The quality of absurdity in writing is difficult to grasp, especially when you do not expect or look for it. Vintage Mark Trail stories sometimes had a sense of the absurd about them, though it was usually an unintended byproduct of odd storylines and hokey dialog. Rivera seems to deliberately make absurdity a central part of her stories; not just specific scenarios, such as the one today, but entire plotlines.
There are authors, from Cervantes through Kafka, Hunter Thompson, A. Lee Martinez, and Carl Hiaasen, who write absurdity as a professional chef creates tasty dishes. By comparison, Rivera is a working apprentice. But she is in good company and early in her profession. And those writers did not work within the confines of a daily comic strip. Dashiell Hammet did, for a short time.
Rivera’s use of absurdity is not based on literary satire, arcane existential philosophies, or quasi-religious experiences, as we sometimes see in the authors mentioned above, but in the more mundane madness of daily life, where unexpected weirdness interacts with everyday expectations. Thus, a skateboard ramp gets constructed in a forest area with no explanation, at the crack of dawn. Still, there has to be more than just odd characters and contrived situations. Rivera could cut back some on the weirdness and work on stronger storylines. Nevertheless, we could hardly admit that the storylines offered by Allen, Elrod, or Dodd were much better.
Speaking of which, I suspect James Allen had a taste for the absurd, which he injected from time to time. The clown train story (Feb-Mar 2018), the unnecessary bat-cave pursuit, and the over-the-top Pacific Island catastrophe come to mind.
Anyway, why is Mark sleeping by himself?