Saturday, 28 September 2013

Comic review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic issue 11

MLP:FiM comic issue #11, cover A
Andy Price's ridiculously amazing Cover A
This blog seems increasingly to be turning into a review-specific one. It's really not intended as such, but there's just so much coming out at the moment! This time it's issue #11 of IDW's main MLP:FiM series, and (wonder of wonders) it appeared on time in the UK. As usual, Nostalgia & Comics grabbed my £3.15, which I handily had left after buying some badges from Derby's Toy Planet — but was it worth the money? Well, it's by the Cook/Price/Breckel team, and that's generally been a sign of quality so far. Past the jump, folks!

This time around, we're starting off another two-comic mini-arc. The story, which takes place simultaneously with the Big Mac arc, is mostly told in flashback and will explain how Shining Armor and Cadance came to be a couple. This first issue is set at Canterlot Academy — not CHS; I assume that's a human thing — and it's fair to say that Shining isn't the most popular stallion in the school. In fact, he's an out-and-out nerd, obsessed with Ogres & Oubliettes and blessed with a bunch of similarly nerdy friends. But then he sees Cadance...

Shining Armor's vision of the future
Nearly right, except for the bit where Sombra almost destroys your home
Cadance, meanwhile, is the most popular mare in the school. She's an alicorn princess, beautiful, talented, hard-working, sympathetic... actually, she's more or less flawless. In less skilled hands, that would make her pretty dull, but Cook manages to stay away from that. Mind you, I suspect at least some of that success is because of our familiarity with Cadance from the TV show; if this were her first appearance in any media, I'm not sure I'd have found it quite so easy to become interested in her story.

The storyline is apparently based on the romcom film Say Anything (inevitably parodied here as Neigh Anything) but I've never seen that so can't really comment on how accurately the plot is followed. Suffice it to say that this is a pretty clich├ęd story all round — and of course in this case we know exactly what the future held for Shining and Cadance. As with FiM itself, though, good writing shows itself in the way that an unexceptional underlying story nevertheless holds the attention. The one possible exception is Buck Withers, a really rather uninteresting antagonist.

Ogres & Oubliettes, from the backup story
"Oh yes... Spike! Spiiiike! There's a pony here asking after you..."
I really don't know why I bother repeating that Katie Cook nails the characters', er, characters or that Andy Price does the most wonderful expressive pony faces, or that Heather Breckel's colours are perfect. It's been like that since issue #1 came out. But hey, this is a review, so I'll mention it anyway. Talking of Cook, we do get one of her little back-up stories this time around, and though it's barely more than a vignette it's still amusing. You probably need at least passing familiarity with Dungeons & Dragons, but who hasn't?

As we all expect by now from this creative team, there are a ton of references and shout-outs. Right at the start, we have a "Ruin Rydell" banner, a reference to Grease. There are several 80s pop culture — literally pop — references in the big spread in which Shining's band play a parody of the Oingo Boingo song "Little Girls". The school stadium is named after Bonnie Zacherle, without whom there wouldn't be a My Little Pony franchise in the first place. (Here in the UK, our "school stadiums" are a field or two if we're lucky!) And we see a certain fan-favourite pony get her cutie mark...

Poor Shining... and even poorer Spike
Note BM's Quest for Nails in the background

There are also nods to Bruce Springsteen, Ferris Bueller, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Revenge of the Nerds, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Highlander and who knows what else. Plus some excellent in-world references: my favourite is that Twilight Velvet (the adorable filly Twi's mother) is apparently the real author of the Daring Do books! Oh, and we even get a cameo by Big Mac during his search for nails. All in all, while this is maybe not quite up to the standard of the previous arc, it's still a very enjoyable comic and — as you doubtless already knew — is recommended.

  • Some hilariously brilliant 80s references
  • Filly Twilight is more adorable than ever
  • A nice look back at Shining Armor's geeky past
  • Little touches like Spike's "I am that guy"
  • The plot is not the most imaginative of all time
  • The antagonist, Buck Withers, isn't the most interesting
  • Doesn't quite seem to flow as well as the previous arc

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