HERO HISTORY: Nexus

by

Or – “Maybe This One Is More Of A Protagonist History?”

Many years ago, I gathered all my belongings into a Pontiac Gran Prix (borrowed from my mom, mind you) and took off for the wilds of Western Kansas for college. I learned a great many things in those ensuing 7 years: The smell of anti-freeze can be bad. Buffalo don’t like it when you taunt them with hamburgers. Vampires make terrible roommates. Always date a cougar, and a cougar from another country is a plus. But I apparently taught a few things as well, as when I rekindled the fire of comic collecting in Major Spoilers resident cartoonist Otter Disaster, then a pale youth with a ‘fro and a huge array of black band t-shirts. Of all the books I introduced him to, I credit him with introducing ME to several amazing comic stories and artists, among them Mike Allred and Mike Mignola. But probably his greatest discovery for me was the awesomeness of today’s Hero History entrant. Whereas my Legionnaires existed in a bright and shiny utopian future, today’s entrant lives in a world much more stark and dangerous, and his modus operandi is a lot harder to accept. Still, for all his failings as a man, his strengths as a person, as a husband and father, as well as his moral dilemma at his own exalted position make for fascinating stories. This, then, is your Major Spoilers Hero History of Horatio Valdemar Hellpop of Ylum… NEXUS!

It is the Twenty-Ninth Century. After the Cold War, the Soviet Union left Earth, colonizing their way across the stars until they became the massive and menacing Sov space empire. Humanity spread throughout the stars, and has interacted with dozens of races, such as the four-armed Quattro, the ape-like Thune, the bird-like Giz and more. When we first enter this world, we find ourselves on the dead planet Ylum (pronounced ‘eye-lum’, as in “asylum’), home to not-much-at-all save for a few political refugees and artifacts of a lost civilization. Oh, and Horatio Hellpop, one man with a dead-serious mission (emphasis on the DEAD.)

Leaving Ylum through chanting throngs of his fans, Nexus sets off on his latest mission of vengeance, finding a man once known as General Gonzales Y Vega, a man responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocents… A man currently holed up in a swanky resort, using the money stolen from those whose deaths he caused…

Upon returning home, Nexus finds that his dreams cease for a while… But his notoriety throughout The Cohesive Web (a coalition of planets which takes a lone vigilante with ungodly power to be troublesome) causes the great and powerful Nexus to have a visitor in his secluded home…

Sundra Peale, freelance reporter, the Lois Lane of Five-Hundred-Years-From-Now, finds her initial attempts to question the mighty Nexus are quickly rebuffed. Somewhat more tractable are the other residents of Ylum, including Nexus closest ally, a Thule named Dave. (Yes, Dave. Roll with it…) For days, she pumps all the inhabitants for as much information as she can, but finds that the man himself remains a mystery, wrapped in an enigma, deep fried for tempura. Finally, her chance arrives in the form of a buccaneer who makes Nexus an offer he can’t refuse: Kill a man for a chance to escape his dreams. Nexus nearly gives in, but refuses to kill someone that he cannot prove is evil, and finally agrees to give Sundra her interview…

Not long after the loss of his mother, Horatio began having periodic attacks which required him to be suspended in a special tank of fluid (of ominously unknown origin) to survive. Becoming a voracious reader, Horatio finds the horrible truth: General Theodor Hellpop was not the hero of the lost planet Vradic, but the man responsible for the deaths of 3.5 billion innocent people, for no reason other than he was ordered to do so. The first of his prophetic dreams comes soon after, and his “imaginary friends” begin taunting him about his father being a murderer, until Horatio finally snaps and lashes out suddenly with the power of pure fusion. Horatio’s dreams become more and more terrifying, haunting him until he is forced to take unthinkable action…

Having killed his father, Horatio truly became Nexus for the first time, accepting his new calling with certainty, punishing the guilty because he must. “Nothing can stop [the dreams] but my death,” he tells her. “And I refuse to kill myself.” Having let her into all of his deepest secrets, Nexus is surprised at Sundra’s response…

At the same time, Dave of Thune starts to wonder exactly how it is that the villains who came to Nexus with their bargain got their information, and comes to the conclusion that there is a spy on Ylum, working for the Web to bring Nexus down. When Sutta LeBerq, the leader of the group, returns with power comparable to Nexus’ own, it is clear that someone is working against them. But how does someone get as powerful as Nexus in just a few days?

