The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

You can wake up now, the week is over. As far as the current story arc goes, Mark left the retreat with Bunny, er, Honey, . . . no, Holly (?) to investigate her plea to help her friends hurt by a collapsed trail. Mark arrived to find Rob and Sharp lying injured at the bottom of a steep hill. Instead of smiling with the feeling of justice done, and returning to his job, Mark’s good side decided to rescue them, instead. Presto! Shazam! Mark made a dog-cart pulled by faithful Andy suddenly appear to assist him. Clearly, there was an unspecified time delay. Somehow (how, Rivera does not show us) Mark was able to either get the cart and Andy down the hill or get the two boobs up, whereupon they all returned to safety, with Bee Sharp in the cart and Rob helped back by Jadsen. Of course, the two casualties complained and whined along the way. So typical.

As I noted before, this otherwise nonessential side story could have been presented in a more dramatic fashion, but I reckon Rivera decided that actual drama was out of place in a strip based more on eccentricities and parodies (or was that satire?). Parody and goofy characters have pretty much been Rivera’s approach since she started. I’m not against that in general, but I think this strip would be better if she intertwined some real drama here and there into the stories. The two elements can work together. Isn’t that we mean by a dramedy? For example, the movies In Bruges, The Wizard of Oz, and early Jackie Chan movies; Buffy the Vampire Slayer on TV; and Tintin in comics. So, it can be done.

I like the idea of the butterflies spelling out “Mark Trail” more than the execution, which looks more like fall leaves. Yet, this is a good, positive Sunday strip showing that sometimes, things do get better. By that, I mean the monarch butterfly population.

Rivera saved some drawing time, as cartoonists will try to do, by taking a few butterfly images and replicating them to create the swarms. Unfortunately, she included a heavy outline in the replicated images (e.g., panel 2), which foils their natural light appearance.


Extra: Other animals have memories, too!

Monday’s Mark Trail blog can be found below, but this is an “extra”! As we just saw in the Texas tiger zoo story (category: Puff Piece Zoo), Mark had to deal with Gemma, the “rampaging” elephant who tromped her way across four states to seek revenge against Tess Tigress for a past bad deed.

In addition to the popular reputation for an elephant’s memory (no, not John Lennon’s backing band), we now have evidence that even bears can find their way home!

Here is a link to a recent bear-finds-home event making the rounds on the Internet:

Calling Dean Martin!

The crowd of hopeful investors stands in front of the “setting sun” band shell as they watch the more interesting action going on in the foreground. It’s one thing to be involved in various scams; but another to actually move on to attempted murder. Or so it seems.  This must be a German EUV because it crashed with a K instead of a C.

This dramatic overreaction almost certainly will lead to an equally animated reaction on the part of the crowd, but not before Trail (and maybe Sharp) rescues Cricket Bro, as needs must. All in all, this is not your father’s (or your own former) Mark Trail, with its simpler, black & white (predominantly white) opponents. This is more like global realpolitik, where your former enemy becomes an ally, or vice-versa.

So, what will the situation be when they pull Cricket Bro out of the wreck? Do Mark and Sharp decide to save him from an angry crowd?

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!

“Wake up, Mom, it’s the 21st century!”

I reckon that Rivera is on some kind of “animal in your face” kick, since she has consistently introduced animals into the foreground that “break the fourth wall” to look at us; they are often not even integrated into the scene. It’s a gimmick that I believe has run its course and I’ll be happy to see our animal friends return to their proper place as normal components of the landscape, where they can be shot at or run over.

Apparently, Mark is on his way to Florida to get Pops, so Rusty takes the opportunity to get some palling around time with his friend, Robbie. Cryptids, as some of you know, are mythical creatures that most of us recognize as not real, such as the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, the Yeti, or Huckleberry Hound. But there are plenty of people who do believe (Recall Mark’s Yeti adventure with Dr. Camel, the “cryptozoologist”, starting back in September 2019.). There is also an actual active market in cryptid kid-lit, just as Rusty says.

(Note: If you missed out on Mark’s “Hunt the Yeti” adventure, just click on the September 2019 link in the Archives section and begin your education!)

Where have we heard this before?

Mark must have one heck of a hangover to look as bad as he does. Well, one thing I think is pretty interesting: and that is that Rivera does not seem to be content with limiting herself to a strictly linear storytelling technique. Instead, she seems to be interested in weaving various and ongoing storylines all together, kind of like how things work in real life. Or soap operas.

So once again, Cricket Bro gets involved in Mark’s life. Both he and professor Sharp have already made brief appearances during the current zebra muscle story, but they we’re linked more to Diana then to Mark. We don’t know if they are connected in some way with the zebra mussels, but there seems to be no connection so far. So, yes what is this great idea? And given their past relationship, why would Cricket Bro want to pass on anything positive to Mark and why would Mark believe anything Cricket Bro has to say?

Here is the Weekly Recap and Sunday Nature Talk

We left Mark the previous week planning Operation Poinsettia. This past week, we watched Caroline and hubby Honest Ernest complain to Violet Cheshire about Cherry’s interference with their attempt to eradicate the hive of bees. Through guileless honesty or naïve ignorance, instead of just letting Cherry move the bees and then waiting for the check in the mail, the couple blamed Cherry for their failure, provoking Violet to revoke the contract and withhold their pay. Cherry, who happened to stumble into this ad-hoc anger management session, was easily suborned by Violet (with an unspoken agreement to overlook Cherry’s actions) into offering false testimony to support Violet’s underhanded reasoning. This exposed a willingness in Cherry to put her job over her integrity. But this collusion now lays her open to extortion, if not dismissal, for being corrupt.

Ironically, it is Caroline and Ernest who have the moral high ground here, however contemptable they personally are. They had a (presumably) legal contract and attempted to fulfill it, only to be stymied (on possibly illegal grounds) by Cherry and Mark. Instead of accepting payment for something they did not do, they sought redress with Violet. They wind losing out, but getting a half-hearted hint for more jobs. And Cherry thinks she has saved her job. My question to all this is whether Jules Rivera had this in mind. While you ponder that, check this out:

okay, not the usual “let’s talk about pandas” routine, but a replay of the blockchain-nft connection to climate change, brought up several weeks ago when Diana was fretting over the misuse of her salary by her so-called friend and employer, Professor Bee Sharp. It’s quite right and fine to bring up the subject, one that I think most of us truly were not aware of. And that’s good. But it would also have been helpful for some suggestions for what we can do about it.

Score one for The Dagger. Ho! Ho! Ho!

Nice snark, Diana! Okay, maybe Mark has been smoking a little too much nature. What is his plan? Does he get everybody to dress up like poinsettia sharks and swim around to scare off the cargo ships? Do they dress up like old-school pirates and threaten to hijack the next ship that comes through? Cargo ships do not ply rivers for fun, but for business with inland ports that are not usually approachable from other waterways. Thus, does Mark want to kill off the zebra mussels or the shipping company?

Still, I’m intrigued. Remember, the earlier actions of the Duck Duck Goose company suggest that they have something else (likely illegal) they are more concerned about than zebra mussels. Yet, Mark and Diana are not aware of that fact. In reality, the shipping company would have already filed injunctions against Mark and the magazine to stop this investigation. So, any ideas what Mark has in mind? Submit your thoughts in the comments section and we’ll see who is closest.

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.