• Let's Review: Zen and the Art of Gazebo Repair

    Big Mac attracts all the ladies, whether he wants to or not.

    Long before Slice of Life shouted out to the fandom, Big McIntosh was our guide through the many bizarre activities in Ponyville.

    Let's look back after the break. Be sure you've read the comic before reading!

    Let's be straightforward: this is my favorite comic. Of all the issues IDW has produced, this one remains the funnest read and the one I'd recommend to newcomers. How has it stood the test of time?

    Normally I like to go through the story linearly and dissect what works. Yet there are so many components that I fear I'd lose most of you halfway. Much like the episode Slice of Life, this two-parter invites us to shift focus between unrelated parties. Some are easy to track as they have very prominent roles. Other storylines can be as brief as one panel.

    Instead of drowning in details, let's tackle the big picture.

    Art Galore

    Andy Price cemented himself as my comic favorite artist here. Every panel is lively and character expressions range far and wide. The normally stoic Big McIntosh enjoys several memorable looks.

    The greatest compliment, however, is how Price sets up the panels. Often times the panels will visually flow one into another or overlap in ways that create a hierarchy for the reader. I'm never lost while reading because the comic guides my eye through a crafted layout. Even a simple background of shapes can convey the characters' thoughts.

    Fleetfoot, you might want to get that checked. 

    We get a ton of returning characters from outside Ponyville, though many are background elements. Add in plenty of new looking ponies and a ton of small references and you have a comic that will keep you visually entertained for at least 4-5 reads.

    Wait! Self-insert OC! 0/10. Worst ever. Unsubscribe.

    What's simple is what's wonderful

    Big McIntosh wanders Ponyville's "Summer Wrap Up and Hoedown" in search for nails to fix his family's gazebo. There we go. Summary done. This is easy.

    I could give context for this panel. But I don't wanna.

    Who is working against Big Mac's goal? Everypony! The whole of Ponyville is an unintentional antagonist. The Crusaders carry on a quest to gather fireworks and end up decimating several of Big Mac's goals. Fleetfoot–long before her shadier dealings in Rainbow Falls–becomes smitten with the giant stallion and follows him throughout the arc. Even Princess Luna gets involved and drags him into the town's games.

    Luna's a particular interest as this follows up her transformation in the Nightmare Rarity arc. No longer plagued with doubt, she's become more hyperactive and playful. It's the sillier aspects of her Luna Eclipsed persona times ten. This would be Luna's default for many future comics, for good or ill. In the moment, however, she's just fun.

    Blame your sister? For that awesome shirt?
    No can do!

    Folks who didn't enjoy Slice of Life might find this a better alternative because Big McIntosh serves as a guide. He's the best possible character. Because he's so quiet and reserved, he plays the spectator to surrounding events. He's the crimson thread weaving several disconnected events together. We as the readers walk beside him, witnessing the town's quirks.

    The town itself becomes a character. Many times Ponyville has served as witness or victim to the Mane Six's adventures. Now we see the town ponies celebrating, arguing, detonating, dancing, and overall being themselves. It's one of the best things about the comics' potential. Many fans debate whether or not they're canon within the larger franchise, but no one really objects when the comics flesh out smaller parts of Equestria. How many stories exist just by walking down a Ponyville street and looking around?

    I tried to tell Seth we didn't need to show Trixie,
    but he used puppy eyes. Impossible.

    That's not to say the Mane Six are absent. In a nice shout-out to G1 fans, Twilight and company recount an adventure from The End of Flutter Valley. Here's a little guide:

    The biggest draw of all, however, is the biggest pony in town.

    BIG McIntosh

    This comic came out when Big Mac was a relative unknown. His Ponytones involvement, his pranks on Applebloom, and his big moment in Brotherhooves Social were all distant dots on the horizon. I've said before that Katie Cook has made Equestria's unknown her playground. What's more unknown than Big Mac's inner workings?

    What we see in a guy who is focused to the point of obliviousness. He's a character who enjoys the beautiful peace of the farm and avoid the hustle of crowds. Even after reconsidering his journey, Big Mac enjoys the festival on his own. He's far from anti-social but seems to prefer some distance. That only makes the advances of several mares all the more interesting.

    A lot of Big McIntosh's appeal in the show has been undermining male stereotypes. He likes to have a doll. He dreams of being princess of apples. These moments are fun, but in some ways I think they limit Big McIntosh to comedic relief. This comic treats him as a true character and is all the stronger.

    All that said, fans who favor adventure-based stories might share in Big Mac's frustration. This is low-stakes, high comedy storytelling. There's no real sense of risk and the biggest we get to nefarious ends is Spike's business hustling. If the humor doesn't carry the piece then it will fall through.

    Give it a read and see if the town's celebration takes hold. I've yet to get tired of reading it even several years later.

    Let's add a little something extra in the comments. Which pony would you ship with Big McIntosh?

    What? Don't give me that look! You know fans are dying to say!