• Let's Review: Guardians of Harmony – Pinkie Pie & Cheese Sandwich

    Today's story is a war tale. A saga of lost innocence and the depths to which conflict can discard lost souls. A tale of a colt's journey to becoming a bitter war horse...

    Nah, it's two party ponies hitting Changelings with rubber chickens. Although that does sound pretty fun.

    Check out the review after the break, but watch out for flying spoilers!

    Pinkie and Cheese enjoyed one strong outing in Friends Forever. How shall they fare here?

    This chapter's art comes courtesy of Tony Fleecs, who has become my second-favorite closely after Andy Price. So, I'm feeling pretty good here. Fleecs does an excellent job of drawing Ponyville, the Changelings, Pinkie Pie and Cheese Sandwich, and the Gate & Colt Industrial Super Party Planning Cannon. Yes, they actually named it.

    How could I deny the shippers even the smallest fuel?

    The odd thing is that I can't point to a specific point that really highlight's Fleec's skill. It's a steady rhythm throughout with no high or low points. Bit of a bummer, that. I think it might have something to do with where the story's focus lies.

    In some ways, this seems like a more natural opening chapter than Rainbow's story. It begins with a simple premise: Twilight Sparkle has asked Cheese Sandwich to plan Pinkie's birthday, and they want to keep it a secret. The tension sets in pre-Changelings as Pinkie Pie stumbles upon the event.

    You'd think he'd be able to scream through those holes?

    Add a pony abduction on-panel and we get the sense that things are becoming far more serious than the slice-of-life stuff that started this chapter. That seems like a good lead-in and it even mentions Rainbow Dash's odd disappearance. I honestly would have led with this.

    Though I should remember that Rainbow's chapter got released in its entirety as a preview. Ultimately it comes down to which is the more interesting story, and I think that nod goes to Rainbow.

    Here's the crux of the problem: you have two of the biggest party enthusiasts in Equestria, and they're really low-energy. Cheese and Pinkie are on much friendlier terms now. True respect between party planners, so the only character conflict is that Cheese is fumbling for excuses. Because of the focus on Cheese's party cannon, there isn't a lot by way of party material. He has a mountain of rubber chickens and that's it.

    Pinkie remarks that this looks like party planning session. I've yet to see rubber chickens fulfill an entire party outside the American Poultry Association. That's a real group. Google it if ye doubt the claim!

    This feels unfair because the focus of the comic is supposed to be the party canon, and the toy only shoots plastic chickens. Yet it would have felt more energetic to see Cheese Sandwich use the canon to decorate the town. Bonus points if he can do so while distracting Pinkie.

    This is more of Cheese Sandwich party.

    Granted, that would put a far greater demand on Fleecs than this might warrant. It's a six-page ad meant to promote a toy. It's past viewing of Pinkie Pride and reading Friends Forever that sets a high standard for Cheese's presentation. That's a standard this comic hasn't the time or space to emulate.

    So what is Pinkie doing as Cheese gets abducted by Changelings? Why, admiring that party canon, of course! She even comments on the detailing of the toy-accurate design.

    In contrast to the Changelings that distracted Rainbow, Cheese Sandwich's impostor doesn't do anything smart. He grins wickedly, pushes Pinkie down, and makes it clear that something's wrong. Again, lack of comic space but it's a sharp downgrade between plans. 

    I can only imagine the life that is flashing by Cheese Sandwich's eyes right now.

    Although I'll say this for Pinkie: she is a crack shot. Double-kill at long range with heavy ballistics. MLG MLP, right there! That's the humor in this chapter. You have these dark, threatening shape-shifters being repulsed by rubber chickens and two war-ready ponies.

    Fleecs does an excellent job conveying the colorful confetti cannoneers' counter. It's fun to see and an a-typical strategy in fantasy. I wonder if more heroes should consider the destructive power of flying chickens.

      We end on the promise of a major party between the two, but we won't see it in this comic. Cheese will vanish from Ponyville as the attack escalates, which is a shame. I wonder if there was a rule against having the toys cross over between chapters? Only Twilight and her armor appeared in more than one chapter, and the same gimmick is not used twice.

    How Good is the Sales Pitch?
    Once again, the characters are an easy sell. Pinkie and Cheese are not at their most energetic in this comic but they do have episodes and comics backing them up. I can easily see folks wanting to buy these toys simply for the characters themselves.

    By a similar notion, both party cannons have had appearances in the show and Fleecs did an excellent job drawing them. They look like what appeared in the episodes. Again, nostalgia or fondness can decide the customers' minds.

    It's what not happening around the characters and their artillery that sours the pitch. How much more interesting are these devices when one can imagine that they shoot more than rubber chickens? Imagine launching a perfect cake volley and setting the table in seconds. Streamers and banners flying left and right. All to the thunderous tones of Happy Birthday to You. I have no idea what limitations the comic staff faced but I think this could have been a more vivid pitch given time and space. 

    As it is, I'd put this chapter at the bottom of my list. It doesn't do anything wrong. It's what it doesn't do at all that leaves a sense of acceptance-but-not-celebration.

    That feeling will quickly shift gears tomorrow as we go through the highs and lows of Shining Armor's chapter.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!