NEXUS ARCHIVES Vol. 4 by Mike Baron and Steve Rude is a turning point in the series as Horatio Hellpop learns the source of his Nexus powers and his mission, and then has to redeem himself for rejecting said mission in the previous arc. To further amp up the pressure, Ylum’s growing refugee population now depends on Nexus’ power to keep them safe from re-slavery, and Horatio begins to fear that without Nexus he has no purpose in life. Very good overall—except for the space wasted on the Clonezone unfunny backups (I shouldn’t be surprised, very little of Baron’s work has appealed to me outside Nexus).
THE ESSENTIAL THOR Vol 4 by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, John Buscema and Gerry Conway (cover by Buscema, all rights reside with current holder) is a very disappointing finish to the Lee/Kirby run on the title. Whether they’d run out of ideas or their collaboration by the end of the sixties was too freyed (Kirby was about to jump ship to DC), their work feels recycled and listless. Kirby’s departure doesn’t improve things: less than a year and a half after having Loki seize Odin’s ring and take over Asgard, Lee recycles the same gimmick. And Conway’s tenure appears to be when Odin went from a domineering father constantly punishing Thor to a creepy manipulator controlling his subjects like puppets. I don’t think the title really caught fire again until the Walt Simonson run.
BOXERS AND SAINTS by Gene Yuang is actually two books about the Boxer Rebellion. In Boxers, the protagonist is one of the founders of the “Society of Harmonious Fists,” fighting against foreign domination of China by calling on the power of the gods (Christianity, by contrast, has to rely on the power of British guns); in Saints, a lonely Chinese girl finds a home in a Christian sect (though her bafflement about the doctrine frequently reminded me of Life of Pi). Boxers worked better for me; i didn’t care for Saints until I saw how the two fit together.
A-NEXT: Second Coming by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz kicked off the Spider-Girl spinoff A-Next wherein a new team of young heroes step into the shoes of the now-vanished Avengers (whose fate was covered later in the series than this book gets to). This was fun, though very much geared to introducing the cast, and also to borrowing from DeFalco’s previous work—the son of his creation Thunderstrike, and a follow-up to elements of his Fantastic Four run (I’m in a minority as enjoying that). And while I liked that Hercules’ son Argo is Latino, having him and the black Earth Sentry as guest-stars only underlines that the regular team here is very white (except for the Eurasian Juggernaut).
I picked up THE ART OF CHARLIE CHAN HOCK CHYE by Sonny Liew in the belief it was some history of a famous comics creator I’d never heard of. Instead it turns out to be Liew using the fictitious Chye to pay homage to a variety of creators (Chye’s work borrows from Spider-Man, Pogo and Mad Magazine, for instance) and to follow Singapore (Liew’s own home) from British colonial rule through Japanese occupation and its long and politically conflicted independence through Chye’s satirical cartoons. Clever, informative and entertaining.