Mark likes a Cherry on top?

[slightly edited] Turn off the power and all is right with the world, huh? Did somebody/everybody forget there is a big fire all around them? BTW, did anybody call the forest service? Anyway, as we observe Mark hastily run towards the sudden appearance of Cherry, we also unhappily observe the appearance of hastily drawn art today.

Still, at least Mark took the initiative to face danger in order to save the workers (and his Dad). Behold! This means that Mark completed his first solo hero adventure, as far as I can tell, since Rivera took over. Not a big adventure, but an adventure all the same.

Now how did Cherry get to the mill in the first place, as there was no other vehicle at the Bros’ house? It’s a bit far-fetched to believe that the Bozo Brothers went to get her. They’re probably busy trying to figure out a way to blame Mark for the fire.

An amazing array of action and accomplishment?

Panel 1 presents us with the “Heroic Mark in Radiance” aura, paraphrasing a manga reference (I think) to Dragonball Z, something I noted in prior submissions as far back as April 2021. It ties in nicely with various Pokémon references in the strip that one of our readers has pointed out to us from time to time. Given Rivera’s presumed age and avocation, she would certainly have watched these animations while growing up.

How did all of those “trapped” employees wind up in the clearing by the power station in the first place? Did they follow Mark? Perhaps we must assume all of this stuff is located between the downed powerlines and the flurry of flaming foliage. Whatever the answer, Mark regains some of his former hero status points for his unselfish action and accomplishment (especially compared to the Useless Brothers). Finally, take note, readers: We have our first actual adventure in this story. Let’s hope there is more.

Keeping in touch

Okay, this is another of Rivera’s digs at the Entitlement Bros and the kind of self-absorbed people they are meant to represent. You can also tell that from his pose and accessorizing. Just how or where Jadsen came up with his own walkie-talkie is one of those things that just occurs out of convenience for the story, like the hardware in the fire tower.

By the way, with the heat that the fire must be generating, don’t you think Mark would have shed that long-sleeve flannel shirt he always wears? I sure hope he has ass-kicking deodorant.

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

We can’t be sure of the actual topography of this area, and perhaps we shouldn’t be too concerned. Jon Wick gets away with a lot of stuff and we accept it for what it is. Why should this be different? As with any fire, we should assume that it’s going to spread and pop up in different places. After all, this is an adventure story! Still, I can’t help remarking that those are pretty darned tall people in the background.

Mark might have taken one of those employees along; they are certain to know the layout far better than he could. Then Mark could not only locate and turn off the electricity, but for his second act he could rescue the employee on the way back when that person would be sure to suffer a twisted ankle or something worse. A double-hero trophy for Mark! That might have been too much, though. Perhaps Rivera didn’t want to wander into fantasy.

“For my next trick I’ll pull a fire truck out of my butt!”

Suddenly this simple wooden fire tower (which had looked empty, save for a few stools) has morphed into a computerized information and communication center sporting a bunch of equipment and other specialized stuff. Except for firefighting equipment, of course.

Pappy Trail hands Mark some personal treasures that he—somehow—just happened to have with him… out here in an Oregonian forest. This is ridiculous, of course, like Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland in one of their movies where they decide to put on a musical and build Hollywood-level production sets out of materials that just happen to be in their garage.

Is Mark going to dunk the scarf into the stream (the stream is an escape route, you two idiots!) to use as a fire shield? And what could be more useful in a smoke-filled building than a compass? Almost every daily brings a surprise.

Trapped like rats in a fire tower!

This is the third consecutive daily strip showing the same power line crashing (or smashing) to the ground. Perhaps it just bounced several times. It sure looks pretty flaccid at this point.

Say, who are those people in the background repeating Daddy Trail’s line from Saturday and spouting off like they are in an episode of Mr. Wizard? Must be more of those slothful employees who didn’t leave earlier, when they had the chance. I suppose it would be too much to assume that they could simply walk around the downed power lines or maybe even just walk up the slope.

Finally, how does Dad just happen to have floor plans of the electrical control station stored in a fire tower?

Okay, Trailheads! The heat is on and the time is short! Lives are on the line (perhaps)! Time to call out the Secret Code of Justice: “WWMD?”

Smokey says: “When surrounded by fire, climb into a wooden tower!”

