Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Comic review: MLP Friends Forever #2: CMC & Discord

IDW MLP Friends Forever #2 Subscription cover
I bought the nice Sub cover by Lea Hernandez, also new to Pony
This review is late, I know, thanks to a combination of a comic getting lost in the post and my continuing poor health. Let's get to it, though! I was not a fan of the first Friends Forever comic, which I thought was underwhelming to say the least. This time round, we have a character partnership which almost everyone has been excited by and a different creative team. Writer Jeremy Whitley makes his My Little Pony comic debut, while Tony Fleecs is an established IDW artist who's drawn several others in the series. Past the break!

The Cutie Mark Crusaders are obsessed with getting their cutie marks. Well, whoopee. After "Twilight Time" the other day, it's mildly disappointing to see such a formulaic underlying plot – but that won't matter if the story is entertaining enough. And is it? Well, for the most part it is, yes. I wouldn't say this was right up there with the very best of the IDW one-shot comics – it's certainly no Rarity or Luna micro – but it's in another league from its Friends Forever predecessor.

I was quite surprised by Tony Fleecs' art in this one. It's no secret that he's not my favourite MLP artist, but I feel he's stepped up his game this time round. Although there are still some panels where ponies' faces just look odd and faintly disturbing, such as in Scootaloo's "parkour" comment on page 2, most of them seem fine. He's generally very decent at portraying the CMC but actually pretty darn good at drawing Discord. The draconequus doesn't quite look like he's does on screen, but it's not far off.

Discord gets fed up with the CMC's "done that" responses
Discord! Whatever did they do to make you take their world away?
For a complete newcomer to the franchise, Jeremy Whitley has hit the ground if not running then at least briskly jogging. Discord seems pretty nicely in character, with his tendency to get suddenly nasty when he finds something tiresome well in evidence. The CMC are fine as well, and I enjoyed their rather touching willingness to accept Discord as a comrade at the end. It's a bit close to what happened with Babs Seed in "One Bad Apple", while Discord himself is a little on the "Keep Calm and Flutter On" side, but never mind.

References abound in this one. My favourite, unsurprisingly instantly picked up by the fandom, is the Sweetie Bot panel. I fail to believe that this wasn't a deliberate nod. I hope it was, anyway. We also have Star Swirl the Bearded playing Gandalf, an amusing Willy Wonka routine (from Discord!) early on and a reference to some detective series or other that I'm afraid I don't get. And yes, Discord gets to play Q. If only there hadn't been a Star Trek reference in a recent main-series comic, this would have been even better.

There are problems here and there, not least the slightly odd way some of the Mane Six seem to behave in their supporting roles, but they're not fatal. (On the art front, one particular Applejack pose looks really awkward.) However, that's compensated for by the fact that Discord's magic is shown as very powerful indeed (more so even than Princess Twilight's) which I think is an important point: however reformed he may be these days, he's still extremely dangerous if he decides to go his own way.

Twilight tries to hold back the expanding dome
This panel has a rather sketchy look about it
There's no doubt in my mind that Friends Forever #2 is a much better comic all round than last month's launch issue. It's not amazing, and I hope things will improve still further when the third issue comes around, but it's worth the £3 or so it's likely to cost. The important point is that I didn't come away from it thinking it was a wasted opportunity, which frankly I did with issue #1. Discord or CMC fans should most definitely get hold of this: if you're less fussed about those characters, then it's still fun but not an essential purchase.

  • Whitley keeps all the main characters convincing
  • Discord isn't presented as a buffoon
  • Probably Fleecs' best Pony artwork so far
  • Never mind Q, there's a Sweetie Bot reference!
  • Fleecs still gives us the odd weird-looking piece of art
  • A shame the CMC's motivation wasn't a bit more creative

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