Mark is on the job! Driving across hill-and-dale to reach the nature retreat, Mark met tech impresario and Retreat founder, Simon Stump, sporting a Tintin haircut. I wonder if Simon’s name is supposed to be a pun of some sort? Frankly, I’m stumped.
Not only is Simon worried about bears, he worries that bears might have kidnapped (his word) the other journalist (paraphrasing reader Downpuppy, “where is the ransom note?”). If that isn’t enough, Jules Rivera included almost all of Mark Trail’s prior opponents for the past two years as current guests at the Retreat! Isn’t hunting down bears and a missing journalist enough of an adventure (as it would have been in the old days)? Rivera seems to think that continuing to recycle these same sociopaths and con artists provides some kind of secret sauce to her plot recipes.
Yet, they are not even proper bad guys or villains; just twisted jerks. Sure, Mark does not need to face down super-villains like “Dr. Doom”, “Professor Moriarty”, or “Darth Vader.” But he could face a few actual bad guys willing to hurt, frame, or dispose of Mark for getting in the way of their plans. In most stories by Rivera, Mark’s life or reputation have never been under serious threat. Well, there was one, minor incident.
You might recall the recent zebra mussels adventure, where a shipping tycoon (also now at the Retreat) sent some knee-breakers to scare Mark off his assignment. However, the two goons quickly went down like sacks of rocks off a cliff. And that was that. A ripping good adventure could have taken place where the two pursued a fleeing Mark Trail down the river and through the woods in a serious life-or-death struggle. Whacky has its place, but I’d like to see Rivera integrate more actual suspense and danger into some of Mark’s stories. He needs to exercise his survival skills from time to time. Aside from aping Tintin’s haircut, Rivera could learn a thing or two from studying that Belgian teen’s adventures.
For those who think Rivera spends too much time on climate change, she frequently spotlights traditional Sunday topics, such as this one. I’m never quite sure if Rivera deliberately exaggerates Mark’s pointer finger (panel 5). It frequently looks like he’s holding another object in his hand. Hands and feet can be notoriously difficult to draw well. Go ahead, try it!