Still doesn’t look like him…

How appropriate that 2016 will be the Year of the Monkey…  The Red Fire Monkey to be exact…  As Mark scampers up the sheer rock face.  Sorry, still doesn’t look like him- face too narrow, nose too slender and long, chin jutting out too far…

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But soft! What does the ringing in his ditty bag bring??  Cherry?  Bill Ellis? Some other random person?  Maybe mark knows Gabriel the Chiropterologist and he will be sprung on another adventure.

As we say good bye to 2015 and hello to 2016, Mark Trail reminds us that change is ever-present in our lives and should be embraced.  OK, that was a stretch… but here’s to a great 2016, everyone!  As time marches on ever more quickly, please take time to sit on your own outcropping and take a breath of appreciation… Remember, WWMD??

Well, I guess this IS Mark…

The last panel reveals a familiar face… but where or when on earth did Mark have the time to develop these skills?  I guess getting shot at wasn’t enough.  He has to manufacture his own death defying moments when he’s home… this sort of reminds me of the opening scene from Star  Trek V- The Final Frontier, where Captain (or was he an Admiral by then?) James Tiberius Kirk did a little gratuitous climbing, soloing up El Capitan, only to be interrupted, and later saved, by Spock in his Jet/ Anti-Gravity Boots…

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So now we have to get used to Mark the Fearless, Mark the Undaunted, Mark the Buff…  so much to get used to in this James Allen World…

Yes it was!!

Close, that is.  I have to admit- for one who suffers from mild to moderate to- OK, I admit it- severe acrophobia… fear of heights, today’s installment created in me a certain reaction.  Or is it technically fear of Falling?  Because heights, in and of themselves, present nothing in the way of danger.  Barophobia is the irrational fear of gravity.  Individuals suffering from barophobia can either have the fear that gravity might crush them, the fear of falling because of the gravity involved (distinct from the fear of heights), or even the fear that gravity might cease to exist and they will float away.   Flying in an airplane gives me no pause… I suppose that’s because I have complete confidence in the fact that there is more risk on the Crosstown Highway than there is in falling victim to a plane crash.  Roller-coasters also have no effect on me, especially that slow tick, tick, tick up the incline, and the special rush that one gets when slightly weightless at the apex before gravity takes over.  But pertaining to the strip below, I admit to a feeling of  fear, a weakness in the legs, a flutter in the stomach just looking at it.  Recall, dear readers, the trip your faithful scribe took to the CN Tower in Toronto earlier in the year…  I can tell you it took all available courage to step out onto the glass floor!!

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So as the yet to be named stud with 0% body fat hangs perilously from the only available outcropping by the point of his rock hammer, we shall have to wait until tomorrow to see how he gets himself out of this predicament as it seems that even his safety rope has lost its ability to arrest any further downward influence from gravity…

Meanwhile back at LF…

…a little eye candy.  But begs the age-old question:  Does wearing only the skimpiest of spandex apparel on only one’s lower half enhance one’s ability to free-climb sheer rock faces??

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But let’s consider the scenery here…  Cutter’s Bluff… introduced to us as Mark was escaping from the cranky Black Bear and saved by Rex, the ill-tempered Grizzly…  it would appear that Lost Forest has had a sudden, dramatic seismic upheaval…  Cutter’s Bluff has grown to the proportion of Half Dome of Yosemite and Ansel Adams fame.

As we bounce from locale to locale, let’s all continue to wonder what will bring all of these threads together to form a line… a story line, that is…

Tejas??

Boy did I get that one wrong…  They are in Texas, not Mexico…  And oh, by the way ‘Texas’ en Español is Texas.  Not Tejas, which, according to the Google translator, means “roof tiles…”  Good to know.

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Gently, right?  Need to glove-up and gently “pick one off…”

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Nice shot of Gabriel’s Goiter in Panel 1…  That man needs a little more iodine in his diet…  Or fewer tortillas…

As night returns to the desert…

…we see the colony, or cloud of bats exiting the cave to begin their evening activities…  According to my source, Cloud is shared with Flies, Gnats and Grasshoppers… while Colony is shared with Ants, Auks, Badgers, Beavers, Chinchillas, Frogs and Gulls.  My favorite remains a Murder of Crows, but a new one that draws a smile is an Intrusion of Cockroaches…

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So while Carina is looking to be nominated for the Captain Obvious Award for 2015 (time is running out, you know…) we can once again marvel at her get-up… safety first, right???

Double the what?!?

OK, I admit, sometimes (more often now than in the past,) I am at a loss for what to say regarding the developing story arc…  In the days of my mother and father’s Trail, each day was like a Christmas stocking… you started at the top and just kept digging, wondering what was at the bottom…  So much bad dialogue, antiquated themes and memes… A virtual piñata, waiting to be given a good whack with the promise of goodies pouring forth…  

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But here we have a random, yowling coyote, who apparently is there for no reason other than to stir up the bats??

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And what exactly does a bat panic look like?  Bit of a stretch I’d say…  nothing more than that out there in the Google-verse…

But let’s study the art the panels above.  Suddenly there is more ambient light with which to work, Gabriel (in the middle panel) suddenly has blacked-out eyes, as the censors from the comics syndicate need to hide his identity, or he just has amazingly thick eyelashes…And what’s he reaching for?  A weapon to silence the coyote?  Filled with “Dead Coyote” ammunition??  I mean, how reviled does a species have to be to have a shotgun shell specifically configured and marketed to do away with said species??

And we finally get to see Carina’s face… I’d have to say… handsome?  At least she keeps her eyebrows in check and her lip liner well ordered…  guessing she picked up those frames at LensCrafters…

My what big eyes you have!

It would seem that Gabriel has spent his life in the depths of bat caves- his eyes are huge.  Note he has but one helmet/ headlamp for Carina, since apparently he doesn’t need one.  Sort of reminds me of the continuing saga of Bat Boy in the Weekly World News!

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White Nose Syndrome…  not to get ahead of the story here, but it affects bats during hibernation, when they are holed up in their hibernaculum, plural form hibernacula, a place where animals hibernate… so given that bats probably don’t need to hibernate in Mexico, they aren’t as prone to WNS…   but I am sure the good professor knows that.

because… to study bats?

…for to study bats?  Even if English is not your first language, this doesn’t make any sense…

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So let’stake stock of where we are…  Other than Meh-hee-co.  We saw a lizard eat a spider only to then be carried off by a raptor… cruel.  Then we met up with Jose and Jefe in the Cantina… sinister.  Now we have “Call me Gabriel” and Carina out in the middle of nowhere- presumably at the mouth of La Cueva de los Muertos…  creepy.  For more than one and any number of reasons…

How Mark gets entwined in this story is anyone’s guess… maybe Mark, Cherry and Rusty decide that they have been working way to hard and they decide to go on a vacation to one of those all-inclusive places…  and then decide to go on a resort-sponsored excursion…  to bat caves.  Maybe a chance to catch a dread disease and bring it back to Lost Forest… Oh the possibilities are endless!!

…because no one can hear you scream…

Well, isn’t this tremendously suspenseful…  as night races in from stage right, thoughts of “what the Hell was I thinking?” are racing trough Carina’s mind.  I love her words, though… “fearsome reputation…”  almost a foreshadowing effect on what is to come.

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A check on the Cueva de los muertos reveals that this is a burial site of some repute…  where presence of children’s bones (sacrifice?) are present showing signs of “Periosteal Reaction.”  This means that there is evidence of trauma, disease or some other unnatural upset…

Well, that’s quite a lot to take in, boys and girls…  just remember, trusting in your elders can sometimes end badly!!