Thursday, 25 April 2013

Comic review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic issue 6

IDW MLP:FiM comic #6 cover A
Meet Fluttershy, earth pony wannabe...
This week, we've been blessed with not one but two issues of My Little Pony comicy goodness. I'll review Rarity's Micro-series appearance in a couple of days; today, I'll concentrate on the original series. This month, we've reached issue #6 of the ongoing (as comic people apparently call it) and colourist Heather Breckel gets a well deserved cover credit -- which also means she gets a tag here! (I bet she's thrilled...) I bought my comic for £3.15 from Birmingham's excellent Nostalgia and Comics store. Past the jump, we'll take a look at how well it does.

It's interesting to note the differences in feel between this arc and the previous one. In the first four issues, there was great emphasis placed on what we might as well call "madcap hijinks", even though Chrysalis made a memorably dangerous villain. This time round, the new team seem to have scaled back on the silliness (though there's still plenty to grin at) and ramped up the epicness somewhat. It feels like a slower-burn story, but that doesn't mean it's boring. Anything but, in fact...

Rarity is tempted by the nightmare creatures
Some ponies would pay a fortune for spa treatment like this
On the surface, this is a Rarity story. She's been kidnapped and taken to the Moon by... well, who knows? Shadowfright (not "Larry", please) and his/her/its comrades are obviously nightmare creatures, but beyond that we don't really know. I'm sure this uncertainty is a deliberate decision on the part of the creative team to keep us all guessing and — even more so — to keep us feeling uncomfortable and worried. Rarity certainly steals the final page, with "Nightmare Rarity" being a highly impressive creation. (Oh, and why is Spike not affected by the creatures?)

However, I'm starting to feel that this arc is really going to be about Luna. In this issue, we discover several things about her, none of them very settling. First, she seems genuinely surprised when the Mane Six call her their friend: why has she not noticed until now? Immediately afterward, her thoughts reveal (to us, though not to the ponies) that she is concealing something. Finally, the nightmare creatures threaten Luna with letting the others find out what she "let happen". So many questions, so few answers...

Luna knows she has lied to the Mane Six
Look into my eyes, can't you see they're open wide?
This is a very dark issue. That doesn't just go for the story, although by Pony standards it is a pretty dark one so far. I mean it in a more literal sense as well. There are deep blues, blacks and — especially purples — all over the place, and it's a testament to the skill of Breckel in particular that this doesn't start to look boring. I wasn't quite so keen on the red text used for the nightmare creatures' speech: I can understand the choice, but it's rather hard on my eyes and yellow or something might have been easier. Ironically, the only part that isn't dark-looking is the nightmares sequence!

We get a little bonus in the back of this issue: the first chapter of the storybook Twilight Sparkle and the Crystal Heart Spell. I've already reviewed this, generally pretty favourably, but including it in a comic might help to bring in some extra readers from the brony market. It's also the first place I've seen confirmation of a third book in that series, Rainbow Dash and the Daring Do Double Dare. It would be nice to see more MLP-specific advertising in the back of the IDW comics, certainly.

Rainbow Dash overcomes her nightmare
"...I was born to do this!"
There aren't a huge number of references in this comic — or, more likely, I've just missed most of them — but that seems to be more of a Cook/Price signature, so I'm not surprised. The backgrounds aren't as busy in Mebberson's drawings, but the slightly emptier, bleaker look works for the lunar landscape. There seems to be more of a "traditional comic book" feel to this issue, with things like the (excellent) close-ups of Luna giving that impression quite strongly.

It's hard to find a lot wrong with the comic, which is good because I don't want there to be a lot wrong with it! One potential quibble is with Cover A: why is Fluttershy not flying? But that's quite simply answered: just watch the show, and see how often she walks. It's an awful lot. She just doesn't like heights, I suppose. It's a shame that Twilight's nightmare is virtually identical to the one she had in The Crystal Empire, part 2 but maybe she suffers from recurring nightmares. On the Moon. (Oh, har har.)

The nightmare creatures sense the Mane Six's presence
Cult Leader Fluttershy would know these things, of course
Issue #6 is another satisfying entry in the series, I think better than #5. The pacing is very well handled, and definitely gives the impression of a story gradually winding up. I suspect that there'll be an awful lot going on by the time we get to the final issue in this arc! The art looks very good, despite the less manic style there are still some great jokes (the "squee" scene is a classic) and all the ponies are in character. Up until now, I hadn't read a main-series comic that disappointed me. I still haven't. Definitely recommended.

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