Valiant. Brave. Impressive.

Vince, you are all of the above, and with any luck, you will help Mark get his mojo back…  Not to mention the size of your hands…  good Lord.  The fist you are making around that pole suggests that your left cross could really pack a wallop…  let’s hope we get to see that in the next day or two!  And let’s hope that Mark can follow that lead.

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The look of grim determination (or dread) on Mark’s face in Panel three is a new one.  So layered is our hero now, we really have to pay attention!

NOT the Mark Trail I know…

Seriously??  “Sure wish we had a phone so we could call for help!”  What?!?  I suppose the plan for Cherry and Justin involves “losing” them in the swamp…  I imagine a great many people have gone missing here without a trace- sort of like the Meadowlands of New Jersey…  Where allegedly Jimmy Hoffa, for Teamsters boss and tool of Organized Crime fame is stashed…

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Yes, Mark, no time to waste.  So be a fool and go rushing in!  Or not.  Stand there and demur

Well, sure… If you both keep your voices down…

And of course, no mention of Justin Holland, a “good and reasonable man…”  Just Cherry Baby…  Which I suppose is a positive turn in the Trailverse… for in another time, Cherry would be regarded as just another upright biped that would attempt to communicate with Mark and confuse him with “feelings” and such.  But now we sense actual longing and concern emanating from Trail…  so guys, please keep your voices down, you might actually have the element of surprise on your side, unlike the ORCA

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But are they armed?  What exactly are they going to do once they get to the boat?  Talk some more?  Remember the age-old adage, “you can’t argue with crazy…”

I WANT to thank you, Vince…

…but it’s not really in my nature to do so…  Still, since you have information I need, then I guess I have no choice but to take you up on your offer of further assistance…  And Vince, what’s with this outsized sense of duty?  I mean you don’t know these people from Adam, and you are about to put yourself in mortal danger??

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And my how brave we look in the third panel- did Vince have a comb? How does your hair snap back into place, Mark, with your superman-spit-curl all perfect and everything?  And such a determined look- almost a scowl!

An Historical Interlude…

Between Slavers and Bounty Hunters and Alligators and Malaria, I’ll take the gators and the skeeters…  What a life that must have been.  The bravery and the hardship, the faith and hope that drove them on.  It’s difficult to imagine there was a time when all that was commonplace, when an entire way of life was propped up by a labor force paid nothing and held against their will…  And don’t think it was just the South.  The North and Great Britain were buying cotton by bale.  The Cod fishery off the coast of Northern New England was delivering a ready supply of protein to feed the slaves on the Cane plantations in the Caribbean to support the Rum industry…  An entire world was getting wealthy off the labor of Vince Wilkins’ Forebears…

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I do recall now, however, that Vince was privy to the entire plot… and therefore could, by process of elimination, determine who was good and who was evil… So long, BGwPT, your goose was cooked before you ever left the dock…  And we also know now that Vince is on the side of good, since only good people “do a little fishing…”

My apologies…

…as I questioned earlier in the story, we wondered (OK, I wondered) who was “watching” Mark and Cherry enter the Great Dismal. Based on the profile (albeit reversed) in panel 1, it was none other than Vince Wilkins, Construction Company owner, eyeing the Trails as they steamed into the swamp…

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Nice of you to ask about BGwPT, Mark, but as it appears he “did not make it” and as it appears that Vince can easily determine good from bad and who to save and who to let drown and become Alligator fodder, you find yourself in the ancestral home of Mr. Wilkins, citizen, entrepreneur and all around good guy…  And besides, Mark, Swamp People probably find the location of Lost Forest just as curious, all high and dry… And do people really use phrases like “actual residence?”  How about “that’s where I call home and live most of the time…”  But of course real estate is precious in the confines of the 1/2/3 panel format, and we have to move the story along.  Even in the Trailverse…

Just Like Aaron Rodgers said…

RELAX…  And of course it’s been fun watching your clothes dry and hair return to its “natural” state, all in a trice…

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Love the architectural detail on the Wilkins house…  that eyebrow dormer is classic!  Rarely seen on a log home…

Mark, you know exactly what Vince is talking about!  Your “home” isn’t really yours either…  Lost Forest, that place you lay your head down in between junkets, might as well be considered “ancestral” too, considering we have no idea where you come from and what put you on this earth…

Vince Friggin’ Wilkins!!

At first I thought I had overslept, by about a week… but we fast forward to Vince Wilkins’ crash pad where we find a still dripping Mark Trail starting to “Come Around…”  Apparently Vince was “punting around” near the blast site and found Mark bobbing around in the flaming wreckage and pulled him to safety.  BGwPT is gone now for sure…  Fine with Mitchum, that’s one less witness to have to worry about, take care of or pay off…

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Yea, I bet your ears are ringing, Mark.  Considering how close you were to the blast and the fact that there isn’t a piece of the boat left you couldn’t fit into a suitcase, it’s a miracle you aren’t dead.  But like I have said and have to keep reminding myself, the strip is named “Mark Trail,” and unless James Allen wants to bring Mark back from the dead, he has to keep him alive.  But seriously, when do the cumulative effects of all the sustained head trauma start to manifest??  Or at least the psychological effects of all the beatings begin to emerge??

Meanwhile, back on the ORCA…

Well, Mitchum is certainly back to smug mode

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Mitchum, you really are evil, aren’t you?  I underestimated your ability and willingness to kill people.  “If you husband is still alive…” Not to mention the fact that you stranded BGwPT somewhere in the swamp where he’s sure to become gator meat…  And BGwB is OK with all this?  Maybe he and PT don’t go back that far, maybe they hooked up in stir and came out thinking they could do “jobs” together but that there’s not a lot of history or loyalty here…  and is thinking that now he doesn’t have to share in whatever fee Mitchum has promised…

I think James Allen likes to see Mark in pain!!

Could it be all those years playing understudy to Jack Elrod, waiting for him to hand over the wheel??  Poor Mark!  I mean what did he do to deserve all the danger he’s been placed in since he went off on his local adventure where he finds himself treed, with an injured shoulder, overnight, by an angry Black Bear with a sore foot

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So as Mark calls out for his Cherry, we see that there is only so much buoyancy we can count on… And even if he remains afloat, face down isn’t going to do it…  and isn’t <<gurgle, gurgle>> a more accurate noise when face-down in the water, not ‘UUUNNNHHH?’

But good gravy, people, these are violent and desperate times we live in, right?   Is there nothing a person won’t do once intoxicated by the potential for profit??  Murder?  Mayhem?  Thy name is Mitchum!