Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Comic review: MLP Friends Forever #13: Rarity and Babs Seed

MLP:FF 13 main cover
Rarity looks like she's just stepped off an actual carousel
It's comic time again! Now that I've caught up a little, I'm actually reviewing an issue which came out less than a week ago. This is what I try to do all the time, honest! It just doesn't always work out that way. Anyway, this time there's one of the slightly more unusual team-ups: Rarity and Babs Seed. (And yes, I'm with those who'd like to see Babs in the show again at some point.) Jeremy Whitley's last Pony writing gig was on the solid main-series issue #24, while Agnes Gabowska last appeared as the artist for the reasonable Fluttershy/Iron Will FF. Off we go.

The story this month begins with Sweetie Belle getting an ear infection (yes, we inevitably get a couple of mild balance-losing gags) so that she can't travel with Rarity to Manehattan. The latter is visiting to see Sapphire Shores, who herself makes a brief but significant appearance later. The pony who knocks at Rarity's door, however, is not the Pony of Pop but Babs. Rarity offers to spend the day with Apple Bloom's cousin, but inevitably her trips to the spa, hairdresser etc don't go down too well... Sapphire prompts a rethink.

Babs and Rarity chat in Rarity's studio
"Rarity! Babs! Stop making such an exposition of yourselves!"
And there's not much more to this comic than that. There doesn't really need to be, though; it's a simple story but told well and without any need for flashiness. The most eye-catching part (unless you count Sweetie's Spike plushie!) is reserved for the end, with a nice call-back to Ultra Pony Roller Derby as seen way back in "Call of the Cutie". This scene also gives the writers a chance to use some puns I suspect Hasbro might frown upon otherwise, such as "Scarswirl" and "Shining Harmer". (The latter looks awfully like Cadance. Just saying...)

Garbowska's pleasant art complements Whitley's unshowy narration pretty well, and unlike with the mess we had with the Western arc in the main series, you never feel as though you've left Equestria and entered some parallel universe. I particularly liked the re-use of Babs's apartment and the footnote reminding readers that it had been used before, in issue #22. This sort of thing makes you feel part of a connected universe. Less so, unfortunately, the overly extended bout of "Oh Babs, you're the one who..." exposition earlier on.

Ultra Pony Roller Derby
See that tail on the right? Yes. Exactly...
This is a very solid edition of Friends Forever (even Babs's mane-blow is a plot point!) and the sort of thing that I feel fits very well indeed with this side-series' style. Although it would be silly to claim that it was the most exciting or hilarious comic that IDW have ever produced for the My Little Pony franchise, it's enjoyable and cute, solidly written and equally solidly illustrated. It's definitely an awful lot more in keeping with the feel of Equestria than certain other issues we've seen recently... as such, I have no hesitation in recommending this one.

  • Everypony feels nicely in character
  • Steadily paced throughout
  • Well drawn for the most part
  • Rarity's past similarities with Babs
  • The roller derby player names
  • Good callback to the Trixie arc
  • The early exposition is clunky
  • Not what you'd call a thrilling story


  1. Would it kill them to give Babs a bit of her accent? I know people get their panties in a twist about written accents, but I think a little goes a long way. At least have her say 'dat' rather than 'that' in the example above. I know it's unlikely, but anyone who hadn't heard her would never know from the above examples that she has a particular sound to her. I mean, she does say that's in Manehattan, but that's pretty slight. I don't want an accent so think as to be distracting, but I like a little bit. It adds character.

    1. Except that she doesn't say "dat" in the show -- eg in the bit where she breaks the float's wheel in "One Bad Apple", she says "Tthere's more where that came from", pronouncing the "th" both times, at least to my ears. If they were going to give her a distinctive "Manehattan voice" (and I can see the argument for that) I'd rather they did it with vocabulary and phrasing, just as I prefer Applejack to be written like that rather than "ah-speak".

    2. Well, she must waver back and forth, because she definitely says "Oh... dat." when they refer to her missing cutie mark at the beginning of the episode.

    3. I don't care one way or the other how they do it, but her speak above is very flat to me. If I'd never heard the character, I'd have no idea that she didn't sound like, say, Scootaloo. It's a small sample, of course. Maybe the other pages do a better job selling her background, but I hate it when I know a character has a distinctive voice and it doesn't come through at all. Whether that's through accent, phrasing, word choice, whatever, I'd like to see more of it. I'm good with all of it.

    4. There's the odd speech bubble elsewhere in the comic where there's a little touch of it -- eg "Sorry to bother ya". Not much, though.

  2. I took a chance on this issue, basically for little other reason than the cover. I think the cover (I got the same one as you) is outstanding, especially the look on Bab's face, and I was really impressed with how Rarity had been drawn too. Unfortunately the story itself didn't do a thing for me. I think again that a big part of that is the artwork - it just doesn't really grab me at all and although some would say "it's the story that matters" that isn't strictly true when you're talking about a comic. It's *very* much a personal thing, and I'm sure there are plenty of fans of the art who love it, but it's just not for me.

    The story itself... I guess I shouldn't have just assumed it would be based around the cover. I had this odd idea (as always ;) ) that it was about Rarity ending up rollerskating and doing things she wouldn't normally dream of, whereas in fact it turned out to be the other way around. I don't know... maybe I need to read it again but certainly on that first read, it just didn't do much for me at all. Still, at least I got the really nice cover. :)

    1. Ah, that's a shame. I liked it, but it is very slice-of-lifey this month, and I probably like straight SoL more than many people. Garbowska isn't my favourite artist, but I think what she draws is decent, and I liked the roller derby scene especially the Cadance tease. With last month's FF (Pinkie/Twilight) being comedy and next month's (Luna/Spike) looking like adventure, it seems they like to mix things up a bit, which I approve of.

    2. Plus of course, that cover is by Amy Mebberson, so the style was always going to be a bit different inside.