And now, Scary-Crayon reviews...

Red Lobster's Hidden Treasure Pack #1

by: Wes

It's that time again! Long, long ago, we first entered the dark and sinister world of Red Lobster in our initial review of the Red Lobster Fun Book, a book that, among other things, showed us that Red's world is one where cocktail shrimp are called that for a reason and in which slices of pie grow on trees... along with various animal appendages. Apparently that world was deemed too frightening for the youth, however, because shortly thereafter it and the kid-friendly, top hat-wearing lobster parading about in Red's place were replaced with the Red Lobster Hidden Treasure Pack, in which Red Lobster himself, clad in white tennis shoes and a blue baseball cap, and his wise-cracking crab sidekick rose up to protect a group of schoolchildren from the evil schemes of a giant talking shark and piranha. Again, I'm not too sure why ol' Red would want to protect humans from these flesh-eating fishes -- after all, he and Crabber, or at least their unfortunate kin, are on the menu themselves at the establishment that bears the great lobster's name -- but Mista Red isn't the easiest guy in the world to figure out. Inhuman serial murderers who would taste great with butter never are, though.

Red Lobster Hidden Treasure Pack NUMBA ONE!!!

Today's review, then, marks the beginning and end of a journey. In addition to being the final comic in the Red Lobster saga that I have in my possession, it is also the first issue of the Red Lobster Hidden Treasure Pack to ever be grasped by grubby tartar-sauce stained little fingers. In relation to the Scary-Crayon coverage of Red Lobster's exploits, it is the alpha and omega, the first and the last... the warm loaf of bread fresh from the oven and the three remaining crumbs on the sidewalk after the offering has been pecked away and carried off by hungry pigeons in the dying light of an autumn afternoon. But hey, turn that frown upside down! This may be our last adventure with Red, but do you see him frowning, despite apparently being about to fall to his horrible shell-shattering death at the bottom of that chasm? NO! Everyone else looks pretty worried, but ol' Red's grinning just as broadly as ever. Maybe it's 'cause he knows there are STICKERS INSIDE! w00t!

It's not a surprise if they tell you what it is.''The Lost Treasure of Hidden Harbor''!

See, stickers in the back of the book! Or at least there were, before I punched them out and stuck them on the pages. Actually, they weren't so much stickers as lick-n-stick stamp-esque thingies, and given that I apparently used tape to hold them in place I'm guessing that they weren't very sticky after all. Either that or I just wasn't in the mood to do any sticker-licking that day. MAYBE BECAUSE I WAS SAVING IT FOR THE PLATE AFTER I FINISHED THE RED LOBSTER DINNER! By the way, in certain cultures, licking the plate is considered to be a gesture that communicates appreciation of a meal. In others, it indicates a lack of manners and/or starvation. Anyway, ignoring the gamepieces on the inside cover for the time being, we join our friends Red, Kathy, Rick, Octette, and Crabber on the beach as they discover a message in a bottle! In the distance, villains Lockjaw and Sneer look on instead of fucking swimming forward and grabbing the message in the bottle before it floats over to Red and the gang. I mean really, it idly floated in -- they probably had ample time to grab it before the good guys even caught sight of the thing. I guess they just wanna be startin' somethin'.

''It's a map! ... But first we have to cross CURIOUS GORGE!''Of course, when one receives a message in a bottle, the contents will always invariably be one of three things: a letter from a second-grader about seashells and cartoons, the words to a French poem, sent by a Portuguese opera singer to her Latin lover in Argentina because she was too poor to send it by postal mail (fifty points and praises to anyone who gets that reference), or a treasure map. Natch, since the title of today's episode is "The Lost Treasure of Hidden Harbor", the message in the bottle is the latter, and so Red and his pals venture into the jungle at once to seek out the hidden wealth without concern for their personal safety or considering even for a moment that perhaps the message came from Lockjaw and Sneer, given that, I dunno, they were sitting in plain sight when the bottle arrived and didn't make a single move to intercept it. Of course, a scheme like that would be too clever and fiendish for villains in a seafood restaurant comic, so that's probably not it, but still. A little thought on the part of the heroes would've been nice -- especially since kids were reading this stuff -- but then that becomes a moot point since the next development throws common sense right out of the window altogether. Not long into their journey at all, Red and his friends come to a canyon labeled "Curious Gorge" (ha ha) that they must cross in order to advance. And that's where you come in!

