Written by: Mike Baron
Illustrated by: Jim Fern
Colored by: Paul Mounts
Reviewed by: Kristian Horn
I’ll be honest…when it comes to Mike Baron’s creations (or co-creations) Badger was always second to Nexus. There was something about the Badger’s adventures that I found a bit harder to connect to. His personality(ies) were way off kilter, he was always yelling “Larry” at people, and the strange presence of a fifteen hundred year old wizard didn’t help the narrative connect with me as much as I connected with Horatio Hellpop. To be fair, Badger comics were a little harder for me to come by when I was younger and it wasn’t a series that I came across in local comic shops all the time. Despite Badger not being my favorite of Baron’s creations, whenever I did pick up a Badger book I found myself more than entertained and definitely intrigued by who the central character was and what, exactly, his deal was. More often than not his adventures were very different than anything else you’d read on the comic stands and that alone was a reason to read the comic. Unfortunately, Badger’s adventures would only appear sporadically due to the realities of the comic book market and Badger was a character that would sometimes be forgotten to the majority of comic book audiences.
Now Mike Baron’s creation returns in an all new series through the merger of formerly defunct comic book publisher First Comics with Devil’s Due Entertainment and if this first issue is any indication…it’s a book that comic fans should definitely take notice of. This first issue of the new Badger series is a re-telling and modernization of Badger’s origin. It’s a more disciplined and streamlined take on the beginnings of the character and serves to bring his origin into the 21st century. This re-examination of The Badger’s beginnings brings a focus to the character that didn’t necessarily exist in his original incarnation. For all intents and purposes Baron has created somewhat of a “Batman: Year One” for the Badger in that he has stripped the character to its bare bones and re-built him somewhat from the ground up. Longtime fans of the character and his mythology shouldn’t be too concerned, however, as many of the elements and characters that made The Badger and his background so unique are still there…the pieces of the story all just fit together in a more cohesive whole. This is a Badger origin story that benefits from the experience of having a seasoned comic book pro behind the wheel.
As a matter of fact it’s pretty amazing to see how much Mike Baron’s writing skills have evolved over the years. Not so long ago I picked up the first Badger trade to re-read the early adventures of the titular hero. I was pretty blown away at the time by how disjointed the original series seemed to me. It was pretty obvious that, while the series was entertaining, it was the work of someone who was trying to find his way through telling a story. The original Badger series was definitely the work of a writer and artist who were working in the indie trenches, possibly without a specific plan for how things were going to go for their series. This first issue presents a Mike Baron who has mastered his craft and has a storied career behind him to fall back on. This opening salvo of the re-launched Badger is a comic that benefits from having a writer who definitely knows how to structure a story, how to develop a character, and has a definite focus behind his narrative. This issue of The Badger may be one of the best issues of the comic I’ve ever read because it is grounded in the present and gives us a lead character who is sympathetic and laced with humanity. I, for one, welcome this new vision for The Badger. This Badger has a Mike Baron behind him that is laser focused on making the character work better than he ever has before and this issue has actually made me more enthusiastic about following up with the continuing adventures of Norbert Sykes and his plethora of personalities.
It would be criminal of me to close out this review without addressing how amazingly beautiful this issue of The Badger looks. Part of what makes this comic work so well is the fantastic art team of line artist Jim Fern and colorist Paul Mounts. Holy Hannah…does this book have some beautiful art. As a matter of fact I think I’m going to come out and say this may possibly be the best illustrated issue of The Badger that I’ve ever seen. Granted, I haven’t read every issue of the title, but from what I’ve seen in the past this is the best this book has ever looked. Jim Fern’s draftsmanship and storytelling are spot on and the addition of Paul Mount’s beautifully subtle color work make each page a delight to behold. This is a beautifully rendered comic book. This issue of The Badger seethes with professionalism as everything from top to bottom looks and reads beautifully.
So, there you go. The Badger is back. And his return is gloriously fantastic. If you’ve never heard of The Badger before reading this review then believe me when I say this is a comic book you should definitely check out. It’s one of the most original super-hero concepts ever created and this issue is a perfect jumping on point. If you’re a longtime fan…I’m pretty sure you’ll love it as well. Baron has done a great job of scraping off the barnacles off of the character and presenting a Badger that is ready to kick ass in the modern era. This book is entertaining as all get out and I hope this first issue is one that launches this version of The Badger into a series that lasts longer than any of the other issue runs that came before it.