Thursday, 3 January 2013

Review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic comic issue 2

IDW MLP:FiM comic #2, Twilight/Fluttershy cover
Twilight actually looks rather epic here
It's been rather later than we'd have liked, owing to a port strike in California, but at long last issue #2 of IDW's comic is out. I picked up my copy for £3.15 in a somewhat busy Nostalgia & Comics in Birmingham, and you can see it above. Having received rave reviews for the debut issue (including right here!) could Katie Cook and Andy Price (not to mention Heather Breckel and Robbie Robbins) bring home the bacon for a second time? Short answer: yes! For more, follow me past the jump.

The three main cover designs this time are drawn by Katie Cook and, to be honest, I don't think they're as impressive as Andy Price's work for the launch issue. It's nice that the three pairings (Rarity/AJ, Twilight/Fluttershy and Pinkie/Rainbow) match those that transpire later in the story, and I love the contrasting ways each pony reacts to the spiders... but I'm just not that keen on the way those ponies are portrayed. It doesn't have quite the zip that Price's #1 covers did. Some of the variants are great, but they're so hard to get in the UK.

The Cave Troll brushes Fluttershy's mane
Brushie, brushie, brushie!
Since it was in the preview pages, most fans will already have seen the opening part of the Cave Troll scene. Word of God says that this isn't a jab at bronies, but rather at Big Jim Miller, the show's storyboard director. (Hence his name!) But you know? I don't care. I think it's much more satisfying — not to mention hilarious — if the troll is interpreted as a brony stereotype. Especially in the scene where he brushes Fluttershy's mane, though I also liked the little Optimus Prime lying abandoned on the shelf! As ever, there are plenty more references: mostly to David Bowie, which seems fair enough given the Diamond Dogs link.

A very great deal happens in the course of the comic's 22 pages of story, with the "epic adventure" feel very much being maintained; I was actually surprised to find that it was only 22 pages, given the lack of a backup tale. For the great bulk of the comic, up until the end of the (utterly fantastic) spider encounter, everything is pretty much perfect. I do think it flags just very slightly in the last couple of pages, although even that is saved by the brilliant Chrysalis/CMC interplay. Someone write a panto!

The ponies get all argumentative
Pinkamena Diane Pie, as terrifying as ever
Considering this is (at least in theory) a comic aimed at kids as well as bronies, I was impressed by the relatively complex storyline, with several subplots being thrown in. It's clear that not everything is as it seems in terms of the ponies getting angry with each other: at one point we see Pinkie with a Pinkamena mane in one panel, then (without explanation) normal mane in the next. The obvious inference is that one of those ponies is actually a changeling. Unless, of course, they both are...

After the determined, forward-looking ending of #1, it was something of a shock to discover the much more downbeat conclusion to this issue. Had it not been for the map (which itself prompts many more questions than it answers) the final acts of all the ponies — other, cleverly, than the now restored Pinkie — would have been whinging at each other and setting off in the pairs depicted on the main three covers. I am certainly glad that it's only going to be a couple of weeks until issue #3 comes out!

A portion of the map
She's got a map of the world, pinned up on her wall...
One thing I noticed quite quickly about #2 is that it seemed lighter than #1 — and I mean that in the "not as heavy" sense rather than the "not as dark" one. And indeed, the comic is a mere 28 pages rather than the launch issue's 32, although the main story remains a 22-page affair. On top of that, the actual covers are most definitely flimsier in #2, being not much different from the interior pages; #1's covers were noticeably thicker. I have no idea whether this is significant!

Problems? Not too many, although there are a few mistakes once again. I guess we have to expect this in comics, just as we do in the show's animation, but it's still mildly annoying to see pegasi left without wings more than once. There's also what seems to be a strange typo on the end map ("Sight of the Battle of Discord"?) and at one point Fluttershy and Applejack seem to have got their speech bubbles mixed up. Still, none of this actually affects the story, so I can't be too harsh.

Overall, I think this is another brilliant comic, and it's extremely encouraging that the team didn't use up all their creative energy on the debut issue. I'm sure Jim the Cave Troll is already in some fanfics, and one or two of the spiders (especially the Derpyfied one!) might well join him. This issue doesn't score quite as highly as #1, largely on account of that relatively flat cover design, but it's still a very easy recommendation

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