As I stated in another review, I’m a fan of Palmiotti and Justin Gray. However, Trailblazer reads more like a rough draft than a finished product. While there are some excellent, creative concepts, there are an equal number of flaws.
The story focuses on an enforcer named Jacob. When one of Jacob’s targets retaliates and the Feds capture him, Jacob turns in state’s evidence to convict high ranking mobsters. Naturally, he goes into the witness protection program. Here’s where the creativity comes in, as Palmiotti and Gray put a science fiction twist on the real world concept: they hide a witness not just in space but also in time.
Jacob travels to the Old West. There, he becomes a sheriff and finds a life that he could not forge in the present day. Gray and Palmiotti know their western history. Many a lawman was once badman, and Jacob’s actually not such a bad guy. He kills only those involved in mob activity, never civilians.
Molly is Jacob’s lady-love, and she’s yet another strong female character conceived by Palmiotti and Gray that’s perfectly believable even when factoring in the period setting. Those elements, including Jim Daly and Paul Mounts’ artwork which at times evokes the classic caricatures of Joe Staton, account for Trailblazer’s strengths.
As to the weaknesses, the violence is repetitious. So, it loses impact. When Jacob goes to deliver a message to a crimeboss, he kills multiple times. He could have simply infiltrated the boss’ headquarters without eliminating anybody. That would be a more powerful message. He can get and get out unseen. He can kill you at any time he wishes it.
The scientist at the time travel division states “We can’t risk infecting the past with technology from the future.” However, that’s exactly what the Feds do when they follow the villain into the past and decide to eliminate any witnesses, including the innocent, that might have seen them. This is just ham-fisted, and maybe that’s Palmiotti’s and Gray’s point.
The government is filled with clots of people who would fail the very basic high school exams, but I just cannot see what occurs in Trailblazer happening. A time travel division worried about the contamination of the time stream would wear items that fit the period. They would disguise their weaponry as something suitable for the age, or they would send their best agents and assassins to use the guns and ammunition of the time for their deadliest effects. No matter what. There would be no need to slay the witnesses. Plenty of eyewitness account of strange phenomena — from mysterious airships to hirsute ape men — have been dismissed and debunked. If Westerners saw strange men clad in strange clothing using strange guns the reports would be filed under H for hooch.
For Trailblazer, Palmiotti and Gray attempt to mix concepts from their superior Time Bomb with Jonah Hex motifs, but in the end the writers should have looked this story over one more time before deciding it was finished.
Ray Tate’s first online work appeared in 1994 for Knotted. He has had a short story, “Spider Without a Web,” published in 1995 for the magazine evernight and earned a degree in biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 1995, Ray self-published The Pick of the Brown Bag on various usenet groups. In the POBB, as it was affectionately known, Ray reviewed comic books, Doctor Who novels, movies and occasionally music. Circa 2000, he contributed his reviews to Silver Bullet Comic Books (later Comics Bulletin) and became its senior reviewer. Ray Tate would like to think that he’s young at heart. Of course, we all know better.