Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Comic review: MLP Friends Forever #3: Spike & Celestia

MLP Friends Forever main cover
Look under Celestia's hoof: Twilight Velvet and Night Light, methinks!
And so the My Little Pony: Friends Forever series moves on to its third installment. The first one was frankly pretty poor, but the second was a decent read. What will Ted Anderson (who wrote the Pinkie micro) and Agnes Garbowska (who drew the Spike micro) cook up for us here? This time, the team-up is between Celestia and Spike; we've seen them in Katie Cook's backup story in main-series issue #8, but this is the first time they've had a full issue all to themselves. Past the break we go!

I don't think there's any doubt that this is the best Friends Forever comic so far. As we saw in the aforementioned Cook mini-story, this is a partnership that is surprisingly entertaining. To the extent, actually, that I'd rather like to see a Celestia/Spike episode in the show itself. It's an adventure story, with the pair setting out to distant, mountainous lands so that Spike can give Twilight Sparkle a new telescope for her birthday. It's a fairly simple premise, which seems to be this series' thing, but there's nothing wrong with it.

Anderson's writing is pretty good, and for the most part he has the characters nicely observed. I did pause a bit at Spike referring to "Twilight Sparkle"; it just seems wrong for him to use her full name in anything but the most formal of contexts, even to a princess. Talking of which, though, Celestia was really nicely written. I was absolutely delighted about this, as I've never believed her to be the rather drab and boring alicorn that parts of the fandom seem to. As in her micro, we found out about her but she kept her essential mystery.

Celestia explains how she teaches
No, no, Tia. You never play jokes on ponies...
One of the most satisfying parts of this comic was when Celestia explained to Spike about the importance of pupils learning by doing – although she later qualified this partly by mentioning Spike's limits and (wonderfully) partly by pointing out that she too was an adventurer. It was mildly odd, post "Magical Mystery Cure", to see her still describe Twilight as her student in the present tense, but I can live with that. Celestia said that she could have stopped many of Twilight's enemies. I wonder which are the exceptions? Discord is presumably one.

I've liked Garbowska's artistic style ever since I first saw it on one of the early main-series covers. It's a fairly simple style: there's certainly nowhere near as much background busyness as you'd get from the likes of Andy Price or even Amy Mebberson. But the watercolour-ish tones gave the whole thing a suitably epic feel. I felt the art worked best out in the mountains: the rock lobsters weren't perhaps quite as initially impressive as they might have been. (Talking of which: Spike scaring them on account of being a rock-eater was priceless!)

So, in summary: a satisfying story, and another good outing for Celestia after the princess's own micro. Spike still seem to be a natural sidekick more than he does a central star, but he did as well as he could have been expected to have done. In spite of being the best Friends Forever comic yet, it probably doesn't do quite enough to qualify as a classic, but it's perhaps about on the level of Anderson's own Pinkie micro. That makes it more than acceptable, and a recommended purchase.

The Rock Lobsters attack
Because mountain lobsters would obviously have those accents
  • Celestia was superbly written throughout
  • Nice, distinctive art style, especially for the mountain scenes
  • An interesting storyline
  • That hint that Celestia couldn't stop every enemy
  • The Rock Lobsters weren't Pony's most interesting villains
  • Occasional lapses in Spike's speech

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