Friday, 12 July 2013

Comic review: MLP:FiM Micro-series issue #6: Applejack

MLP:FiM Micro-series #6 cover B
Brenda Hickey's very likable cover B
And so we come to the end of the Mane Six's spotlight issues, though the Micro-series itself seems set to continue for quite some time yet. Applejack fans might think it entirely typical that her comic has been left until last — but sometimes that's where the best is saved for. Series editor Bobby Curnow makes his debut as a My Little Pony writer — and yes, he edited himself here! — while artist Brenda Hickey is also a newcomer. As usual, I bought my copy from Birmingham's Nostalgia & Comics shop, so let's see what my £3.15 bought me...

This is very much an Applejack story, in several ways. She works hard, insists she can do what needs to be done by herself, is devoted to her family and guards apples with her life. Well, maybe not her life, but her hat anyway. In all this, it's highly reminiscent of several show episodes — most notably "Applebuck Season". This is both a blessing and a curse, as we'll see. It's certainly a very domestic story, too, in the mould of "Apple Family Reunion"; there's no sign of any non-Apple ponies in the comic at any point, even in cameo roles.

Apple Family group hug
Famous last words...
Curnow seems to be a decent enough writer for Pony, although I don't think his is the strongest of the micros. What he's written here is something I'd classify as a solid, workmanlike "episode" that would have fitted fairly well into season 1. He has AJ's voice down pretty well, and Apple Bloom's youthful enthusiasm too, though I think his strongest character is Granny Smith. I'm not sure about Big McIntosh: most of the time he's very nicely in character, but why that weird scene with him checking his mane in the mirrors? Maybe Cheerilee's coming to tea...

I very much like Hickey's artistic style. It's quite close to being show-accurate, but because she uses black outlines it nevertheless works very well on the page. I'm not a hundred percent convinced by AJ's black freckles, but that's really the only (very minor) complaint I'd make. Hickey's interpretation of the Sass Squatch is nice, in that he comes across as mysterious and mischievous, but certainly not evil. Granny Smith, as ever, understands this better than anypony else at Sweet Apple Acres. There's also a twist near the end that I really didn't see coming.

Applejack sings her song
Print this song, print this song, 1, 2, 3, 4...
Interestingly, the story incorporates a song. All right, so Pinkie sang one last time, and Spike had one in the last main-series arc, but not like this: AJ spends the whole of the centre spread singing a multi-verse number about how she's going to catch the Sass (or not). I'm not sure it's entirely successful, in that so much of the show's musical brilliance comes from its tunes, and that's something we can't see on the page. (Well, not unless IDW starts handing out sheet music with every copy!) It's also rather repetitive and simplistic, even more so than "Raise This Barn" was.

Humour and references usually abound in an MLP comic. There are some nice touches in this one, in particular Big Mac shown asleep holding the Smarty Pants doll. Apple Bloom's wild dashing around when she's trying to decide how to catch the Sass is also fun, though like most people/ponies she misquotes William Congreve (it's savage breast, not beast). Apart from the Sass Squatch's name, there's not much in the way of external referencing this time around, though there's some internal stuff: most notably Granny's pot-banging and pilgrim-pony costume from "Family Appreciation Day".

The Apple Family watch AJ's Sass Squatch impression
When even Granny Smith is dumbfounded, you've got problems
I think Neil Uyetake's lettering deserves a special mention here: there are some very amusing sound effects, the best of which is without doubt Big Mac's self-explanatory "NET SOUND". Another hit is Applejack's "BORK!" when she's apparently reprising Pinkie's attempts to walk like a zombie back in the very first issue of the main series. The panel design this time is generally fairly conventional, with (unsurprisingly) rather less wall-breaking than Pinkie indulged in last month. The exception is the set of circular panels during the song sequence.

AJ has been given a perfectly acceptable storyline, well illustrated and with the ponies nicely in character. The big problem, though, is that we've seen most of this before. AJ working too hard and not accepting help? "Applebuck Season". The importance of the Apple Family to each other? "Family Appreciation Day". With the exception of the Sass himself, the storyline feels like a rehash, rather than something new as Pinkie's and Rarity's were. This is by no means a bad comic, but it lacks that extra spark that characterises the best instalments in this series.

Apple Bloom rushes around
You're slacking, AB: all that and not one mention of cutie marks
  • Hickey's artistic style is attractive
  • Curnow has Granny Smith's character down
  • The Sass Squatch is a nice, if limited, character
  • Clever twist at the end of the story
  • We've seen rather too much of this before
  • Rather a restricted canvas, with no cameos
  • The song doesn't quite work


  1. "A first for these comics is that it incorporates a song."

    ...huh? What about Pinkie's micro? That one had a song.

  2. Er... um... look over there! A flying muffin! *cough* I could give all sorts of reasons for why I think AJ's is different from that one (and Spike's) but the truth is I simply derped this time. Edited; thanks! :P