3 out of 5
Okay, let’s jump right into something that was all over the last Badger series and again pops up here: Mike’s casual flinging ’round of the term ‘faggot.’ While Bull! is a far cry from the messy Image run, which came up during the era of P.C.ism and thus took the South Park route of going for crass in a winky attempt to offend – a skill that the South Parkers did with more deftness than most, and a mode that doesn’t excuse offensiveness strictly by saying you’re joking – there’s still this remnant of a Mike Baron who seems to want his character to be a way to break from all narrative convention, “acceptable” confines of language included. Stereotypes, in the first Badge series, were a common method of exposing societal ironies, and as the ‘faggot’ usage here is by some jocks wishing to tussle with one of Badger’s personalities which happens to be homoesexual, we also have Mike calling this personality to the surface by having a character lisp about fashion. A joke some may have laughed at – some may have cringed at – during the 90s; a joke which seems woefully dated by the time of this one-shot in 2007.
Why am I starting with this? Because it’s hard to tell what Mike’s going for here, and his use of the term is representative of that. There’s a backpage editorial where he mentions that Bull! is but an intro to the next ongoing; this is confusingly mixed with talks of trying to maybe market a Badger movie? and it’s all swirly babble without a concise point. Mike seems to rankle at trying to reign Badger in for mass consumption, and so it would seem that – maybe – the language is a remnant of that. But then there’s the main “plot” of Ham’s hopes to market (as ever) the ultimate bull specimen, with the ‘prince’ beset by kung-fu and ninja foes which Badger must dispatch; a loose, bouncy tale – which is the majority of things here; my rant above is just a dash – that’s much more in line with latter-day volume one randomness. Y’know: a good time. A Badger time. Where’s Mavis? Somewhere in the intervening years, it would seem our timeline reset: it’s just Ham, Daisy and Norbert, which is weird, and maybe dispiriting, but if divesting his title of previous continuity allows Baron to also shed his other agendas and just focus on Norbert et al… well, we never really had too much continuity to begin with, eh?
Not much justifies this as a standalone, and some if it is definitely… not admirable. But Badger artist newcomer Kevin Caron has a rough style befitting some of the book’s classic artists, the IDW colors (John Hunt) look crisp, and Baron mostly seems to be having fun while being mindful of not letting things slip into the various extremes of the prior run.