Zeeba Mussels Epilog, Part 4: At last, the end of the story?

Okay, another happy ending. Apparently, events were taking place behind the scenes, just like in the pre-Rivera era. We need not be bothered with the details, such as what secrets did Duck Duck Goose have that caused them to sic two thugs on Mark and Diana. Maybe in another story we’ll learn more…or not. As for cleaning those ships, it’s a little late in the game for that, Pops.

Mark strikes a pose in panel 4 that looks like he’s been taking lessons from Violet Cheshire. We have to wonder why “wavy hands” Rafael is asking Mark about his future plans instead of offering him another assignment. Is this Rafael’s way of waving Mark out the door? Will Bill Ellis make another memorable appearance in Saturday’s panels? Stay tuned!


 Zeeba Mussels Epilog, Part 4: Time to up your game, Mark!

Under the spreading bees nest tree sits a lone house on the prairie. It sure doesn’t look like Mark and Cherry’s house, based on prior drawings by Rivera. However, I’ll award credit for a nice composition, even if the colors are largely and darkly monochromatic.

I notice that Rafael’s pep-talk is all about the video, not the article. Wonder why? No concerns about its facts, conclusions, or validity? Well, I reckon people just don’t read much, anymore. Just make pretty videos. Add comments.

So, Mark has got a long way to go until…what? Is there some specific readership count that constitutes success? Mark reacts like a cross between a day stock trader watching the ticker and a teenager fussing over his Instagram account. He is quickly mutating from a traditional writing-based journalist into an “Internet activist celebrity”, where fame is based on the current NAZDAQ INDEX count of anonymous online followers. Clearly, Mark is going after the youth market, just as this comic strip seems to be doing.

Zeeba Mussels Epilog, Part 3

Okay, I have no idea what those marks are under Mark’s eyes, and no other commenters do, either. Clearly, Editor Rafael makes no bones about advocacy (or tabloid) journalism. I wonder if “Hot Catch” magazine also features risqué pictures of female fish on page 3, like the women in the English tabloid, “The Sun”.

Although I admit to being a booster for Rivera and her interpretation, overall, I am uncomfortable with how she portrays Mark now and then, such as the insecure, whiney putz in panel 3. Why would Mark need street cred when he works mostly outside of cities? I reckon it might matter if he happened to run across a resurrected version of The Monkey Wrench Gang.

So, c’mon, Rivera! Give Mark a little more self-confidence and “street smarts” (deliberate ironical remark) to go with it. As for that “It wasn’t exactly my plan to get arrested” remark in panel 1, who is he kidding, besides himself?

Zeeba Mussels Epilog, Part 2

As Ralph the Rat Snake looks on, Rafael properly slams Mark for going outside of his journalistic mandate, if there ever was one. Mark is a modern muckraker, an investigative journalist, I suppose. He probably always has been, but the journalistic side of the old Mark Trail always took a back seat. All we saw was Mark bustin’ heads, exposing petty crooks, and talking to Bill Ellis. So kudos to Rivera for making his job a more explicit part of the stories.

Yet, one cannot claim, based on what we see and read, that Mark is any kind of objective journalist., which seems to be what Rafael expected. His original instructions to Mark failed to spell out his expectations on what to include, like getting all sides of the story.

Anyway, will we ever find out exactly what Duck Duck Goose Shipping is hiding? Had Mark and Diana taken the time to interview anybody in the company or on the ships, things might have gone differently. At least, it would have added more drama to the story.

Zeeba Mussels Epilog

Okay, Mark makes a video for his editor. That accounts for the repetition of info. The visualization of panel 2 as part of the video recording is well done, as is the drawing of Mark. He has a kind of young Tom Cruise look about him. But, I’ve always heard you look younger (and taller?) on TV and in the comics.

Say, did the B Team take over panel 3? I suppose Mark is supposed to look stunned at Rafael’s pun. Anyway, the execution of the panel is flat, even distorted. In fact, it reminds me of the style of a certain alternative comic artist, whose name I just cannot recall. Maybe I’m wrong, too. I’ll get back to you. Hey, I should have figured that Rafael also runs an e-magazine. In that case, Mark’s exposé could have gotten published almost immediately. After Rafael’s fact-checkers looked it over, of course.

…Or is this the end?

You know how the third film in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Ring trilogy seemed to dedicate about a quarter of the running time to farewells? Or how Beethoven taunted his audience with that ending that kept going in the 5th Symphony? So, is this really the end of the adventure or are we getting set up for a surprising continuation? But it’s Saturday, so this should be the end.

BTW, how did Cliff’s arms shrink in panel 1?  

