• Let's Review – The Cutie Mark Crusaders Micro

    If my backpack or car sprouted eyes and started talking in musical notes, I'd probably double-check the last thing I drank. Not a problem for the CMC, who know what those eyes mean.

    Let's talk about the Cutie Mark Crusaders' Micro. Beware of spoilers if you haven't read this comic yet!

    Of all the Micro series, this issue stands out by its very nature. Most issues were supposed to be about a single character, and therefore I read them hoping to see each character at their best and worst.

    But the Crusaders' comic focuses on three characters, none of whom know themselves well enough to show their best. Their role has always been about pursuing growth. We knew their individual talents since The Show Stoppers, new cutie marks or no, but they were still on the hunt. So let's see how this comic handles the youngest characters.

    For the artwork... I could go on for hours. The line work and colors are done by Ben Bates, who also worked on the Pinkie Pie Micro. Yet the style difference is so dramatic. Don't get me wrong. Pinkie's story had some great and energetic artwork, bu this is the best artwork in the entire comic series. A very subjective opinion, but I've read through other issues and can't find an equal. The thing is, this artwork only works in this kind of story.

    The reason being that I can sum it up in one word: scribbles. It may not look like it at first, but there's very little feathering or blending within the colors. Perhaps a median color to help blend, but by and large it's all solid lines arranged just right to trick the eye into doing the blending. The same could be said for the line work, especially around character eyes. If one looks closely, we can see that the pupils are often not solid black as they would with most inkings. There are tiny gaps as if a young hand filled in just enough to get the point across.

    All the artwork in this has a storybook quality to it. How appropriate for a tale about three children?

    I used to think this during summer break. Didn't realize I wasn't using the time effectively. 
    Rare is the youth who does. 

    One week into summer vacation, and the Crusaders have already tried everything in Ponyville that could help earn their cutie marks. I take this to mean that they've decimated half of Ponyville and been forbidden from the rest. There's a reason these three would make friends with Discord.

    So off they go, unsupervised, into the unknown forest where they promptly get lost and fall into a cavern. There they discover a giant gem, which Rarity can't identify and seems not the least bit worried that her sister and friends are wearing a quarter of the forest.

    Oh yeah, Spike's in this issue as well!

    Turns out that it's not a gem at all. The Greater Equestrian Mimicker (Globulus Improbulus) is a counterpart to the Changelings. And in a nice bit of comic continuity, the Crusaders react to this idea with the proper fear.

    Important question:
    Why are these foals not in therapy?

    Yet Mimickers are more friendly kind of shapeshifter. While Changelings have so far only communicated in hisses and wicked laughter, "Imp" speaks in melodic notes. The funny thing is that this idea plays off a long-standing tradition. "Mimics" are a fairly common idea in role playing and adventure games, often disguising themselves as treasure chests, only to attack.

    Here, the treasure is obvious but there is no malice. This is an innocent child's tale, where the unknown is a source of excitement and discovery. It's the kind of story kids might envision for their own summer vacation (in between rounds of Pokemon Go). Young Mimickers test out any variety of shapes and forms throughout life, settling on a consistent shape in adulthood. The Crusaders see a parallel between their cutie mark quest, but I picture another comparison. His Dark Materials, best know for the book, The Golden Compass (aka Northern Lights), featured "demons" that were people's spirits. They could shift between animal forms before settling on one species as the child matured.

    Why do I bring up a separate series? Because of the theme contrast. His Dark Materials featured a dark and cruel unknown. Betrayal after betrayal, often by adults, and any number of threats preying upon the young heroes. This story lies on the opposite end of the spectrum, like a child's picture book. The Crusaders have no hesitation about taking this new discovery home, and neither Rarity nor Twilight tries to stop them. What follows is a set of mini adventures that partially show off the Crusaders' individuality. Since Imp can take on almost any shape except ponies, Applebloom uses her as a test for an engineering design. The end result is a souped-up cart that feeds Scootaloo's need for speed.

    Though personally, those eyes and wheels just remind me of Speed Buggy.

    He was like Scooby Doo, but more annoying.

    Yes, I'm old. Shush!

    Anyway, after almost committing the first Equestrian vehicular mare-slaughter, the Crusaders try using Imp for fashion. At first I cried foul as Sweetie Belle is known for music, and Imp's tones was a perfect match. Yet when I thought about it I realized that Sweetie Belle has never had an episode that focused on her musical talents. Almost every story focused upon her featured her relationship to Rarity. So it does make sense that she would try to duplicate Rarity's talents, with wonderful results.

    Heresy! I demand that we have costumes like this at the next Bronycon!
    Cosplayers, ATTACK!

    Imp becomes overwhelmed by all this, vanishing into town and leading the Crusaders on a two-page spread chase. Though the spread looks less hypnotic than the artwork, the content of the various flea market stalls makes for a fun read. You can invest a good deal of time spotting show characters, comic characters, and some pop culture references. Case in point, I'm sure many of you can find Waldo down below; but can you likewise spot Ponyacci and Bebop from Ninja Turtles?

    Get ready for a blast of nostalgia as the chase leads to Golden Oaks Library, and the Crusaders admit they weren't thinking of Imp's development, only their own entertainment. I don't say this as an insult to the young, but children are selfish by default. Their world-view is developing and it's hard to see beyond the immediate self. So when the Crusaders admit their error and apologize to Imp, they're gaining a footstep towards thinking of others.

    Yet in a true head-scratcher moment, they return Imp to her cave and vow not to come back until they've matured. Seems like a pretty strong absolute when a little behavior change would do. Still, good that they did because Mommy Mimicker was just behind Imp, and I don't think you'd want to anger a boulder... who was totally okay with three fillies larking off with her child.

    "You'd have crushed them all to get me back, right?"
    "Of course."

    I'm tempted to call this The Bad Parenting Micro, as the adults are woefully poor at looking after the young. Yet I think even that falls in line with the idea of a children's storybook. This is an innocent tale where new discovers have no malice, mistakes do not put others in much danger, and of course kids aren't going to envision stories where their parents or siblings are hounding them mid-adventure. The artwork in particular carries a storybook quality, which is why it fits so well. I don't know if Bates' style would match as well in a comedy-adventure like what Andy Price draws.

    Is it the best tale? It's very simplistic and if one dwells too hard on the plot points, the enthusiasm can give way. It's not a deep story but it is a fun one and it reminds me of stories I used to read growing up. Can't put it at the top of the list for the Micro comics, but it's in a strong running.

    Twitter: Silver Quill