Recap / Penny And Aggie The Popsicle War Injustice Gang

"Want to break up a monopoly? Analyze its functions and improve on them."
— Karen

At eleven chapters (plus four interludes) and a running time of over a year, "The Popsicle War" is the longest and most ambitious Penny and Aggie storyline. It resolves several of the comic's longest-running plot threads involving the title characters, Karen and Marshall, while advancing other supporting characters' storylines.

The opening chapter begins in July of the summer between sophomore and junior year for most of the cast. (Meg and Marshall are about to enter senior year at their respective schools.) Penny, grounded for the summer and spending time at home with her friends, welcomes a new member into her inner circle: the upbeat, seemingly ditzy and celebrity-obsessed Cyndi Kristoffer. Brandi is somewhat guarded towards her, hoping that she "works out better" than Katy-Ann, whom Penny had recently expelled from the group.

There follows a flashback to October of freshman year, in which a noticeably plainer-looking and shyer Penny falteringly attempts to ask out the handsome jock Braz Tyler, only for Meg to beat her to it, humiliating her for good measure. Meg later offers Penny a faux-apology and invites her, Sara and Michelle to a slumber party. Penny accepts, explaining to Sara that Meg's simply trying to keep her enemies close, while she and Michelle have a plan of their own: taking candid, unflattering photos of Meg at the sleepover. When they circulate pictures of her cavorting in ragged, mismatched sleepwear, Meg's reputation as "queen bee" is ruined, paving the way for Penny to take her place.

Flashing forward to the August after sophomore year, the main story resumes with Karen gathering a clique, consisting of Meg, Samantha, Charlotte...and Cyndi, a double agent. Although it's clear from their first meeting at the mall food court that they dislike each other and don't get along, Karen has chosen them not only for their shared hatred of Penny, but also because, in her analysis, each one corresponds in function to a member of Penny's clique. As Samantha and Charlotte offer laughably heavy-handed and unrealistic suggestions for attacking Penny, Karen suggests a subtler strategy: going after her subordinates and indirectly tapping the resources of Penny's other, more successful nemesis, Aggie, while at the same time ensuring she and her friends don't beat Karen's clique to the top. For this purpose, she's enlisted the help of Helen, who's already part of Aggie's group.

Meg points out that they can't become the most popular clique simply by defeating Penny's; they must provide an alternative social scene. Karen says she and her "other major ally" are working on that. The scene shifts to Karen meeting at home with Stan who, still bitter over Rich's injury and departure, has his own reasons to get revenge on Penny. Noticing Karen casually flirting with him, and still looking for a way out of his relationship with Michelle, Stan tries to get Karen to cheat on Marshall with him, and when she resists, suggests outright that she dump him, as she'd then be even more desirable and popular. Faced with Karen's adamant refusal to do either, Stan gets down to brainstorming ideas for parties that would be more enticing than Penny's. "How well do you do with frozen drink mixes?", he asks her, giving the arc its name.