Maybe this guy is just trying to find a place to get some pancakes?

When we last saw Cherry (a few weeks ago), she was marching with her band of gardener commandoes to check out the bee statue at the Sunny Soleil Society gardens. And Mark was sitting at a picnic table with Cliff and Diana Daggers, hoping to work things out between themselves. Yet, here are our two lovebirds, working together, as if nothing else was going on. What’s with that? With luck, we’ll at least see what Cherry and her group will do by this coming Saturday.

But, what’s this? Some clown in a yellow jump suit has driven up, billowing snide commentary like the typical B-movie bully who thinks he is both funny and dangerous. Until he discovers he picked a fight with a woman who happens to be standing next to Jean-Claude Van Damme.

At first, I thought this might be one of the thugs sent by the Duck Duck Goose shipping company to persuade Mark to back off. But, that would be integrating the two storylines. As I wrote before, I think that would be a great idea; yet it doesn’t have that feel. My guess is that Mr. Yellow Jumpsuit is the extermination business husband of Caroline (a board member of the SSS), who has come around to “put the little woman in her place”, as it were. Clearly, his truck has that “business” look and it appears to have something on its top. Possibly a stereotypical “bug” figure. And that’s why Mr. Yellow Jumpsuit also hides the logo on the side of the work van. The Big Reveal is on Tuesday.

This box of pancakes will self-destruct in five seconds…good luck, gals.

Somehow, reading this today reminds me of those modern cartoons you see on education tv, where teamwork is the sole purpose in the lives of the characters. And the only problems are ones that require two or more characters to perform complimentary actions to arrive at a happy ending.

I suppose that is fine for educational purposes, though they make for boring television. And they ruin the point (well, my point) of what cartoons are for. From my Old School point of view, cartoons are for broad laughs, jokes, pratfalls, and hijinks, even adventure. Give me Roadrunner and Coyote, Bugs Bunny, or Dragonball Z any day. But the dreck that passes for cartoons on public tv, as well as whatever you can find on other TV channels should be buried in a deep hole. Tom and Jerry isn’t going to make your kids join The Proud Boys.

Ok, I wandered far off point here, but the alternative, alas, is discussing this storyline. “You’re tall enough.”  Really!?  Last we saw, the statue was at least 15 feet tall. “You’re feisty enough.” Do they want somebody with a short fuse to be mucking around with hundreds of bees?

Nevertheless, Georgia’s point is valid: They need to work in close coordination if they are going to take this on. While Cherry dribbles out important information like a dripping faucet, their mission—should they choose to accept it—is to save the bees within 24 hours, before the ruling junta can destroy them.

I’m looking forward to watching them put their plan into action. In Real Life that means, can Rivera get the rescue executed before Sunday? If not, having to wait two more weeks for action may likely kill any momentum that is building. So, let’s get ‘er done!

Bees? Bees? We don’t need no stinkin’ bees!

So Cherry’s explanation continues into the third day, as the discussion turns into something of a rehash of earlier strips. If the bees are why this secret society exists, as she claims, then why is Cherry wasting time explaining the obvious to the members?

Did somebody say “obvious”!?

Maybe Cherry is taking over Mark’s role of “Mister Obvious”, which would now make her “Miss Obvious” or something more à propos.

But if Cherry is being so obvious, why did Rivera pass up the opportunity to employ the standard Bees-nis pun in panel 4? Perhaps there are some lines even Jules will not cross. Still, looks like it will be Saturday before this group settles on a plan of action.

Maybe we have some good ol’ fashioned Mark Trail story padding as a treat for the long-time Trailheads.

“Your mission, should you choose to accept it…”

Mischief, indeed. The “Underground Black Rose Garden Club”, is it? What makes it underground, one wonders. Do they invade other people’s gardens by night and fix them? Do they deal in the illicit trade of undocumented roses? Whatever their function, Cherry has vengeance on her mind. So this could explain the clandestine meeting along the trail.

But who wants a box of just plain, cold pancakes, regardless of intentions? Doesn’t even look like the box is insulated to keep the stack warm, either. Georgia strikes me as somebody with the wherewithal to make her own stack, anyway. And it’s not much of a bribe to begin with. Now, wasn’t Georgia walking towards Planet Pancake, anyway? She could just walk on and into the restaurant and get her own stack of hot pancakes with all the butter, honey, and syrup she wanted.

What could make sense of this, coming from the Home Office of Silly Plots, is that the pancakes are a diversion for the the secret mission papers under the stack, as in the old Mission Impossible tv show. Then the pancakes and documents self-destruct after Georgia reads the information. This could provide a better rationale than the idea that Georgia and her group can be had for a simple box of cold flapjacks.