Why would Happy Trail take shelter in a wooden tower when he could have just run up a hill? Even the dialog doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense; as in, what the hell is there to work out, Mark!? And the artwork looks incompetent with awkward lines, out-of-scale anatomy, and sketchy figures.

Of course, we’ve seen clumsy drawing from the prior Mark Trail artists, Allen included. Rivera is not unique in this regard. What makes these gaffs stand out is her style, which transitioned over time into something more expressionistic than merely representational. Inconsistencies, such as what we see in panel 4, hit you immediately and painfully.

But the troubling issue for me—as I have pointed out several times—is that Rivera is an accomplished artist. Why transform Mark Trail from her original, refined stylistic approach into this slapdash version?

They said I could not write this in 100 words or less. They were right.

I think the alternating viewing angles provide some interest to today’s panels. Nevertheless…

Like many readers and complainers, I also wonder where this storyline is heading. It started out as a family vacation in Portland. Vacations are the basis for impromptu Mark Trail adventures (e.g., the Mexican artifact smugglers and the outlandish island volcano incident). This vacation got sidetracked right away by Mark’s concerns over his dad’s business relationship with Cricket Bro and his brother, who also happen to be in Portland. This story arc looked to be as exciting as warm milk, but there was hope that Rusty’s adolescent fascination with locating The Seaside Specter would turn out to be the real adventure this time around (Like father like son, right?).

Not so fast! One disastrous night and Rusty was ready to pack it in. We recently got a tease that Rusty’s adventure might get reignited but hopes like that often fizzle out in The Trailverse. Speaking of igniting, we now have another subplot: A sudden fire at the brothers’ “hidden” lumber mill.

One could charitably suggest that all of this chaos may just be a satire on the messiness of real life. But who cares for that!? Mark Trail is an adventure strip, not a documentary. Adventure stories (at least in comic strips) work best when they have a strong narrative focus.

Ultimately, I hope these rambling scenarios of Mark and the Crypto Bros move to the back and allow room for a more interesting adventure:  Rusty’s Specter search. There isn’t much else to hang your hat on.

The story heats up!

Hmmm, at last we see Mark trying to take charge of everything, just like he used to do. But take charge of what? Let’s see if we can make sense of this, shall we?

The last time we saw Happy Trail was in the back seat of Jadsen’s vehicle, on the way to that “Wings of Love” animal rescue center. It was there that everybody first heard about the fire at the mill. This all happened during Cherry and Rusty’s visit to downtown Portland. Apparently, Mark and the Bros drove to the mill fire. And they wasted time with pointless debates.

Now we have Mark dashing down into the valley, apparently to save dad. Dad!?
– Okay, how did Mark know Happy Trail would be down there?
– How did Happy even get there before Mark!?
– Why is Happy in the tower, which happens to have a loudspeaker system? What was this place, a former prison camp?
– Why would the workers still be in a burning mill, anyway? It had to have been burning for at least thirty minutes or more (in Mark Trail Time). Were they waiting for permission to leave? This is more confusing than film adaptations of Raymond Chandler stories.

For some reason, the artwork reminds me of Golden Age comic books from the 1940s and 1950s, especially panel 3. I like that. Maybe it’s the heavy-lined profile of Mark and the zoom-out circle of Happy Trail in the tower. I dunno. You tell me!

Che disastro!

What a mess, indeed! According to Smokeybear.com, almost 9 out of 10 forest fires are started by people (idiots and arsonists). Frankly, the entire exchange today is bizarre. We have a fire that either started in the mill or started in the surrounding forest and engulfed the mill. Either way, this does not seem like the best time to talk about the building habits of beavers, much less composing press releases.

And where are all of these lumber mill employees? Clearly, they should have already vacated the premises after they called the Bonehead Bros. And Mark should have figured that out right away!

Wouldn’t the sawmill employees have also already contacted a fire department or the local forestry department to report the fire? Did Cricket Bro? Or Jadsen!? Any legitimate, professional operation would have had protocols in place to prevent or mitigate a fire.

Regarding what Rivera wrote in panel 4, the point is not whether Cricket Bro is a biologist. That’s irrelevant. The point is that he is one half of a pair of stupid “brothers” who might have conspired to have the mill burned down, perhaps for insurance purposes. They need to get money from somewhere. And it could explain their curiously casual attitude about the fire.