Thursday, 27 November 2014

Comic review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic issue #25

IDW MLP:FiM comic #25, cover A
Price's A cover just beat out Richard's B for me
The latest arc in the My Little Pony main series, "The Good, the Bad and the Ponies", is a two-part Cook/Price/Breckel affair – and so will be the following one, apparently. I have somewhat mixed feelings about that: these guys have produced some wonderful comics over the time they've been doing it, but I am getting a bit irritated with their clear lack of interest in the pegasi. Fluttershy especially, of course, but Rainbow Dash doesn't tend to get much love, either. Is it better this time round? Let's see.

Well, before I get to that, I'll say that I don't have a problem with the Wild West setting. Yes, it's clich├ęd, but so are pirate ships and jewel heists, and we've had both of those. It makes sense that some of Applejack's enormous extended family would live in a place like Canter Creek, and there's some pleasing continuity in having the desperado cattle from the AJ/Rarity team-up return for a full outing. (Even if they did seem a lot less formidable in that one.) But back to the pegasi...

...and no, they don't get much to do. Fluttershy doesn't do much at all, beyond make one very funny joke with (as it happens) Rainbow Dash. As for Dashie, she gets treated rather badly, too: Twilight (of whom more in a minute) and Rarity use their magic to put out a barn fire and Rainbow just ends up drenched. Admittedly it does allow us to see a truly adorable scene of Dash licking her feathers clean, but that's small compensation. Still, I could live with this if it were the issue's worst sin.

Applejack arguing with Twilight
So, Equestrian citizens have free rein to smash things up? Nice one, Twi
And that's Twilight. Yes, Twilight. This is by far her worst outing in any of the IDW comics so far. Yes, worse than her micro. Why? Because of one piece of truly unbelievable characterisation, when she refuses to use her magic to stop the rampaging bulls, on the grounds that it would be wrong to do this to non-magical Equestrian citizens. These bulls, incidentally (to pick out just two things) badly hurt Applejack right in front of Twi and aim to burn innocent town-dwellers out of their homes.

Twilight's justification for her inaction makes absolutely no sense. In the pirate arc, she didn't have any problem giving ponies little warning zaps to keep them in line. Even if you allow her a suddenly-discovered total pacifism, there are plenty of non-violent means such a powerful alicorn could use to hold back the bulls. After all, in "Castle Mane-ia", she used a freeze spell on her best friends to stop them causing damage to the castle or each other. That would have worked here.

The "Trixie in Manehattan" arc proved that Twilight doesn't have to be in every issue, and therein lies the way out that should have been taken here: Twi should have gone with Spike to the Pony Trek convention. It would have been in character for her to look after the dragon, while her bizarre "chicken spring roll" plan could easily have been cooked up by Pinkie in her stead. Unless next month brings a truly stupendous explanation, what actually happened was a mess.

A flaming bull with Pinkie
Look on the bright side: at least they won't be cold any more
It's a real shame that I've had to spend so long complaining about one thing – but sadly, that one thing desperately undermines the entire story. The rest of the issue, though a little straightforward and predictable at times, is quite enjoyable and Price's art is some of the best I've seen from him so far, playing with Western tropes nicely. The villains themselves are also fairly interesting characters, whose apparent ability to shrug off being coated in burning syrup leads me to wonder what on Equus their hide is actually made of!

We get a few extras this time round. Cook's one-page "How Sheriff Tumbleweed Got His Cutie Mark" is so-so and the picture of Spike's cosplay at the Pony Trek con is disappointingly dull, but the three-page backup Zecora story by Sara Richard is quite another matter. Even with the comic's major problems, it's worth buying for this tale alone, which is spectacularly illustrated. Apparently, Richard has no interest in working on full-length Pony stories: if so, that's a crying shame.

I spotted very few references (beyond the obvious Western ones) for a comic by this lot, though I suppose "kemosabe" might be considered obscure these days. So, on to my wrap-up. Let's face it, if you've read this far then you know what I'm going to say: this is a potentially hugely enjoyable comic reduced to mediocrity by a wildly unconvincing Twilight. I like Twi, but there's no doubt in my mind that it would have been far, far better had she not featured in this issue at all. Sadly, my score has to reflect this.

Sara Richard's backup story
A single panel from Sara Richard's backup story

Yays
  • Richard's amazing art in the backup story
  • Price's art is some of the most eye-catching he's done
  • A little more world-building
  • The villains look like quite interesting characters
  • Fluttershy's "Bull" joke is hilarious
Neighs
  • Twilight
  • Twilight
  • Twilight
  • The pegasi are marginalised again in a C/P/B story
5/10

12 comments:

  1. I'll be honest, I was very disappointed with this issue. I'd say the 5/10 mark is very fair, because the artwork is fantastic, as always. I didn't actually know it was a Price/Cook story this time, as I'd read nothing at all about the next 4 issues. So when I saw the first page, I thought "well, this is almost guaranteed to be a great issue then." How wrong that assumption was, and it's the first time *personally* I'd have given a Price/Cook issue less than an 8/10.