So, is this as far as we go with Cherry’s story for now? Typically, she gets one week to Mark’s two weeks. I’d have liked to see a bit more story development before jumping off. Yet, we can’t expect Diana Daggers to remain in Planet Pancake forever. She’s still an important character in Mark’s storyline. So, we’ll see how things shape up, come Monday. I expect, unlike Dirty Dyer, we’ll be seeing the return of Professor Bee Sharp at some point.

Who! Who! Who is that?

Evening in the neighborhood of Lost Forest as Cherry carefully walks down a path, moving past a tree trunk carved into the shape of a barn owl. Okay, maybe that is the real thing. It is the evening, so it’s a proper time for owls to be out and about, looking for fast food.

The real question here is “What the Hey is going on?” Cherry delivers a stack of flapjacks to a woman walking towards her. Sensitive readers might start asking questions at this point, pointing to the woman’s color (which may not be so apparent in the black & white version of the strip). Those are the wrong questions, I believe. Still, why must they meet outside? Is this woman contagious? Is she extremely claustrophobic? Was she thrown out of Planet Pancake in the past for a major indiscretion, such as asking for pancakes with a topping of popcorn? Presumably, this box of hotcakes (which are not likely very hot by now) also contains necessary cutlery and little plastic tubs of butter and syrup. Let’s hope the butter is real, at least. Bon appetite, mademoiselle!

As for who this woman is, I have no idea. A Pokémon cosplay friend, perhaps? Maybe it is Cherry’s beekeeper friend, mentioned a few weeks ago. Well, one thing we can say about the crazy world of Lost Forest Nuovo is that it has its quotient of eccentric characters. You’d almost think we were back in California at the Herp Hacienda. But that’s okay; although sometimes annoying, they are more interesting than the usual stock extras that filled the secondary roles before Rivera came on board.

Tomorrow is Saturday, and we wrap up this exciting week with Cherry’s World and how her storyline has intermingled with Mark’s. Once again, I’m going out on a limb to predict that this comingling will become even more deliberate and fundamental over time. The signs are all there for us to see. See?

I was just leaving, anyway

Cakes to go?! Do people really order hotcakes to go? Just doesn’t sound like the kind of food I want to have sitting in a bag on the drive home. But what’s this…Diana mooning (or pining for) that narcissist Professor Bee Sharp? If that’ so, why isn’t she back in California? Did they have a disagreement? A lovers’ spat?

I know what you’re thinking: Who is Cherry’s friend? It certainly can’t be the two gals from the SSS, so it must be another new character we’re going to meet. Maybe it isn’t somebody Cherry is too familiar with, since she refers to the person merely as “my friend”, rather than “Charlotte”, “Bill”, “George”, or “Sue.”

Well, it does look like “Pancake Lady” at least wears sensible shoes for her job. They look like trainers or walking shoes. No drama today, but not jokes, either. Just a normal day of commiseration here at good ol’ Planet Pancake.

Wait? Wait? Don’t tell me!

Yeah, we get it. Diana Daggers is not friendly; not one of the gals, after all. And Cherry is once again rebuffed as she tries to put on a happy face when dealing with potential opposition. I reckon that’s at least a desirable strategy to employ, even if it doesn’t work most of the time. After all, Daggers cannot complain that it was Cherry’s poor attitude that pissed her off. Clearly, though, Diana just downgraded Cherry to Chump of the Year. And Cherry is nonplussed by her remark.

What did Cherry expect? She couldn’t have forgotten Mark’s remarks about Diana Daggers, unless Cherry was automatically discounting his anxiety because of some gender-based undercurrents. Yet, that never came out in the strip, so let’s just forget it and move on, because this looks like another relationship going nowhere.

Rivera likes to employ normal words as sound effects, rather than the usual onomatopoeic expressions we usually see in comics. I think most of remember those archetypal sound effects seen on the TV version of Batman: “WHAM!”, “BAM!”, and “POW!”  However, today we see Diana engaged in an aggressive “Slice, Slice, Slice” pancake action. This type of sound effect is popular with Rivera, who has previously described actions using common verbs and nouns, such as “Stop”, “Skiid!”, “Grip!”, “Sock!”, and “Reverse”. It is kind of cute, in a way, and blatant parody. And it’s something that underscores Rivera’s aim (I believe) to not let the strip take itself too seriously; something the former version of the strip usually did. “Sense of humor” would not be something we would normally use to describe Mark or the strip of old. But I’ll give Allen props for adding some humor here and there and lightening up the mood (e.g. destroying boats), even if it didn’t always make sense. And wasn’t Mark’s “bat cave adventure” little more than a parody of Indiana Jones movies?

“You wanna be where everybody knows your name…”

Reckon I was right; this is the place to come and commiserate. Just how did Diana find it, though? Perhaps the eatery has a reputation bigger than we think. In any event, I reckon this is the watering hole (so to speak) for the Lost Forest At Large community. So how come there is rarely anybody in here?

