Monday, 30 June 2014

Comic review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic issue 20

MLP:FiM issue #20 cover A
I bought all four Andy Price covers in this arc
Well, what a ride this arc has given us! Although the signs from IDW Towers are that there won't be another four-issue arc for quite some time, I really hope that there will be one eventually. There are things you can do with four comics to play with that simply aren't possible in a one-shot or even a two-issue arc. Let's see whether the fabled Cook/Price/Breckel team have made My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic comics as epic as the S4 finale.

Well, no. But then who has? It is epic stuff, though, with twists and turns a-plenty. Prime!Celestia, who is in rather sombre mood for a lot of this comic (unsurprising, given that most of this is her fault) starts out seeming rather lost. As so often happens in the comics, though – I wish it were more common in the show – when real danger threatens, she rises to the occasion. Fire!Celestia is just plain awesome, and provides a really nice link with Philomena to boot.

Prime!Luna, meanwhile, is her usual complex self. She still hasn't got the knack of ordering tea quietly, but she does have a point about Prime!Celestia "replacing" her with Mirror!Luna while she (Prime!Luna) was on the Moon. Still, I suspect that there's still a great deal we don't know about what happened during that sad, lonely millennium, despite what we've been told in this arc regarding Sombra. (And isn't it great to finally have had some real character depth for him? Even if it is in an alternate universe.)

The ponies and Spike prepare to fight
Remember that gum Pinkie found in issue #17? Well...
This arc has been great for Star Swirl: this is easily the best portrayal I've seen of him in any official media, and it beats most of the fanworks, too. I think he'd probably even be up to starring in his own title now, although a more realistic option might be to pair him up with somepony in a Friends Forever comic. Celestia would be the obvious choice, but it might be more fun to throw him in with Pinkie Pie and watch the fireworks.

The comic contains a scene which, as Pinkie lampshades nicely, is probably pushing the envelope of what Hasbro will allow. Mirror!Celestia, needing to summon Prime!Celestia to the mirror world in order to seal her in crystal, takes the direct approach and launches a vicious attack on Mirror!Luna, which the latter clearly doesn't see coming. (So M!C is sneakier than M!L. Interesting.) The scene doesn't quite have the horrific impact of that panel in issue #3, but it's close.

The art in this issue is particularly impressive, with the shading and colouring on pp8-9 standing out for me. There's a brilliant panel in which Good!Sombra is reflected in Evil!Celestia's eye, which is (of course) deep red. This precedes the scene mentioned above, and adds to its impact. A couple of pages later, as the mirror and prime worlds begin to merge, there's a nightmarish full-page vision of what this actually entails. Pinkie's "There goes the neighbourhood" comment does little to diminish its terrifying power.

The worlds shatter and reform
Hey, Discord! Want a jelly baby?
When people have criticised this issue, and many have, their complaints have often centred on the ending. Yes, it is indeed a bit convenient for Good!Sombra to absorb the evil and turn into Evil!Sombra – but, as the very last panel of all makes obvious, he hasn't done anything quite so simple. In fact, his sacrifice is all the more noble than Prime!Celestia's previous intention to allow herself to be sealed in crystal, as it seems that he is now fated to battle against himself for the rest of his days. He may look like his evil twin now, but that doesn't mean he is that pony.

Not everything worked perfectly – again, Price's Fringe obsession is threatening to get annoying – but I'd far rather have writers who were willing to experiment like this than those who insisted on sticking rigidly to what they knew from the show. Reviewers on 4chan (unsurprisingly) and even IDW's own forums (more startlingly) have often been quite negative about the Reflections arc, but I am not going to join them. And I say that as a big Celestia fan, I might add.

This is a fitting conclusion to a fascinating arc. Yes, you could argue that it was a bit convenient that everything (but Sombra) seemed to have been healed up at the end, but what do you expect in a kids' comic? Besides, that single piece of mirror that Prime!Celestia kept "to help [her] remember" is just begging to be seen again down the track. I do wonder whether we've finished with mirror rifts just yet, and not just in the Equestria Girls series, either. I will happily recommend this: there's clearly plenty of life in the series yet.

The mirrorworld sisters battle
Hey, Luna! Surely you saw this comin'?
  • Looks beautiful, as ever, especially the colours
  • The parallel between Celestia's planned sacrifice and Sombra's actual one
  • We get Egyptian!Celestia and Greek!Luna in one panel!
  • Star Swirl has been a tremendous character
  • Not afraid to go dark when the occasion demands it
  • The ending is undeniably convenient

No comments:

Post a Comment