Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mark Outsources His Man-Carrying Responsibilities at Rifle-Point


Swamp camouflage? "Fellows?" Is that all it takes to thwart a swarthy crew of blue-capped thugs? Guess so. The ginger must have seen this coming. He had today's date tattooed on his neck, for Christ's sake.
Will Mark really tie up this adventure's loose ends in less than a week? Ardent Trail enthusiasts who've suffered through never-ending sagas before may be reluctant to concur. Elrod has a tendency to build the tension very slowly, plow through the climax as quickly as he can, and languish in the denouement for a month. I picked my brain for some sort of real-world analogy that would capture the essence of how annoying this storytelling method truly is, but it doesn't seem necessary at this juncture. Let's see how this plays out.

Monday, December 29, 2008

NLR Holiday Wrap-Up: Mark Kicks a Guy in the Head Really Hard


Mark has somehow applied the perfect amount of force so as to disable his opponent without fracturing his skull or leaving him otherwise permanently impaired. The dude's shirt isn't even untucked. Judging by that look of twisted pleasure on Mark's face in panel one, however, that won't be the case for much longer. Not after he takes down Beard-o's compadres, anyway. Shit might get pretty weird at that point. Andy seems to approve.

Those henchmen seemed so optimistic last week. What happened? Now that the first major holiday of the season is behind us, a synopsis is in order. Let me take you back:

When we left, Pop had grown hopelessly exhausted from standing next to his swamp tractor and was reduced to leaning awkwardly on Sue. Little has changed in that department...

Fortunately for Sue, Mark stumbled upon this pathetic search party after misidentifying Pop's tractor, a theme that has become all too common in this saga...

Mark sums up his kidnappers' motivations with the spare eloquence and unfounded egotism befitting his profession...

A thug's prayer for a no-surprises encounter with Mark goes unanswered....

And Jack Elrod had no idea where Mark Trail was the entire time.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Pop, Suddenly Aware of his Shortcomings, Resorts to Guilt-Tripping


Do you remember that grade-school prank about cancer? Someone would casually mention a breakthrough scientific study proving that people whose hands were larger than their faces suffered from a rare type of cancer. When a gullible schoolchum would raise their hand to self-diagnose, bam, the perpetrator shoves the chum's hand deep into their face, and hilarity ensues. Sue would never fall for that prank -- she obviously doesn't have cancer.

All of that standing around by the swamp buggy has left Pop's face saggy and withered. His skull appears to be sloughing off the left side of his head. Undaunted by this turn of events, he opts to spend his last moments in the sentient world passive-aggressively reminding Sue of the lives that her corporate swamplust has destroyed.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pop Finally Collapses Under the Weight of His Inefficacy


It's about time Pop's vulnerable side played out in this saga. We should've seen this coming when his pants blended in with his ride and his shirt turned whatever color "invisible" is. 

Pity is certainly not in order. His "tractors are swamp buggies/I'll gladly leave my friends unaccounted for in the wilderness overnight" ethos holds less water than his fading swamp. Constant massages are no way for Sue to overcome this unexpected melodrama. Fortunately for Mark, who oddly enough is the only person nearby whose situation merits any consideration at all, rangers may help.  It may be best for Sue to finish this rescue mission alone. But that will obviously never happen.  

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Don't Make that Face at Us, Mark.


It's hard to tell if that really is Mark revising his escape plan in the first panel. He's got the preference for khakis. He's got that familiar pubic hair dangling off the middle of his head. It's gotta be Mark. It's just a little harder to tell than usual.

"Harder to tell than usual" is a common theme in every panel of this installment. It's hard to tell why dog tracks would indicate that Mark couldn't be too far away. It's even harder to gauge Sue's location or size in the third panel as she massages Pop on his so-so-busted tractor. Above all, it's hardest to tell when Pop will realize that time has erased every spark of physical and mental acuity in his fragile denim body. If I had to take a guess, that moment of clarity will come after he sticks a few more inches of hand into that sputtering engine.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mark Braces Himself for a StupidSexy Encounter


Mark takes some time he doesn't have to ponder the obvious, while the number of Trail-hungry henchmen grows by the panel. Do the thugs have the grapes to bring Mark down, or will they let him slip out of their grasp again? Each side has a weakness that the other can exploit as the clock winds down on this convoluted epic.

To start, it's obvious that Mark's ridiculously boring personal narrative has jeopardized his animal alliances. Andy, Sneaky, and that omnipresent stork can only tolerate so much. For whatever reason, the turtles appear immune to the wild self-involved conjecture.

Do yourself a favor, Mark, and SHUT YOUR KHAKI-COVERED ASS UP. You're supposed to be a journalist. Journal it. Shit. I'm so pissed off right now that I won't even mention the prancing.

On the flip side, it's obvious from all of the contrived banter around the shrimp boat that the henchmen will hunt for Mark until the bitter end, unlikely facial hair or not. But the fact remains that if they don't do something about those ruffled crotches, these three are NEVER getting back in the game.

