Mark realizes that paying bills beats playing vet detective!

The “new” Mark Trail is definitely more family-oriented, compared to his predecessor. Ironically, this might not sit that well with long-term Trailheads who used to scoff at Mark for never spending more than a few days at home before running off to a new assignment. I plead guilty to serving up some of those rude comments, but I’m not against this new wrinkle in Mark’s psyche. It isn’t just the usual “I had a great 48 hours at home, Cherry, but now I’m off to another adventure!” I even like how Rivera represented the well-drawn panel 3 as a gray, monochromatic symbol of Mark’s unenthusiastic acceptance, only to quickly bring up a polychromatic façade of enthusiasm in panel 4 as he talks with Bill. After all, you gotta keep those assignments coming in to pay the vet bills!

Okay, so it’s not as if Mark is getting sent to the Middle East for an eighteen-month deployment. But it’s something most of us can identify with:  The requirement of having to go back to work after taking time off.  The fantasy of happy independence gets kicked back in line.