Heads. Thousands and thousands of heads. The telekinetic power of these domes in concert allows for great energies, nearly as powerful as the fusioncasting that empowers Nexus himself. The irony of the entire affair is that their ultimate aim was to capture Nexus’ fusion power generator, a device that they thought gave him his abilities, completely misunderstanding the nature of his existence. As for the nature of the mysterious moon called Ylum?

Things on Ylum settle down briefly, but the Cohesive Web isn’t done with the cosmic executioner yet. Dave continues to worry about the mole in their midst, while Nexus is distracted by his first love affair. While out to dinner on Earth, Nexus is surprised to find that he’s not the only one with great power seeking out those of ill intent…

The young man calls himself Judah The Hammer (real name Fred) and he was thrown into the vengeance game after the death of his father… A Thune named Dave. Returning to Ylum, Nexus is surprised to find another visitor from the Web, one who is destined to have a great influence on days to come: Ambassador Ursula XX Imada. Ursula likewise believes that Nexus possesses an FPG, and has even (as Dave suspected) sent spies to undermine him…

….a spy named Sundra Peale. (Kinda saw that one coming.) Ursula’s nefariousness knows no bounds, and while Sundra may have turned over a new leaf due to love, there’s still several weapons in her arsenal, and at least two in her bodice that will work on even the mighty Nexus.

Sundra officially takes up residence on Ylum, as Horatio continues his work for the Merk and even manages to keep the various schemes of the refugees (specifically Tyrone, a blue-skinned power-hungry demogogue who quickly mobilizes the refugees into electing him to a position of power) under wraps, mostly. Unfortunately, the schemes of Ursula are much more successful, especially as regards harnessing the power of fusion…

As for Tyrone, he quickly manages to create and secure the office of President of Ylum. It’s interesting to see that, even with his powers, Nexus never attempts to run Ylum himself, nor does he really interfere in the operations of the government (aka Tyrone’s latest schemes.)

In addition to wise Dave and brash Tyrone, Nexus’ retinue continues to grow, as another key player arrives on Ylum in search of a place to seek out his destiny. But unlike most of the others who fall into Horatio’s orbit (literal and metaphorical) Kreed of the Quatro hasn’t been damaged by the fists of cruel destiny. Rather, he has done most of the battering himself, with his four enormous meathooks…

Kreed ends up taking a position as Nexus’ doorman, rebuffing those who don’t have an invitation to his sanctum. While Nexus and Judah get sucked through a black hole into a bowl-shaped world, (looong story) Ursula delivers not one, but TWO offspring of Horatio’s genepool, and begins her evil plan to replicate his super-powers in their twin daughters…

Upon his return from an alternate dimension, Nexus finds the burdens of his periodic nightmares and paralyzing headaches to be too much. In an attempt to offset some of his pain, he gets a special cranial implant that blocks out the sensations of his curse, but also leads him to lose touch with his friends, with Sundra, with any of the things that gave him joy. But avoiding his duties ends up having unpleasant consequences for Nexus.

The return of his childhood pals fills Horatio with terror, and causes Sundra to take unprecedented action. Entering the mysterious hourglass-shaped tank in which Horatio sleeps, she swims down the drain and finds herself in the unexplored sub-layers of Ylum. And what she finds in the underworld is shocking, even in terms of what we’ve seen before…

Sundra succeeds in waking the mysterious creature, and it disgustedly castigates her for interrupting it’s dream of justice. “I am the last of the Merk,” it tells her, and explains that it’s people left behind their material states eons ago. Staying behind, this Merk sought out someone to act as his people did, adjudicating throughout the galaxy, and dispensing justice. The Merk caused General Hellpop to crash on Ylum, and forged Horatio Hellpop into it’s pawn…

Horatio arrives, and zorch-bolts are exchanged between master and servant before Sundra manages to wage peace. Horatio agrees to continue in his role, while the Merk agrees that the headaches are no longer necessary… The dreams, however, will continue. At the same time, on Earth, Ursula Imada has caught wind of a scheme to create unlimited power by harnessing a collapsar (the Gravity Well project) and has fled to Ylum to try and get Nexus to fall for her. Her scheme fails (because she’s EVIL) but Horatio gets a chance to meet and bond with his daughters for the first time.

Remember that whole gravity well thingy? Yeah, it’s kind of a big deal, leading to an all-out war between the Sovs, the telekinetic forces of the Heads, and Nexus himself. Nexus ends up killing Earth’s president, leaving control of the gravity well project in the hands of one General Loomis… a man who has the same military bearing at home as he does at work.