And what’s this action: Everybody Dump on Mark Week!? Can that poor slob get any respect from anybody? Rodney Dangerfield has nothing on ol’ Markey Boy. But give Cherry some credit. In spite of what Mark must have told her about his California experiences, Cherry retained her optimistic nature and tried to extend a welcome handshake to Diana. But, sisterhood über alles! Cherry still managed to identify with Diana’s frustration over Mark. It remains for Cherry to go over and have a nice chat about Mark, bees, and the value of good hotcakes.  Maybe Cherry will convince Diana to go over to the Sunny Soleil Society with her and scare the bees wax out of those other women.

I like how Rivera uses the diagonal lines and central axis in panel 1 to reinforce Diana’s dramatic entrance, drawing the attention of Cherry and Jeanette who flank either side of the central axis. They’re like two wings of a medieval triptych. If it was good enough for Van Eyck and Van der Weyden, it should be good enough for Rivera. Okay, I’m showing off again.

But all in all, the artwork is good and effective in supporting the energetic (and sometimes frenetic) nature of the strip, once you get used to Rivera’s style and stop comparing it to Elrod or Allen. That sense of frenzy and energy is not a feeling one gets from the older version of Mark Trail that we all know and still appreciate, which was more akin to a comfy recliner that you had to get out of once in a while to hit somebody that bothered you too much.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one…!

Jeanette asks Cherry why she showed up at this “odd” hour. I want to know why a pancake house—normally open for breakfast—is still open during dinner hours. Of course, many people just gotta have their dinner flapjacks, as Cherry apparently does. And to be serious for a moment, Jeannette is only concerned about the late hour of Cherry’s appearance; not her appetite. Pancake restaurants are certainly open as long as any restaurant. I’ve made my share of night appearances at IHop and the Waffle House in my day. But what about poor Rusty? Is he to fend for himself? Must he depend on the skills and attentions of a mostly unseen Doc Davis? Or maybe Rusty’s just hanging out at the corner wood pile with his friends, happy to munch down a Slim Jim.

Unfortunately, as we return to Cherry’s week, instead of story development, we got a filler strip filled with classic misunderstandings and sitcom jokes. Cherry has clearly left the field of combat with the Sunny Soleil Society over the fate of the bees. I reckon we’ll learn more about that this week. This eatery must be the place to go if you need to commiserate. It was good enough for Violet, so it’s good enough for Cherry.

My remaining question is whether we will get to see Dale, since Jules Rivera has seen fit to show Chip in panel 1. I realize this might be an arcane cartoon reference for several of you who did not grow up watching the occasional Disney cartoon on a Sunday night.  If you are in that category, a quick Wikipedia (or YouTube) search for Chip ‘n’ Dale should be illuminating. YouTube Tip: Avoid watching modern and computerized versions and go for the old-school Disney animations (when they were still drawn by hand). They are usually directed by Jack Hannah.

Just when you thought it was safe to come in out of the bees….

How the Sunny Soleil Society ever put this woman in charge of anything is a mystery. Clearly, she cannot handle stress. From her first violent reaction to Cherry’s petition about native plantings; to Violet’s melt-down at Planet Pancake after Dirk’s feral hogs destroyed the roundabout flower bed Violet installed (after first destroying Cherry’s original plants); and to her current melt-down over the bee swarm, Violet has proven to be one foundation less than a stable house. Doesn’t look like she was even stung!

And are those even killer bees? We have not heard from Cherry, and I expect she is better qualified to identify them than Miss CrankyPants. Thus, Cherry’s sensible solution of hive relocation is met with abject disapproval from the rabid Violet Cheshire. Clearly, she is not a real fan of nature, which has been somewhat obvious for some time. The textbox in panel 3 further suggests that this crisis may culminate in a parting of the ways for these two strong-willed women. After all, Cherry, you still have a business to run, correct?

But if Rivera follows her usual formula, Monday will see a return to Mark’s new assignment. We won’t be hearing from Cherry for another two weeks, at least; unless she makes a guest appearance for Mark’s departure. Might be more interesting to see Mark make his “See ya later” comments to Rusty or Doc (remember him?). That would give Rivera the chance to indulge in some more Mark Trail satire, as she can have Rusty say “Can we go fishing up the creek for bass when you get back, Dad?” And it would give Trailheads another opportunity to chuckle and snark at that old Mark Trail trope.

Of course, I’m not sure this 21st century version of Rusty has fished since he was young enough to fill in for Opie Taylor. He’d more likely call out “Hey Dad, you were supposed to get me that %@*#$? autograph of Professor Bee Sharp the last time you left, REMEMBER %@*#?$!! This time I want a picture of you and Diana Daggers. Don’t come home without it!