Badger vol. 3 (#1 – 11) – Mike Baron

2 out of 5

Watching Image try to scramble from ‘neath their self-lain hefty tarpaulin of image-first comics (e.g. The McFarlane / Liefeld / Lee “dark” era of grit) onto the more sunlit landscape of both story-and-art driven creator works – which, in retrospect, is the beginning of their slow ascent into relative indie dominance with their current crop of Saga and the like – is, in a word, embarrassing.  This is someone wanting to make a change and not knowing how, showing up every week (or per month, in this case) with a new plan on how things are going to get better, rendering the existing plans half-assed as a result.  Combine this with Badger creator Baron pushing the Zen Pop version of his character to its limits, possibly as a result of the more sober Shattered Mirror variant not being glowingly received, and it’s an embarrassing fucking mess, and, at points, a nigh-unreadable one.  The writer’s worst indulgences of rhyming, nonsense dialogue and endless punning consume the majority of the stories, with Badger a side player in many cases to as many dead celebrity cameos as can be fit into the pages.  The book also seemed like a depot for new artists to try their hand on a hero title, meaning that you get horrible paneling, poor page flow, still a lotta’ lotta’ Image-resplendent muscle-bound bodies, and a general lack of knowing how to work a black and white page, but hey, this is where Mike Norton started out, so that’s neat trivia…?

Editing is a non-starter (the book was maybe self-edited by Baron, who has shown several times over in his text pieces that he’s not great at catching his own mistakes); Image’s back-to-basics attempts equaled newsprint page quality with frequently improperly cut gutters (pictures with edges shorn) and letterers who typed up their letters in the blandest of the bland of fonts, unevenly circled them with black sharpie, and arranged bubbles in illogical flows.

…And after issue 3, we return to the old title logo vs. the “new” one that spoke of (along with the artistic choices) Image’s hardcore Image-ness, even as they were trying to side-step it, i.e. Baron and crew seemingly realized some changes were needed.  …And negative feedback in the letters somewhat in line with my comments has the book getting a bit sharper and a bit more consistent after the midway point of the run, with an artist (Norton) actually returning in the final few issues – it’d been a rotating stable up ’til then – with a much better sense of page-flow and a slightly more “classic” style of bonkers to the writing…

…Aaaand, y’know, with all of this sloppiness; with Baron’s admirable exuberance that resulted in short story back-ups and one-page back-ups and other extras, the book has this strange DIY feel that does feel at home in the Badgerverse, even if the contents maybe don’t.  Charming ain’t the word, exactly.  This is the dumbest side of the Badge, taken to an “extreme” for the extreme comic reader.  It’s not good.  But it is an experience, and one I can identify as part of the Baron oeuvre, airing out his slapstick addictions so he can keep Badger trucking while he focuses on other things…