How patient will these bad guys be?

So, what is this sense of mortal fear our brave trio seems to be experiencing?  Mark thinks going up against a cargo ship’s defenses designed to repel a gang of armed pirates is somehow easier than dealing with two middle-aged dudes who like to knock loudly and yell.  Does he think these guys came armed with heavy weapons? Perhaps Mark had nightmares of the now-missing “Mommy Trail” knocking on his bedroom door in the middle of the night, only to find nobody there.

Okay, I’m with those who think it’s time for Mark to quit acting like the too-sensitive lead character in a Hollywood Rom-Com and start taking charge of the situation. The Monty Python song “Brave Sir Robin” comes to mind. Diana never explained why she stole Cherry’s shovel, so she clearly cannot be trusted. Wait… Isn’t anybody over there capturing this drama on video for their big article, or at least for a potential lawsuit? WHERE IS A TEENAGER WITH A PHONE WHEN YOU NEED ONE?

“Quick! Everybody hide. Maybe they’ll stop knocking and leave!”

Gosh, Mark. Maybe you guys should climb out of a window and just sneak away. I suppose some heavy door knocking can be quite disturbing and intimidating . . . if it was going on at 2 AM while you were sleeping, that is! Instead, Mark and his cohorts seem unsure of how to respond. Well, Diana does at least have some kind of an idea, which Mark is keen to squelch with yet another lame pun. Cliff’s silence and doubtful expressions suggests that his military experience did not include any time in special forces.

And when did Mark figure out who these cats were, anyway? They didn’t exactly identify themselves or why they are there. As far as Mark knows, they could have been new reporters sent by the magazine to replace him and Diane for their lack of progress and dubious conduct. However, I suppose one must grant Mark some degree of intelligence—even if he rarely shows it—and allow him to deduce the intentions of people who hammer on doors and say they only want to “talk”.  We’ve all seen plenty of crime shows and know how that kind of talk usually plays out. Those guys haven’t even bothered to identify themselves. But this is what we should expect after schools quit teaching social etiquette.

The Weekly Recap and Sunday Nature Talk

Well, dear readers, let’s get up-to-date on the events of the past week:  Mark, Cliff, and Diana are holed up in Diana’s B&B, where they have been viewing Mark’s underwater photos of zebra mussel infestation on the Duck Duck Goose cargo ship. Diana focused on her own laptop, perhaps doing research, or maybe checking up on her NFT valuations.

They seem to think their lives could be in danger if Duck Duck Goose Shipping discovers their whereabouts. Mark takes on the role of Crisis Catalyst by assuring everybody that none of the bad guys even knows his name. Of course, the timely “bamming” on the front door announces that dark forces have, indeed, learned about him. With a shovel and their own determination, Mark, Diana, and Cliff intend to make this their own Alamo Moment. For zebra mussels.

It is logical, of course, for them to hunker down and try to solidify their field work with some good investigatory research. But I’m not sure we are seeing that. In fact, Diana urged Mark to quickly upload his photos to some web site where they can be publicly viewed, to protect themselves. This reminds me of the “solution” that the Herp Hacienda Gang used to defeat Cricket Bro’s sitting on Aparna’s animal air tracking app:  They stole it and uploaded it to a public server for anyone to acquire. The fact that Duck Duck Goose’s concerns are completely different from Diana and Mark sets up an interesting plot crossroads, where it is possible both groups will continue to work at cross purposes, unaware of the other’s true motives. We’ll see what happens on Monday, but for now, it’s the Sunday Nature Chat!

As usual, Rivera gives us a nicely designed title panel and a timely subject for the season. The turkeys are well drawn. They are found in neighborhoods and other public places, not just in country fields. I often see them walking around the university campus. Okay, turkeys are an easy subject. I’d like to see Rivera use Sundays to bring reader attention to lesser-known animals and nature topics.

However, the popular tale about the turkey being considered for the national bird (or on a coin) is just fiction. Turns out that Ben Franklin was only making a comparison to the bald eagle in a letter to his daughter, Sarah; but that seems to be as far as it ever got. And by the way, Mark, George Washington never threw silver dollars across the Potomac.

