Thursday, 29 May 2014

Comic review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic issue 19

IDW MLP comic issue 19, cover A
Aww, poor old Fourth Doctor, stuck on the evil side
Here we are at the three-quarter mark of the Reflections arc, which so far has proven to be very good indeed. It's been wonderful to have the space that a four-comic arc affords once again. That goes especially when it's this particular creative team at the helm. Naturally, there'll be plenty of spoilers in my review, but you really should know that by now! If you're ready for that, then come with me past the break and things will happen. Possibly good; possibly not. We shall see...

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Ponyfic Roundup 10

And so Ponyfic Roundup reaches double figures! I know at least a couple of people have read at least the odd one of these, but more comments would always be nice! I'm going to carry on doing them anyway, since I enjoy it, but I'd rather not feel as though I'm talking to myself all the time. :P There were no real standout fics this week, so I've just chosen one of those I quite liked for the Pick spot. Note that there'll be no Roundup next week as I'll be on holiday.

Pick of the fics

Evil Belle by Akumokagetsu
Sweetie Belle
Comedy; 2K words; Nov 2013; Everyone
This is one of those quick reads that should at least raise a smile. For somewhat vague reasons, Sweetie Belle has got her hooves on the dreaded Alicorn Amulet. Yes, the one Zecora is was looking after. Sweetie is now intending to become a hugely powerful supervillain. If only she can get ponies to appreciate this. The first in a series; silly, short and amusing. 7/10

Other stories 

Lightning Bugs by Zoom Star
Mane Six, Spike and Celestia
Adventure; 3K words; Feb 2012; Everyone
Oh, this is frustrating. You can see a good story in here trying to get out. Something mysterious is causing the weather across Equestria to go bad, no matter what the pegasi try. The Mane Six are tasked with sorting things out. And there's the biggest problem: the resolution is both hurried and unconvincing. The writing is rushed, too: there are too many silly typos for comfort. 3.5/10

Luna, There's a Sentient Race Inside Your Mane by boardgamebrony
Luna, Celestia and OCs
Comedy/Random; 2K words; Apr 2012; Everyone 
This is another silly little one-shot. It scores by having a sea-pony in the very first scene, but after that it's all about Luna. Or rather, the beings that are determined to win the war of her hair – for her tail becomes involved, too. Some readers cite this as an all-time favourite; I don't think it's that good, but it's a fun choice if you have a few minutes and don't want anything too heavy. 7/10

Pinkie Watches Paint Dry by AbsoluteAnonymous
Pinkie Pie, Twilight and Rainbow Dash
Comedy/Random; 3K words; Apr 2012; Everyone 
Yes, the guy who wrote "The Games We Play" (see PR 1). Note the date, too: this fic was written before "Too Many Pinkie Pies" was known about. It's a nice coincidence, but the story itself is... well, it's pretty odd. Hard to get into at first, but keep going. You can either read this as the random comedy it says it is, or you can see it as Pinkie doing some of her occasional scarily deep philosophising. 7/10

Shipping and Handling by Pegasus Rescue Brigade
Derpy, Dinky and OCs
Romance/Comedy; 132K words; Sep 2012; Everyone
This is widely considered a fandom classic, but I'm afraid I don't quite share that view. The first few chapters are excellent, but then it slightly lost me. One chapter in particular will either have you laughing yourself stupid or trudging through it and wishing it was over; I was in the latter category. Derpy (known as "Ditzy Doo" in this fic) is nicely characterised, though. 6.5/10

Friday, 23 May 2014

Comic review: MLP Friends Forever #5: Fluttershy & Zecora

MLP Friends Forever #5 Cover A
This is the standard Cover A, by Amy Mebberson
Despite their random-number-generator release schedule, IDW have now provided us with Friends Forever #5, teaming up Fluttershy and Zecora. We've seen a little bit of these two in My Little Pony on-screen, but not much recently other than the scene in "Filli Vanilli". We have Thom Zahler returning to Pony for the first time since the iffy Twilight micro, Tony Fleecs drawing (as he did for the also-iffy Fluttershy micro) and the ever-reliable Heather Breckel as colourist. I went the electronic route this time; past the break for spoilery reviewy stuff!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Ponyfic Roundup 9

I sometimes think I should get a header picture done for these things, now that they've become a bit of a regular event. If only I could draw! I suppose I could commission one, but that seems way over the top for a blog like this with about seven readers. :P Anyway, we have a crop of five fics, all of them short, to consider this time around. I suppose we should get on with the show, as Trixie probably wouldn't say.