    It had some great moments - for me, the ghost pepper scenes were extremely amusing, and the scene that you mentioned, Dash and her feathers, was about as cute as could be. If it hadn't been for the problems with Twilight's characterisation, I've no doubt it would have been a great issue.

    But Twilight seemed so utterly out of ideas,and her plans were frankly amateurish. They didn't really make much sense and it was obvious that it would never work. But the biggest problem, obviously highlighted above, is quite simply the fact that she refuses to help by using magic. It didn't stop her in goodness knows how many different episodes and comic issues. Or she could have created a shield round the town to block the bulls from getting in, even if it was a temporary fix. She could have frozen them, teleported them far away, tricked them somehow...

    I'm very, very surprised that Ms Cook has made what seems to be such a honking great mistake there. She's managed to write for Twilight before with no problems, so it's a mystery as to what happened this time. And somehow I don't realistically see things improving by next issue.

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    1. Yeah, tbh I'm going to be getting #26 primarily for the art and not worrying too much about the story (except in my review!) and just hoping that the next arc is better. To be honest, this only even made it up to 5 because of Sara Richard: it'd have been a 4 without that backup story. It's probably a good job for Ms Cook that I don't give separate marks for writing and art, since there would have been quite a gap between them this time...

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  2. But you gave Filli Vanilli a 9 out of 10

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    1. So? I didn't particularly like Pinkie in that story, but it didn't undermine the whole plot. Twilight's bizarre characterisation here does. Also, I'd forgive FV almost anything for the final song and Fluttershy's sheer happiness in it: that makes my heart soar, and I mark on enjoyment.

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    2. I'm glad someone else gets the same buzz out of Fluttershy's sheer joy in that.

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  3. Yep. This review reflects my thoughts perfectly. This issue is imo perfect example where you have all the things for enjoyable story, but one of the mane characters characterization just pretty much ruins the story. There were good things like you wrote and I personally can suspend my disbelief for a lot of stuff but Twilight’s reason is just wrong.

    And you can pretty much sum Twilight problem like this. In short, Twily thinks not using her magic to stop bulls is ok even thou they continuously terrorize town, burned up barn, steal food/supplies and don’t respect sheriff. But setting a trap that includes pouring flammable liquid on top of them (I know the liquid is syrup but still) and setting the liquid on fire that is totally ok.

    Too bad this issue was not that good. If there is one really positive thing about this comic (other than Andy’s great art) is Sara Richards backup story. It is shame that we might not see her write full-length story but if she is open to do these mini stories as bonuses that’s fine too.

    Also great review overall Logan. Looking forward your next review :)

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    1. Yes, that's very well put: what's so maddening is the sheer inconsistency of Twilight's positions. I've concentrate on the contrast between her here and her in the show, but you're right: there are internal inconsistencies within the issue, which if anything make it worse.

      And thanks for the compliment! I've lost track of the comics release timeline a little, so I'm not sure what will be next. I'll try to do something a bit different for a Hearth's Warming special. Maybe review the Daring Do Adventure Collection or something. :)

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  4. I agree that Dash and Shy don't get as much as AJ and Rarity do. In fact I have notice how Dash seems to be the comic relief in most of Cook and Price issues (the Rarity micro series springs to mind!) At end of the day a very disappointing issue especially from the strongest pairing the comic series has.

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    1. Yep, I agree with what you say about RD. I don't think Cook and Price hate the pegasi or anything, I think they just prefer to write for the likes of AJ and Rarity. But since they get so much of the cake when it comes to producing issues, it shows up more than if (say) Heather Nuhfer had taken that stance.

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  5. I'd say your review is spot-on. Twi is my favorite character and I absolutely cringed at her portrayal in this issue. To be fair, her enormous magical talent is a big problem for writers: There aren't many mundane situations she couldn't fix almost immediately, so some sort of limiting factor is a good thing... IF it's logical and in keeping with her character. Unfortunately, this was not the case in this issue.

    BTW, I think a review of the Daring Do books would be a great Hearth's Warming special!

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    1. Thanks, and exactly: even a really obvious plot device -- such as the rocks around Canter Creek containing some magic-blocking substance -- would have been been better than what we actually got. Twilight is overpowered and everyone knows it, but even OP characters can be interestingly flawed, as the show itself has shown many times!

      As for a review of the DD books, I'm firming up on that actually being the festive special this year!

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  6. Just wondering, which issues (I'm only up to Nightmare Rarity, no spoilers as to how) did the pegasi get shafted in?

    They got used pretty well in #1-4 and even in #5-6.

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