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.

Sunday Delay

Because of prior commitments, I will not be able to post the Sunday blog until Sunday afternoon. Please enjoy your new-found free time to sleep in; attend the religious service of your inclination; mow the lawn; or finish reading that book before it has to go back to the library. You know which one I’m talking about.

Or, you can while away the time looking at this field of dots. Some people think that if you look at it hard and long enough, you will see the ancient Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus in Rome. Other people think that prolonged viewing will just give you a headache. Personally, I think this could be one of the game sheets for the Tokyo Olympics “Connect the Dots” finals (won by the team from Djibouti). Well, you’ve got some time on your hands to figure it out.

But fear not, Faithful Readers: Mark Trail will soon return!

Tuesday: The Brogurt hits the fan?

Time and space compression is at work once again as we see Cricket Bro and Mark magically transport into the alleged “complex” web of hallways where the Laptop Duo is attempting to make a getaway. Never mind that the company’s so-called Security (the person known as “Dare”?) has apparently disappeared. In any event, Mark adds to his expected growing list of possible criminal charges of accessory to theft and fraud by assaulting Cricket Bro, who suddenly speaks like a 1940s film noir character.

So where are Killer Bee, Diana, and Dare in all of this action? Did none of them think to come running when the alarms went off, or are they off to their appointed “battle stations”, ready to intervene if needed?

Today’s strip is a great improvement in artistic quality, with regard to style, staging, and overall effect. The off-kilter point-of-view in panel 1 underscores the urgency and anxiety of the current crisis. Cricket Bro in panel 2 is well-delineated in a three-quarter, foreshortened pose. Though Mark’s corralling of Cricket Bro in panel 3 gives the impression that the Herp Hacienda team now have a free pass to escape, it may be an illusion. Or delusion.

After all, Mark has to also escape. And there are still three formidable forces for Mark to deal with, excluding Cricket Bro. What will they do now?

Oh, about that software:  Why would Cricket Bro leave it on a docked laptop, if it was so important? In any realistic situation, the software would have already been uploaded to a server or other secure storage devices and the laptop drive wiped clean. In fact, it would have been proper that all of the laptops were connected to a server while being used.

Now, should we assume Jules is just not cognizant of such things? Hard to believe in this day and age. So, is there another angle here? Is the software issue merely a blind? A ruse? If so, for whom?