Friday, 3 October 2014

Comic review: My Little Pony Annual 2014

MLP 2014 Annual, main cover
I can't help thinking the Pharaoh looks a bit like Sombra...
This year's My Little Pony Annual, which is a Power Ponies special, has been rather overshadowed by the brouhaha surrounding Ted Anderson's position at IDW, still unresolved at the time of going to press. This review isn't going to say anything more about that, but will simply concentrate on assessing the comic itself. As well as Anderson's writing, we also get Ben Bates' swansong as an illustrator before he moves to pastures new, and good old Heather Breckel doing the colours. Past the break for more!

The team took a brave decision with this one, in that we're following the adventures of the real Power Ponies, not just the Mane Six in Maretropolis. Given how poorly the "Power Ponies" episode was received by the fandom, though, that may actually have been the obvious choice. Was it the right one? Yes. It causes some oddities along the way, and there are times when you yearn for a bit of pure Pinkie logic, but on the whole I think it works.

The villains enjoying the fight
The Mane-iac was the author of many widely-cited papers on evil laughter
I want to start by saying how brilliant Bates' artwork is for this issue. I'd go so far as to say that it's a contender for the best-looking of all IDW's My Little Pony comics, with the old-time superhero comic homage extending to the occasional presence of a (rather bumbling) narrator. Naturally, Breckel's colours complement the lines wonderfully well, and the result is a comic that's an absolute pleasure to handle and look through, even when not reading avidly.

If you are taking an interest in the words, then Anderson handles those more than competently. The plot is reasonably compelling, and takes an interesting risk by making the villains (at times) seem more sympathetic than the bickering Power Ponies themselves. Humdrum, naturally, is the catalyst for their redemption – though unfortunately the reason for it, revealed in the very last panel, is disappointingly weak compared to much of what has gone before.

The Power Ponies are zapped by the evil device
The orb contains a ten-hour YouTube video of "Over Two Rainbows"
Although the villains introduced in this comic are generally fine, and the subplot where they argue about their name is hilarious, the one with the most presence (clearly the case in-universe, too) is the one we already know: the Mane-iac. She's great fun all round, even if the lack of a single hair pun is close to unforgivable. Unsurprisingly, she's also the star of a rather odd eight-page back-up story in which she goes through a mirror portal (yes, again) to find her two-legged equivalent.

You'd be annoyed if there weren't quite a few references in a comic like this, and they're present and correct, though you suspect that Cook and Price would have included more. The mayor of Maretropolis is named Blossom, clearly a Powerpuff Girls reference. Long-face is (apparently) inspired by the Sandman series. The Phony Pharaoh nods enthusiastically at King Tut from the 1960s Batman series. Oh, and there are those donkeys, but we won't talk about those any further. :P

The two Mane-iacs meet!
"I'm secretly a pony princess... oops, sorry, wrong secret! *squee*"
This is a really enjoyable Annual, and it would be sad if events surrounding its writer stopped people from recognising its considerable qualities. It does perhaps lose a little energy in the latter stages, but the first half is utterly brilliant and will delight anyone who's ever so much as looked at a classic-style superhero comic. Which is just about all of us, right? It looks good, it reads well and it makes you think. I have to recommend a comic like that!

  • Looks absolutely wonderful
  • Subverts expectations of who's sympathetic
  • Very funny subplot about the evil group's name
  • The Mane-iac remains a brilliant villain
  • Rather a soft ending to the main story...
  • ...and to the backup story

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