Panel 1: A little while later, we find ourselves on the front porch of the Patterson house where it is revealed that the reason Mike wanted an advance on his allowance was so he could afford to take Martha on a date. Notice yesterday that Mike did not tell his mother the reason he wanted the money, so he is still keeping it a secret from his mother that he has a girlfriend. Now he is going to up the ante by keeping it a secret from his mother that he and his girlfriend go on dates. It is a testimony to Mike’s arrogance that he thinks he can do this without Elly noticing. It is also a testimony to Elly’s terrible parenting that Mike’s arrogance is justified. The interesting visual for this panel is that Gordon has managed to score himself a popsicle, an item which traditionally melts outside, and yet has gotten it while Michael was inside Connie’s house talking to his mother. Is Gordon just taking food from the Patterson house?
Panel 2: The interesting visual with this panel is that Michael says something so surprising that Gordon drops his popsicle stick and turns his head to Michael in astonishment. Gordon will reveal the reason for his surprise in the third panel, but for me the big surprise is that Michael is actually expressing an idea about how to properly treat a girl based on common etiquette. Where in the world did this idea come from?
Panel 3: Gordon reveals his shock in panel 2 was because he did not think that Michael going out with Martha was an actual date. What did Gordon think it was? Some kind of group outing with just two people? At this point we get a sense about why Gordon has never been out with Allyson Creemore, even though she dropped major heart signs at him after her took he home last February. Gordon does not seem to have the basic understanding of the procedure for asking a girl out and he is astonished that Michael did. When you get down to it, this is also fairly astonishing. Martha has always made the first move with Michael, even asking him to hang out back in their early days, an invitation Michael was too pig-headed to accept. I believe this is the very first time Michael has actually asked Martha to do something.
Panel 4: We have perspective problems with this one as Lynn Johnston has apparently decided to shrink Gordon to fit underneath his word balloon. Symbolically this works too, because it makes Gordon seem to be younger and less experienced than the sophisticated Michael. If he was more experienced Gordon might ask questions like how Michael decided where to go and how Michael figured out the transportation issues considering that neither he nor Martha can drive. Since Mike has decided to keep this a secret from his parents, he has no parent to drive him.
Summary: While the punchline is based on how casually Michael asked out Martha, what we will find in future Martha stories is that this is the point in the Martha story where Martha has been transformed from an interesting girl with a strong personality to a generic girlfriend with barely any personality at all.