That guy in back might be able to help if his bearded friend would stop ghost-stroking his unruffled junk in the foreground. At this point, it's too soon to tell just how ruffled these crotches are going to get, but nothing would surprise me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

That's Not a Swamp Buggy, Pop. That's a Fucking Tractor. Come on Now.


I hate to throw out foul language so early in a posting, but Pop is such a lazy-ass syphilitic douchebag weirdo. Mark has been missing for nearly a full day in Trail time, which is like 10 years in reality. What's more, if Pop's creepy daughter is to be believed, Mark's actually related to the man. Now, after urgings from his wife, a dog, and some corporate bigwig that's actually working against Mark's interests, the best effort Pop can muster is some QT with the front-butted lady on a run-down tractor? Next time you want to show off a fancy swamp-related vehicle nobody's ever heard of, old man, make sure it's not a deadringer for the most iconic piece of farm equipment in the history of modern agriculture. God you suck.

It's a good thing Mark's a self-starter. Despite the outlandish international expectations he has for that shrimp boat he was imprisoned on, things seem to be shapping up real well for our woodsy hero. Thug No. 2 has returned to find Mark missing, and he's wasting his time with hurtful words that everybody's going to end up regretting. Sneaky reinlisted in the search at some point and now roams the swamplands with his one-time liberator. Andy is nowhere to be found. And, in the most unlikely twist of all, Mark is showing everyone what it means to run like a pervert. Good luck, bad guys. You're going to need a lot of swamp buggies to catch up with this train.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sunday Critterz: The Chickadee

Sunday is the only day of the week that Mark Trail makes any sense. NLR extends our appreciation for this moment of relative clarity by offering the Sunday edition of Mark Trail without any snarky, off-color commentary.

December 14's strip spotlights the Chickadee and it's dependency on humans for food.

Mark Jumps to Outdated Conclusions About Those Guys on the Boat; Pop Drags a Swamp Buggy Into His Web of Lies


Mark's exodus continues, with the help of every animal still dwelling in the swamp. He has no discernable reason to believe that those sad sacks on the boat are smuggling anything, but if he doesn't come up with some illegal activity, there's no justification for returning to the boat in Pop's "swamp buggy" to punch their faces. So smuggling it is.
Meanwhile, back at the swamp house, Pop is talking about how he's going to look for Mark with what we have to assume is a dual personality, but Sue's non-exclamatory response says it all -- Pop is soooo full of shit. Strange installment indeed.

Mark's Guard Is Apparently Too Down on Himself to Prevent Mark's Escape


Andy and Mark return to the tangible world free to leave the shrimp boat at their leisure. The punching we've come to expect at this juncture in the typical Trail storyline sadly won't take place this go round. Fortuantely, Jack Elrod's inability to pin down Andy's true size and shape remains.

Judging by his facial expression and posture, Mark's guard doesn't seem to be as tired as he is profoundly depressed. Hard to say if it's sympathy or Stockholm syndrome, but Mark decides to pass on the beatdown and chalk up the stealth departure to the potential for awful madness.

Looks like there are some problems in this poorly drawn world that even timely uppercuts can't solve. Mark knows this and abides by the logic. Because there are many more problems in this world that are definitely solved by timely uppercuts. And those are the problems he chooses to remember.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Andy Frees Mark, Both Free Themselves From Physical Constraints of Universe


Andy needs to concentrate extra hard to free Mark from his knots, so Elrod obliges him by transporting the friends to Limbo, where Andy can tug away at those ropes all he wants. Mark can provide clear instructions, stand or sit, and offer screams of encouragement at his leisure. Once those pesky ropes are unbound, I'm sure Elrod will bring them back to the Shrimp boat, where Mark can punch all the bad guys he wants.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Somebody's About to Get Punnnnched.....


After languishing for days in a boring world dominated by hypothetical saviors and flabby dogs, Jack Elrod wraps up this adventure the only way he knows how -- by insulting our intelligence. No need for a well-layered escape plan here, Andy. Just hop pointlessly over that small box and you're only a few ropes away from leaving Sinister Stork's Super-Sinister Shrimp Boat forever.

Unconcerned about waking his captors', Mark expresses his gratitude with a traditional Elrod-ian scream, the preferred method of communication for any Trail-related encounter. Readers unaccustomed to so many emphatic statements may have trouble relating, but the rules of the game are relatively simple. If you are Mark Trail and you find yourself

A) jumping to dubious conclusions about what little girls are anxious to see

B) diffusing sexual tension by talking like a robot with down syndrome


C) pointing out someone's unlawfulness as you physically assault them

then you have the green light to yell as loudly as you want.

The guards certainly didn't heighten the degree of difficulty for Mark's escape, but in their defense, that Pelican did say he was going to give them their share of the kidnapping money in a couple of hours, not a couple of days. You gotta sleep sometime.

