Thursday, 13 June 2013

Comic review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic issue 8

Amy Mebberson's fan-pleasing Cover A
Amy Mebberson's Cover A is ridiculously awesome
Today saw the release of the final instalment of the current four-part arc in IDW's main My Little Pony comic. So off I toddled to Birmingham's Nostalgia & Comics (which had this Rainbow Dash shirt in the window!) and handed over the usual £3.15 for my own copy. The A, B and RI covers are all great this time around, but I chose Amy Mebberson's Cover A because of its ridiculously awesome cast of characters. The question was whether the story inside would match up. If you'll come with me past the jump, we'll see about that!

For the most part, yes it does. There seems to be an emerging trend for the main series to downplay the comedy in favour of adventure and tension, while the micros stay more light-hearted. I don't have a problem with that, since it's not as if this issue is devoid of humour: Derpy's well represented, after all, and Mebberson gives several of her friends cameos as ponies. But the overarching theme is nothing less than the defence of Ponyville itself. With that defence led by Princess Luna — battling against her own guilt and insecurity as much as against Nightmare Rarity. That Rarity also shares some of those emotions makes things even more interesting.

Nightmare Rarity taunts the fallen Luna
I can't help but read "How quaint!" in Uncle Orange's voice...
"Nightmarity", as she's becoming known, is not actually shown as much as I'd expected in this comic, but when she does appear you know all about it. That goes especially for her scenes with Spike, both before and after the real Rarity has been recovered. As you might expect, it's the magic of friendship that underlies the Ponyvillians' victory over the Nightmares, and the way it's done is just a little reminiscent of what's seen in the show. That "inner light" the Mane Five demonstrate to their "pegasisters" (yes, Pinkie says it!) reminds me of both the Elements and of "Magical Mystery Cure".

I'm sure, though, that it will be the battle scenes that fans will remember from this issue. Mebberson's cover didn't lie: we really do get to see an armoured Luna leading the likes of Trixie, Octavia and Spitfire into battle. The dramatically lit panel of Luna's rallying "Together" speech, taking up two-thirds of a page, is the most striking, but there are several other vignettes to enjoy: Granny Smith's Karate Kid moves, Mr Cake smacking a Nightmare with a tea-tray, Angel's devious decoy act... even Diamond Tiara shows up, though mostly to be laughed at when Tank falls on her head!

Ponyville and pets versus a Nightmare beast
Gummy, Cheerilee and Twist: all-action heroes of doom
I think this is the most accomplished art Mebberson has drawn yet for Pony. It seems more confident and bold than it did a few issues ago, which is very effective in the more action-packed scenes. I'm not sure it's quite as good in the quieter parts — Rainbow looks a bit odd when raving at AJ in prison — but it's never actually distracting. Similarly, Nuhfer has come up with a story that's satisfyingly different while staying true to the underlying message of the show, in that it's friendship that will conquer all in the end. The camouflage slugs still strike me as weird, but they're certainly original!

I found some of this issue to be surprisingly moving, though I suppose that shouldn't startle me by now where FiM is concerned. In particular, I'm thinking of the scenes where Luna's friends (including the likes of Photo Finish and Hoity Toity!) persuade her that they'll always be her friends. A page break really works well here: Nightmarity mockingly asks the Ponyvillians if they'll still protect Luna even after she'd betrayed them and led to the destruction of their town... then over the page we see their determined response, exemplified by Sweetie Belle's "Yes! Forever!"

The ponies glow with the light of friendship
Well, it would certainly save on candles...
My "problems" paragraph will be quite short this time, which is always refreshing. I think the pacing is a hair's breadth short of perfect: maybe a page less for the early dungeon scenes and a page more for the battle would have been better. And... well, that's it, really. Excellent!

Ever since we got our first glimpse of Mebberson's cover some weeks back, this has been a hotly anticipated finale to an arc which has promised us something epic. I think the team have mostly pulled off the trick of merging that epicness with a whole heap of absolutely blatant but fabulous fan-pleasing. The comic isn't quite perfect, but the problems are all minor ones and in some cases are probably unavoidable. Although I score it the same as issue #6 — I can't quite justify a 9.5 — I think this finale shades the title of best issue in the arc. Highly recommended.

The light of friendship gets to work on Jerome
Oh Jerome, you should know by now not to say silly things like that
  • An epic battle won by the power of friendship
  • The way the Ponyvillians defend Luna is very moving
  • Fan-pleasing taken to new heights, without affecting the story
  • Armoured Luna looks ridiculously amazing
  • Minor problems with pacing

1 comment:

  1. The ending IMO felt rushed, but it was very nice to see development for both Luna and Rarity too (to be honest, I find the thing with the "ill-fashioned" pony with braces kinda questionable, I wore braces once). This beautiful music track would suit it perfectly:

    Here IMO the part with Pinkie (which is about that fart joke in issue 7) actually worked because I think it's more of a visual joke, though to me here, it was cute.