Friday, 8 February 2013

Review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic comic issue 3

IDW MLP:FiM comic #3, Cover A
Oh yes, clearly a comic for little kids...
Once again it was delayed, this time owing to an unexpected customs inspection, but the third issue of IDW's My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic comic is now here. As with the first two issues, I bought mine for £3.15 from the excellent Nostalgia & Comics shop in central Birmingham. They had half a dozen copies in when I was there (lunchtime on launch day) — three of Stephanie Buscema's cuter Cover B and three of the frankly awesome Cover A by Amy Mebberson (above). A very dark cover for a My Little Pony comic, and extremely nice in the flesh. After the jump, was it as dark as this inside?

Short answer: yes. Issue #3 was easily the darkest of the series so far, especially when we see just how Queen Chrysalis and her army sustain themselves. A race of lovable cat-like beings is used simply as food for the changelings — and they certainly don't look in a good way afterwards. Even more chilling is the scene where Chrysalis herself, fed up with the fillynapped CMC's insistence that love and friendship conquer all, brings in one of the kitties and shows them the answer to Scootaloo's nervous question: "Uh... what are you going to do with that?" It's hidden from us, but even so we can be fairly sure it isn't pretty.

Fluttershy gives the rest of the Mane Six a nature lesson
Twilight, this is how you learn while having adventures
This darkness doesn't mean that the comic is devoid of lighter moments, though. Far from it; if anything, issue #3 has the funniest, most surreal humour yet seen in the series. The pick of these must surely be the bizarre yet hilarious scene in which Pinkie Pie, accompanying Rainbow Dash through the wilderness, suddenly has an idea: the two of them will wear costumes of themselves, so that if the changelings took their forms again, they'd be able to know who was real. This is a modification of Rarity's mane-styling idea from #1, but given that unique Pinkie twist. I can't help noticing that the Rainbow costume has a ribboned mane rather like the official RD plushie...

Other moments to savour include the continuing Chrysalis/CMC panto act, Dash's terror of yet another Pinkie song, that same pink pony's "I'm sorry" cake and goodie bags and Applejack and Rarity doing a spot of log-rolling. Best of all is the way in which the instalment is bookended by Spike as the proprietor of an old-time cinema, accompanied by Angel — who finally makes use of the false moustache onna stick we saw him buying from the moustache stand way back near the beginning of issue #1. This segment also has a lovely tribute to the early days of screen cartoons, with some very olde-style ponies being shown in sepia-toned flashback.

The sepia-toned flashback scene
You'll just have to imagine the piano accompaniment, okay?
References of course abound, and I don't just mean the CMC-inspired "Friendship is magic, after all" — I'm assuming it was simply a coincidence that this issue came out shortly after a certain character was made to say something very similar in the show! We also have what seems to be a reference to The Wizard of Oz, with Queen Swiss Cheese herself playing the part of the Wicked Witch of the West. There's Fluttershy apparently channelling Mr Spock. Sweetie Belle's dictionary side gets another outing, while Pinkie's distinctly worrying costumes may conceivably be a nod to The Stage Show We Do Not Discuss. Oh, and that "filly-ship" line.

Price's artwork is again exceptional, and I'm absolutely in love with his style for our ponies. It's a good job the second story arc is being handled by an artist of equal brilliance (Amy Mebberson) since Price is going to be an awfully hard act to follow. The first two issues of the comic were lettered by Robbie Robbins, but this time around these duties have been transferred to Neil Uyetake. I don't know why the change was made, but it doesn't cause any difficulties. My vague impression is that Uyetake's lettering is a little spikier than Robbins', but that works rather well for the edgier feel to the new issue.

Rarity and Applejack floating above the forest
Rarity never ceases to amaze... and this time, I mean that in a good way
There are very few problems indeed; the story doesn't suffer from the wordiness that occasionally crept in with its predecessors — partly thanks to Spike's bookend scenes — while the plot seems well paced and creative throughout. Nor, rather more noticeably, do there seem to be any panels in which pegasi lack their wings. Once or twice there are minor grammar errors: Chrysalis refers to "those other pony's [sic] emotions", for example. But if that's the extent of the problems, which it does seem to be, then we're frankly doing very well, considering the pressure that must exist to get a comic of this quality out Every. Single. Week Month.

IDW has come up with another piece of brilliance: issue #3 of MLP:FiM may be the best issue so far. It's almost impossible to fault it, unless you consider that it's getting a bit too dark for the little kids who were presumably (at least originally) supposed to make up some portion of its readership. Should IDW manage to keep to its release schedule (haha, I know) the next comic to appear will be the first instalment in the Micro-series at the end of February — but whatever that brings, I shall be counting down the days until the first Wednesday in March, to see how the main comic rounds off its first story arc. Issue #3 is fabulous.

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