Pick of the fics

Forever Young by Hyperexponential
Discord, Fluttershy and Rarity
Sad/Slice of Life; 4K words; May 2013; Teen
Discord is a very hard character to write really well. Hyperexponential does it superbly in this remarkably moving tale of his friendship with Fluttershy. (Note the publication date: nothing from S4 is relevant here.) Fluttershy herself is also extremely well written. Rarity's part in the story is not what you might expect, but if you can accept it – as I can – then this fic, written with a skilled light touch, is a must-read. 9/10

Other stories 

Being Neighborly by JMac
Comedy/Adventure; 5K words; Oct 2013; Everyone
A vaguely Western story narrated by May Berry, sheriff of a nowhere town out in the Equestrian desert. It starts off as a fun, if rather slight, parochial comedy but later takes a turn both for the dark (a foal goes missing) and the weird (a strange resident turns out to be... even stranger). It's well written, but didn't stick in my memory, hence the moderate score. The story only has about 250 views on FimFiction, probably because it features only OCs. 7/10

Big Mac Goes to Therapy by Daedelean
Big Mac
Sad/Slice of Life; 8K words; April 2014; Teen (Sex)
Big Mac has some... issues about his time as a Discorded dog. So he goes to see the shrink – one Time Turner. We learn quite a bit about Mac's innermost thoughts, and also about the history and (if I can use such a broad term) culture of the Apple Family. Very talky, but the setting makes that necessary. The Sex tag is cautious; there's very little, and even that is implied rather than seen. 8/10

The Rain-Bow Incident by gmen15 (author known as nygiants93 at review time)
Rainbow Dash, Scootaloo, CMC and Applejack
Comedy/Random/Slice of Life; 4K words; Oct 2012; Everyone
Rainbow Dash wakes up one day to find that her prized mane has been shaved off. She attempts to sneak into Ponyville unseen, but inevitably encounters the CMC... a rather strange story, which I found a little uncomfortable in its latter stages because of the frankly mean-spirited actions of more than one character. That hits its score a bit. 6.5/10

The Stallion Out of Time by 0 to Wolfie
OCs, Celestia, Dinky and Mr. Cake
Adventure; 6K words; Feb 2013; Everyone
Okay, where do I start with this one? It's hard to read because of the run-on sentences. It has an alicorn OC who turns out to be from another time. He both knows, and is older than, Celestia. Derpy, in need of a foalsitter for Dinky, naturally hires a strange stallion (who is an alicorn, remember!) she's never seen before. It's a mess, basically. You can safely pass on this one, and on its sequel. 2/10

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Decent article in the Metro

Although the same paper published a rather sneery article about bronies just a few days ago, the Metro freesheet has now printed (yes, apparently this was in the print edition) this considerably better story. It's to mark the fact that National Geographic's Outsiders documentary (largely filmed at BUCK 2013) will be getting its UK premiere soon. There's nothing particularly startling in it, but it's a fair and factual report. Also, some pictures of people I actually have some idea who they are, for a change! The one downside is that it does perpetuate the myth that all bronies are male.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Ponyfic Roundup 8

Have we all recovered from the Season 4 finale now? Okay, maybe not quite yet. But a nice bit of fanfic is surely just the tonic if you're worrying about post-season blues. I've made one slight tweak: from now on, I'll be rounding the word count to the nearest thousand to make a story's length easier to see at a glance. Otherwise, the setup here is the same as usual: five stories read, all reviewed and one selected as the cream of the crop. Off we go!

