But first . . . an in-joke for the Trailheads

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who surmised that the De-Bait Team would be involved, as I noted during the pre-dawn fishing trip.

It also seems clear that today’s strip was deliberately composed only to set up the punchline about Mark’s reputation for destroying boats, the same way Capt. Kirk destroyed his uniforms. But it doesn’t move the story along.

Moving on to the art, it has been consistently competent in its layouts and figures this week. However, the image of Duke in panel 4 is bizarre. Duke’s face looks like two different drawings (from different views) were stapled together with little regard for continuity, proportion, or skill. For example, the beard does not fit the face, looking like a fake beard glued on (think O Brother Where Art Thou?). Duke’s mouth—at least, I think that is what the white shape is in the center of the beard—is outrageously large, missing teeth and tongue, and just too big for the top half of the head. Rivera also accidentally elongated Duke’s neck, probably to subconsciously match the relationship of the collar to the beard, as we see in panel 2. In fact, the collar should be up and behind the chin of the opened mouth, along with raising the torso.

Milking it

Yep, looks like Rivera is really milking this rivalry. Is this really the reason for Rusty’s fascination and determination? I dunno, but if so, it seems like it might be an excuse for Mark to intervene and bring up his childhood rivalry story.

Anyway, Rivera again sticks in an overly large text box that is largely irrelevant . . . and also a bit over-stated. There is only one friend who has openly opposed Rusty’s belief.

A preview of things to come?

Well, Mark, you do mean well. Taking you literally, you are giving them permission to start fighting once the boat ride begins, or maybe when it ends. So, what ethic are you pushing, Mark? Not that I disagree, mind you.

As usual, more thoughts run through my brainpan: Rusty exaggerates Mark’s physical actions, especially in the Rivera Age. Perhaps he recollects events from their pre-Rivera existence.

Moving from story to art, that’s a nice composition in panel 1, though I’d move the woodpecker up a tad to not crowd the scene. Also, the textbox is too wordy and also crowds the composition. We don’t need the “before the cryptid river boat hunt” explanation, as it is clear from the image. Rivera sometimes gets carried away with textboxes, using them to describe self-evident current activity.

This is working out to be a fun adventure!

Cool! Kid rivalry. Gotta love it! And it’s nice to see this Rusty showing some spunk. It’s kind of like a reincarnation of the famous Markey vs. Cricket Bro’—that is, Rob Bettancourt—rivalry. Hey, that kid even has the same first name!

Gotta add that the art has been much better and consistent, if you are hoping for more representational figures, that is. Of course, the figures lack the modeling techniques (e.g. shading, contoured lines, and proportions) that were popular in past incarnations of the strip.  

But I wonder if Rivera is making an in-joke, having all the dialog today end with exclamation points, as was standard practice in the past incarnations of Mark Trail! Rivera normally avoids that trope. But if you are still suffering the change to Rivera, and you get the strip in your newspaper, you can pencil in the exclamation points for all the dialog in each day’s strip.

The cryptid search team expands

Lost Forest is clearly a small community. Jeanette from Planet Pancakes happens to have a kid who’s a friend of Rusty. As we have already seen, this incarnation of Rusty clearly has a more robust social life. And this father-son adventure has clearly turned into something of a classroom field trip or a boy scout jamboree. I reckon this could make Rusty’s search a lot more fun, so maybe this will be a win-win for Team Trail.

But happy-happy does not an adventure make. Something dangerous or completely crazy is bound to happen. Given the fact that this strip tends towards the outrageous rather than the gruesome, I’m going to go with crazy.

Extra: Other animals have memories, too!

Monday’s Mark Trail blog can be found below, but this is an “extra”! As we just saw in the Texas tiger zoo story (category: Puff Piece Zoo), Mark had to deal with Gemma, the “rampaging” elephant who tromped her way across four states to seek revenge against Tess Tigress for a past bad deed.

In addition to the popular reputation for an elephant’s memory (no, not John Lennon’s backing band), we now have evidence that even bears can find their way home!

Here is a link to a recent bear-finds-home event making the rounds on the Internet: https://www.yahoo.com/now/relocated-bear-walked-1-000-225441732.html

Let the hunt begin!

Rusty looks even more naturalistic than he often does, whereas Mark looks more cartoony than usual, especially in panel 3. At least most of the family is together (once again, Doc Davis is left out).

I’m not sure where they are right now. They seem to be standing on some kind of inclined wooden platform, with some undefinable structures behind them. Must be a lake or river behind Rusty. Maybe they are going to rent a boat, as Rivera implies in panel 1. Whatever, I’m hoping for some actual excitement here, even crazy stuff. Even an environmental hazard or a cryptid.

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

Well, Ho! Ho! Ho! Mark continued to court Rusty’s favor by sucking up to him, while at the same time deriding Rusty’s ongoing fascination with cryptids. But Rusty really wants to hunt down the Bassigator and Mark finally agreed to the hunt.

Is Jules Rivera trying to build more nuance in Mark, or just pile on more contradictions that reveal him to be a typically clueless dad trying to stay relevant in his son’s life? As every parent knows, a child’s belief in imaginary beings can seem cute, but it is hard to strip away that belief without looking like a hypocrite or liar to your child.

Anyway, let’s hope that Mark gets through this adventure without making Rusty even more jaded. Next thing you know, Mark will tell Rusty that Santa is just a marketing gimmick to sell toys.

Rivera brings up a timely issue that has a lot of bark on it. I thought that Christmas Tree farms were a good alternative to cutting down trees in the wild. But are pesticides truly as rampant as she suggests? They almost certainly are used in virtually all commercial tree farms, but there seems to be an ongoing trend to minimize their usage, relying more on a process called integrated pest management (IPM). And tree farms are essentially managed forests. These are some points that Rivera could have brought up to provide more balanced reporting. Here are some links that explore these issues:

https://christmastrees.ces.ncsu.edu/environmental-impacts/

https://www.popsci.com/story/environment/christmas-tree-environmental-impact/

https://www.epa.gov/safepestcontrol/integrated-pest-management-ipm-principles

“Ralph the rat snake told me there are no cryptids!”

Mixed signals from Mark. Poor Rusty, once again treated like a ki . . . oh well, Mark is not exactly building up his kid cred with his attitude and platitudes. Even Rivera, based on her caption boxes, is not exactly pulling for the red-headed kid. We’ll have to wait and see how Mark follows through on this. But maybe (to his own relief), he’ll get “The Call” that will send him off on another assignment.

Still, if Mark thinks snakes (e.g., Ralph the rat snake) and other animals can converse with him, why should he not believe in a Bassigator? Come to think of it, Mark just might get earn some respect from Rusty if he fessed up about Ralph.

Mark’s tips for child rearing #4: Play along

Amazing, isn’t it? Mark asks what a Bassigator is, while forming the exact same image in his head that Rusty did, yesterday. Is he deliberately playing Rusty?

And could Mark act any more condescending? In panel 2 Rusty declares he wants to prove the Bassigator is real, only to have Mark in panel 3 first claim he understands (“I see.”), then ask if Rusty wants to prove whether the Bassigator is real. Duh! Perhaps Rivera just made a mistake, since she could have left out Mark’s second sentence and stuck with the first and third statements in panel 3. Leaving it in fortifies the impression that Mark is patronizing Rusty.