Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Comic review: MLP Friends Forever #8: Applejack & Rarity

MLP Friends Forever #8 Amy Mebberson cover
Rail replacement bus services are magic
Well, I said that I'd be getting this comic reviewed before the next one came out, and so I am! Okay, only by one day, but who's counting? This issue of Friends Forever, with the slightly forced title "Reins, Trains and Carts with Wheels", has been eagerly awaited ever since it was announced: the Cook/Price/Breckel team (despite a mixed reaction to the "Reflections" arc) is generally still considered IDW's top squad – Breckel came to BUCK and was well received – while Applejack and Rarity usually make for a great double act. Past the break for more!

It's good to see that this comic is well up to the standards we've come to expect. I'll come straight out and say that I don't think it's quite as good as the amazing Rarity or Luna micros, but it's certainly close behind. The road-trip setup works very well and allows a nice variety of scenes as things rollick along – including an almost literal shark-jump (hat) moment – as well as an amusing little reveal right at the end. We even get a sneak preview of a future arc along the way, and one that's potentially intriguing.

Katie Cook writes in much the same way that's generally served her (and us) so well since the very start of the IDW My Little Pony comics line. Things are pretty well paced, in that there's a reasonable intro (with obligatory Derpy) but one in which things happen. After that, everything moves along at a brisk pace, but I rarely felt that the tale was being rushed. My one real beef concerns the flying machine: however canon they may or may not be these days, I'm not really keen on seeing them in MLP.

AJ and Rarity visit Whinnyland
Rarity preferred the version with a single N
I liked the characterisation in this issue. Rarity and Applejack's conversations/arguments about business plans are a particular highlight. (Amusingly, it's Rarity who keeps the more level head.) This does lead to problems from time to time, such as when one argument breaks out in mid-air, but that's ponies for you. Although this is an adventure story, it's probably more of a character piece than you might expect from its bare description. The supporting characters are inevitably backgrounded a bit, but none seemed too off.

The artwork is... well, it's Andy Price. A rather more muted palette than sometimes, with an awful lot of browns, but that suits AJ in particular. Price's facial expressions remain extremely amusing: there's one panel in which Applejack has thrown back her head in frustration, and despite us not being able to see much beyond her wide-open mouth, you just know that this is our AJ. Oh, and there's also a rather decent full-page action scene.

Even for a Cook/Price/Breckel production, the number of references and shout-outs in this comic is incredible. As well as the one in the title, we've got Thelma & Louise in the first line of the first page. There are some National Lampoon gags dotted around, Whinney Land plays a part and Big Jim (the troll from main-series #2) is seen on a billboard. I think I even spotted a Sam & Max Hit the Road reference, which is always good. Oh, and the Marx Brothers. Yup.

Smashing into the mountain
The sculptors were dreading the return of M. A. Larson
I had a very good time with this comic, as I'd hoped and expected that I would. As I said earlier on, it may be a little notch below this creative team's masterworks in the micro series, but that's still very good indeed. It was interesting, funny, well paced and well characterised. I don't think I can ask for much more than that in a kids' comic. I hope the sales figures, which have taken a slight knock recently, solidify again, since this is the sort of thing that deserves to sell.

  • Very enjoyable to read
  • Nice role-reversal characterisation
  • Good use of colour
  • Heaps of references for re-read value
  • That Mount Rushmore parody!
  • The plane still bothers me a little
  • One or two of the joke references are a bit clunky


  1. I've always loved the chemistry between these two, you know your gonna get a good story out of it!

    1. Can't argue with that! I'm hoping we'll get more AJ/R shenanigans in S5 of the show, too. :)

  2. I wasn't at all sure about how well this would turn out, because I'm not all that big a fan of the Rarity/AJ pairing, but the fact that it was the Price/Cook/Breckel team meant that there was no way I was missing this one. And as luck would have it, it did turn out to be a winner for me too. I can't really add much to what you've already said in the review, because that covers it just perfectly. But yeah, I'd certainly agree that it was a really good issue and well worth having paid a couple of bits for.

    I don't know if I missed something really obvious, but I didn't actually manage to catch the hint at the future story arc. But then there seemed to be so much going on within this issue, so knowing me, it was probably something pretty simple. Then again I've no idea what the future story arcs are, as I've not really been reading any previews for issues, so I guess that probably wouldn't have helped!

    With the plane, I'd agree that it somehow just doesn't quite seem to fit in. Yes, helicopters may have turned up in one form or another during the show, but there's just something about them *and* planes that somehow doesn't quite sit right with the rest of it. I kind of like the idea that outside of hot air balloons, the only other means of flight is if you happen to be a pegasus. :)

    1. The future story arc? Well, those Western-themed ponies and the cattle thieves (as in thieves who were cattle) weren't in the comic for the sake of it... they'll be back. Look on the very last page for another hint about how somepony became a legend...

    2. Ahhh, yes I see! Well, that should definitely make for some very interesting story telling then, especially as there's a chance it could be the Cook/Price team telling them.

      Also while skimming through just now, I couldn't help but be once again tickled mercilessly by the look on AJ's face, after she's shaken the water from her mane onto Rarity. (The "boop" picture in the last panel.) What a gloriously drawn face that is!