Mark Trail has clearly regained the leverage in this affair. The question now is how will he use it. Expect punching. Lots and lots of punching.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Andy Makes It to the Shrimp Boat


Exhausted from an all-night pursuit, Andy takes cover behind a tree and some unusual-colored swamp fronds to better assess his friend's state of captivity. Mark is still alive but certainly worse for wear, having aged several years over the last 12 hours ("Forever 32" my ass). His frumpiness levels appear to be off the charts as well. Looks like Andy arrived just in the nick of time. We're all so grateful, there's no point in questioning the shrimp boaters' decision to stop at a dock only dog-wandering distance from their point of origin.

Opportunity has opened a door for Mark but closed a window for Pop, who's down to his last plausible excuse for not searching for his comrade-in-khakis. It seems unlikely that a Type-A'er like Sue (she of the reverse bottom) will procrastinate for any length of time.

Enjoy the moment while you can, Pop. Soon you'll have to leave your random cabin on the edge of a dying swamp and venture 3 or 4 miles by vehicle to the shrimp boat, arriving just in time to see an unbound Mark punch his way to freedom.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Pop's Worry Level Elevated to "Really," Exclamation Points Abound


It's installments like these that make me wonder if Jack Elrod understands what it means to exhibit genuine concern for his fellow man. Consider Pop's course of action over the last 24 hours (Mark Trail time, which translates into 5-7 days in real time):

Late Afternoon Yesterday

A Noah for our modern times, Mark heads into the rapidly draining swamp to find a way to save its inhabitants. Positive vibrations all around.

30 Seconds Later
The greatest Mark Trail panel ever drawn.

Early Evening
Andy expresses initial concern for Mark's well-being. Pop justifiably writes the anxiety off as Andy being a needy, sensitive jerk and offers encouraging words that will certainly go unheeded.

A couple of hours later
Dinner Time

Mark said he would arrive in time for dinner. Which means that Pop's pre-dinner sojourn to the swamp had less to do with looking for Mark than it did with violating God's law. From behind. On top of Andy.

After Dinner

Mark never showed up to eat, but that didn't stop Pop from enjoying his dinner, as well as a cup of joe afterwards. Pop vows to search for Mark, as well as Andy (who's already taken the initiative to search for his friend), soon.

The next morning

"Soon" has yet to arrive 8 hours later, and now Mark has been unaccounted for overnight. Pop makes the responsible decision to spread the worry around but remains uninclined to actually go out and look for him.

Will Pop actually stick to his word and head out to the swamp? Hard to say. There is lunch to be eaten and staring to do. Other people may call about Mark as well. Who else is going to take that call? His reverse-bottomed daughter? Unlikely. Stay tuned.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pop Is Rightfully Emasculated, Andy Gets a Fifth Wind


Pop's mannish wife has good reason to demand that her husband get some help before setting off after Mark -- the initial search-and-rescue effort consisted of little more than a disturbing inter-species doublestack in the swamp.

Pop has been worrying about Mark for four days; he doesn't seem to be in much of a hurry to find his woodsy friend. Fortunately for our hero, after days of scent-fondling, Andy has picked up the pace as he hits the odious homestrech. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that Mark's best friend will be able to keep up the pace. For those of you keeping score --

Scenes of Andy Optimistically Hustling After Mark: 2

Scenes of Andy Lumbering Around Shamefully: 3

Despite the lackluster effort of everyone on Team Trail, the circumstances still work in Mark's favor, due in large part to Salty's uninspired means of escape.

Up next -- Andy Versus the Shrimp Boat.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sunday Critterz: The Dastardly Lionfish

Sunday is the only day of the week that Mark Trail makes any sense. NLR extends our appreciation for this moment of relative clarity by offering the Sunday edition of Mark Trail without any snarky, off-color commentary.

December 7's strip examines the impact of the non-native Lionfish on docile Carribean waters.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

No Need to Strain Yourself, Andy.


Andy has picked up Mark's familar odor of Tag Body Spray and deer urine, but his lope turns into a lurching, sickly crawl in a matter of one panel. This could get really ugly, which is ridiculous, because things around here are ugly enough as is.

Damn, Andy, pick up the pace. Heinous Heron is keeping an eye on you, and he's not impressed. Neither are we.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Andy Only Member of Trio Not to Succumb to the Temptation of Dinner Donuts

A worried "Pop" confides to his family mid-doff that Mark hasn't returned to their cabin amongst the endless shrubs as promised. The cabinmaster had hoped Mark would return with good news about the proposed development project (or at least a table setting or two), but he won't, and so the family spends another solitary night at the dinner table, eating hand-held foods and looking gassy.

The real story in today's installment is not the failure of Pop but the triumph of the animals. Heinous Heron, fresh off plotting a successful shotgun-whipping of Mark, works the "everything Mark Trail does takes months to accomplish" angle to discourage any extra effort to track his captive down, but Heinous Heron didn't count on one thing -- Andy don't eat donuts for dinner.

Yet again, Mark's life is in the paws of his best friend. What a fucking dork.