialog, with the caveat "Remember to forget my layouts!" I love that! I've been working off that idea for years now: if I had a proper artist, I would have them go nuts on my stupid panel layouts...