Is this short storyline finished?

[transcript of a conversation]

G: Anna, you’ve been looking over my shoulder at this strip for a while. What’s your take on how things stand?

A: Frankly, George, I just don’t get why Jules is slacking off and padding the story with this repetition and irrelevant actions. Is it supposed to be a soap opera? After the bees, Rivera again links Cherry into Mark’s zebra mussel storyline. But it depends upon a very minor issue with no immediate danger. And it seems to be wrapping up today. Yesterday you wrote that Mark was over-acting like a soldier in battle calling for air support, or whatever. Panel two certainly looks like that. Why is he so animated?

G: Hmm, I get that. Maybe the connection is bad and he has to yell?

A: I think Cherry is clearly smart enough to keep her knuckle-dragging husband at phone length so she can communicate directly with Violet in a way only women can comprehend. Mark would probably show up with a shovel.

G: Hey, no fair! And Mark’s arms don’t go that far down. He’s just passionate and highly engaged in his work, as you know.

A: Sure. If it was the other way around, you’d write that Cherry was being excitable and hyperbolic.

G: Okay, okay. So what about the art? Why does Violet’s face keep changing? Why is the hat yellow in panel 1 and purple again in panel 4?

A: Why ask me? I’m not Jules Rivera and I’m not someone vain enough to post personal reactions on a comic strip, as if you were composing essays for Harper’s. Do other people really read this stuff?

G: Oh, look at the time! The NewsHour is almost on, so I’ll let you go. Thanks for your input, Anna.

You’d think Violet would be concerned about goose poop!

Why would Violet have to get rid of the ball, Mark? Does it come with an expiration date? Anyway, at least Mark showed a modicum of common sense by calming the situation with the fact that this is not an immediate problem. Sigh! Crisis averted as Mark again saves the day.

Still, you are entitled to think there is a bit of disconnect between the relatively calm advice Mark is giving Cherry (note the absence of !!!) and his expression in panel 4, where he looks more like a sergeant in a WWII movie desperately calling in artillery to blow up approaching German Panzers topping the ridge. Remember, dear readers: Mark just got done talking to Cricket Bro, and he’s short on sleep, too. Yet Mark was able to master his emotions and frayed nerves.

Now Cherry can finish up the week this Saturday in a stronger position with Violet, right?

Just call Orkin!

If I had a poll tool readily available on this site (or if I was not too lazy to look for one and learn to use it), I would see how many readers think Mark is overreacting, Cherry is overreacting, or both are.

What should you do, Cherry? First, slap Violet in the face and reach in the aquarium and take the marimo ball. Then run home, put it in a microwave and nuke it until it burns up. Then go back to Violet and tell her it was a good thing you were there to save her once again. I’m sure she’ll thank you properly. Or you can convince Violet to hire Honest Ernest to torch it. Just a thought.

Say, do you think there is a hidden clue to the reference balloon in panel 3 pointing to Mark’s phone, and showing twin mountain peaks? Why not show them directly on the phone’s screen?

Look, I appreciate what Rivera is trying to do, linking storylines and adding more complexity. But if she wanted to make the masimo balls more of an actual threat, couldn’t Rivera have created a larger-scale problem? For example, the Sunny Soleil Society decided to distribute decorative aquariums with masimo balls to all public buildings throughout the county in celebration of the historical statue’s restoration.

Take a breath, Cherry

I think it is fair to ask whether Rivera really thinks this is a big deal or if she is merely having Cherry go overboard, out of her obvious ignorance.

  • Just because masimo balls can host zebra mussels does not mean they always do.
  • There seems to be only one ball (or maybe two?) in this small aquarium to begin with.
  • Masimo balls spread zebra mussels if you dispose of them directly into an external water source (e.g. the toilet or a lake). There is no immediate threat, Cherry!
  • There are thousands of people in Florida, alone, who have aquariums and no doubt also have masimo balls.
  • There are safe methods of disposal that Cherry could tell Violet about in a non-agitated voice so that she does not upset or anger Violet.

Please, somebody tell Violet to quit posing and put down that blasted aquarium!

Eeny, Meeny, Marimo

Making the Marimo Connection is not my best jedi trick, even if the notion of buying a “decorative aquarium” as a self-gift is a bit of a stretch. But the aquarium does provide yet another way for Rivera to connect Mark’s and Cherry’s storylines. Must have been pillow talk when Mark informed Cherry about the marimos and his zebra mussels project. Now, since marimo balls are very popular aquarium decorations, I hope that Cherry is not going to imagine some nefarious plot involving Violet and the Duck Duck Goose shipping company.

Cherry should at least do her due diligence and inform Violet of the potential harm that can come from them and point her to online sites that tell how to safely dispose of them. Or she can get her cloak-and-trowel gang and conduct another midnight raid.