''YEAA!!'' Somehow, simply by connecting the dots to draw a bridge on the following page, you actually build a bridge for the characters in the story to cross. Why? How??? As readers of certain other articles on the site know, I'm fascinated with the interplay of worlds in fictional media and will ponder at length the causal ramifications of events brought about and/or altered by outside interference in a nested fictional plane that somehow exists as and is linked to its own separate and unique reality (what?), but this one just comes across as cheating... or maybe it's meant to communicate something even deeper. Note that even if the reader fails to complete the dot-to-dot exercise, the bridge still exists on the following page, which suggests that it is not the reader who builds the bridge for the good guys to cross, but rather that some other power -- call it God, call it Destiny, call it Cthulhu, call it what you will -- constructs the bridge at the same time and that the reader's simultaneous connecting of the dots is not only coincidental, but unnecessary. However, the exercise is there in order to give the reader the illusion of having influenced the story, whereas in truth the outcome would have been the same anyway. Could this be a veiled teaching concerning the writers' view of the nature of free will? Consider that, on the next page, after the bridge magically appears due to some sort of divine intervention, Lockjaw and Sneer chomp it down -- such that even if the reader had been convinced that the bridge came about due to his/her actions, it wouldn't have mattered anyway! Moreover, apparently Red can stretch his body the entire length of the chasm and is strong enough to support the weight of all of his friends at the same time, thereby rendering the act of drawing the bridge in the first place utterly pointless! Why bother doing it at all, you ask? Welcome to existentialism.

''Get ready for a BIG SURPRISE!''So after the reader is once again charged with "aiding" our heroes by guiding them to the treasure via a maze activity and helping them find digging tools by circling their outlines in nearby trees and ferns, Team Red is all set to dig in where X marks the spot and unearth riches beyond their wildest dreams. Now maybe it's just me, but given that buried treasure is generally buried because it's meant to be hidden, the fact that this X is not only marked on the map but has somehow been painted onto the very sand underneath which the treasure supposedly lies, I'd think twice about digging there. But then again, if my digging tools had been plucked from out of nowhere and just happened to include a bulldozer and a steam shovel, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be digging with a regular one. Nor would I be found hanging out with a giant crab with eyebrows and a purple female octopus wearing a safari hat, for that matter. That's just fucking creepy. Just like this comic, which, despite being produced for children, clearly depicts Lockjaw and Sneer planning to kill Red Lobster and the gang. But before they do that, why not test your jungle knowledge? Actually, the inclusion of this game -- which, as far as I can tell, is not intended to have any effect on the outcome of the story -- is pretty interesting, since, unlike other quizzes found in children's books, it asks really hard questions. Honestly, I couldn't answer these even now, and I've got a bloody Yale degree. I suspect that, in keeping with the obvious depth of this book, throwing nigh impossible questions at the kiddies was intended to increase their sense of dread regarding the fate of the good guys and Lockjaw and Sneer's terrible "surprise". I mean, really, what other reason could the writers have had for asking a child how many species of plants and animals are found in the bloody jungle? Clever bastards.

''Are our friends DOOMED?''Following this calculated intermission, Lockjaw and Sneer put their wicked plan into action, attempting to crush our heroes to death with a falling rock of enormous size! Luckily for the good guys, the rock misses them and comes crashing down on the freshly dug hole, thus sealing the location of the treasure for all time... or at least until somebody comes along with some dynamite and blows the blasted boulder up. Or so it seems, anyway -- but we've learned to expect the unexpected when Red Lobster is on the scene, so don't go declaring that the treasure is lost just yet! But before all questions are answered, it's time for another fun activity -- this time a word search in which children were supposed to circle words that describe how Red and the gang must have felt when they saw that huge boulder falling from the sky. I really don't see why they would have felt "creepy" or "spooky" at that moment, unless they thought that they would be resurrected as zombies and charged with the task of guarding the treasure and devouring any adventurers who would dare to unearth it, and unfortunately "like they were about to piss themselves" isn't hidden anywhere in the word search, but still. Also, if a rock were about to fall on my head, the last thing I hope I'd be feeling is "hesitant". If that's the case, "stupid" should've been in there too.


