Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic comic issue 5

IDW MLP:FiM comic Cover A by Amy Mebberson
Does Pinkie really need magic to do that sort of thing?
Easter approaches, and we find ourselves on the precipice threshold brink of a new story arc in IDW's massively successful My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic comic. The creative team is of the "something old, something new" variety: Heather Nuhfer takes over writing duties and Amy Mebberson is now handling the artwork, but the colourist (Heather Breckel), letterererer (Neil Uyetake) and editor (Bobby Curnow) remain the same as they were in the last issue. Another £3.15 spent; follow me past the jump to see whether issue #5 is a winner!

The new writing and drawing team doesn't seem to have changed the feel all that much. The panels are perhaps not quite as stuffed with background gags this time around, but that does allow a slightly more colourful appearance. (Breckel's work in this department is surely a big part of the comic's success.) Interestingly, Mebberson — like Price, but unlike the two Micro-Series artists so far — uses black outlines for the characters. I think it's the way to go for print. I was thrilled to see she was drawing this arc, and haven't changed that opinion.

The comic's opening scene
With horror, Twilight realised that all her inkwells would have moved
The start of a new story is crucial, and issue #5 begins very dramatically, with a terrified Twilight Sparkle galloping through a ruined Ponyville. It's made clear almost at once that this is a nightmare rather than reality... but when we discover that all the Mane Six have been suffering their own bad dreams, things get really intriguing. The plot perhaps takes a tad longer to get going compared to the "instant-on" nature of issue #1, but once we're underway it's fascinating. You don't bring up Luna's past as Nightmare Moon without a reason...

Characterisation is excellent, with all the Mane Six feeling just right. They look just right, too. (Rainbow's "Come on, Speedy" to Fluttershy is a particular delight.) Nevertheless, the fandom squeeing in this issue will probably centre on another pony: yes, that's right, Luna is back! And Celestia, although you can bet that half the fandom will dismiss that with a wave of the hoof. Grumble. Rarity's reactions on the final page of all are absolutely perfectly done, and even though her last line is delivered off-screen, you can tell what it sounds like. Excellent stuff.

Luna explains the situation
Evil, dark forces? What, Boomerang? Hasbro? Ricky Ponting?
Tied in with the fact that there aren't quite so many funny background events this time around, there also aren't quite so many references. I'm sure I've missed some, since I always do, but I did notice Spike's suspiciously Starbucks-alike cup early on and Applejack's opinion that everyone having nightmares at the same time is nothing but a "coinky-dink". (I'm sure that originates from an old cartoon, but I can't remember which one! Argh!) And unless I've missed it, we don't see Derpy this time. (I did miss it. Bad Logan.)

Problems? Well, very few. I'm slightly disappointed to see yet another "20% cooler" variation popping up: remember, the show itself has never re-used that phrase. I think it could do with a rest for a little while. Twi's nightmare of being dismissed by Celestia is also a near-copy of "The Crystal Empire, part 2", though I can't decide whether that's good continuity or a lost opportunity to do something a little different. Maybe both. Finally, though this is stylistic rather than an error, the pegasi's wings just don't look as incredible as they do when Price draws them.

Rainbow Dash is determined to go
Dashie, of course, being the most irregular pony of them all...
Given the incredibly high standard that Katie Cook and Andy Price set with the first arc, there was always the chance that this second one could be disappointing without actually being bad. I think that trap has been avoided: I'm not sure it's quite as awesome as issue #1, but then it doesn't have the advantage that the earlier comic did, of completely blowing fans' minds with how amazingly above our already inflated expectations it was. Issue #5 is a very, very good comic. It doesn't even require knowledge of the first arc, so there's no excuse! Recommended. Of course.

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