Thursday, 16 May 2013

Comic review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic issue 7

Stephanie Buscema's Cover B for IDW's MLP:FiM comic #7
Stephanie Buscema's extremely nice Cover B
One of these days, I'll work out IDW's release schedule for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. If it has one. As usual, I was only sure this comic was coming out earlier this week, so it was the usual trot to Nostalgia & Comics in Birmingham to hand over £3.15 in exchange for what you see above. Well, not just the cover, impressive as that is; I did get the comic inside, too! But on the subject of that cover, I've always found Stephanie Buscema's art to be rather cute, but this is definitely her most striking and — dare I say it — awesome design. Anyway, past the jump, if you would be so kind!

This comic is something of a slow burner. When I skimmed through it on the train, I wasn't all that impressed; I didn't feel it had much to grab me. However, when I read it again, more carefully, at home things changed. Nuhfer is actually doing a very good job of slowly ratcheting up the tension and the sense of danger, and by the last panel of this comic there are a whole heap of questions you're dying to know the answer to. This, of course, is exactly as it should be.

One of the biggest mysteries we do get resolved this time around is that of why it was Rarity, specifically, who was targeted by the Nightmares. "Larry" even asks why she was chosen, suggesting that "that yellow one" would have been an easier option. (Given the way Fluttershy has reacted to Discord on two occasions now, I'm not entirely convinced that would have been the case!) But the reply is that Rarity has self-esteem issues. I love this answer, since it also addresses why Luna was susceptible to being Nightmared.

Nightmare Rarity orders the Mane Five to be taken to the dungeon
Twilight, you can't use logic to argue with Pinkie
Something I'm not sure any of us suspected, right back at the start of this arc, was that Spike would play such a prominent role. After all, in Rarity's micro appearance, he was largely ignored. Increasingly, though, it looks as though the baby dragon will play a crucial part in how this story plays out. His fire ruby is surely the key: Nightmare Rarity mocks him at the end for believing he could help... but she makes sure she hangs on to the gem itself. That's a clear signal that it has a good deal of power.

Nightmare Rarity herself also reveals something else fascinating: that she has power not only nightmares, but other dreams too. It's unclear whether Luna's role of appearing in dreams is relevant here, since that's from S3 of the show and the comics seem to be set, roughly speaking, after the end of S2. Even so, I'm rather hoping that this revelation will set us up for some sort of epic battle between the forces of Nightmare Rarity and Luna in issue #8; the picture used for the "Next Month" preview gives me hope where that's concerned!

Spike's long walk to Nightmare Rarity's castle
Which dragon? Oh yes, that one: Spike. The one nopony seems to like
There's a good deal more potential foreshadowing in this issue. A notably grim and determined Celestia — which is an interesting thing to see — telling the CMC that "even the smallest ponies can make the biggest difference", Fluttershy's seemingly pointless befriending of a small moon creature, Rainbow Dash's curiously specific comment about being able to find "like, eighty-two" (who are you, Flax Seed?) ways out of the castle, the repeated comments about the ineffectiveness of the Elements of Harmony... there are more. Some are doubtless red herrings.

This team doesn't go as heavily on the references as the Cook/Price one does, either in writing or in art. Yes, there's a nice little cameo for MandoPony's OC and I'm sure that song Spike sings is based on something, but it's certainly not a "gag every panel" comic... which is fine, as that wouldn't fit the increasingly epic storyline. We do get a couple of nice internal references: the CMC, inevitably, mention cutie marks, while Rainbow Dash comes up with a crazy story of how Daring Do would spring them all from jail. (Using Applejack's hair...)

The ponies in prison
AJ, don't say that: Twilight will want to set up an experiment...
So, to the back of the comic! It's reverted to a more conventional format this time around: there are no pages from storybooks. There's the usual advert for CGC (which is getting really samey now, guys) but also two things of more Pony-related interest. One advert is for exclusive covers from Dynamic Forces, including no fewer than 10 Pony ones. (Oddly, they advertise in the first issue for which they don't have their own cover!) The other? Well, Justin Eisinger, IDW's Senior Editor (Books) chooses the MLP trade paperback for his "Employee Pick of the Month" slot!

Most of this issue's problems concern dialogue. Early on, Pinkie tells a fart joke. This really disappointed me, as I find toilet humour both boring and unfunny, and would prefer it were kept out of this series. Rainbow Dash calls a Nightmare creature refers to her "skillz" [sic], which is just grating rather than amusing. The strangest one, though, comes from Fluttershy, who encourages the moon pet by asking to "love you up". However hard I try, I just can't hear her saying that phrase — especially as it has either romantic or druggish connotations to me!

Spike is tempted by "Rarity"
Honestly, Spike: could you see the real Rarity wearing something so overblown? ...okay, yes
All right; it's time to wrap up this review. I think issue #7 is another solid entry in this arc, and there's absolutely no reason not to buy it if you've been following the series. I'm not sure the pacing is absolutely right — Spike's journey perhaps takes a few panels too long — but the last few pages do make up for that, and give us some extremely interesting (and worrying) new information to digest before next month. In the final analysis, this is a very good comic. Is it a great one? Probably not, and that's informed my final score.

  • Nightmare Rarity is an increasingly interesting villain
  • A real, and potentially crucial, role for Spike at last
  • We seem to be setting up for something big next time
  • Please cut out the toilet humour
  • Occasional niggles with the dialogue
  • The pacing isn't quite perfect

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