This past week saw the official kickoff for Mark’s new adventure, “There Will Be Zebra Mussels.” Mark drove his bespoke station wagon to the airport to pick up Diana Daggers, Mark’s unexpected and unwanted video producer for his new assignment. Starting right in, Mark expressed his fears and doubts to Diana, while she kept her icy cool cynicism and simply told Mark that California was old news and to get over it.
After dropping her off at the Log Cabin Hotel (or whatever it’s called), Mark spent the rest of the week helping Cherry’s with her landscape business and fretting about a possible reappearance of Professor Bee Sharp. In spite of Cherry’s feel-good reassurances of Sharp’s noninvolvement, it appears that Mark does have good reason to be concerned about Professor Bee Sharp’s return. Perhaps Mark is anxious because he does not normally deal with psychos, a group for which Sharp is clearly a charter member. Daggers, on the other hand, appears to be more task-oriented and indifferent, as any professional for hire would be. If the job calls on her to harass and threaten Trail, she does it. If the job calls for her to work with Trail, she’ll do it. It’s all just business for her. But Bee Sharp seems to be a different animal. Still, in spite of Sharp’s behavior, he does not seem any more dangerous than, say, some ignorant hillbilly with a shotgun pointed at Mark’s head while he is tied to a chair. Mark is just psyched out, which is something he is not comfortable with. And that is a dangerous position for him to be in.
Today’s Sunday strip is about small insects, specifically those that look dangerous, but wind up actually being helpful. Another nicely done title panel, by the way. Regarding spiders, there are at least 3,000 species of spiders in the US. The four spiders Rivera refers to are black widows, brown recluses, hobo spiders (which seem to be focused in the Pacific Northwest), and Sac spiders. The brown recluse and black widow are the biggest threats to humans of all ages. In fact, there are least ten spiders that are venomous in varying degrees to humans, but still capable of causing pain. As Rivera points out, most spiders are found wherever their food is found, so they can be good insect managers, even in the home. But keep the kids and pets away from them.
Rivera provides a very nicely drawn bee in the last panel! And you always have to finish your instruction with a small joke, don’t you Mark? And I’m fine with that, by the way; it’s not pervasive.
Tell me if I’m wrong, but one thing I noticed in Rivera’s Sunday strip is that she crowds less text into the panels than her predecessors often did. That might be because Rivera is aware of the fact that people are more used to short, digestible chunks of data, as we usually see on social media. It could also be because she is aware that space for comic strips, even on Sunday, is severely limited and liable to more shrink; thus, making reading more difficult. I swear, the way our newspaper shrinks the Sunday Zits and Blondie strips is a crime. It’s like trying to read the condensed Oxford English Dictionary without its included magnifying lens.