Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Comic review: Equestria Girls annual

Equestria Girls annual regular cover
Twilight is central here, yet barely in the book at all!
It's been a little too long in coming, but here at last is my review of the Equestria Girls annual that IDW put out a week or so ago. I don't mean to spend much time revisiting the controversy over EqG itself — we all know Lauren Faust would have hated it, but we can't judge everything purely by those standards — and so this will be a relatively straightforward review. I bought my copy from Nostalgia & Comics in Birmingham, though for once I think their pricing (£6.50 for this) was a little bit on the steep side. There's only one regular cover, the workmanlike Tony Fleecs effort you see above. Off we go, then...

In spite of what some previews stated, this is not "a collection of shorts"; instead we get one short and one full-length previews to the film's storyline. The first one is the eight-page "The Fall of Sunset Shimmer", which anyone who has the SDCC variant of issue #9 will already have read. As I've already reviewed that, I won't spend much time on it here. It's certainly worth having, though, and as it's drawn by Andy Price there are heaps of nice little references despite its shortness. I particularly liked the reference to "Megan, Danny or Molly" — G1's three human characters — just after Sunset Shimmer passes through the magic mirror.

Sunset Shimmer in her origin story
"Second only to that time you took on Discord at Truth or Dare"
The meat of this annual — which is bound like a graphic novel rather than stapled, possibly one reason why it's priced on the high side — is the main story, called simply "Equestria Girls". This is written by Ted Anderson, who has previous MLP experience on the Pinkie Pie and CMC micros. He does a reasonable job on the HuMane Five, although I wasn't particularly interested in Sunflower — a disagreeable member of the Apple family who, along with an aged-up Babs Seed, seems to be there to come over all cliquish to the newly arrived Applejack.

As was the case with Pinkie's micro, Anderson doesn't make the party pon... er, girl as manic as she is in many other comic (and TV) stories; the most startling thing she does here is to knit a skateboard, and rather disappointingly that happens off-page. Rarity, of course, is effortlessly popular with the boys, but thankfully there's nothing to match the film's cringeworthy romance sub-plot. Fluttershy is fairly well handled, if a little dull, and it's nice that she's made to have known Rainbow Dash since junior high. Rainbow herself is written as a soccer-mad girl without much interest in work.

Rainbow Dash plays "saw-cer"
Not until you learn to play cricket, Dashie
Tony Fleecs is an artist I have mixed feelings about. He drew the Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy micros, neither of which is among my very favourites. In the EqG comic, the quality of his work is a little variable, even with the same character: a scene where Rainbow is showing off to Spitfire on the football pitch is excellent, but when she boasts to AJ a few pages later, her open-mouthed expression makes her look almost like a meme picture. Later on still, there's a bizarre and basic error in which the pitch is drawn with lines across it every few yards, as is the case in American football.

References, as I've mentioned, obviously abound in the Price-drawn short story — eg Cadance and filly Twi in the background — but in the main tale they're a little more muted. As in the film, the fun comes largely in spotting characters we've seen before in Equestria. Trixie is present and correct, as are the likes of Octavia, Cheerilee, Big Mac and — yes — Derpy. There's even a little cameo from the gremlins, who we first saw in the Dash micro way back when. For the rest: AJ wears a suspiciously Kill Bill-like yellow outfit in one small panel of the (very nicely done) double-page spread that shows how the HuMane Five almost lost their friendship.

Supporting the Wondercolts
Do I even want to know what's going on with Apple Bloom's eyes here?
The main story isn't one of the most thrilling I've read in Pony, but it just about manages to hold the interest and to provide some useful backstory. "The Fall of Sunset Shimmer" is by some way the better of the two, though. I think the creative team on the longer story have done an adequate job here; it's about as good as the film itself, ie better than it ought to be given the eye-rollingly clich├ęd premise. I think it's probably worth shelling out for the Equestria Girls annual, and certainly if you haven't read the short, but fittingly for a story that does without Twilight Sparkle the main tale lacks... well... spark.

Yays
  • Backstories are always good
  • The Sunset Shimmer origin mini-story is excellent
  • The best of Fleecs' art is excellent...
Neighs
  • ...but that doesn't go for all of it
  • The main story doesn't always hold the interest
  • A bit on the expensive side 
7/10

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