Hexbreaker (Mike Baron / Bill Reinhold): Badger began in 1983, the creation of Mike Baron and Steve Rude. A superhero local to Madison, Wisconsin, the 'Badger' is 'Norbert Sykes', a veteran with a half dozen different personalities. Badger is an excellent martial artist and may or may not also be able to speak with animals (he can certainly speak to them, but Tintin-esque, it is never particularly clear if they're able to speak back).
Badger's adventures were rarely straightforward. Badger battled giant feet, cockroach kings, a dimension of jump-roping assassins and many of the magical rivals of Badger's boss, Ham the Weather Wizard. He was also the champion of environmental causes, his truffle pig's whims and puppies.
Badger (like Nexus, Baron and Rude's other long-running title) has had a long and erratic publishing history. Starting with Capital Comics, continuing mostly through First, and then culminating in short runs with Dark Horse and Image. Now, Badger is being reprinted in collections with IDW.
Hexbreaker is the only Badger graphic novel. Published in 1988, it takes place midway through the First run. Hexbreaker is a fast-moving and action-packed spectacle. Badger is invited to a mysterious martial arts tournament in China. On the way there, he meets a foxy young Vietnamese doctor (Doctor Mavis Davis) and the two of them fall in love while beating up most of East Asia. Hexbreaker is little more than an All-Star game, featuring guest appearances from many of Badger's friends (Wombat), foes (Hodag, Trans Ahm) and lines ('Secret ninja hand signals!'). New readers will be baffled by all of the above, as well as esoteric references to Clonezone, Ron Dorgan and other characters from Badger's past.
However, for readers of the entire series, Hexbreaker is important as it introduces Badger's wife (who otherwise just pops into existance in the series) and kills off an important recurring villain.
Despite its frantic pace and occasionally poor editing (a typo in the first panel is a bad start), Hexbreaker is still a lot of fun. Badger is alternately at his most lethal and his most goofy, and some of the dialogue still makes me laugh out loud. Bill Reinhold isn't Steve Rude, but he does do a good job of bringing the pulpy feel of Badger's world to life. (6/10)