The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

You can wake up now, the week is over. As far as the current story arc goes, Mark left the retreat with Bunny, er, Honey, . . . no, Holly (?) to investigate her plea to help her friends hurt by a collapsed trail. Mark arrived to find Rob and Sharp lying injured at the bottom of a steep hill. Instead of smiling with the feeling of justice done, and returning to his job, Mark’s good side decided to rescue them, instead. Presto! Shazam! Mark made a dog-cart pulled by faithful Andy suddenly appear to assist him. Clearly, there was an unspecified time delay. Somehow (how, Rivera does not show us) Mark was able to either get the cart and Andy down the hill or get the two boobs up, whereupon they all returned to safety, with Bee Sharp in the cart and Rob helped back by Jadsen. Of course, the two casualties complained and whined along the way. So typical.

As I noted before, this otherwise nonessential side story could have been presented in a more dramatic fashion, but I reckon Rivera decided that actual drama was out of place in a strip based more on eccentricities and parodies (or was that satire?). Parody and goofy characters have pretty much been Rivera’s approach since she started. I’m not against that in general, but I think this strip would be better if she intertwined some real drama here and there into the stories. The two elements can work together. Isn’t that we mean by a dramedy? For example, the movies In Bruges, The Wizard of Oz, and early Jackie Chan movies; Buffy the Vampire Slayer on TV; and Tintin in comics. So, it can be done.

I like the idea of the butterflies spelling out “Mark Trail” more than the execution, which looks more like fall leaves. Yet, this is a good, positive Sunday strip showing that sometimes, things do get better. By that, I mean the monarch butterfly population.

Rivera saved some drawing time, as cartoonists will try to do, by taking a few butterfly images and replicating them to create the swarms. Unfortunately, she included a heavy outline in the replicated images (e.g., panel 2), which foils their natural light appearance.


The clouds part, the sun shines, but the zip-a-tone beard remains.

Bee Sharp is thinking of something, as we see from his thought balloon in panel 1. Just what it is, however, remains a mystery, owing to its minute size. Another mystery! Well, if you can figure out what he’s thinking, drop a comment.

Now the story moved on to a successful conclusion, I think. They are all safely out of danger, Mark proclaims in another “feel-good” story arc. Don’t those two have to get to a hospital or urgent care center? But enough, already! I had hopes that this rescue sidebar would push the story along by injecting some actual drama, like how dangerous it was for Mark to get to those two boobs (No, I’m not talking about Molly!). Maybe we could even have had a bear sighting during the rescue, something to remind readers what this story is supposed to be about.

In any event, behold the two week climax of the story arc for Mark. I’m sure we all had a few moments of nail biting, didn’t we? If form follows tradition, Monday brings back Cherry and whatever she was doing. Oh, right:  Arguing with Honest Ernest.

The Mark Trail Pain Show hits the road!

Ah, I do so not wish to continue to take on the role of snarkmeister, so popular with commenters on the Comics Kingdom web site. Sure, I could write about the truly clumsy perspective in panel 1, whereby Bee Sharp would be about ten feet tall if he could stand up. Nor do I want to once again play the Gilligan Card and riff on how Mark was able to get Andy and a wagon all the way over to this location so quickly. I also won’t step on Rivera’s toes by wondering why Mark didn’t just call for an ambulance or rescue service in the first place. No, I won’t.

Perhaps it is reasonable to guess why Mark is having such a great time over this near tragedy:  Seeing several of his “enemies” get the short end of the stick and knowing they had to depend on him to rescue them. Maybe Mark is more vengeful then we think.

Gilligan’s Mountain?

One of the running gags on the old “Gilligan’s Island” TV show was how the castaways were always able to bring out all manner of equipment, new clothing, and other props when needed, as if their island had a shopping center hidden behind the palm trees. I was wondering if something like that would happen here; and thus, a first aid kit magically appears!

Unless Mark secretly enjoys seeing Sharp in painful distress longer than necessary, let’s hope he simply decides to call home to have Cherry or Doc bring his “secret weapon” to the rescue. I reckon we’ve already established that there is no help to be had at the retreat, itself.

Jadsen suddenly reappears and Mark leaps into . . . action?

Talk about protective coloration, Jadsen should bottle it and sell it. How did he slip by us so easily? He’s literally been out of the strip since last Tuesday, while Cricket Bro (aka Rob Bettancourt), Bee Sharp, and Holly By-Golly (whatever) took up all of the picture space. But suddenly, here he is, a “survivor” of a collapsing trailside.

Methinks this is suspicious. Could this so-called “accident” be a trap-gone-wrong, set up by Jadsen (and maybe Rob) to get rid of Bee Sharp? If true, it could provide some complex plots and character development. We have not seen any complex plotting here. To be fair, this is just a comic strip, not a novel. Elaborate plotting would likely not hold the interest of readers who expect to see jokes or direct action; not read Neal Stephenson. I doubt that even the pre-Allen Mark Trail stories would be popular today, except to Trailheads. Otherwise, KFS could save a pile of money by just reprinting them, the same way we see other legacy comics in perpetual reruns. Good grief!