Pick of the fics

Hard Reset by Eakin
Twilight, Spike and Chrysalis
Dark/Adventure; 37K words; Jan 2013; Teen
I don't often read Dark stories, but this was recommended to me and I'm quite glad that it was. Twilight finds herself stuck in a time loop, and can only escape from it through death. But there's a changeling invasion on, so die she does. Repeatedly. Written in first-person present, which works better than that usually does – partly thanks to Twi's world-class snarky narration. I didn't care for a shippy element, and one side pony's character makes little sense unless you at least know of the Winningverse. A little overlong near the end, too, but still a very worthwhile read. Includes an alternative ending that's much darker than the main one. 8/10

Other stories

Drunken Rainbow by Rainbow87dash
Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Mane Six and Other
Comedy/Random; 3K words; Nov 2012; Everyone
Rainbow Dash has a drinking problem, and Fluttershy wants her to sort herself out. Written in a very odd style with staccato sentences: it could work, but unfortunately the fic is desperately badly proofread (if at all) and that's just too distracting. Not as distracting, mind, as the completely what-the-hay ending. The Other tag should actually be an OC one, and I don't think an Everyone-rated story should have an f-bomb out of nowhere as this does. 4/10

Moonspire Run by titanrising [sic]
Rainbow Dash, Spitfire and Scootaloo
Adventure; 14K words; Feb 2012; Everyone
An old story, this one, with some odd stylistic decisions; repeatedly using "sky pony" as a synonym for "pegasus" being the most striking. Spitfire – the pre-drill sergeant version, given the story's age – challenges Rainbow (whom she needles by calling her "Rainboom Girl") to a race through the dangerous Pinebone Forest to the mysterious Moonspire. A little wordy for a racing-themed story, but fairly well done nevertheless. 7/10 

My Sediments Exactly by Twinkletail
Maud Pie, Big Mac and Pinkie
Romance; 3K words; Mar 2014; Everyone
After the "Maud Pie" episode went out, this fic was written within the day – and considering that speed, it's rather nicely done. It's MaudMac shipping. Yes, really. I'm not sure there's really much else I can say to add to that! Quite amusing, though probably a once-only read. 7/10

Princess Celestia Gets Mugged by BronyWriter
Celestia, Luna, Shining Armor and OCs
Comedy/Slice of Life; 19K words; Jun 2013; Everyone
Princess Celestia takes the day off and asks Luna to cover for her. She disguises herself as a pegasus named Sunny Skies (surely a reference?) but ends up getting mugged and then kidnapped. She knows she's not in real danger, partly because her kidnappers are bumbling idiots, but Luna is going spare. Perhaps a little too much facehoofing (you'll see) but a fun read. 7.5/10

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Episode review: "Twilight's Kingdom" (S4E25 & S4E26)

Tirek and Scorpan
Evil creatures from Tartarus in a dead and blasted landscape of doom? TV-Y it is, then
Well, here we are at last. Season 4 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has come to an end, and while we now know for sure that it isn't the end of the show as a whole, it's still quite a milestone. With "Twilight's Kingdom", Meghan McCarthy gave us only the second two-part season finale, following on from "A Canterlot Wedding" (also her work) back in S2. There was a lot of hype for this episode, and as usual Hub Network was annoyingly free with its spoilers. But was the hype justified?

Friday, 9 May 2014

Well, here we go!

This site is treacle-slow right now, so I'll confine myself to a very short post. The Season 4 finale is of course tomorrow, and I've managed to stay relatively free of spoilers. I did read the brief official synopsis, I know the name of one significant character and one other thing that happens, but that's about it. No more Twitter etc now until after I've seen the episode!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Oh yeah, and there's this:

Enough said. (And woo, new tag, too!)

Ponyfic Roundup 7

I wasn't sure whether I'd have the time to read five ponyfics this last week, but you're in luck: I've managed to do just that. I'm bringing you quite a varied selection this time round, including a representative of a genre we really don't see all that much of in the fandom any more. I'll stick with the layout I introduced last week, since it seems to work pretty well. As always, any comments you might have are very welcome!

