• Let's Review: Applejack's Micro

    Well, I've already gone over a comic where Applejack straight-up ended a guy. Let's see how she did with a mythical creature.

    Have a look back at this Micro issue before diving within!

    Ah, AJ. Being my second-favorite pony, you'd think I could point to an episode or comic and say, "This! This is why I like her so much!" For a long time, I couldn't do that. It wasn't until The Mane Attraction that I thought we had a story that really displayed her best traits. 

    That's not to say there haven't been some great moments along the way, but I realize that Applejack's a pony who wins folks over gradually. This Micro comic is a good example of why it's hard to condense Applejack's appeal.

    Before diving in, let's talk art. Brenda Hickey's linework is very solid in this. The characters keep great proportions, the lines are crisp and consistent, and the overall look is very true to the show. I'd put this on par with Andy Price's work, with the exception of expressions. That's not to say Hickey doesn't have some memorable expressions, but Price's work pushes things further in that category.

    I love how this comic renders the farm on a winter's night. 

    Color is something I want to tackle a little later, but Heather Breckel created some great balance in the pieces, especially contrasting the Apple family's earthy-hued home against the winter landscape. The only hiccup I see is Granny Smith's shawl. For some reason, the apples were inked black. I'm betting this was a limitation from the comic medium. It registers, but it doesn't derail anything.

    Hearth's Warming time at Sweet Apple Acres (pre-Pie Family crossovers), and the whole Apple family is enjoying the work and the togetherness. Except for AJ, who doesn't make it more than five panels without a freakout. 

    I sometimes wonder if she and Twilight compare freakout notes.

    This is a hiccup for many Applejack stories. AJ's the even keel of the group. The one who stays grounded when every other pony seems to be going nuts. So when the story requires her to be the unreasonable one, it's a tough shift. It doesn't feel as funny as a Twilight or Rarity freakout because Applejack's the more practical. It feels like it's happening to fit the story rather than the character. 

    Though the comica does show that this comes from her desire to support her family. No questioning that Applejack will make mistakes for the right reasons. So what's she going to do when part of their crop is absconded by a mysterious figure?


    I love it when MLP does a switcheroo on a mythical idea. It's familiar enough to bring on familiarity but fresh enough to make us curious. The Sass Squash is an odd quid-pro-quo kinda being. He's stealing, but he's giving back. Yet this isn't the Squash Family... Side note, can we get a Squash Family in another episode? That sounds kinda funny. 

    Each has their own idea how to catch this being, but Applejack decides to do it solo so her family can enjoy the holiday. Though the events have a new spin, a lot of folks will recognize the same storyline from Applebuck Season. AJ attempts multiple captures and ends up humiliated each time, but stubbornly refuses to ask for help. She also gets to feature some pretty absurd expressions and poses. 

    Oh, and we learn that Big McIntosh might have a vain side. I find this idea delightful. 

    Do you think making a yoke look good is easy? It is not!

    This comic followed after Pinkie Pie's Micro, and it too featured a musical spread. Yet it didn't seem to stand out in the fandom's memory. Let's do a quick compare and contrast.

    There are several things working in Pinkie's favor here. First and foremost is setting. Ponyacchi's troubles took place at a circus. Anyone who has heard the music there has a general idea even if they can't read the notes. The visual instruments help as well. Applejack's song takes place on a farm, but the country music implied there is more vague. We all likely have a different idea of how it would sound. Both songs feature a rhyming scheme, yet Pinkie's is more elaborate and story-driven while Applejack's focuses on shorter rhymes. And while I'm more a fan of Hickey's artwork for general storytelling, Ben Bate's art really conveys the energy for Pinkie's performance.

    And perhaps AJ's aware that her song isn't having the same impact, because enough is enough.

    Just off-panel, Fluttershy is fainting from Applejack's peevishness. 
    Yet it's here that the artwork really shines. Her pride wounded, Applejack has a quiet moment to ask a hard question. Everything about this panel works wonderfully. Applejack is a small figure in the center, so she's the focus without dominating the space. She feels small and helpless, and we see her that way. The violet gradient in the snow contrasts her coat, mane, and scarf. Even the puffs of breath reinforce the cold. Plus the black sky makes the snowflakes stand out. Small, cold, and frustrated. Applejack's feelings crystallize

    Humbled by her attempts, Applejack finally asks for help and the Apples set to combining their ideas. End result being that they capture the creature... and it's Granny Smith.

    I have no snark for this. It's too adorable.

    First time I read this, I remember thinking, Great. Mare-Do-Well 2.0. An engineered conflict meant to teach a stubborn pony a lesson. I didn't enjoy that the first time, so I wasn't too keen on a repeat. 

    1. Where did she get a mecha suit?
    2. Can I have one?

    Then I looked back at Applejack's struggle and realized it wasn't a 1-for-1 comparison. Granny Smith makes it clear that she intended for all three of her grandfoals to chase the Sass Squash, but Applejack's stubbornness changed the plan. More importantly, my grief with Mare-Do-Well was that Rainbow Dash hadn't the ability to look at herself and do some introspection, so even after all they went through her friends still had to spell out the lesson. Applejack takes a while, but she does stop and she does question her actions. She came to the right conclusion without having to be spoon-fed.

    There's one extra twist to the comic, but it doesn't leave a big impact. Like many ideas introduced in the comics, it's a one-shot and I'm doubtful we'll see this creature again.

     Was it dancing the macarena? I bet it was the macarena.

    I said before that this comic highlights why it's hard to condense Applejack's appeal. Her stubborn and family-focused nature are on full display, but that works to undermine her. Applejack is a character who needs someone else to play against to show her best. Her family fulfills this need, but the focus is flipped.

    So often, Applejack stories try to force her into being unreasonable. Yet I think Applejack is at her best when you throw her into the midst of chaos and watch how she responds. She doesn't make a good Mad Hatter, but she's a fantastic Alice. 

    All that said, this is a fun comic. It's great to see the Apples play off one another, there's no shortage for comedy, and I do love the idea of the Sass Squash. I can't say it's Applejack at her best but it is entertaining, and that's the most important goal.

    Twitter: Silver Quill