I'd like to give personal thanks to reader Dave Straub for pointing out the Comics Curmudgeon page. (By the way, if you want to keep up with action-packed strips like Mark Trail, don't bother with the King Features site, which for syndication reasons that I've never entirely figured out puts a two-week embargo on its comics; use the Houston Chronicle site instead, which publishes all the comics in real time.)
In his comments on my own favorite strip Mary Worth, Comics Curmudgeon accurately notes that Mary storylines have been moving at relatively TGV-like speeds since Karen Moy took over writing duties from that old manual flatcar John Saunders. While this has somewhat diluted the Beckettesque vacuity that made Mary distinctive, I've been happy to see the narrative goosed a bit.
But in the past couple weeks, Moy's need for speed has resulted in one of the dumbest plot points I've ever seen. In the very likely event that you haven't been reading Mary Worth lately, here's the crisis: High school sweethearts Dr. Brian Good and the yoga instructor Anna have recently reunited—this after the divorced and lovelorn Anna followed Mary's highly dubious advice to track down her married old flame, but it worked out because Brian's own marriage had recently ended. Both Brian and Anna divorced because they wanted children but their respective partners did not; so it looks like everything's coming up roses. A whirlwind romance follows, along with a quickie wedding, but then, in an adagio of thought balloons, Anna reveals that she is infertile—something she found out with her previous husband. Keeping this information from Brian, she confides in Mary, who in turn lays on her signature busybodying even thicker than usual.
Anna frets for weeks about how she can break the news to her new husband, and one day as she's soliloquizing, the mail arrives. Brian being a doctor, the mail includes a medical newsletter: "Some people think of fertility as a 'woman's problem,'" Anna reads, "but up to half of all cases are due to the man…" Hmm! The lightbulb goes on: Could it be Anna's ex-husband Mitch who was the problem? Anna heads right down to the clinic to discover that she not only has no infertility problem, but is already pregnant! She tells Brian about her baby, and about her spurious worries, and of course they have a laugh and a joyful hug.
Comics Curmudgeon points out that this raises serious questions about what, if any, form of sexual intercourse Anna was having with her ex, but my problem is about character: Are we really supposed to believe a woman in the 21st century never even suspected there might be a scientific explanation for her failure to conceive? Did she think her womb was affected by a surplus of yellow bile? And isn't there going to come a point when Brian, a medical doctor, realizes with a shock that he's married a woman who knows less about reproductive science than Henry VIII and thinks the key to good health is to stick a spaghetti noodle in one nostril and out the other? I'm hoping this might all be a setup for such a psychological crisis, but today's strip seems to indicate closure on this story.
Now I've put up with months of Wilber Weston's loser antics, and stuck around when Woody Pine turned out to be mentally unstable, so I can't really say this is the worst Mary plot I've ever seen. But it's a scandalously phoned-in effort. Unfortunately, unlike Saunders, who allowed us to vent to firstname.lastname@example.org, Moy is a remote and hermetic figure. Karen, if you're reading this, just be aware that the patience of Mary Worth fans, while vast, is not infinite.