Mark and Cherry take a little down-time

Rivera slows the story tempo as Cherry and Mark step away from their plotlines to catch up with each other. But are we transitioning to Cherry’s story or is this just a continuation of Mark’s? It’s an interesting plot device.

Rivera has once again intertwined Mark and Cherry’s separate story lines, a technique she has used before, though this time. As we sometimes saw in the vintage Mark Trail strip, Rivera also has no fear of slicing and dicing time:  Mark was last seen running away. Cherry was last seen having a heated moment with Violet and Ernest. We will find out what happened in each case?

(It’s nice to see how much more comfortable Rivera is working in larger panels.)

One final note:  I’m suddenly struck by how Cherry’s expression mimics Jules Rivera in panel 2.  To a degree, anyway. I don’t have an exact match available, but you can “google” her face. Perhaps Rivera employs the traditional artist’s technique of using a mirror to model expressions using her own face.


The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

Having seriously pissed off Rex the week before, Mark spent this week actually doing what he was supposed to be doing: something akin to investigative reporting.  Mark found a compliant employee (actually, the only one who seemed to be present and working) who couldn’t stop talking about his concerns over the operation. You could almost see Mark’s blood pressure rising with anticipation of a Big Story. While repeating the Peeping Tom routine that he used when scoping out Rex in his trailer back at the wild geese roundup, Mark tried to see what was in a mysterious trailer, only to be interrupted by the return of Rex and Tessie from their private walk. Taking advantage of their inability or lack of desire to see what is in front of them, Mark ran away to hide.

Will Mark’s adventure continue for a third week, as it did the last segment, or break for Cherry’s story? We’ll have to wait and see. But you don’t have to wait to view today’s Sunday nature talk!

Well, that is an interesting nature anecdote. And once again, Rivera tries to focus her animal spotlights on creatures found in the location of Mark’s current adventure. The tree title in panel 1 is just crazy. But wait:  There’s more!

I discovered there is a rock group from Austin, Texas called The Ghost Wolves, whose members are Jonny and Carley Wolf. They related in some unspecified way. Not sure that “Wolf” is even their legal last name. But their website claims Carley grew up on a Texas ranch among hybrid wolves. A lot of connections going on there.

A Peeping Tom runs away

I’m not sure I agree with Mark’s assessment of the Center. Far from rich looking, it appears spartan, pedestrian, and not even finished.

Apparently, Rivera wants us to believe that Rex and Tess, returning from their “nature walk,” cannot see Mark peering into the window (once again!) of a somebody else’s private rooms. Nor do they see him running away—arms and legs akimbo—across the grounds, while directly in front of them. Ah! It must be because they are so madly smitten that they have eyes only for each other. If so, I’m surprised that Rex is not wearing Tess’s tiger ears.

This is all confusing. Mark is disturbed. At what, I wonder:  Something inside the building or maybe a reflection of Rex and Tess approaching from behind him? Or maybe he just realized that he should have made a pit stop before setting out on his covert investigation.

Let’s hope Jiffy’s last name is not Popp.

Tigers ain’t cheap to acquire, so it would be very costly to mistreat them in the way some people mistreat common pets, such as dogs and cats. But if your con is based on short-term gains, the long-term welfare of the animals may not be at the top of your To-Do list.

Anyway, if Jiffy is not the only employee who feels this way, what is keeping them there and not reporting Tess to the authorities? Is she blackmailing them? Is this Center located 100 miles out in the desert?

But it’s clear that Tess handled this entire situation incorrectly. By tossing out the only professional producer (Diana Daggers) available, stoking tension between Mark and Rex, and allowing Mark to wander around on his own, she only increases the danger to her scheme.

Jiffy dishes the dirt

So here is where the story breaks down somewhat, as we’re expected to believe that a stranger can ask a single question of an employee (“Jiffy”, as we learn), who readily spills his guts to Mark about the organization after first stating “We don’t do questions or cameras.” Is his testimony accurate or is he just a disgruntled employee?

On the other hand, if Mark can verify all of this info, he certainly has a story to report. By the way, just what is going on in that trailer?

Mark is on the trail!