To call Mark “strange”, as Rivera notes in panel 4, is a stretch. Diana Daggers is strange. Cherry’s hillbilly brother is pretty strange. Professor B Sharp and Cricket Bro are definitely strange. They all make Mark look plain. And Mark is somewhat vain, impulsive, emotional, sometimes uncertain, and a bit sociopathic. A flawed dude, that is. Frankly, I’m quite fine with that. It makes him interesting, but not very strange (well, there is the snake!). Certainly, Mark is a more interesting character than the prior versions of Mark Trail, who all had the personality of a smug postage stamp.

What do you think:  Should this story continue? If so, in what direction? Or are you just happy to see it come to this slap-dash conclusion, so we can move on?

Is this the end of the adventure…!?

This dialog is giving me flashbacks to the ending of that splendid 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz”. Still, is this really the end of the Zebra Mussels adventure? It seems rather arbitrary to me, with a ton of loose threads just dangling in my eyes, leaving me unable to get a clear picture.

Those who complain (okay, I also do, at times!) about Rivera’s work, should find warm solace in that she can also apparently terminate stories, all of a sudden, just like Allen and his predecessors did, and also with little regard for unfinished business.

I suppose they are standing in front of the county lockup. Mark and Cherry share their “moral of the story” as everybody waves “air hugs” and shuffles off to their destinations. But wait…Cliff and his stick-figure friends are waving to Mark (or is it us?) in panel 2, whereas he rejoins the happy couple in panel 4. I guess Cliff got a taste of fame and isn’t really ready to walk away. Anyway, you, dear reader, may comment on panel 3 or anything else you fancy.

Still, I hope I’m wrong and that today’s strip is just the calm before another storm. Let the story rage on!

Okay, “Bee” Sharp, as in “B”, as in Ben, as in Benjamin, as in…

Can you really bail somebody out online these days? An online money transfer, I presume. But, seriously, folks, I’m trying to remain serious here. At least Bee Sharp is not bad-mouthing Mark this time. But really, he is in California and she is in . . . Lost Forest, wherever that really is. I’m guessing we are still going on the standard assumption it is somewhere in Georgia. Did Ben expect Diana to travel with a sewing machine, or is he going to wait for her to return to her place in California?

But after all that time, why didn’t he just take his lab coat to a tailor or seamstress? Or is this just a transparent excuse to get Diana to return? She doesn’t seem bothered by that. In fact, this is the best she’s looked in some time. Still, Rivera takes pains to use the words “pal” and “friend”, implying their relationship is platonic. Could be, of course.

Okay, Daggers! Give it a rest, already!

Tell my story”? Huh!? Does Diana think she’s Joan of Arc? Sylvia Plath? I’ll wait for the movie, thanks. Diana plays up the martyr-in-the-making act, until she mysteriously gets bailed out. Suddenly she gets a call from her former squeeze, Professor Bee Sharp, whom she refers to by his first and last name. It must have been one really intense, intimate relationship. As I recall, Diana was pretty upset with Bee Sharp for scamming her salary and investing it in NFTs without her knowledge.

So the gang gets bailed out. What next? Regroup and try another approach, or call it a day and move on to the next for-hire assignment? But there are threads still hanging. Diana is already a recurring guest star, so her story arc will continue off and on. Not sure about Cliff’s future, as he seems to have been a convenient plot device for the current water-based story.  Nevertheless, this story ain’t over, folks. We have to see what the next move is from Duck Duck Goose and what reactions Mark’s and Diana’s story cause when it gets published. Unless that fishing magazine is a weekly, it could mean a 4-6 month delay!

Can you escape your past?

Well, this is an interesting set of panels today. Aside from the rather outlandish nature of the “jail cell” (which suggests there is not a lot of serious crime in Lost Forest), there are the once-again disappearing prison bars in panel three (previously brought to our attention this past Saturday by reader Obtuse Angle). Okay, it’s a curious visual convention for a purpose I do not quite understand. Was there a reason why the bar in front of Diana’s face, Saturday, was cut away, as there seemed to be no problem showing Mark and Cliff. And today, the only link is Cherry’s remark about Mark being cute enough. But the schematic style of his face in panel 3 hardly supports the need for this barless convention.

And speaking of faces, note Mark’s face in panel two, which is part of a visual flashback to his Florida adventure where he stole his father’s boat and played havoc in the marina. The significant point here is the style and detail of Mark’s head. It points back to the earlier months of Rivera’s work, when she was using a more naturalistic style, on top of the fact that she was also using more creative compositions and layouts, similar to what you could see in graphic novels. From my point of view, it is unfortunate that a lot of those features have been cut back or discarded. I’m guessing the pressure of keeping on top of her submission schedule has a lot to do with it.