3 out of 5
Well, Mike Baron, you win: Badger is officially the most insane comic I’ve ever read. It’s not exactly random – which is the poor man’s attempt at non-sequitor writing – and it’s not the bizareness of a Morrison mind-warp; the closest antecedent that always comes to mind is Steve Gerber’s wild splatter of ideas, which would occasionally to default to weird for weird’s sake, but in general, Steve would be following some loose thread with his thoughts, whereas Badger… the character of The Badger is insane, and somehow Mike Baron wrote a comic that completely suits that mentality. Wherein Tasmanian Devil whiskers are harnessed for their yeti tracking powers, or said yeti’s blood has multi-dimension abilities, or the hero rides his Buffalo, into town, or beavers parachute from the sky…. And what makes it more insane is that it’s not all played directly for laughs. Like, it’s funny, but meanwhile Badger is involved in some actual plotted quest, and there are pages of convincing kung-fu action, well-choreographed by Bill Reinhold (though co-creator Jeff Butler rejoins the fun for an issue).
Volume 3’s issues do push that trick as far as it should likely go, however. While there is a slight linking that leads our hero from issue to issue, the events are otherwise wholly separate, and indeed feel nearly completely separate from what’s gone on before, with only the first issue in the collection dealing with wizard fallout, and the remainder pretty much absent of any Ham or Daisy. And later issues maybe start getting a little too loose with the dialogue, connections in conversations somewhat unclear. Partly this is because, again, Norbert – a.k.a. Badger – is insane – but there’s also a feeling like the scripts are a little rushed to move things along, as though Baron had instituted a strict “write the first thing I think of” policy for himself. So the collection is entertaining, but whereas volume 2 makes you want to read 3, after this one, you’re okay taking a break.
The reprints are faithful – spelling flubs and all, for what that’s worth – though we’re obviously missing the Zoomtown backups (not Badger related, but one of those ‘lost to the back issue bins’ stories for now), and the IDW coloring looks a lot more digital than the originals’ rich colors, which is a shame. But hey – we’ll take our Badger however we can get it, eh?