Looks like there are some questionable things going on, after all. But if all that expired freeze-dried (I presume) meat is in a dumpster and not in a freezer, it could simply indicate some inefficiency and sloppy inventory management. Hardly a crime or case of corruption. We’ll need to see more conclusive evidence than that. But it’s a start! And that worker should be easy to turn.

Mark scopes out the zoo

There’s a lot to be said for consistency, such as “where is it when you need it!?” Yesterday, we saw Mark laser-focused on his task. Today, he is suddenly overwhelmed…by animal cages? Rivera makes a pun with that muckraker crack. Okay, maybe Mark’s uncertainty is just a temporary thing while he settles on what to do next. At least let’s have no more Kenneth Branagh stares into the distance, okay?

Mark gets back on point

At last, Mark comes to enough of his senses to actually work on the zoo investigation instead of fixating on Rex’s alleged vulnerability issues. And about time. But am I the only one who is wondering where all the employees went? And what about Rex’s employees? I noticed that Mark doesn’t have that affected goofball, annoying appearance and behavior he’s been displaying up until now. Instead, he acts like the traditional Mark Trail of bygone days: Mister All Business.

Anyway, the strip is nicely drawn today (compared to prior days), though I fear the shadow on Mark’s face in panel 2 will not be visible in the newspapers. I wonder where Mark keeps finding all of this equipment.

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

Having previously making a laughing stalk out of Mark with his ridiculous fake cowboy routine, Rivera now portrayed Mark as a ham-fisted impression of Mary Worth on steroids haranguing Rex Scorpius over his infatuation with Tess Tigress while ignoring “real dangers” around them (including a preposterous elephant assault). Rex was already onto Mark’s intrusive questioning and let him know he didn’t like it. When Mark let slip that Diana was directing his actions, Rex blew his top and stormed off to find Tess. Playing therapist is not Mark’s specialty and I’m not sure why Rivera put Mark into this no-win plot instead of focusing on the zoo animals. It’s like she is insulting Mark Trail, her bread and butter.

Well, Mark’s mission scorecard is looking mighty bad right now:

Diana Daggers – kicked out of the zoo by Tess and now likely on Rex’s blacklist for her betrayal.
Mark, himself – Tess seems to have figured out Mark’s real mission. And now, Mark is on Rex’s blacklist. Maybe he’s on Diana’s blacklist, too, or soon will be.
Zoo Investigation– It hardly got off the ground and it’s not likely going to happen at this point.
Rex’s Internet show –Nobody left to film it! Maybe Rex will just walk away from it, arm in arm with Tess.
His ride back to the airport – fat chance of that. Is he too far out of town for Uber or Lyft? Sheesh! Can a situation be any more screwed up than this? Sure, there’s this coming week! But before that, let’s try to find some order and education in the Sunday nature talk.

In spite of several questionable issues concerning the daily strips, Rivera’s Sunday strips are generally well done and informative. In addition, there are two innovations worth mentioning: 1) The custom title panels. Coming up with a creative, thematic, image-based title panel every week is hard work.  Most of the time, Rivera creates inventive solutions. Today’s is no exception. You might even overlook it, at first. 2) The second innovation is Rivera’s focus on animals or issues found in or near the proximity of the current Mark Trail storyline.

Rex has Mark’s number, and it isn’t a good one

Yes, Rex reads Mark all too clearly for the intrusive bumpkin that he is. Because of his over-reactive warnings and blabbering, Mark may cost Diana her job, as well as ruin his own opportunity to actually do an investigative report on the Center (why he was sent here). I think Mark may even wind up having to find his own way home.

Again, I do not understand Rivera’s decision to cast Mark as some kind of soap opera Mary Worth personal problem solver. Mark is clearly not keeping his professional attitude at the forefront here.

So where does the story go from here? Will Mark save Rex and Tess from the rampaging elephant? Will Rex and Tess suddenly elope, leaving Mark alone with the tigers and a very pissed off Diana Daggers? Poor Mark, he should have talked it over with Ralph the bull snake before accepting this bad gig. Maybe Mark can find future fame and glory by becoming a professional Reality TV show personality.