• Let's Review: Friendship is Magic #55

    It's dragons vs yaks in this month's issue! Who will emerge victorious, and what roll will our pastel ponies play?

    Let's check out the first of this two-part story after the break! Beware a flight of spoilers!

    So with Shadow Play behind us for the moment and Angel's efforts to support Fluttershy documented, it's time to see how IDW's line will further tie into the main series. Today's comic is a double-whammy of...

    For we not only have the return of the yaks, but also Rainbow Dash's parents. All of them rendered by Agnes Garbowska. It's surprising to see as this artwork doesn't feature her standard watercolor effect. The characters are colored in starker tones thanks to Heather Breckel's work. I enjoy Garbowska's art style but in this case I think the coloring change works to the story's favor. This is a story that is going to rely heavily upon action, and Garbowska's watercolor style is more relaxing. It works best in slice-of-life events.

    You ever wonder how they generate those colors?
    You shouldn't.

    You can get a better sense of the energy thanks to the stark colors and Rainbow Dash's multi-spectrum light trail as the Wonderbolts perform for the yaks. Bow Hothoof and Windy Whistles join cheerleader Pinkie Pie as the sole voices offering them encouragement. The yaks aren't known for their enthusiasm unless they're breaking stuff.

    Turns out Rainbow's parents are even bigger fans of Owlicious.

    As a side note, remember Pinkie's cheerleader outfit from Rainbow Falls? I like this cheerleader Pinkie more. Aside from the blues and yellows complimenting her coat, the fact that she has a full outfit rather than a skirt really makes it more visually appealing. That is not the only time I think this issue outdoes the show.

    Pinkie, show some decency and cover up!

    As dragons suddenly attack, the ponies all scatter for cover. Prince Rutherford remains pretty hardcore about the whole "fire from the sky".

    Dude ain't even flinching. That is hardcore!

    I'll state this right now: I do not like Rutherford. Between Party Pooped and Not Asking for Trouble and even Friends Forever #26, I've come to view him as a man-child who seems more hindrance to his people than a leader. Not so in this comic.

    So this is what it's like when someone 
    other than Rutherford endangers the yaks...

    With just two panels this comic presents Rutherford in a more positive light than two episodes. He is showing courage and responsibility in staying to see to his subject's safety but sending Pinkie away because he wants her unharmed. This version is a much more likeable character.

    Oh, Spitfire. You don't realize what's coming.

    Yet Rutherford isn't the only character undergoing an overhaul. Rainbow Dash starts taking leadership of the Wonderbolts, right in front of Spitfire. Her logic is that this dragon attack is more in her purview than Spitfire's airshows, and so she usurps command. Spitfire doesn't take kindly to this and she shouldn't. Though I am by no means a military expert, even I understand that the chain of command has to be honored. If you make it subjective, then teammates won't know where to look when in a crisis. A leader can defer if they think another teammate has a better understanding, but that's still their decision.

    As much as I want to view this as karma for Newbie Dash,
    it doesn't seem to mix with what we've seen thus far.

    Then comes the line that breaks Spitfire's character. She says that the Wonderbolts are great flyers, but not warriors. While I can set aside non-canon comics like Guardians of Harmony, I can't overlook the actual show. The Wonderbolts were the first-response team to a rampaging dragon back in Secret of My Excess. They didn't do well, but they at least made the effort. So Spitfire's admission that they're not as brave as Rainbow Dash feels out of place. In the inverse of Rutherford, I see character being brought low in service to the story.

    Turns out a rainbow mane gives you +5 courage.

    The story being a tale courtesy of Dash's parents, who remembered a time where she learned the meaning of bravery thanks to a Wonderbolts performance. So there is a nice sense of a cycle as Rainbow instills that bravery in her peers, but it still feels awkward that Spitfire is the one needing this lecture.

    Honestly, I think they were rolling the dice with this one.

    Regardless, I do appreciate that we're seeing a lesson about bravery and mastering fear with Fluttershy nowhere to be seen. It's a nice change up and Dash serves as a middle ground. Having her admit that she still feels fear and that she gains courage from her friends doesn't diminish her character at all. So we have a comic that boosts one character, diminishes another, and develops a third.

    This is mutiny, Ms. Dash! I'll have you strung up by the highest yardarm!

    What's the difference? In Spitfire's case I think the comic is taking away from what we've seen in the show. In Rutherford's case it's adding more positive traits to his negative presentation. Rainbow Dash is no more or less brave than in the show, but it adds to her history and shows how she arrived. I think the easiest way around the Wonderbolt's own fear would have been to reorganize the roster. Have characters like Blaze, Misty Fly, and High Winds be the hesitant ones while Spitfire and Soarin' are absent. Most of the team haven't enjoyed development, so they're more a clean slate.

    First time I read this I missed the period after "powerful".
    I thought that even Rutherford views the ponies as OP.

    I will say that Fleetfoot lives up to her name as she's able to depart and return with help from Ponyville in short order. It took maybe ten minutes? So it's the Mane Six, Starlight, the Wonderbolts, and the Yaks versus a dragon swarm.

    All we need is some heavy metal to complete this experience!

    It's worth noting that this is much like Fluttershy Leans In with how it presents Starlight. She's not out-performing or suprasssing the Mane Six by helping. She's working with them and as a result look like a part of the team. This is how Starlight will better mesh with the cast, and I hope the trend continues.

    Whole thing is worth it just to see Twilight's pose.

    But even with pony powerhouses and emboldened Wonderbolts, the dragons are simply too much and Yakyakistan is endangered. You may be asking "Where's Ember?", since she's on at least one cover.

    I don't think shouting will work.

    Well, I think this two-parter is trying something different. Much like Guardians of Harmony focused on micro conflicts within a larger battle, this comic is shifting the focus around. Next issue will likely focus on Spike and Pinkie trying to ease the conflict. Rainbow's interaction with her parents and peers is likely limited to this part alone, since it's already been resolved.

    Okay, shouting "Yaks, fire!" does work.
    I retract my previous caption.

    Is this a good idea? Depends on how often it's used. I like the idea of mini-stories within a larger setting, much as I enjoyed Guardians of Harmony's presentation. Yet if this becomes the norm then I think people will start to miss the idea of a multi-issue arc where it feels like there's a consistent rising tension and climax. It'd be good to vary it up and hopefully keep us guessing.

    So much continuity! I'm gonna wear out my meme!

    So with this first part done I'm curious to see how the next phase unfolds. Rutherford comes out looking good in this issue, though that could change. Spitfire's presentation is less complimentary, but overall I think the positives outweigh the negatives. I'd recommend this issue to all and hope next month will have a satisfying conclusion.

    However, let's give full props to Pinkie Pie, who endures all this danger in a cheerleader outfit without any layers.

    Adorable and hardcore!

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!