Loomis’ super-cute daughters don’t realize it, but this is the last time that they’ll see their daddy, as his stewardship of the Gravity Well project has led to millions of deaths, and he’s at the top of a certain blue-clad executioner’s list…

Nexus sets up a trust fund and secretly assigns the Loomis sisters their own guardian angels, but once again underestimates the human condition, and the amount of hatred that the girls might have for him. Combine that with the fastidious nature that their father instilled in them, and it’s a very dangerous situation…

Horatio’s own family causes nearly as much trouble, as his only surviving relative (his mother’s brother, Uncle Lathe, who foresaw his curse while Horatio was still in the womb) arrives trying to gather weapons for his Elvonic religious order. Nexus tries desperately to find a way to keep the peace while not, y’know, murdering his last link to his family.

Nexus manages to save his uncle’s life, only to have the man attempt suicide because of his failure. While Nexus is sidetracked by these efforts, he has asked that his bodyguard Kreed and another Quatro, Sinclair, take up his Merk-sponsored cause. Unfortunately for all, both the aliens been infected with a strange blood fury that causes them to run wild.

Thousands of Martian inhabitants are killed in the massacre, as the unstoppable assassins run riot through the world. Nexus has other problems as well, as the Loomis sisters continue to seek a way to get revenge on him, but end up connecting to an unlikely source of assistance…

 

But before the repercussions of THAT nightmare are felt, Kreed finds himself tte target of repeated assassination attempts, as the survivors of the massacre on Mars try to capture and/or kill him… They’re really not picky about that part.

 

Turning himself over to the authorities, Kreed is willing to die in order to protect Nexus, believing that his continued existence is a threat to his boss, who is currently embroiled in trying to save Earth and the Web from the Gravity Well… Dave of Thune and Sundra Peale try to talk sense into the assassin, with no luck.

Horatio and Judah barely manage to stop the danger of the gravity well, and return to Mars just in time to find out about Kreed’s scheduled execution.  Hailed as galactic heroes, the twosome pleads for the release of their friend, and are rewarded with a pardon… IF they can get there on time.

Horatio arrives and tries to explain to Kreed that he is free, but the Quatro has already chosen the only path that makes sense to him…

Before Nexus can respond, Kreed stops his own heart through sheer force of will, and collapses dead at Nexus’ feet.  Horatio fruitlessly tries to use his powers to revive the corpse, but to no avail…

Ylum is overwhelmed with new arrivals (including a few familiar faces) in the days after, as Horatio slowly tries to come to terms with the death of his friend…

Nexus is left in a state of shock after the death of Kreed, and in his grief, takes Kreed’s lost arm (severed during the events of the Martian Massacre) and puts it in his regeneration tank, then tries to use his own fusion powers to rebuild his lost friend from the limb.  The process leads to a monstrous, four-armed abomination shattering it’s way free of his tank and trying to kill him.  Horatio finds that his powers are drained from the resurrection, and is quickly overwhelmed…

The Merk doesn’t respond, dreaming and drooling as it does, and only the interference of Sinclair (and a little psionic boost from daughter Scarlett) allows Nexus to survive the assault of the alien clone…

Disgusted with the Merk’s neglect and flat-out cruelty, Horatio makes his way to the center of Ylum to have it out with his benefactor.  The Merk, characteristically, doesn’t even wake up…

Horatio leaves the service of the mad alien, and devotes himself to trying to find another cause, while the Merk is visited by the angry daughters of General Loomis…

Merk’s answer to losing his acolyte is a unique one, even for the pretty much incomprehensibly callous mind we’ve seen so far…  Empowering Stacy, Lonnie and Michana, he deems Horatio a murderer… for the executions that he performed for the Merk AS Nexus!  The Loomis girls are thrilled to get a chance to balance the scales against their father’s killer…

Before the Next Nexi are able to blow away their predecessor, though, Horatio is stunned (and more than a little bit horrified) to find that his OWN daughters, Scarlet and Sheena have sensed his peril due to their link to his powers.  The daughters of Nexus and the daughters of Loomis are stuck in a Mexican standoff, until the dangerously unstable Michana decides to open fusion-powered hostilities…

Scarlet and Sheena save their daddy’s bacon, and even the Merk realizes that the Loomis sisters are not the ideal choice as his fists of retribution.  The Merk then holds open auditions for the role of Nexus (which prove fatal for several of the candidates) until his settles on a new man behind the blood-red visor.  As is his tendency, though, Merk intends to make it as painful as possible for Horatio by choosing a man FROM Ylum and making sure that the  new Nexus’ first mission takes place in Horatio’s front yard…

The Merk sends Stan out into the world the same way as Horatio (though Stan’s attacks seem more severe than Horatio’s ever were) and finds that he is an executioner who is even less forgiving as Nexus…

Unfortunately, Stan is also less cerebral, less impartial, and much more ambitious politically than his predecessor as well.  The Merk becomes less and less stable (which, given where he started out, is saying something) while Stan becomes more and more comfortable with killing.

