The clock is ticking . . . .

Finally, some actual meat on this bone of a story! The moral dilemma we brought up earlier has come to light after all.  And it’s a doozy! Mark had an opportunity to do something earlier, instead of taking field trips and rescuing lumber mill workers. In fact, he could have also let Dad and his partner back in Florida work this out, while he went on his family vacation. But no. Mark couldn’t let it go.

Not only has Mark derailed the family vacation, but he is now in the unenviable position of watching his Dad possibly go down with the Crypto Brothers. Can Mark even stop Professor Bee Sharp at this point? Should he? One wrinkle is that Dad seemed okay with the business arrangement, in spite of Mark’s earlier warnings and protests.

Still, Mark’s only play is to somehow derail the business relationship and kill the event before it takes place. And there is so little time left. This looks like a case for the Impossible Missions Force.

Did yesterday’s script get printed on today’s strip?

A cartoonist might summarize a Friday (or Saturday) strip on Monday to catch people up. It is unusual to see a recap of what was published just the day before! Still, the revenge angle was not hard to predict.

So, why is Professor Sharp wearing that dark blue (or is it black with blue highlights?) hobbit robe instead of his usual white lab coat with yellow interior lining? It can’t be to blend into a green forest. Anyway, Mark might take a hint and change his own attire once in a while. Phew!

Well, the ball is back in Mark’s court. What will he do with it?

Professor Sharp reveals his plan

Once again, we see Mark placed in a storyline where he is plainly out of his depth, as well as his area of expertise. As we know, Mark is here is because his father got involved. As in his original confrontation with Cricket Bro and Professor Sharp, Trail is again an unwilling participant. Yet we haven’t seen much intervention on Mark’s part to get Dad away from this train wreck.

We saw earlier (during the Zebra Mussels story) how Cricket Bro tried to enlist Professor Sharp into his NFT enterprise, but it wound up biting him in the ass. This time, Sharp and Trail seem to have a similar goal, even if they are not on the same side. It could just be Sharp looking for revenge against Cricket Bro for getting scammed. But will Professor Sharp’s thirst for revenge also take down Happy Trail?

For Mark, his chief goal now should be extricating his dad, legally, before lawsuits start flying and the Feds show up. I don’t think Mark’s Flying Fists O’ Justice are going to be of much use here, so I hope he knows some good lawyers.

As a bonus, the Trailverse is free from COVID!

Gah!” is right (to acknowledge Dilbert), we didn’t wind up with a new nemesis or protagonist. I was hoping at least for Cherry. But no, it’s just another recycled opponent to push Mark’s buttons (which are probably getting pretty worn down by now). This is like the old Batman TV series, where he seemed to just fight the same five or six master villains. Over and over again. Now, Professor Sharp mentioned this “event” thing, too. (Doesn’t he have a class to teach some place?)

Oh, I remember now:  They are talking about the “big crypto influencer event” that the Crypto Bros are putting on (see the April 4 strip). That explains the half-pipe, as well. I reckon guests can roast marshmallows over the coals of the surrounding forest fire.

On the other hand, Mark certainly needs to have a talk with Cherry about those bicep pix, which might explain why he was sleeping by himself.

Welcome to the House of Loose Ends!

Talk about disconnects:  

  • Mark mutters about drilling, when all we’ve seen and heard is hammering.
  • People are building a skate-board halfpipe and Mark is upset that nobody told him about it.
  • The forest is still burning.
  • Mark mentions an event that hasn’t even been brought up before. What event!?
  • We see and hear a mysterious figure that suddenly appears behind Mark.
  • And we experience Mark’s now-typical over-reaction.

Put all this together and what do we get?

I’ve no idea! But at least the art looks more carefully designed today.

The Wrath of Klang!

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?

Here is the Weekly Recap and Sunday Nature Talk

Arraigned in yellow bedtime regalia like Nero Wolfe, Rusty read his cryptid book and came across a cryptid called SurfSquatch. Formerly a surfer, the dude paddled into a wave the wrong way and come out as some kind of night-surfing wookie who met and fell in love with another such creature. But like Cinderella, she upped and disappeared, leaving him alone and horny.

Where did she go? Though surfsquatches live along the shore and eat seafood, Rusty’s Surfsquatch decided to search in the forest, whereupon he fell victim to hunger and fatigue. Being lost, he next fell into a cave, where an orchestra of crickets was hopping by. So, he ate them, as they reminded him of shrimp. “Shrimp?!” thought, Rusty, “Why, Dad calls crickets land shrimp!” With that light bulb moment, Rusty got an idea for attracting the Seaside Specter. Rusty sought out cans of cricket protein that Cricket Bro had stored in the house, to use as bait. Not yet explained is what Rusty intends to do if he meets the Seaside Specter. Oh, wait. We saw that, already:  He ran. Well, before you run off, check this out:

Hey, at least Mark is doing something with his time in Oregon, other than playing slap-hands with the Bunco Brothers. I bet Rivera had fun drawing these bugs, too.

But speaking of lady beetles, there is an amateur South Australian band called “The LadyBeatles”, something of a local thing, with a Facebook presence and a YouTube video. They don’t seem to be interested in invading America like their male namesakes did nearly 60 years ago (ye gads!).

Rusty connects the dots

What Rivera has been doing since she took on this strip is to consistently run a secondary storyline alongside the main (Mark) storyline. This is one of Rivera’s better contributions to Mark Trail (along with the reduction in exclamation marks!), providing—for a comic strip—a more complex story environment that wants regular viewing to keep things straight. Until this Oregon Vacation story, Cherry has been the chief star of the secondary stories. Now, it is Rusty’s turn to fill the alternate plot. Rivera has kept Rusty’s storyline along what we might expect to see for a pre-teen boy. Little Orphan Annie he is not. But Rusty is trying. So, will Rivera finally let Rusty have more room to grow?

Dept. of Curious Observations:  Panel 1 is a curious image, don’t you think? Aside from a bear cartoon-bombing the scene, we see what appears to be an open door with trees growing directly in front of it, making the doorway inaccessible. I thought that picture on the wall was meant to represent a painting; but now it is clearly a strangely-drawn window in which we see Rusty crafting his plans. The room is clearly lit, yet the adjacent doorway is totally in darkness.

Finally, a tip of the hat to BobS on CK for opining that the SurfSquatch graphic novel that Rusty is reading might have been produced by Cricket Bro’s corporation as an advertising tool. Clever connection!

He really fell for it!

That has to be one weird looking image in panel 1. Sorry, but it looks to me more like some kind of high school banner left behind after a pep rally.

Rivera proves to be thrifty with her tropes, as she has gotten a lot of mileage out of crickets as land shrimp. It was that remark that Rusty (back in March 2021) caught on a video with Mark and posted online that led to Mark’s California trip and everything that’s followed. So it has come full circle, so to speak.

And Rivera repeats her oft-used image balloon comparing a shrimp and a cricket. Rivera uses this visualization frequently, as regular readers know, though I’m not sure what the real purpose is.

Is Rivera just riffing off her meme here for the humor aspect, or is she trying to draw out some larger issue or symbolism? How did Rusty make the link between crickets and shrimp? Is it simply because SurfSquatch is now some kind of nautical creature who apparently gets his meal from the ocean?

Now what?

The suspense is palpable. Perhaps the creature will be saved by the Seaside Specter. If the squatch survives on seafood, why would it think to search the forest for its kind? I reckon logic is not a strong part of its mental processes. Wait a minute, it started out as a surfer, right? Never mind.

So, where is this plotline heading? “The Saturday strip” is not an acceptable answer.