Don’t fraternize with the enemy!

Well, was yesterday a replay or the beginning of Mark’s second day on the job? Simon Stump is no longer hanging around, nor are the rest of the guests, so let’s assume this is Day Two. We can’t tell from the clothing, since most characters wear the same clothes all the time.  This is a tradition in comic strips going as far back as The Yellow Kid, in which the clothes act as kind of identification badge or part of the character’s inherent identity. Little Orphan Annie almost always wore a red dress. Charlie Brown was always in shorts and a t-shirt with a horizontal zigzag stripe. Mark used to always wear a plain work shirt with two button-down pockets. Now it’s a red checked shirt, recently enhanced with a black tee undershirt. A bit of progress, perhaps.

Aside from yet another possibly unnecessary textbox in panel 4, this looks like a little story stretching going on. Or perhaps this is a setup for these three goofs to encounter a bear on their walk and either call out for Mark to come save them or retreat to camp to report the encounter. With luck, they could get “kidnapped” by the bear and never seen again.


For those tuning in late…

Okay, it’s been a week, so I reckon it’s okay to shove in a quick “recap” of the preceding events. But the fact Rivera changed the topography in panel 1 from the prior layout is not mere carelessness, but it was clearly done for the sake of design:  a classic diagonal sweep that provides a more pleasing sense of compositional movement than a dead-on, orthogonal left-to-right layout would do. Is the care creeping along or is Mark just sitting in it while he rhapsodizes over his fortunes? It’s virtually impossible to illustrate a car creeping along, as opposed to moving at highway speed.

Where to begin?

Taming wild bears, is it?  Poor Mark, surrounded by posers and grifters. So why do Mark’s “enemies” just stand around in a straight line, as if they’re posing for a group photo? Maybe to maximize the effect of their being there. Now, what’s Mark’s next move? Maybe he’ll questions these guests to learn whether they have anything to do with the ursine incursions.

Moving on, now that we’ve spent the past few weeks getting Mark’s adventure off and running, it should be time to spend a week with Cherry. No, not like that! Will it be make-up time with Violet Cheshire, pancakes with Jeanine, or maybe another secret mission with the underground garden club?

When bears attack, call a journalist!

Okay, class:  From our earlier discussions, we should all know by now how to properly interpret panel 3, correct? Yes, Sally. Panel 2 does confuse the chronology. Good catch!

So, Simon is greatly relieved that True Tech magazine sent another writer? You’d think that he would rather have a hunter or game warden on site, instead. It seems obvious that the bear is not afraid of journalists. But heck, even editor Rod Radagast’s only reaction to the loss of one journalist is to send in another one, as if this was a player substitution on a football team.

No worries, now that Mark is on the trail <ahem!>. I wonder if Mark ever watched Dick Proenneke’s films about living in the Alaskan wilderness, and brought along something for his own self-defense?

But wait:  What if this bear survived a careless forest fire in Oregon and traveled across country to seek revenge against the reckless actions of two knuckleheaded brothers? I believe there is precedent!

Mark tries to keep his focus

I’m going through a Paxlovid (Covid) rebound this week, which ain’t much fun. And this story is not helping. Craziness for the sake of craziness does not a good story make, so I hope Rivera has a good plot for this adventure; and that would include good reasons why these particular people just happen to be at this retreat.

It’s a small, small, small, small world

Should I laugh, cry, or just break wind? Hard to get my head around this. And I’m not sure “rivals” is the correct term. Better choices would be:  “constant irritants”, “thorns in my flesh”, or “I grew up watching Batman, so I’ll keep running into the same jerks over and over.” But I don’t recall the lady in pink. Anybody have an idea? She looks like Bee Sharp’s Significant Other. I don’t mind having past no-goodniks showing up from time to time, but this is an overdone soufflé.

However, it’s good to see that Rivera keeps up on current trends and fads, such as ChatGPT, and that she can quickly fold it into a Mark Trail adventure while it’s still in the news.

Mark leads with his best material

In other words, “I do not think it means what you think it means”, as Inigo Montoya opined to Vizzini. But names—however misapplied—have a habit of sticking around, like the “Canary Islands”, named for wild dogs, not tweety birds. I wonder if Stump is such the genius that he expects Mark to have immediately formed an opinion of his retreat, or if he is just testing Mark for some reason.

I’m thinking Rivera does not do 3/4, rear-facing heads very often; hence Mark’s profile face in panel 2. Also, the broad space and scale that Rivera seems to be trying to suggest in panel 1 could have been improved by putting the station wagon farther “back”, so that we only see its front extending out from the lower left corner of the panel. It would then set a scale to more dramatically emphasize the receding space and avoid the question of why Mark is walking from the right side of the vehicle.

Of course, Rivera may not have intended any of this, anyway.

Go ahead, Mark. Rub it in!

Here in the Twin Cities, we’ve had a miserable day of cold, rain, and ice, as if we were on the east or west coast! So, hooray for Mark and his splendid view!

Well, some of Rivera’s best work is her landscapes. Even Mark is well drawn, approaching her early strips in quality. Maybe the joy of drawing the landscapes rubbed off on her depiction of Mark. But I do wish she would resist the popular trend of drawing heavy outlines around objects, such as the squirrel. Totally unnecessary and distracting, I think.

Run for your life! Giant radioactive water bears!

Rabid Rod continues to emote like Charles Nelson Reilly, as Mark probably starts thinking that working-from-home ain’t such a great idea. It sounds quite possible that naïve Rod just got things totally mixed up from the start.

For example, it could actually have been a real bear chasing the journalist in the water who called in while he was being chased. Rod might have misheard his call: “Bear!<huff> Water! <puff> Bear…” or something incoherent like that. Or it could be actual ginormous water bears that inadvertently grew 10 feet tall because of radioactive pollutants in a nearby river. Either way works for a Mark Trail article.

But finally, let’s not overlook the message box in panel 4:  A hint for the Sunday nature chat?

Distance Learning

Preppy dresser Mark schools editor Rod Radagast in a fundamental biological difference between ursidae and tardigrada. If nothing else, Mark should feel relieved in the same way Rod should be embarrassed. Then again, any dude wearing granny shades is probably immune to such feelings.