Most horrifyingly, Merk even turns off the fusion-power, forcing Stan togo back to older methods of killing in order to fulfill Merk’s will.  The job of Nexus goes from energy converter to hands-on throat slasher, giving up clean disintegration for a brutal rending of flesh and blood with knife and gun.   It is a role that the new Nexus finds all-too-comfortable…

It should be noted that the beheaded gentleman there is none other than Horatio’s uncle, the erstwhile Brother Lathe of the Elvonic order, a name that Horatio didn’t wish to find on his list.  The Merk oddly takes a leave of absence in the middle of Stan’s tenure, leaving the increasingly unpredictable Nexus to his own ends…

His nigh-psychotic episodes cause Sundra to look into the life and times of Stanislaus Korovitsky, finding out the truth behind his comfort level with such hands-on murders.  She discovers that Stan is a former assassin, trained by the unstoppable Gucci (the same guys who taught Kreed and Sinclair their battle skills) and makes an attempt to reason with him…

Sundra and President Tyrone try to distance themselves from Stan’s actions as Nexus, as his murder of Brother Lathe has the Elvonic order up in arms, and the entire planet finds itself on the brink of destruction.  And just when things couldn’t get much worse…  Things get worse.

Stan’s fusion powers are restored.  Worse, Elvon himself makes his way to Ylum and decides to destroy the planet out of spite, causing the Merk to return.  Sundra, Dave and Tyrone are powerless to stop an angry Merk, until another man steps from the shadows of the alien’s cave with a proposition for the Merk…

 

Horatio and his friends wait for a moment to see what happens, unsure whether he’ll be re-empowered or blown to smithereens.  Long moments pass before the Merk finally makes his decision…

It’s Nexus vs. Nexus, as Horatio (powered by the Merk) confronts Stan (powered by the Bad Brains) in orbit around Mars, and their powers prove less perfectly matched than one might have thought as the Bad Brains provide Stan with enough juice to overpower even Nexus!  Worst of all, they bring the lost Michana Loomis back into play (having recovered her after she escaped the battle with Scarlet and Sheena) to even the odds.  A maddened Michana enters the field of battle and attacks full-bore…

…but destroys the wrong Nexus.  Stan implodes into himself and only Horatio’s power manages to keep the entire Martian colony from death.  The Merk is not distressed at Stan’s death, but finds itself worried that Horatio will die long before his list of murderers is exhausted.   But, it suddenly comes up with a plan, thinking that he can give Horatio a kid sidekick!

The Merk’s problems with reality quickly come to the forefront, and his actions become even more erratic, while Horatio begins to doubt the veracity of the mission that the alien gives him.  When he finds one of the condemned men has long since given up his ways and gone straight, Nexus decides to make a command decision…

As for little Michana, she escapes the final battle of Nexi, only to fall into even more dangerous hands…

Those of Ursula Imada, whose name is Japanese, I believe for, “that bitch.”  The Merk’s tenuous grip on reality finally tears completely free as he begins creating a Nexus Corps, of sorts, empowering a Thune, a Giz, a Quatro and a Demon to become the center of his new war on evil.  The Thune questions his rules and is immediately executed, while the others all prove equally bad choices.  Having already de-powered Horatio, Merk responds by empowering several human psychopaths to be his agents, which finally brings his actions to the attention of someone even more powerful.  Enter… ANOTHER MERK!

With “Drizripool” obviously out of his mind, the Merk returned another of their species to corporeal form to stop him.  Dubbing himself “GQ,” this second Merk isn’t nearly as powerful or skilled at energy manipulation, but he offers to re-empower Nexus long enough to stop Merk’s killers.  This time, though, Sundra isn’t willing to just sit back and watch…

Together, Nexus and Sundra (with a little help from their friends) are successful in stopping Merk’s agents reign of terror, allowing GQ to confront his fellow Merk.  Oddly enough, the Merk seems to regain a semblance of himself in his last moments…

Nexus and GQ strike a bargain, wherein Nexus will continue serving justice and killing murderers in return for power (and less interference and outright cruelty) on the part of GQ.  But a whole new method of operation doesn’t change the fact that the same old bastards are still out there in the universe, including the now-teenage Michana Loomis…

Nexus overcomes Michana, and this time even manages to get her some help, but he’s got a few more surprises in store, such as when he meets his own “dark mirror,” a man calling himself the Plexus, whose job is to save convicted murderers from death.  Empowered by YET ANOTHER member of the Merk race, Plexus is easily Nexus’ equal, and their battle is as much one of philosophy as it is of frap-rays.

