Saturday Webcomic: Trekker is an ass-kicking bounty hunter from our pulp retro future

New Gelaph is a city that has been abandoned by the future. Once the prospective home of a major spaceport, the city has lost its space industry and gotten instead streets filled with cultists, criminals, and corrupt cops. With no faith left in the system, Mercy St. Clair has become a Trekker, a licensed bounty hunter with the training, equipment, and drive to take down the government's most wanted. But Mercy isn't always certain that she's serving the right the side—or whether she wants more in her life than hauling in bodies.

Ron Randall's Trekker started its life in the late 1980s, when it was published in print by Dark Horse. But after the initial Trekker series, the adventures of Mercy St. Clair were released in print only sporadically. So Randall decided to take the show online, re-releasing the original Trekker comics and then continuing the tale of his rich future world. Trekker always had a retro quality to it; it owes a lot of its storytelling style to Flash Gordon. But combined with an '80s visual sensibility, Trekker feels even more retrofuturistic today. That does nothing, however, to detract from its standing as a fun and smartly written pulp.

We are introduced to Mercy St. Clair through a series of short bounty hunting adventures. Mercy is a skilled and highly competent Trekker, finding the criminals the police can't—or won't—take down. She's not infallible; Mercy can make missteps, can be caught off guard, can trust the wrong people or walk right into a trap. It's her cool head and superior martial talents that have kept her alive for all these years.

Perhaps because Trekker comes to us from an earlier time, one contemporary with Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns rather than after them, Mercy is, despite being a bounty hunter, blissfully free of certain antiheroic tropes. She has her own ideas about what is right (and sometimes seeks out revenge), but she doesn't live by some inflexible code. She is cool in the face of violence and death, but not heartless or cruel. And when other characters acknowledge her hypocrisy—that she is a tool of the very government system she claims to reject—she doesn't have any good answers. She is capable of reconsidering her actions, of being influenced by others, of changing her mind. She is a character who is flawed and emotionally scarred, but may be able to change and grow.

Randall has said that his goal in Trekker was to create a richly populated science fiction universe. And the comic certainly does that without shoving our faces in Randall's worldbuilding. Mercy's adventures and assignments sometimes put her in touch with aliens or shove her into the periphery of political conflicts. But it's Mercy's emotional world that is especially compelling. In those first few adventures, we see Mercy with her shields way up as she brings in her bounties. She has a small, tight circle of friends: her dog Scuf, her neighbor Molly, and her uncle Alex. But as the stories continue, Mercy's world begins to grow larger. We meet her allies, begin encountering the same characters again and again, and witness Mercy's carefully drawn romantic dysfunction firsthand. Mercy is a strong and confident character, but one who pushes aside any aspect of her life that isn't bounty hunting. And Randall respects his readers—and Mercy—enough not to foist big emotional revelations on her. Instead he invites us into her her private, reflective moments and sometimes has us see her as her friends and would-be paramors see her: a person who may one day want something more.

But while Mercy is on her emotional journey, she has plenty of adventures to take us on, adventures filled with strange technologies and creatures, far-flung politics, and lots and lots of action.

[Trekker]