Bam Man! Da-da, da-da, da-da, da-da Bam Man!

Okay, there should be no need to point out the obvious, but why pass up an easy lob? Consider silly details, such as “farmer” enforcers; the shovel that Diana just admitted to conveniently stealing (for no apparent reason); Mark’s punch-drunk expression in panel 1, and “gasping”, as if he was a villain surprised by a police raid; and there is that lame-o pun in panel 4. As I noted from the start, I think some of this over-the-top madness comes from Rivera’s appreciation for the bizarre stories and characters of Florida crime and humor writers.

But if you want to ignore the literary references, just, ignore all of that goofiness and focus instead on story development.

Like, why should they even bother letting these people in, especially as there seems to be only two of them. Not bad odds, if it came to a fight. Mark has his alleged “fists of justice” (it’s been a year and we still have not really seen them). Diana has her purloined shovel. And Cliff has his…uh…well, since he is a fisherman, he can lure the two heavies in the wrong direction to help Mark and Diana gain more advantage.

Or they can just call the police and wait. Still, I imagine how surprised these intrepid investigators will be if and when they find out the actual reason why Duck Duck Goose is taking such drastic measures.

BAM BAN?

No, this isn’t about misspelling the name of the Rubbles’ son on The Flintstones. But my goodness, does Diana think they’re exposing Iran-Contra or the Pentagon Papers? All they did was take pictures of zebra mussels on a ship’s hull. As a regular critic on CK noted yesterday, shouldn’t these “journalists” be interviewing the Duck Duck Goose owners to get their side of the story? Isn’t that part of what any good, objective journalist would do? Of course!

Instead, we see partisan “advocacy journalism” in progress. I would expect more from Mark. Then again, we’ve never seen any of Mark Trail’s articles, so this could be his standard M.O.

Finally, the hired thugs from Duck Duck Goose arrived, huffing and puffing and banging down the door, ready to do…what? And how did they locate Mark, Diana, and Cliff in the first place?  Usually, this requires help from an informer. Hmmmm . . . .

But at least, a good drawing of Mark in panel 3!

Give thanks that you are in a position to give thanks!

I’m not sure if observing only one ship is enough to make a general statement about an entire fleet. Anyway, at least one turkey is going to be able to look back on this Thanksgiving Day. But then, we have been brought up over the decades to eat domesticated, factory-enhanced turkeys; not the wild bunch. I suppose that is necessary to meet demand. Eating a couple hundred million wild turkeys every year would soon see them only on labels of cheap booze.

So, what else do we see here? Mark is primping his hair as he relishes his anonymity. As Rivera implies in her second message box, she is deliberately making Mark once again a victim of his own pride. I don’t know if that means a military-style assault on the house or a subpoena from a federal court to cease and desist. Yet, I still think the jury is out on Cliff’s true role.

As I wrote before, based on some comments, I’m trying to write more concisely. I’ve edited out about 30% of my post, which means my text just might c

What a drag it is getting told

Really? THIS is the terrible truth, that Duck Duck Goose is responsible for zebra mussel infestation!? And what river pipes is Cliff referring to:  Runoff pipes from companies and large farms pumping waste into the river? Clogging them might be a good thing, I think.

This story would have more plausibility if Mark and Diana admitted up front that the zebra mussel problem was a national (or international) issue. And their focus on a single source of contamination is obviously not to solve zebra mussel infestation, but to show an example of how zebra mussels can spread through inattention or indifference.

But the plot twist here—which I think is good—is that Duck Duck Goose is actually concerned about an entirely different issue, and that is something they do not want Mark to discover. We await the Duck Duck Goose enforcers to get this story moving along.

The situation at Zebra Mussel Task Force HQ

Some nice layouts in the panels today. Panel 2 is remarkable for the amount of detail and space injected into such a small panel, without looking cramped.  But I’m a bit put off by the extreme expressions in panel 4. Compared to the prior panels, they look too exaggerated. And should Mark be surprised by the photos? He took them!

