Monday, September 9, 2013

Comics Reviews: MY LITTLE PONY MICRO-SERIES #1-#7 (February-August 2013, IDW)

I'm finally all caught up with IDW's other MY LITTLE PONY title, which, since its inception, has spotlighted individual ponies (or, in one case, a well-defined group of same) in unrelated, "done-in-one" stories.  A number of different artists and writers have worked on these, so the level of quality has varied.  None of the issues are terrible, but it's tolerably easy to pick up which stories "work" and which don't.

I'm going to cover these in increasing order of quality, for reasons which will become clear at the end.


Thomas (LOVE AND CAPES) Zahler handles the Twilight Sparkle book (issue #1), which gets the Gray Flannel Suit Award as the most boring of these offerings.  Twilight could at least have demonstrated her skill at magic somewhere along the way, but, no, we get a mystery with a depressingly predictable "twist ending," and the entire story takes place within the scintillating confines of the Canterlot Archives.  It's OK at best.

Bobby Curnow and Brenda Hickey's Applejack story (#6) finds AJ trying to track down a giant squash monster (eeyup, you read that aright) who threatens to interfere with the Apple Family's Hearth-Warming Eve celebration.  I'll give the creators points for zeroing in on AJ's two most prevalent character traits -- her desire to protect her family and her stubbornness, which sometimes leads her to bite off more than she can chew.  The ending is a bit of a mess, however, and the juxtaposition of the "Mane 6"'s most down-to-Earth character and a ghastly cartoonish gourd lifted straight from "Duckworth's Revolt" (to say nothing of "The Great Vegetable Rebellion") doesn't sit well with me, in my stomach or anywhere else.

I'd call these next two issues "problem" issues: they're decent enough stories, but propped atop what I would consider to be at least partially shaky foundations.  The show has given Fluttershy (#4) numerous chances to improve her assertiveness skills, so Barbara Kesel and Tony Fleecs' scenario of the diffident one deciding to enter an "extreme art contest" isn't so far-fetched.  However, the idea that she expresses her artistic talents in a hidden "Chamber of Extreme Knitting" strikes me as a bit... creepy.  I'd almost prefer one of her occasional spasms of "Flutterrage" (and, yes, one is on display here).  Kesel and Fleecs definitely "get" Fluttershy, but they choose a rather strange way in which to express that understanding.

In most TV eps featuring Pinkie Pie (#5), half the time you want to hug the zany pink pony and half the time you want to strangle her with her own entrails.  Ted Anderson and Ben Bates accomplish the near-impossible in this issue, making Pinkie entirely likable throughout.  She even solves a dilemma (and prolongs a career) all by herself when she convinces her aging longtime idol, the clown-pony Ponyacci, to turn his talents towards training younger ponies in his merry methods.  Sounds great... but the thing is that the anarchic, fourth-wall-busting Pinkie is in many respects the opposite of a performing clown, whose routines are scripted and generally well-known (Pinkie quotes many of Ponyacci's howlingly bad jokes from memory).  Aside from enthusiasm and the general desire to spread happiness, I don't see that much similarity between Pinkie and Ponyacci.  This is definitely a case of "A for effort," though.

There aren't any visible holes in Ryan K. Lindsay and Tony Fleecs' Rainbow Dash (#2) offering, though we've seen this routine (RD fights an aerial menace, appears to be losing, then turns it around through sheer force of will -- not to mention ego) several times before.  Lindsay's script seems a little wordy and self-conscious at times.

This was the most pleasant surprise of the seven.  Ted Anderson and Ben Bates eschew the standard Cutie Mark Crusaders (#7) plot of the girls striving to find their destinies and get their "cutie marks," opting instead for more of a character piece that bears more than a passing resemblance to the Gummi Bears episode "Boggling the Bears."  The CMC discover and befriend an "Imp," a shape-changing, gemmy sort of... thing... and make fast friends with it, even inducting it into their club.  Unfortunately, they're just as quick to wring "Imp" out with incessant demands to turn into this, that, or the other thing.  This works well because it is just the sort of thing that excitable young girls with active imaginations would do, regardless of whether they are trying to earn "cutie marks."  Needless to say, the kids finally see the error of their ways and return "Imp" to its home until all of them "mature."  Bates' sketchy yet effective artwork is a decided improvement on his effort in the Pinkie Pie issue.

... And Katie Cook and Andy Price's Rarity issue (#3) simply blows all the other one-shots away.  It's not simply that C&P are far and away the best writer and artist working on IDW's MLP:FIM books; it's that Rarity is SO good a character that she naturally lends herself to the creation of a more complex, funnier, and more multi-layered story.  I'll expand upon the reasons why I've come to love Rarity in an upcoming post (and discuss this ish in more detail in the process), but suffice it to say that POGO's Miss Ma'amselle Hepzibah -- for many years my favorite female character in comics and/or animation -- suddenly has a tres serieuse rival for my affections.  This is almost as unexpected a development as the discovery that I liked MLP:FIM more than I did Kimba.
 Ne pas regarder en arrière, quelque chose peut être gagner sur vous!

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