Saturday, 27 April 2013

Comic review: MLP:FiM Micro-series issue #3: Rarity

Micro-series issue #3, Cover B
Andy Price's totally fab and groovy Cover B
As promised, here's the second of this week's IDW comic reviews: issue #3 of the Micro-series. This one has been hotly anticipated, since it reunites the team of Katie Cook, Andy Price and Heather Breckel, who were widely praised for their work on the first arc of the main series. Once again, it's good to see Breckel gain a cover credit. And once again, I bought this for £3.15 from the good people at Birmingham's Nostalgia and Comics shop. Take a trip past the jump to see what this comic is like...

It's no secret that Rarity hasn't always been my favourite Mane Sixer, but if anyone was going to endear her to me then it was this creative team. The story is a nice one: Ponyville's finest fashion designer, weary after a fashion show (and with a bigger one coming up before long) agrees to a suggestion that she spend some time at a spa. Rarity's expectations involve... well, we don't quite know, but probably not a place full of mud and run by two refugees from the days of Flower Power.

As you'd expect, Rarity initially finds herself well out of her element in these surroundings, and very nearly returns home in a huff despite the undoubted quality of Goops for Stuff's cosmetics. However, once she hears the sad tale of how owners Flax Seed and Wheat Grass — who are wonderful creations — may lose their farm because of a deal they signed with two dodgy characters (named Flim and Flam...), her generosity comes to the fore. It's really nice to see Rarity's Element used as a central plot point again; season 3 of the show really didn't give her much of a chance to shine.

Rarity has a psychedelic moment
In Mane, do the actors scandalise Equestria by putting clothes on?
Price's artistic style, together with Breckel's colours, add up to a truly formidable visual impact for this comic, with psychedelic flair abounding. (No, that wasn't a very well constructed sentence, was it?) As we saw in the opening arc of the main series, ponies have the most wonderfully expressive faces, and even when they're doing things that you'd be unlikely to see in the show itself (such as Rainbow getting drunk; I'm surprised that one sneaked through!) they stay nicely in character, or at least how you'd imagine their characters to be.

Attention to detail has been a hallmark of this creative team since the beginning... well, as long as you overlook Price's early amnesia when it comes to putting wings on pegasi. A little touch that I really like comes near the end, when many ponies are pictured carrying bags of cosmetics from Flax and Wheat. There's only one pony who's carrying two bags: Fluttershy, known both for her kindness (so one may be a present for somepony) and for her "freaky fashion knowledge".

Wheat Grass and Flax Seed explain their philosophy
It's all so beautiful... it's all so beautiful...
This is a hilarious edition of the comic series, in my book easily the funniest so far. The lack of a longer plot means that Cook has been able to concentrate on the jokes and references, of which there are a vast number. I'm personally not a fan of Animal House, so I rolled my eyes a bit at the toga party, though Gummy's presence did at least provide a halfway sensible reason for a pony to yell "Gator!" Still, there are so many nods and winks throughout the comic that you're bound to find something to laugh at. (Why does Rarity have a picture of AJ by her bed, though...?)

There are a million and one references here, some of which are direct nods to the show — Pinkie's "Don't forget to write" while looking at a sheepish Rainbow harks back to "Wonderbolts Academy" — while some are there for the benefit of the fandom. Vinyl Scratch has red eyes, for example, not her canon magenta: this was deliberate. I'm not sure who all the other obvious caricatures are actually of, but I expect TV Tropes will tell me soon enough. One great touch is the ponified Tara Strong, strutting her stuff on stage in Rarity's The Art of the Dress show.

Hayseed Turnip Truck meets Rarity
From the backup story; was this bit set before Spike was born?
For the first time in the Micro-series, we get a backup story: a two-page effort written and illustrated by Katie Cook dealing with Hayseed Turnip Truck's forlorn attempts to impress Rarity. I can't say I found it all that engaging; to be honest, it was a bit forgettable; but it was pleasant enough. After this, we also get something quite interesting: a several-page preview of Twilight Sparkle and the Crystal Heart Spell, including the entire first chapter. It's a bit odd to find several pages of text in a comic, but it's a good book and with luck this will attract more buyers.

It's clear, despite the above, that IDW has made the decision to aim its comics squarely at bronies. I do have slight qualms about that — in particular, I think it's important that this title remains suitable for kids, rather than drifting off into what Americans would call PG-13 territory. There are more than enough "mature" comics on the shelves already. This isn't to say that I think My Little Pony has suffered this fate, since I don't think it has, but I'm not altogether keen on seeing Fluttershy being chatted up. (Neither is she, admittedly!)

The fashion show afterparty
Lyra and Octavia this time? How come we never see Bon Bon in the comics?
The customary "problems?" section won't be very long this time around, since this comic isn't far off perfect. It's not quite flawless: Opalescence's name is spelled wrongly on her bowl at one point, as (elsewhere) is the word "revelation", while Flax Seed's cart advertises the "Welnes Center" [sic]. One thing that looks like an error, but almost certainly isn't, is the spelling of The Babboons pop group: that's clearly a nod to The Monkees.

I don't think there's any doubt that this is in the very top tier of comics put out by IDW so far. In fact, it's so good that my only real decision is where to rank it compared to the stunning main-series issue #3. The Rarity micro is obviously a very different beast to that issue, but I really do think that Cook, Price and Breckel have created another masterpiece here. As such, and given only a couple of minor quibbles, I'm going to give it the same score. I don't care how much you dislike Rarity, you need to buy this comic. It's, like, amazing.

  • Looks wonderful: colourful and striking
  • Incredibly funny throughout
  • Rarity is portrayed fully and sympathetically
  • That amazing Cover B
  • A few minor spelling errors

No comments:

Post a Comment