Aaaand speaking of stupid, LOOK!! According to the comic, what they dug up was not, in fact, a treasure chest, but a pressure plate that opened a secret passage when triggered by the falling rock! Never mind that a giant skull cave isn't all that secret to begin with -- this is really dumb. But then again, maybe it isn't. We've already seen the genius of the writers at work, so perhaps this lesson is meant to teach kids that everything happens for a reason, that sometimes unpleasant developments can actually turn out to have been for the best, or that strange and good things often happen when we least expect them. It's also entirely possible that I'm giving the writers too much credit, but let's not be too cynical here. This final page of the adventure is cynical enough, as it notes that despite this particular development working in favor of the good guys, the cave is dark and scary -- it's shaped like a skull and a fucking bat just flew out of it, for crying out loud -- not to mention that they're still being tailed by two evil sharks, one of whom is actually a piranha. And then, before leaving us at the obligatory cliffhanger, the text block asks, "Will our friends dare to enter the cave to look for treasure? WOULD YOU?!" Me, I think I'd pass. If Lockjaw and Sneer are willing to kill to get the goods, let them venture into the dark and scary bat-filled cave and brave whatever horrors lurk within to find it, rather than me doing all of the work just to have them snatch the treasure the second I emerged from the cave. In fact, I think I'd pretend to give up and then turn the tables on their asses, stealing the treasure from them when they came out. One bad turn deserves another! I'd probably murder them, too! Grilled shark is delicious.

''MAIL IT TODAY!!''So that's our story for today, but despite its darker themes, what with murder, fear of the unknown, and even despair and hopelessness at the futility of one's actions as they seem to ultimately have no effect on the outcome of the situation, Red's still smiling and he wants to see you smiling too! Which is why he's asking for your funniest jokes and riddles and your coolest drawings. It's cool that he doesn't have any criteria, either -- he doesn't say he'll print only the best; he offers to print as many as he can! And given some of the tripe that appeared in subsequent issues of the Red Lobster Hidden Treasure Pack, I happen to know that he fucking meant it, too. Not only that, but for those kids who actually wanted to send in something good, Red was even happy to supply a training course! Not on comedy, unfortunately, but a couple of pages back he did have an exercise for kids who wanted to learn to draw his mug -- so if you've ever wanted to draw Red Lobster, here's your chance! By the way, here's the picture of Red that I drew years ago in this very grid. Ah, those were the days... makes me kinda nostalgic for those days when I thrilled to Red's adventures and was actually slightly interested in finding out what happened to him next, though, alas, I never did, as my visits to Red Lobster were few and far between and I never made it in time to collect two issues in a row -- or at least not when it mattered. SO HERE'S WHAT WE'RE GONNA DO FOR THE FINAL SC RED LOBSTER REVIEW. (Assuming nobody mails me another Red Lobster comic, anyway.) I'd like to encourage reader participation and start up a sort of gallery, so, like Red, send me your coolest drawings and I'll post 'em. There's only one guideline, however -- they've got to be pics of Red or his friends, as seen in the three reviews on this site or as depicted in my origin tale in the initial review of the Red Lobster Fun Book. So send 'em to us here, and don't forget to include your name and, if you'd like them posted as well, your e-mail address and/or website URL!  :D

Red's Treasure Meals... just for kids 10 and under. :(

I really don't have a whole lot to say about the oh-so-cleverly named "Buoys & Gulls" game board on the interior back cover of the book, which, as you recall, goes with the game pieces and swank photo inside the front cover, but with such bonuses as a magic mermaid with whom you have sex -- roll again to see how good it was for you! -- and such hazards as a giant crab that claws the shit out of you, I imagine it was loads of fun for kids who couldn't afford real board games like "Chutes & Ladders" or "Sorry". So pity not those poor children, for not only did they have "Buoys & Gulls" to keep them busy, but they got to order one of Red Lobster's Treasure Meals! Even though they're just drawings, take a moment to admire those delectable entrees above. You know, there are people who can go on and on and on for days about how delicious a particular meal looks and tastes... but I'm not one of them and more to the point I fucking hate those people, so we'll just say that they look pretty damned good and call it a day. It's time to say our final farewells.

Goodbye, Red Lobster!Goodbye, Red Lobster -- it's been swell!
But alas, the last bit of seafood has been
swallowed; the last pointless puzzle pretending
to advance the story but really having
no effect on its inevitable outcome has been
completed; the last cliff has been approached
and we've been left without a thread,
and therefore we plummet into the abyss of time
not knowing whether you ever found your treasure
or were murdered in the dark by that villainous shark
and piranha team. Or at least we don't know
about the rest, but we know you made it out okay,
for you lived to fight another day and play
with the children and make merry with the fresh
young women sick of swimmin' -- and for that,
we are glad. We love you, Red Lobster.

-- Wes --

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