Thursday, 30 May 2013

Comic review: MLP:FiM Micro-series issue #4: Fluttershy

MLP:FiM Micro-series #4 Cover A
Tony Fleecs's Cover B has a lovely simplicity to it
Look at the title of this blog. That will explain to you why I've been so apprehensive about the appearance of issue #4 of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Micro-series. I've long felt that Fluttershy is the hardest of the Mane Six to write really well, and some very good writers have stumbled at times. This one, which again was bought from Nostalgia & Comics in Birmingham, has been written by Barbara Randall Kesel, who's new to Pony, and illustrated by Tony Fleecs, who drew the Rainbow Dash micro. Past the jump we'll see how well the team did.

There were really two choices for a solo Fluttershy comic: either Kesel and Fleecs could make it an adventure about overcoming timidity, along the lines of "Dragonshy", or they could keep it as a slice-of-life story and explore the pegasus's psyche a little further. They chose the latter, and the plot about an art competition and Fluttershy's love of knitting could easily be boring in the wrong hands. Thankfully, I don't think these are the wrong hands, and this is another solid micro.

Fluttershy prepares to visit her secret room
Not, and I want to be crystal clear here, a secret shed
If you look at Kesel's website, you'll note that she's described as being "noted for her strong female characters", something which is of course imperative for a Friendship is Magic writer. One of the great things about FiM is that it's achieved this without trying to make out that "girliness" is in itself a bad thing. In the choice of knitting as the subject matter for this issue, there are echoes of "Suited for Success" — one of my favourite season one episodes, as it happens.

I said in my review of the Rainbow Dash micro that I generally liked Fleecs's style, and I stand by that here. The ponies are drawn with show-style coloured outlines, but they don't look as though they've simply been copied from the screen. Fluttershy's expressions are excellent when she's making her usual range of expressions, especially on the final page, though they do seem a little off when she beams with happiness. Her eyes, vitally important, are done well.

Fluttershy revels in her Chamber of Extreme Knitting
Not only knitted gremlins, but knitted parasprites too!
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the only other Mane Sixer who plays a significant role in this comic is Rarity. It's nice to see her and Fluttershy in tandem again, as their friendship is an interesting one. The others do appear right at the end — Rainbow Dash's knitted costume is a sight to behold! — but the most notable guest appearance is by Fancypants. Unsurprisingly he and his wife are in the vicinity of Rarity, but it was a shame he didn't get a proper speaking role.

As you'd expect given this comic's storyline, there are a lot of art-related references. The cleverest example is on page 7, where Angel is trying to support an increasingly nervous Fluttershy: he's seen in front of a selection of  paintings, of which the last two are quite clearly Picasso and Dali. In fact, Angel even ends up dressing like those artists! Another nice touch is that many of the paintings on the gallery wall are based on cover art from the MLP comics.

Praiser Pan and the Canterlot elite
Praiser Pan: the pony nopony should know
There really aren't too many problems, beyond those I've already mentioned. Some of the names (Pinto Picasso; Praiser Pan) could have been slightly more imaginative, and Angel looks frankly weird in the Chamber of Extreme Knitting spread. I'd personally have liked to have seen at least a passing reference to The Stare, but it would be absurdly harsh to call that an actual criticism.

This is a fairly lightweight story when compared to what's currently going on in the main series, but I've no problem with that. It's fairly light and frothy, but it also has some very nice touches and in general it looks good. Kesel seems a very worthwhile addition to the ranks of MLP comic writers, and I'd be more than happy to see her again. As a Flutterfan I'm fairly demanding, and this isn't up to the standards of the Rarity micro. It is, however, good enough to be recommended.

Additional, 3/6/13: Unfortunately, I feel the need to retrospectively knock a point off this issue's score. There are two main reasons for this. First, Rarity just isn't drawn all that well in too many places: page 16 has several examples. Second, the lesson is rather weak: Celestia says Fluttershy wins the contest because of the "originality and ... emotional resonance" of her piece, but it does come across as showing a little bit of favouritism. No comic with knitted parasprites can score too badly, though, so this is still a 7.

  • Knitted parasprites!
  • Some clever artistic touches
  • A solid debut from a new writer
  • Angel is in sympathetic mode
  • It's Fluttershy!
  • Rarity is too often drawn strangely
  • The lesson is rather weak
  • The occasional rather odd look
  • Fancypants seems strangely unsympathetic
  • Could have done with funnier names
8/10 7/10

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