Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Comic review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic issue 17

MLP:FiM comic issue 17, cover A
Andy Price + comic cover = awesome. It's the law
We're back to the main series of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic comic now, and the start of an story that's been pretty intensely anticipated. For the first time since issues 5-8, we have a four-comic arc to enjoy, giving us all plenty of time to enjoy each issue and to speculate about what comes next. This arc is being produced by IDW's widely-accepted "A Team" of Katie Cook, Andy Price and Heather Breckel. That means that everyone expects it to be great. At least. No pressure then, guys! After the break, let's see how issue #17 kicks the arc off.

All I can say is that I'm already desperate to read the second installment! Expectations were very high, but so far it looks as though this arc will indeed live up to the hype, and that's fantastic news. It begins slightly irritatingly, with one of those frankly overused "Watcher" ponies giving Twilight a message about there being "more than one of everything", but after that it settles down into a fascinating mystery which seems to be spanning multiple worlds. These guys certainly don't think small!

Celestia and Star Swirl explore different worlds
"It's Twilight Sparkle's balloon!"
Katie Cook has really nailed the writing this time around. The 22 pages are absolutely packed with interest, and a great deal happens in just about every panel. Despite the location being somewhat reminiscent of "Castle Mane-ia", Cook also makes the feel totally distinct from that episode. The presence of Luna helps, though I suppose you could wonder why she waited quite so long before telling the Mane Six that Celestia had disappeared.Rainbow and Pinkie's "broom closet" routine is hyperventilatingly funny, helped by Dash's face. Talking of which...

Andy Price's art for the Pony comics is virtually always brilliant, and it's mostly so in this issue too. The highlight is without doubt the very last couple of pages, where you can tell that he really went to town. Everything works here, from Celestia's defeated expression on the penultimate page to that all-too-familiar shadowy figure in the mirror right at the end. The lighting is exceptionally atmospheric, and Heather Breckel provides her usual fine colours. However, there are just one or two earlier panels where Price seems slightly rushed.

Rainbow Dash talks to Pinkie Pie
It's no use, Rainbow. You can't faze Pinkie like that. Or at all
After he's had so many little mentions in the show, we might have been fooled into thinking that we knew Star Swirl the Bearded. This comic makes it abundantly clear that we most certainly did not. For the first time, we see the great wizard as an actual pony, and apparently also as Celestia's mentor in sepia-toned sequences from long ago. (Where was Luna back then? What was she doing? Will we find out?) His character is extremely well drawn, and I most certainly want to know more about this unicorn before the arc is over.

There are, as usual from this team, plenty of amusing references to be found. Internally, Luna's companions from her micro – secretary Kibitz and possum Tiberius – make welcome returns. External references are present and correct, too: the underground laboratory contains the disassembled parts of Scaramanga's Golden Gun; a signpost leads to the Jefferies Tubes; there are several nods to the Batcave; Spike hoards the Monopony [sic] money; and (my own favourite) a toy Celestia that Luna uses as a model is pink.

A panel from Katie Cook's backup story
A distant ancestor of Rarity's. Say the lines in her voice!
Cook further blesses us with one of her periodic backup stories. It's a slight but amusing thing about how Star Swirl got his hat, and (fittingly for a tale from the distant past) the story is not coloured. On the other hand, the Fluttersaur we glimpse in the main part of the comic is coloured, so who knows? Not me, that's for sure. (I was originally going to add that it was impressive that Price had made the Fluttersaur simultaneously adorable and terrifying, but then I realised that this combination of qualities also applies to the pony original!)

I'm delighted with this comic, and if the other three in the arc can keep up the standard then we'll be looking at an adventure to rival "The Return of Queen Chrysalis" for sheer quality. There are so many things to like about issue #17, and very few to dislike. Even the problems are minor and inconsequential. When you get right down to it, it's pretty much impossible to dislike a comic so well judged that it can get away with Pinkie blatantly lampshading a huge Deus ex Machina. Look at these horses. These horses are amazing. In other words: buy this comic.

The Mane Six explain their foalhood dreams
And thus were a million Fluttershy/Colgate shipfics born...
Yays
  • Sets us up for a worlds-spanning adventure of vast scope
  • Celestia looks like playing a major, interesting role
  • Star Swirl himself is a highly interesting character
  • The (brief) return of Kibitz and Tiberius from Luna's micro
  • An absolutely epic final couple of pages
  • Some truly hilarious jokes and facial expressions
  • Katie Cook's backup story is amusing
Neighs
  • Price's art is occasionally very slightly below his best
  • I'm getting a bit tired of the "Watcher" ponies
9.5/10

2 comments:

  1. I have to apologise at this point because a) I'm getting a bit behind with comments for your episode reviews and b) I had hoped to leave comments for these comic reviews. As it stands I'm so far behind with those that I think it would be impossible to go through them all now, but this seems a good point to add a comment.

    Without a doubt I'd have to agree that I thought this issue was darn near utterly perfect. I reached the end of the issue and thought "arggghhh, it's nearly 4 weeks till the next one!" One of those wonderful stories where you can't wait to find out what happens next and what direction the story is going to go in. Those last two pages in particular had so much impact, and you have to wonder just what (rather than who) has happened to leave Celestia like that. And how that ties in with her wanting to say goodbye to whoever was in the place she kept visiting secretly.

    You mentioned wondering if Luna had been born when the flashbacks were shown. I think (unless I dreamt it, in which case blame Luna) that Celestia does mention her, because she's talking to Star Swirl and mentions how Luna seems to be becoming increasingly distant and "dark." And Star Swirl says he's sure everything will be okay.

    Those expressions, the trademark of Andy Price artwork, are just fantastic. And the pages where he crams every tiny space with detail are breathtaking. I didn't notice Twilight's balloon till you pointed it out in this review, but now we know!

    And there was something especially that tickled me about that picture above, where Pinkie is saying she wanted to be a "professional cupcake taster" and shows off quite a tummy bulge. Pinkie, I know how you feel. ;)

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    1. No need for apologies! But thank you very much for that comment, all the same. :)

      Looking at what other people have said, on UK of E and elsewhere, this does seem to have been a very popular issue -- and deservedly so, I think. I do actually have a theory as to what Celestia's been up to, but it would be potentially extremely spoilery so I'll wait until the next issue's out before revealing whether I was right.

      Good point about Luna; that was a mistake on my part, which I've now corrected. :)

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