What Rivera has been doing since she took on this strip is to consistently run a secondary storyline alongside the main (Mark) storyline. This is one of Rivera’s better contributions to Mark Trail (along with the reduction in exclamation marks!), providing—for a comic strip—a more complex story environment that wants regular viewing to keep things straight. Until this Oregon Vacation story, Cherry has been the chief star of the secondary stories. Now, it is Rusty’s turn to fill the alternate plot. Rivera has kept Rusty’s storyline along what we might expect to see for a pre-teen boy. Little Orphan Annie he is not. But Rusty is trying. So, will Rivera finally let Rusty have more room to grow?
Dept. of Curious Observations: Panel 1 is a curious image, don’t you think? Aside from a bear cartoon-bombing the scene, we see what appears to be an open door with trees growing directly in front of it, making the doorway inaccessible. I thought that picture on the wall was meant to represent a painting; but now it is clearly a strangely-drawn window in which we see Rusty crafting his plans. The room is clearly lit, yet the adjacent doorway is totally in darkness.
Finally, a tip of the hat to BobS on CK for opining that the SurfSquatch graphic novel that Rusty is reading might have been produced by Cricket Bro’s corporation as an advertising tool. Clever connection!