Saturday, December 21, 2013

Comics Review: MY LITTLE PONY MICRO-SERIES #10: LUNA (IDW Publishing, December 2013)


Katie Cook and Andy Price are starting to remind me of the team of John Lustig and William Van Horn back in the days of "Gladstone I."  In John and Bill's DUCKTALES comic-book stories, while the main characters (Scrooge, HD&L, and Launchpad) were certainly in character, the tales themselves had a certain zany, off-the-wall feel that was only occasionally reflected in the animated series itself.  In the case of MY LITTLE PONY, Katie and Andy take this tendency to, if not an extreme, then certainly much farther than John and Bill ever did.  The major reasons why are that Katie and Andy are big fans of the series (which leads them to pack their panels with in-jokes and references that only Bronies could be expected to get) and that they are more than willing to play with the personae of the main cast if it suits their purposes.  Occasionally, this gets them into trouble with the more literal-minded of fans, for example, when they got flak for couching the courtship of Princess Cadance and Shining Armor (MLP:FIM #11-#12) in the trappings of a 1980s "coming-of-age" movie.  I argued in my review of that issue that C&P were essentially free to do whatever they darn well pleased in telling that story, since the principal characters were so underdeveloped to begin with.  In their treatment of Princess Luna in the final issue of the MLP Micro-Series, Katie and Andy are on somewhat stabler ground, since their depiction of the Princess of the Night as a hyper-enthusiastic, endearingly naive "goddess with a slight case of Aspergers syndrome" doesn't deviate all that far from some other versions of this most volatile of major players.  Suffice it to say, though, that they take their interpretation of Luna pretty far down the road, so much so that at least a couple of "neigh-sayers" will probably take up the challenge to walk it back.  I am not one of them.

Various creators have characterized Luna as everything from a fearful child to an anachronistically imperious goddess to a regretful, guilt-ridden former villain (the latter referring to her age-old guise of Nightmare Moon).  In "The Day Shift," after Luna argues that her sister Celestia's stewardship of the Day can't possibly be as exciting as Luna's stewardship of the Night, the gals (a rather inappropriate term to use in this case, but, given the sitcom-esque trappings of the story, it seems quite fitting) agree to swap jobs.  More accurately, Celestia gets to spend a relaxing day at the spa while Luna assumes all of Celestia's "boring" bureaucratic duties, which prove to be nothing of the kind, making up in bulk what they lack in general interest level.  The Luna who must deal with business meetings, guard inspections, tea parties, and the like is essentially the same zizzed-up, socially awkward, archaism-spouting mare who was first seen (in somewhat decaffeinated form) in the TV ep "Luna Eclipsed" and who later strong-shanked Big Macintosh into being her partner in the Summer Wrap-Up competitions in Cook and Price's MLP:FIM #9-10.  Cook and Price's take on Luna is even funnier and more sharply etched here, as Celestia's long-suffering appointments secretary Kibitz does his best to keep the effervescent, perpetually unpredictable "Moonbutt" "on task."  Luna's confusion over how to verbally and psychologically handle her subjects -- actually, there's a fair amount of debate here over what she should call them besides "subjects" -- leads her to veer between (to take just two examples) rendering Solomon-like judgments on questions of "fair division" and using party guests as living chess pieces.  Needless to say, by the time the day is over, Luna has a newfound respect for Celestia's duties... but now, she is obliged to continue straight on to her standard "Night shift" while Celestia goes to bed.  Better start brewing that coffee, stat!

Outside the peerless Rarity issue, this is the best of the ten Micro-Series offerings, which, taken as a whole, were a real hodgepodge in terms of quality.  I expect consistently better results out of the upcoming FRIENDS FOREVER title, since the whole rationale behind that one is to pair up characters who do not always get a chance to interact, or who have never interacted before, period.  One of the problems with the weaker Micro-Series issues was that the writers tended to spin their stories out of fairly predictable situations (Twilight Sparkle working at a library, Rainbow Dash participating in a competition, Fluttershy overcoming her inhibitions).  The harder that the writers have to work to come up with believable reasons for characters to get together, the more interesting the stories are likely to be.

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