Nexus and Plexus end up renouncing their powers to fight as men (a battle which Horatio wins in no time at all) but questions about GQ’s sanity are harder to expunge.  Scarlet and Sheena, like Michana, have grown up into young teens as well, and the great Nexus even manages to have an almost-normal family moment (albeit as a weekends-and-holidays dad.)

Horatio finds that it’s harder to find killers without the Merk’s handy-dandy list, and decides to let the people of the universe vote to decide who deserves his attention.  Meanwhile, Sundra is again running for President of Ylum against incumbent Tyrone, and has a surprise of her OWN…

Sundra actually WINS the post of President this time, but decides to step down due to her pregnancy, while Nexus ends up killing everyone on his list.  Everyone, that is, save one important candidate…

News of Sundra’s pregnancy spreads across the Web, and many who would harm the Great Nexus decide that the best way to do so is to strike through his child.  Sundra ends up suspending herself in the regeneration tank in the last days of her pregnancy, while Nexus freaks out about impending fatherhood and the assassins at large…

Multiple attempts on the life of his child are made, and all fail thanks to Nexus quick action, but even he can’t stop everything.  As his child is being born, the Elvonic order and their sworn enemies, the Alvinites, threaten to erupt in a riot all across Ylum…

As the madness stretches across the galaxy, Nexus leaves his newborn son to meet with his allies, and even meets a new friend, bringing the circle of life around again…

As for Sundra, she finds motherhood to her liking, and adores her new little boy…  Which makes it all the more horrifying when more old “friends” return to greet the new arrival.

While Nexus fights to stop a war, Sundra fights to keep her son from ending up as tormented as his father.  (But does the presence of Alph and Beta mean that the original Merk is back?  Or something even more dire?)  And the troubles don’t end there, as Ursula once again rears her ugly head, holding little Harry Hellpop at knifepoint, intending to steal him away so that she can torture Nexus a bit more.  It is at this moment that Sundra Peale has officially had ENOUGH…

In a way, it’s fitting that Sundra is the one to dispatch Ursula, especially since Nexus could never quite bring himself to do it outright.  With their child finally (at least temporarily) safe, Sundra collapses, while her man has to marshal all the power at his command (plus a little bit of extra abilities from the telekinetic heads) to stave off intergalactic war…

Nexus succeeds in defending the galaxy against utter destruction, for once using his powers not to kill, but to protect.  Our hero even recieved a commendation from his long-time adversaries of the Web, making him for once an out and out hero.  Nexus is a troublesome case in many ways, as his post of executioner for the Merk would automatically remove him from some people’s ‘hero’ column, but it is in Horatio’s handling of his job that makes all the difference.  When Stan proved to be an inferior Nexus (and a raving nutbag) Horatio was willing to return to a life of torment in order to save the lives of innocents.  And for every man, woman or Quatro we see him kill with his powers, Nexus creates a haven for a dozen more, allowing Ylum to become an independent state where the powerless can live in peace, far from those who would do him harm.  A good father, a good friend, and (by some accounts) a good man, Nexus manages to balance selflessness with a sense of self, and eventually comes to represent balance in a universe sorely lacking in accountability.  His world is a brutal place but Nexus represents justice and the will of the individual against tyranny and corruption…  What else could you ask for in a hero?

**If you’ve enjoyed this Hero History, you might want to ‘Read All About It’ at your Local Major Spoilers! You can just click “Hero History” in the “What We Are Writing About” section on the main page, and read about a hundred or so other guys who are awesome as  heck…   The adventures of Horatio Hellpop, the great and powerful Nexus, have been printed by Capital Comics, First Comics, Dark Horse and Rude Dude Productions, and the odds are that he’ll eventually show up again.  Bad pennies always do.

Next up: I’ll be looking to the Hero History section of the Major Spoilers forums for an expectation of where you, the Faithful Spoilerites would like to see the Hero Histories go.  I’m not making any promises (Sabretooth, f’rinstance, is probably off the table) but I’m willing to hear what you, the readers would like to see.  As always…

Watch.

The.

Skies.