Monday, 5 January 2015

Comic review: Equestria Girls Holiday Special 2014

Equestria Girls Holiday Special 2014 cover
Even Reformed!Sunset seems to need a semi-evil grin
Okay, it's time once again for me to start talking about My Little Pony comics! Rather ironically, my review of the Equestria Girls Holiday Special has been delayed by my holidays, but hey ho. This is a Ted Anderson/Tony Fleecs collaboration; Heather Breckel did do the colours, but she's not credited on the cover for some reason. It's a bit longer (48pp) and more expensive (I paid £5.99) than the usual comics, and has an actual spine rather than staples, The cover design is about as generic as it gets, so let's move on to the spoiler-filled meat of this review.

One thing to be said straight away is that this is very reminiscent of "Ponyville Confidential", right down to the culprits behind the secret-leaking being the CMC. At least Diamond Tiara doesn't get a look-in this time, although we've not seen enough of her in the EG universe to have much of an idea of how she might differ from her equine counterpart. I quite enjoyed "Ponyville Confidential" as an episode, but I know that some people really disliked it and if you're one of those people, you might likewise find this comic grating.

That aside, the story works fairly well, especially if you've followed Sunset Shimmer's redemption tale through Rainbow Rocks. We don't know exactly what EG characters celebrate in the winter as an equivalent to Hearth's Warming: this is one occasion on which the distinctively American habit of using the generic word "holidays" is actually very handy! Inevitably, though, it snows. I wonder sometimes what Australian and other Southern Hemisphere readers who think of barbecues rather than snow might make of this sort of thing!

Sunset Shimmer pleads her innocence
I don't think we got a Derpy cameo this time, so Vinyl will have to do
The setup is that Sunset admits to Applejack that she hasn't been home for the holidays in many years. Exactly where she has spent these breaks since her leaving of Equestria is never revealed, though it seems a little unlikely that a high-schooler would be allowed to spend it truly "alone", to use Sunset's word. Be that as it may, AJ is naturally aghast and calls a "Friendship Emergency" with the rest of the HuMane Five, at which they decide to have a round of slumber parties at each pony's house, culminating in a stay at Sweet Apple... um, House? Dunno.

We get to see the first three parties. Pinkie, inevitably, is the first host, followed by Rarity and Rainbow Dash. These are quite amusingly portrayed, especially the little scene about Fluttershy the Gamer. I think it may be possible to overdose on slumber parties, though, so we could probably manage without any more for a while. We never actually get to see Fluttershy host a party; her mysterious family background is actually lampshaded early on in the story, but even later on there's no explanation as to why we move straight to AJ's for the finale.

Conflict is provided by the faintly embarrassing secrets revealed by Gabby Gums Anon-a-miss. There seems to be a law that all comics aimed at the tween market must rely heavily on mobile phones in their pages, but at least "MyStable" plays a believable part – there are some nice touches here, such as Pinkie having vastly more friends than anyone else and amusing textual cameos from Maud. One little observation: yet again, the browser version of the site is clearly modelled on a Mac browser. Come on, creatives, you may mostly use Macs but it would be a bit more believable if some of your characters had PCs!

Pinkie Pie's MyStable page
The real is just a blank page – and not owned by Hasbro!
A word now on the artwork. Tony Fleecs, while he's not my favourite artist in the (My)Stable, has worked out a style that works now, and I think he's pretty good at drawing the EG characters. There's the occasional rough moment – I don't much like his Scootaloo, and Sweetie's grin while apologising seems out of place – but for the most part they work; Apple Bloom and Sunset Shimmer herself are particularly good. It's also noticeable in this comic that Fleecs now seems to be more confident in drawing the characters in a wide variety of poses, something that really helps in adding variety.

Finally, a couple of other thoughts. I really liked the idea of having Sunset write to (pony) Twilight for advice via the book we first saw in Rainbow Rocks. It works very well, and allows Twilight to remind Sunset of the story of the Windigos – though that doesn't provide an instant solution. It's also interesting that the CMC get six months' detention: that's a harsher punishment than Gabby Gums received, though of course Diamond Tiara's blackmail was a mitigating factor there. Mind you, perhaps Equestria just is a more forgiving society.

There aren't many shout-outs and references (that I noticed, anyway) so I'll get straight on to my assessment. I was quite happy with this comic; I don't think it's as strong as the excellent Power Ponies Annual, but it's certainly very readable. The story isn't particularly startling or original, but it flows well and is decently paced, the extra space allowing it to breathe. The artwork is generally pretty good, too. This might not make a great purchase as a first experience of Equestria Girls, but if you have some background knowledge it's worth picking up. My first star-rated comic review, and it's a solid three.

Pony!Twilight replies to Sunset's message
But you can use the mirror all the time now, Twi! You can help!
  • Sunset Shimmer continues to impress
  • Well paced, making use of the extra space
  • The link with Pony!Twilight via the book
  • MyStable provides some entertainment
  • Gamer!Fluttershy does as well, come to that
  • Generally quite good-looking artwork
  • The plot is very close to "Ponyville Confidential"
  • Runs along a fairly predictable path
  • Rather a dull cover design 
  • Spelling Maud's name wrong (okay, once) is very sloppy

No comments:

Post a Comment