Magnus Robot Fighter / Nexus
(1993 - two issues, published by Valiant and Dark Horse)
Writer: Mike Baron. Art: Steve Rude. Inks: Gary Martin.
Team ups between two characters who don't normally hang out together -- particularly when they belong to diffferent publishing companies -- can generally be assumed to be an attempt to broaden a character's readership. That is, a Magnus fan buys, and gets turned on to Nexus, or vice versa.
I'd never read a Nexus story before...and after this, I'm not really inclined to bother*, particularly as the writer and artist here are the team who created Nexus, and so should be able to do him better than anyone. The only reason I might change my mind is that I'm not sure I'd be inclined to try Magnus based on this sample, either, so I can assume that, overall, this isn't a good intro to either character.
"The Gift Horse", as it's called inside, has a man, Arkon, arriving in Magnus' future reality of A.D. 4000 and purporting to be from even farther in the future. He offers to set up free medical clinics in the ghetto to cure diseases, and though Magnus is suspicious, everyone else accepts Arkon automatically (no one pondering the time paradox created by a man using furture technology to cure people in the past!). And of course, Magnus is right to be cynical. Eventually Nexus shows up and helps Magnus trounce Arkon.
The initial concept is sound enough, I guess -- but it doesn't really go beyond that...an initial concept, with little in the way of story twists or characterization. In fact, the "story" is pretty loose, relying on a convenient telepath who can provide the heroes with all the necessary info...with no real logical explanation for how she knows this stuff. And the villain's motive/goal is pretty vague (he just seems to want to cause a lot of destruction) and how he does what he does is even less explained (involving him just, apparently, inventing time travel and the like).
As mentioned, presumably part of the intent in a series like this is to get a non-Nexus reader to pick it up. But, I'll admit, as an intro to the character it's not very good. I found myself not really sure who he was, how he could do what he can do, and befuddled by cryptic things like "I've lost my host." Host? Huh?
Steve Rude does a neat job of (intentionally) evoking Magnus creator Russ Manning's art, at least technically. But the spirit of Manning's style isn't as well captured. The whole story is intended, at least in certain aspects, to be a throwback to the original Maguns; the look of the characters (such as girlfriend Leeja) are from that period, and even the painted covers are meant to hearken back to the Gold Key comics of yesteryear. Likewise I initially wondered if Mike Baron was trying to evoke 1960s comics with clunky dialogue. Then I decided, no, there's no homage intended -- the bad dialogue is just bad dialogue. Admittedly, the regular Magnus comics I've read from around the time this was published have left me underwhelmed, too, lacking the innocence and grandeur of Russ Manning's 1960s version, or the tight, edgy scripts of the Jim Shooter written period that begat the Valiant version.
I acquired this because, as a mini-series, I figured it would be a nice, self-contained story (since many of the Valiant issues are part of multi-issue plots) -- and I guess it delivers that, and Rude's Russ Manning homage is kind of neat. But in general, it's pretty missable (and it was one of those comics originally sold for a slightly inflated price, not because of extra pages, but simply because of cardboard covers!)
*I did eventually read some more Nexus, and my review is in my main TPB review section.