Given that those actually are zebra mussels in panel 4, what are they attached to? That odd shape on the laptop monitor sure doesn’t look like the hull of any ship. In any event, what’s the issue here? They have their photos, so why waste time “studying” them? Time to move on to the next phase of the investigation.

But, can Cliff really be trusted? It’s easy to be suspicious of characters who suddenly show up in Mark Trail strips, of course. But Cliff ticks several boxes: 1) His less-than happy exit after losing Cherry to Mark; 2) His covert shadowing of Mark and Diana in the boat; 3) His convenient “rescue” of Mark after he abandoned Diana; and 4) His silence about items 2 and 3. I could write more, but you get the drift; and I’m supposed to be writing more concisely. If only . . . .

Maybe do the research before the field work…?

As we return to the main story, we find that Mark has left Cherry to her duties and gone back to his own work. Looks like they have set up shop in Diana’s B&B. Given this is Thanksgiving week, I wonder how many Turkeys Rivera will manage to stuff into the strips this week.

Diana’s assessment of Mark’s underwater photography brings up a fair point:  Have we, in fact, ever seen Mark engaged in underwater photography?  As far as I can recollect, we have rarely seen Mark take photos of anything, much less underwater subjects. Correct me if I am wrong, folks!

But is Diana upset about the quality of the photography or the fact that Mark shot photos of barnacles, not zebra mussels? Remember, Diana:  Mark was working under water, under duress, and with a good amount of stress; hardly the conditions for excellent photography. Anyway, we’ll probably find out what she means tomorrow.

The Weekly Recap and Sunday Nature Talk

If you are up-to-date on the strips this week, feel free to skip down to the Sunday strip. For those of you who missed some—or most—of this week, Cherry and a surprisingly available Mark were working on all things gardening. A work van pulled up, out of which stepped “Honest Ernest”, a Good Ol’ Boy in yellow coveralls, who turned out to be the exterminator hired to kill the bees in the Sunny Soleil Society’s garden.  In fact, this entire week of strips (about 5 minutes “in Trail Time”) was devoted to Honest Ernest first annoying, then shocking, the Trails (and us) with his phony “aw shucks” patter and sociopathic attitude. The Trails mostly just stood there, mouths agape; though Cherry once again put forth her weak bees defense, repeating her earlier failure to convince Violet and Caroline (Ernest’s wife). Once Ernest left, Cherry recovered enough to reiterate her intentions to raid the garden overnight with the help of her Garden Mafia to remove the bees to safety. Surprise of surprises, Mark offered to help, apparently indifferent to his current zebra mussel assignment.

All in all, there was little action, though the introduction of Honest Ernest is an important angle to the story. Maybe this week could have been compressed into just three or four days, allowing Rivera to use the other days to portray Cherry meeting with her Black Rose Society colleagues as they prepare to raid the garden. But, at least we can see better why Cherry’s defense of the bees went nowhere with the Sunny Soleil Society. It wasn’t just Cherry’s lack of persuasiveness, but the ignorance and delusional attitudes of the social-climbing members of the Sunny Soleil Society. Their pretense of sophistication was revealed by the cynical glibness and threatening attitude of Caroline’s rube of a husband. But, it’s time to move on to the Sunday nature strip. See you in three weeks, Cherry!

As Mark channels his inner “John Lennon” in the last panel (nice pun, Mark!), the Trails serve up a second helping of Sunday Bees; this time, the friendlier domestic version. Rivera’s tradition of making the Sunday title panel thematically link to the current subject continues, as does the tradition of linking the subject to the current storyline. This is not  her best title panel, but it’s still a good tradition. Cherry continues to serve as the Second Banana. Frankly, most of this information has already been discussed in the daily strips. But repetition is generally a good instructional method. So, do you agree that the Sunday strips are generally better drawn than the dailies? Not sure why. Well, we might have a different opinion on the hands.