Zeeba Mussels Epilog

Okay, Mark makes a video for his editor. That accounts for the repetition of info. The visualization of panel 2 as part of the video recording is well done, as is the drawing of Mark. He has a kind of young Tom Cruise look about him. But, I’ve always heard you look younger (and taller?) on TV and in the comics.

Say, did the B Team take over panel 3? I suppose Mark is supposed to look stunned at Rafael’s pun. Anyway, the execution of the panel is flat, even distorted. In fact, it reminds me of the style of a certain alternative comic artist, whose name I just cannot recall. Maybe I’m wrong, too. I’ll get back to you. Hey, I should have figured that Rafael also runs an e-magazine. In that case, Mark’s exposé could have gotten published almost immediately. After Rafael’s fact-checkers looked it over, of course.


Here is the Weekly Recap and Sunday Nature Talk

You can skip this recap if you have been following the daily posts. Assuming you have not, pray continue reading.

The week before, we saw Mark, Diana, and Cliff arrested (off-camera, so to speak) for their nautical civil disobedience (something not in their job descriptions). This past week, there was hard time in the local lockup. That is, it was hard time for readers, with three days of inconsequential dialog as the jailbirds waited on their bail. They finished the week with two days of fond good-byes between the gang, having bonded over their protest and temporary incarceration. Even Diana finally heard from her estranged friend, Bee (“Ben”) Sharp, who remotely posted her bail. She was so misty-eyed she actually removed her shades in full frontal facial nudity. It all looked like a long-winded wrap-up for an adventure that seems anything but wrapped up. It is like the sudden endings we’ve seen in Mark Trail adventures before Rivera came along. I was (and still am) hoping for more:  such as an ending that cleans up after itself. But while we’re waiting for Rivera to get her broom and dustpan, let’s check out the Sunday nature strip.

Displaying another interesting nature-based title panel, today’s strip tells us about as much about the kestrel as you’ll find in casual online searches. So Rivera saved us the trouble. In short, it still faithfully upholds the required “Cliff Notes” summary that the Sunday format imposes. However, there are a few more things I picked up from the online Peregrine Fund page:
1. Kestrels can see UV light, which helps them better track prey.
2. Kestrels may be “everywhere” as Mark states, but their populations are declining and experts are not sure why.

Instead of the usual corny dialog in the last panel (that’s a nice drawing of the kestrel there), Rivera could have used it to comment on one or both of those items. So, I saved Rivera the trouble!

…Or is this the end?

You know how the third film in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Ring trilogy seemed to dedicate about a quarter of the running time to farewells? Or how Beethoven taunted his audience with that ending that kept going in the 5th Symphony? So, is this really the end of the adventure or are we getting set up for a surprising continuation? But it’s Saturday, so this should be the end.

BTW, how did Cliff’s arms shrink in panel 1?  

To call Mark “strange”, as Rivera notes in panel 4, is a stretch. Diana Daggers is strange. Cherry’s hillbilly brother is pretty strange. Professor B Sharp and Cricket Bro are definitely strange. They all make Mark look plain. And Mark is somewhat vain, impulsive, emotional, sometimes uncertain, and a bit sociopathic. A flawed dude, that is. Frankly, I’m quite fine with that. It makes him interesting, but not very strange (well, there is the snake!). Certainly, Mark is a more interesting character than the prior versions of Mark Trail, who all had the personality of a smug postage stamp.

What do you think:  Should this story continue? If so, in what direction? Or are you just happy to see it come to this slap-dash conclusion, so we can move on?

Is this the end of the adventure…!?

This dialog is giving me flashbacks to the ending of that splendid 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz”. Still, is this really the end of the Zebra Mussels adventure? It seems rather arbitrary to me, with a ton of loose threads just dangling in my eyes, leaving me unable to get a clear picture.

Those who complain (okay, I also do, at times!) about Rivera’s work, should find warm solace in that she can also apparently terminate stories, all of a sudden, just like Allen and his predecessors did, and also with little regard for unfinished business.

I suppose they are standing in front of the county lockup. Mark and Cherry share their “moral of the story” as everybody waves “air hugs” and shuffles off to their destinations. But wait…Cliff and his stick-figure friends are waving to Mark (or is it us?) in panel 2, whereas he rejoins the happy couple in panel 4. I guess Cliff got a taste of fame and isn’t really ready to walk away. Anyway, you, dear reader, may comment on panel 3 or anything else you fancy.

Still, I hope I’m wrong and that today’s strip is just the calm before another storm. Let the story rage on!

Okay, “Bee” Sharp, as in “B”, as in Ben, as in Benjamin, as in…

Can you really bail somebody out online these days? An online money transfer, I presume. But, seriously, folks, I’m trying to remain serious here. At least Bee Sharp is not bad-mouthing Mark this time. But really, he is in California and she is in . . . Lost Forest, wherever that really is. I’m guessing we are still going on the standard assumption it is somewhere in Georgia. Did Ben expect Diana to travel with a sewing machine, or is he going to wait for her to return to her place in California?