Yelling at two injured people is not exactly leaping into action, as far as I’m concerned. Of course, Jadsen is completely useless as he always has been. Not even a good comic foil. At least Holly had the wherewithal to run for help. I’m sure curious what Mark will do, since he has no rescue equipment on hand. I’m not sure he has any rescue training, either. Maybe he knows some emergency first aid? I’ve done enough guessing, so I’ll just wait to see what Mark does.

The 5 o’clock shadow makes an appearance

It’s not as bad as it look. It’s worse!”  Call me Mr. Ignorant, because I’m not sure what that means. Is Mark being sarcastic? Sounds contradictory to my pea brain.

Well, that’s a well-drawn terrain in panel 1, by the way. Good variety in flora and perspective. The bird’s-eye-view in panel 3 is another welcome return to Rivera’s early use of varied viewpoints to highlight a story. It’s good to see her getting back to some more creative compositions, rather than the flat, straight-on close-ups she has been using for a long time.

But the characters look different, especially Holly Folly. There’s her strange posture in panel 1 where it looks like she’s falling over. We can possibly excuse the crude images of Sharp and Cricket Bro at the bottom of the hill in panel 3, owing to the very small size the panel has to be.

Another remarkable thing (to me) is seeing Mark’s normal rough stubble suddenly looking like a smooth, carefully tailored “5 o’clock shadow”, defined using an old-school ziptone-like pattern. Back in the day, several cartoonists used specially printed transfer sheets to apply patterns to their drawings, largely as a replacement for hand-drawn shading. This technique has largely gone out of fashion. Rivera draws on a computer, so the beard pattern is rendered digitally.  I assume that Rivera is experimenting with her style. So far, I prefer the hand-drawn stubble.

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

Mark showed up for work, only to get distracted by squabbling between Professor Bee Sharp and Cricket Bro, who just happen be some of the participants at this tech/nature retreat. As I indicated before, the rest of the participants are most of Mark’s other recurring opponents. Cricket Bro’s remarks about Bee Sharp’s new main squeeze, Holly Folly, was the reason for the fracas. Mark wisely walked away from this fight, but the group eventually continued on with their nature hike.

Mark went to work on his assignment, quickly discovering a major reason why bears were coming onto the grounds of the retreat. Mission Accomplished? Not so fast! Not so fast! Holly Folly suddenly came running back from the hike to plead for Mark’s help. Seems that the boys got caught in some kind of geological mishap on their hike. But why did Holly run to Mark, a nature reporter? I suppose the apparent lack of any professional staff on the site is deliberate and a part of Rivera’s ongoing goal of poking a stick into Silicon Valley’s impresarios, geeks, and its elitist male culture. But as far as adventure is concerned, it’s early on; so I hope things start picking up. Until then, see below!

Today’s topic is not a big surprise, considering the week just completed. We’ve all read reports of people feeding wild animals outside of their homes or at national parks. Or they try to snuggle up to them for selfies, sometimes with unfortunate results for the person. And making wild animals dependent on eating human food is not a good thing for the animal, either. So, it’s not surprising that people in certain areas of the country will fail to recognizes that wild animals often eat whatever they can find and that looking for (or avoiding to become) food is one of their main activities.

But this PSA might also ironically dilute some of the satirical intent of Rivera’s daily strip, since it implies that even “normal” people who live in areas frequented by bears can be careless or ignorant of proper safety measures.

Mark considers a new side hustle as a dumpster inspector.

Again, with stating the obvious in textboxes!? Tell us something different that the illustrations don’t, Rivera. You know how to be creative, right?

I have to say that I’m not at all happy with how this nature retreat is run. For one thing, where is the director/founder? Shouldn’t he be directing something? If this is a nature retreat, how come there isn’t a naturalist on staff? I suppose Rivera’s satiric goal here is to point out how ill-prepared and naïve tech-weenies are in the real world. That’s fine. It’s a popular theme that Rivera has used before. I just hope that Rivera has added some original, creative, twists to give this story some interest.

For example, just why is Mark’s usual collection of opponents all here at this camp at the same time? Why is it they seem to be the only people at this retreat? Did Bill Ellis pull strings behind the scenes to engineer this entire setup because he secretly loathes Mark?  That might account for the serendipitous matchups that keep happening on Mark’s assignments. I have an hypothesis:  Kelly Welly is having an affair with Bill Ellis and pushing him to hamstring Mark at every turn so that she can more easily ascend to the top of the nature-reporting hill. It’s not as if she’s had any real part in any adventures since Rivera took over. That’s a missed opportunity.

Who wants to check out Mark’s listicles?

I was studying for an Italian test when I posted the Wednesday blog. Thus, I was distracted enough to miss a better title pun, “Beware the Idiots of March”, rather than going with the lame “Beware the Ides of March.”  But it’s too late to change it, so I lamely stuffed it in here. Let’s recall what Omar once wrote: “The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on.”

So we’re moving on. Okay, Listicle? How many of you knew what that meant?  I had to look it up:  An article based on a list of headings/titles/categories with supplemental text. Is this a necessary word?

It seems as if Mark “took my advice” and ditched the duds (for the most part) to do his job. Molto grazie, Rivera! This is a nature strip, not a game show. And it seems—on the surface—that Mark has solved the case in the first week on the job. Now that is efficient work! Therefore, he must be wrong.