Cherry falls for Violet’s act once again

Cherry is such an optimist! She thinks good deeds and a cheery disposition will win over narcissistic bullies like Violet. But Violet continues to prove her wrong. If you want to keep your job, it seems you might sometimes have to subordinate yourself, even suborn yourself, especially working for a roach like Violet Cheshire. Of course, Cherry could simply quit and look for a contract elsewhere. But then, there is the danger of getting a bad reference. The money must be good enough for Cherry to stick it out.

But a “decorative aquarium”? Isn’t that something they used to sell in tacky mall gift shops? It just seems kind of a bourgeois item. But in a timely association with Sunday’s commentary, I wonder if this aquarium’s decorations include marimo balls infested with zebra mussels?

The Weekly Recap and Sunday Nature Chat

If you missed the strips this past week because you were too busy trying to solve the Asimov Quiz in the newspaper, consider your time well spent. Perhaps. We are undecided whether this was a silly side-trip, a repeated bit of satire, or a hint of further problems down the road. In any event, this past week portrayed a telephone conversation in which Cricket Bro, while on some kind of “dawn surf patrol”, woke Mark up (at some ambiguous part of the morning) to motivate him into joining up to promote and sell NFTs. Mark went into auto-lecture mode explaining his climate change reasons for refusing to buy into the scam, which, unsurprisingly, went over Cricket Bro’s head. CB finally hung up. Now, wasn’t that something? Okay, then here is a follow-up: Sunday’s nature chat.

And not a moment too soon! For those who might have come to this story a bit late, Rivera expands on her original Sunday zebra mussels chat from August 8, where they were described as hidden travelers on imported “marimo” balls, a popular fish tank accessory that apparently get periodically dumped into toilets and flushed into rivers, enabling their spread. A fair point, by the way. Rivera expanded on this topic over time to highlight the main distribution method of zebra mussels: ships. As others have pointed out, these invasive mollusks also existed in the ballast that ocean-going ships pumped into the Great Lakes (for some reason, Rivera fails to mention ballast in her discussions). And it is also true that private boat owners are also partly responsible for helping to spread zebra mussels by not cleaning their boats between trips. However, since the current story focuses on zebra mussels, why devote another Sunday strip to this topic? I mean, Mark’s point about personal responsibility could easily be worked into the daily strips. I’m guessing this Sunday panel was done several months ago and only now published.

NFT=Not For Trail?

Okay, so Rivera reveals this is going nowhere and spares us poor readers any more of this silly sidebar. I hope. However, I don’t think either Mark or we are going to get off so easily. Based on past experience, Cricket Bro might cook up some revenge.

[CAUTION: THEORIZING AHEAD! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.]

On a different topic, I wonder why Rivera gave up her original style for Mark Trail, as seen in her early strips, such as this one from October 2020:

Rivera is often criticized for her art, as it either does not conform to the traditional Mark Trail style, or just “looks bad.” But her style is clearly a choice, not a limitation. As you may be able to see, the overall look of the October strip is certainly more fluid, refined, even more naturalistic. The coloring is less saturated (again, not discernable in b&w strips). The overall look has a lighter touch, with a definite feel for volume.

So, why the style shift? It might have been a matter of time and effort. The October panels would have to have taken much longer to produce than today’s. Or it could be that this earlier style didn’t lend itself to the kinds of stories and personalities Rivera decided to continue with. But Rivera continues to use interesting and unusual compositions (October panel 2) not normally seen in Mark Trail strips of yore, though not in today’s panels.

So now what?

Perhaps Cricket Bro is such a narcissistic bully that he has never admitted to himself that Mark helped defeat him. Perhaps he thinks Mark is naive enough to be fooled into this scam, whereby he gets his revenge.

And Mark feels the need to respond to any idea with a prepared lecture. All he had to do was point Cricket Bro to some the earlier strips that already went over this stuff!

Are you wondering what the point is here?

Are you wondering where this is leading?

Are you wondering who will hang up first?

Are you even wondering what’s going on back at Duck Duck Goose shipping? Well, Rivera is weaving a tapestry of story threads, so we’ll have to see how it all comes together.

C’mon, Mark. At least the suckers will be rich suckers!

I have to admit that I like the effect of Rob leaning over the jagged line representing the telephone connection between him and Mark. Not a new invention, but it is effective. I also like the fact that there is enough text in the strip to make you slow down to read it, rather than doing the typical quick scan of many strips.

Less effective is this load of BS that Cricket Bro is handing to Mark. I suppose Rob must be a sociopath, which might explain his behavior and actions. At least Mark seems resistant to this big deal. But again, why is he even listening? Because he has to in order to build up the premise for further action down the road, I think.