Pick of the fics

No Quixote Here by RedSquirrel456
Blueblood, Celestia, Shining Armor, Fancy Pants and Twilight
Comedy/Slice of Life; 13,805 words; May 2013; Everyone
Remember "The Best Night Ever" back in PR1? The story in which Prince Blueblood was a rather sympathetic character? Well... this time, he isn't. He's absolutely awful – "a lazy, empty-headed ponce" as the author accurately says – though deliciously awful and you can occasionally see a spark of likability there. Here, Blueblood decides that to stop those blasted Elements overshadowing his greatness, he needs to have an adventure and become a hero. With help from his servants, of course. Things don't go well, but the fic does; recommended. 8.5/10

Other stories

First Aid by Maniac92
Scootaloo, Cheerilee, Fluttershy, Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon
Slice of Life; 1,951 words; Nov 2013; Everyone
Scootaloo snaps after being bullied at school once too often and hits Diamond Tiara. Everyone cheers. One thing leads to another and she ends up talking to Fluttershy. This is a gentle, warm-hearted one-shot and it's nice to see 'Shy and Scoots together for a change. There's nothing particularly special about it, but it's a pleasant enough story to fill a few spare minutes. 7/10

Fly Away by ZAquanimus
Scootaloo and Rainbow Dash
Slice of Life; 2,566 words; Jul 2011; Everyone
Scootaloo again! This is one of the oldest stories on FIMFiction, so I was curious to see how well it stood up. The answers are mixed: I liked the setup, in which Scoots has been adopted... but by the Apples. Her cutie mark (it's set in the near future) is interesting, too. However, there isn't really a lot of conflict to hold the interest, and the later part of the story stretches credulity somewhat. Add an occasional stylistic jar and the best I can do is 5.5/10.

The Moonstone Cup by Cyanide
Twilight, Trixie, Luna and OC
Adventure; 61,073 words; Jul 2012; Everyone
This is the story I alluded to in my introduction: it's a shame the mid-length straight Adventure fic is relatively uncommon now. Twilight travels to Canterlot to compete in a magic-using competition. Lots of interesting world-building, impressively varied combat scenes and some nice OCs (not just ponies!) as well as perhaps the best use of Trixie I've ever seen in a fic. The excitement is nicely leavened with wit, and the late part of the story is unexpected. It could really have done with more proofreading, though: there are too many small errors dotted about, which dents its score very slightly. 8/10 

My Little Dashie by ROBCakeran53
Mane Six and Celestia
Sad/Human; 12,524 words; Oct 2011; Everyone
Oh yes, this story. First up, the character tags are misleading: this is overwhelmingly a story of Rainbow Dash and the unnamed human OC who tells the tale in the first person of what happened when he discovered a filly Dashie in a cardboard box. A lot of people think "MLD" is amazing; I don't. It's not the worst ponyfic I've ever read, and it does have occasional moments, but it pushes the emotion so hard that it becomes absurdly overdone. It's not very well written, either, and Celestia's portrayal (in a supporting role) is iffy. This story does not deserve to be considered a fandom classic. 4/10

Monday, 5 May 2014

Episode review: "Equestria Games" (S4E24)

Spike is unhappy; his friends try to look casual
"I have shades stashed all over Equestria, in case of shades emergencies!!
And here it is: the very last episode of Season 4 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic before Saturday's epic (surely) finale. This review is slightly late, owing to my having had a very busy weekend, so let's get straight on with it. This time around, the episode was written by Dave Polsky, who in my eyes has had a pretty decent, if not quite stellar, record this term. (Though "Rarity Takes Manehattan" showed how classy his writing can be.) Would episode 24 be one for the ages? Past the break, I'll tell you what I think.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Comic review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic issue 18

IDW MLP comic issue 18, cover A
Surely the line ran "There can be only one"?
After being utterly tortured by IDW, who for some absurd reason thought we should be made to wait six weeks after issue #17 came out, we have finally reached issue #18 (you astound me, Holmes) of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic main series comics. When we last saw our favourite ponies, the shadowy face of King Sombra had just appeared in the interdimensional mirror. What happened next? Andy Price, Katie Cook and Heather Breckel can tell you – but as none of them are around right now, I'll have to do it.