Sunday, February 08, 2009

Attack of the '80s!

Still in the world of Dark Horse's late '80s black and white books, today's selection is Trekker. Trekker was written and drawn by Ron Randall. Like Concrete, Trekker got its start in Dark Horse Presents but was soon spun off into its own title. I only have the first 5 issues. From some brief searching, it looks like I only missed one more, which would explain the cliff hanger with no ending.

Trekker was the story of Mercy St Clair, a young bounty hunter, or in the parlance of the Earth of the 2200s in which this is set, a Trekker. Not to be confused with a convention goer in an ill fitting costume. I don't know why Randall chose the name Trekker for bounty hunters. It's confusing. On its surface it has nothing to do with what the occupation entails, so some explanation would have been nice. Of course, maybe that explanation was in the Dark Horse Presents issues where the story started. I have those, too, but I'm not digging them out right now.

And now, back to our cast of characters. Aside from Mercy, we have her friend Molly, who runs a shop of some sort, her boyfriend, Paul, who's a cop, and her uncle, Alex, who's a police captain. There's also a neighbor named Thom who doesn't do my name much good. He's got the hots for Mercy but is a milquetoast sort. In fact, he was so uninteresting that he only appeared in one issue as a deus ex machina to help Mercy track down a killer.

The stories are initially set in the city of New Gelaph, whose location on Earth isn't particularly clear, but it's a futuristic Gotham sort of place. There's plenty of interstellar travel at this point in time, but no evidence of aliens who aren't decended from humans. No creatures at the bar waiting to pick fights and have an arm sliced off. No prominent brow ridges and anachronistic codes of honor. Just human colonies all over the place.

The first three issues are more or less stand alone stories of Mercy chasing down a bounty. The first one involves a hunt for an idealistic rebel who's trying to disrupt the corporate/government controlled food system with the last two surviving members of some species that would disrupt that system by providing free food. Problem one with this is that these animals are supposed to be highly prolific breeders, but these are the last two. Even if the government is trying to exterminate them to control the food system, this seems unlikely. They're pretty small, for one thing. Anyone notice how much success we've had eliminating small critters that breed prolifically? Yeah, not so much.

A bigger problem with the story's logic is that our idealistic rebel, rather than be captured, blows up himself and the last two surviving critters. Huh? I don't get it. If this guy's raison d'etre is to undemine the government by using these critters as free food, how does blowing the last two to little bits advance that cause? There's no logic to it. Maybe, if the character had been developed in some way, there could have been a reason for him to martyr himself and his professed goal, but damned if I can see what it is here.

The second issue is a lot better, wimpy Thom notwithstanding. The bounty this time is an out and out sociopath who's trying to get to some hideout whose location is unknown to any law enforcement officials. He kills randomly, purposefully and gleefully, throwing in some attempted rape for laughs. He's a charicature in the best sense, as he follows the internal consistency of the character. In the end he's perforated by his dying girlfriend who he'd thrown at Mercy earlier, causing her to shoot the girl.

The third issue starts out with Mercy's nightmares about how close she came to being killed by the sociopath in the previous issue. This was a good story to follow behind the high anxiety of the second issue, but unfortunately, it's just dropped by the wayside after a few pages. Then it's back into bounty hunting. I don't even remember why she was after this guy or what was going on. And I just read it a few days ago. That's not good.

At this point the series took a right turn, left the tracks, and never came back. Well, how much could it have come back, ending after 6 issues as it did? With the last three issues Mercy stopped being a bounty hunter and became a detective. She left Earth with Paul on a romantic vacation but is really looking for a hideout for someone and ends up getting some sort of mind blast from a dying Martian that gives her a map to find some place. That story ends up spread out over issues 4-6. Because I didn't get the last one, I don't know how it ended, but with the quality of writing up to this point, I doubt I missed anything.

Which is interesting, because Randall's development of the character is really very good. She's not just a bounty hunter. There's the requisite back story, unexplained in full, of a mother who died young and a father, who was a cop, who is now dead and unmourned by Mercy. She has issues with getting emotionally close to her boyfriend, Paul. Her use of sex to delay conversations about her emotions is certainly outside the norm of comics, particularly of 1987. I think Randall had a very good sense of the character but was significantly weaker at plotting stories with her. He was all over the map with the larger stories of her adventures, and, as I mentioned, just sort of let the neighbor, Thom, drop out of sight.

As far as the art, Randall did a very good job of it. He's one of the few artists to draw a lead female character who's beautiful but not fantastically proportioned. That is to say, she didn't have tits spilling out all over the place. He depicted scenes where she'd be in nightgowns or bathing suits at times, but nothing salacious due to misproportioning. The girl had a body that made sense for someone in her profession. Of course, it was 1987, so the art was influenced by the styles of the time. Very late '80s short hair (much like the girl who's mistaken for Ferris Bueler in the timeless movie), and casual clothes that look straight out of an MTV music video of the day. The swimsuit and nightgown, too.
And in the realm of the unexplainable, Mercy's work clothes/uniform for her Trekker job have something that looks like a catcher's shin guards and a 1920s era football player's shoulder pads. I know it was the era of big shoulder pads in women's clothing, but it looks rather odd and impractical. Which goes for the cape, too. Wisely, Mercy takes the cape off in some circumstances, but I don't see the utility of having it in the first place. It's not like it's a general fashion thing. No one else in the series wears one. It seems like it would just get in the way of her job, along with the shoulder pads and shin guards.

All in all, it was an interesting work. Interesting enough that I haven't ditched it over the years. Obviously not quite interesting enough that I stuck with it through its last issue, which I guess I didn't know was going to be the last issue.

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