But after all that time, why didn’t he just take his lab coat to a tailor or seamstress? Or is this just a transparent excuse to get Diana to return? She doesn’t seem bothered by that. In fact, this is the best she’s looked in some time. Still, Rivera takes pains to use the words “pal” and “friend”, implying their relationship is platonic. Could be, of course.

Okay, Daggers! Give it a rest, already!

Tell my story”? Huh!? Does Diana think she’s Joan of Arc? Sylvia Plath? I’ll wait for the movie, thanks. Diana plays up the martyr-in-the-making act, until she mysteriously gets bailed out. Suddenly she gets a call from her former squeeze, Professor Bee Sharp, whom she refers to by his first and last name. It must have been one really intense, intimate relationship. As I recall, Diana was pretty upset with Bee Sharp for scamming her salary and investing it in NFTs without her knowledge.

So the gang gets bailed out. What next? Regroup and try another approach, or call it a day and move on to the next for-hire assignment? But there are threads still hanging. Diana is already a recurring guest star, so her story arc will continue off and on. Not sure about Cliff’s future, as he seems to have been a convenient plot device for the current water-based story.  Nevertheless, this story ain’t over, folks. We have to see what the next move is from Duck Duck Goose and what reactions Mark’s and Diana’s story cause when it gets published. Unless that fishing magazine is a weekly, it could mean a 4-6 month delay!

Can you escape your past?

Well, this is an interesting set of panels today. Aside from the rather outlandish nature of the “jail cell” (which suggests there is not a lot of serious crime in Lost Forest), there are the once-again disappearing prison bars in panel three (previously brought to our attention this past Saturday by reader Obtuse Angle). Okay, it’s a curious visual convention for a purpose I do not quite understand. Was there a reason why the bar in front of Diana’s face, Saturday, was cut away, as there seemed to be no problem showing Mark and Cliff. And today, the only link is Cherry’s remark about Mark being cute enough. But the schematic style of his face in panel 3 hardly supports the need for this barless convention.

And speaking of faces, note Mark’s face in panel two, which is part of a visual flashback to his Florida adventure where he stole his father’s boat and played havoc in the marina. The significant point here is the style and detail of Mark’s head. It points back to the earlier months of Rivera’s work, when she was using a more naturalistic style, on top of the fact that she was also using more creative compositions and layouts, similar to what you could see in graphic novels. From my point of view, it is unfortunate that a lot of those features have been cut back or discarded. I’m guessing the pressure of keeping on top of her submission schedule has a lot to do with it.

Idle thoughts of an idle fellow….

This looks like a day of story padding, so I think I’ll follow suit!

  • The jail looks like a converted barn. Wonder if they’ll have to muck horse stalls for their community service?
  • Who gets bailed out first, and who posts the money?
  • News: When did “Lost Forest” expand into an actual county?
  • How does Mark even know what boosting is, given his background of social media ignorance?
  • I don’t buy Diana’s “anti-social” shtick. As we see from a panel back in September of 2021, she is happily keeping her online followers updated.
  • Aren’t journalists supposed to be neutral concerning their assignments? Apparently, Mark got his training working at The Enquirer.

The Weekly Recap and Sunday Nature Talk

Mark’s “big plan” to stall or stop Duck Duck Goose Shipping from helping zebra mussels invade Lost Forest waters turned out to be all wet. Assisted by an ad-hoc group of fair-weather boaters, Mark and his helpers (Diana, Cliff, and “the de-bait team”) tried to blockade the waterway with their fishing boats. They created enough of an interruption for DDG to have police arrest them. Mark’s behavior during the protest was, well, ineffective. So, we ask: “What was the point?

Moving on to Sunday’s strip, catch your breath with a quiet, conventional subject: Antler Showdowns!

A straight-forward, if average, Sunday “cliff-notes” chat about white-tailed deer. Classic Mark Trail Sunday stuff. However, I think Jules overlooked the apparent “fact” that, after jumping 30 feet, that white tail deer apparently trebled in size! Talk about a defensive move…!

But I think Rivera should dispense with the “two fists o’ justice” references, since Mark doesn’t seem to employ them anymore. That tussle with the two Duck Duck Goose goons wasn’t much of a performance. And it’s likely new viewers will have no idea what Mark means, anyway. So, Jules, either kill the catchphrase or get Mark to live up to his rep!

The shout not heard around the world!

Clearly the freighter must have stopped in time.  Stop me if I’m wrong, but shouldn’t Mark and Company have notified State and/or Federal authorities to handle this problem, now that it has been identified and documented?  Or maybe they could have phoned the Duck Duck Goose Shipping Company first?

And I may wind up eating my words. I’ve been pushing a theory of deliberate over-the-top storylines and characters; but while I don’t think I’m wrong, I don’t see the point here. Today’s strip reminds me of the kind of stuff you’d see on an episode of Seinfeld.  But why does Rivera have Mark and Company act like a bunch of naïve street protesters? There has to be some kind of plot twist coming up that makes sense of this nonsense.

Finally, what happened to the rest of the De-Bait Team? Did they escape back to the fishing lodge to look for bail money under the sofa cushions?  Maybe they should just let Cliff, Mark, and Diana stay in jail, like the characters in the last episode of Seinfeld.