• Let's Review: Neigh Anything

    No new comic on Valentine's Day? Have no fear, for we can still show the comics some love!

    Let's reach back to the early days of the IDW line and recount how Princess Cadance and Shining Armor first started their relationship.

    Check out the review after the break, but remember: All's fair in love and spoilers.

    Given that we're coming up on Season 8, it's hard to put myself back in the mindset of post Season 2. We'd just been introduced to two new characters who were big influences in Twilight's life, and they were already starting a new chapter of their own. Hot on the heels of Zen and the Art of Gazebo Repair, this two-parter tackled the royal couple's histories with 80's glee.

    "Never had a fight" sounds boring to me.
    This playful rivalry is a nice compromise.

    This story is one of the highlights of Katie Cook's works, and the visuals support the story. Andy Price seems to have as much fun with layouts as he does with background references. From using books and pencils as frame borders to telling us how DJ-Pon3/Vinyl Scratch gained her cutie mark, you could read this story several times over and still find something new. Even brushing up for this review I found references I'd completely missed years ago. 

    Even without getting all the 80's references, this is gorgeous and a testament to Price's work.

    Yet one of my favorite aspects are the characters introduced to support Shining Armor. Poindexter is lifted straight from the show but the story demands that he take the Bugs Bunny route of deceptive dress. 8-Bit is a fairly standard but well designed pegasus. Gaffer is the stand-out design if only for a simple but rare concept: duotone coat. I don't know why we don't see this more often in the show, though I suspect it's a lot more difficult to animate. Yet seeing a pony with splashes of lighter tones against his main coat made him really stand out. 

    Oubliettes and Ogres was so fun that it actually
    made it into the show. I was glad.

    It's also fun to see how Price depicts Shining Armor's rival, Buck Withers. Something about that chin just screams "antagonist". He's not meant to be likeable and so his visual design reinforces that idea. Though for the longest time I've tried to figure out of Buck's hench-pony was a young Mr. Cake. It's only in one panel that I suspected his cutie mark was different and therefore I was misunderstanding the look.

    Turns out insults make for surprisingly solid architecture.
    Only problem is no one would want to be around it.

    One key factor here is that this is a very low-stress story. Because we already know that they end up together. In doing so, there's no sense of an artificial "will-they-won't-they" story. It's inviting us to just enjoy the silliness as we fill in the gaps between then and now.

    That image of Cadance laughing has become its own meme.

    When A Canterlot Wedding first aired, we were presented with a stallion who was even larger and more powerfully built than the standard guard. Many assumed the Shining Armor had strove for this through childhood, being a kind of alpha male. Years before Shining Armor would be depicted as a colt-at-heart with airsickness problems, this comic turned our expectations upside-down and presented him as a socially awkward nerd and target of another "alpha male's" taunts. 

    Huh. So that's how we found out his name.

    Probably one of the weaker aspects is how Cadance and Shining Armor first meet. As Shining recounts, he looked upon Cadance and instantly fell in love. I'm not a big fan of "love at first sight" because love is something far deeper than just looks. Physical attraction is certainly a factor, but it's not the whole relationship. Cadance and Shining are a fairy tale couple because we are invited to bestow our own ideals of love and a relationship. It's kept vague because love means different things to different people. Yet I'm not a big fan that their closest moment for 90% of the story involves a basic courtesy. Instead of making Cadance look exceptional, it makes the rest of the school look awful. 

    I know I've become cynical when
    I look at this image and think that
    Cadance is casting a love spell.

    What follows is a fun recounting of Shining Armor's attempts to earn Cadance's affection. Reading it called up memories of Revenge of the Nerds and Looney Toons all that the same time. Shining is operating under the idea that he has to out-perform his rivals to stand a chance, never realizing a hidden truth. 

    Are they planning murder?
    I think they're planning murder

    In between issues, I remember some fans wondering why Cadance would agree to go to the Fall Formal with Buck, despite his repeated public cruelties. As a representation, I looked up this entry from "Ask Teen Cadance". I want to stress, however, that the tumblr's runners did enjoy the story. They just didn't like that Cadance was so passive.

    Dude, you're not a nerd.
    You are THE nerd.

    Which leads us into part 2 and Cadance's perspective on the same events. Very often in romantic shows and movies, especially what I remember in the 80's, women were not very autonomous. Much like in Revenge of the Nerds, the object of affection simply went with whomever won the day, never expressing her own goals or preferences. Cadance reveals that she always favored Shining Armor, and the only reason she didn't ask him to the dance is due to a miscommunication.

    We've reached sitcom status.

    I'm often hard on Cadance's presentation for being so passive. Not here. Though she's not as stand-out wacky as a geeky Shining Armor, I think hers is the better presentation. Her friends Lemony Gems and Diamond Rose aren't as supportive. They seem more opportunistic. Gaffer and Co. want to see their friend win the day and perhaps show that they all have a chance. Lemony Gems and Diamond Rose are looking to win a prized catch. Yet it is by their encouragement that Cadance resolves to break up with Buck on the dance floor and leave him emotionally shattered for the two opportunists to scoop up. Dang, Cadance. I know he's a jerk, but that's cold.

    Contrary to what I said up above, I don't believe in
    "All's fair in love and war".

    While Shining Armor was going to the extremes of musical floats and sabotaging polo matches, Cadance is much more practical. I don't think many resent her tactics because Buck manages to alienate everyone, including the usually patient Princess Celestia. Cadance only gets two scenes where she acts a little wacky herself. The first being a rather fanatical glint as she plies young Twilight for information.

    Best sitter ever.

    Plus a funny contrast between how young men and women get ready for big events.

    Forget 80's. I'm pretty sure those suits are

    Throughout this story we see some classic tropes turned upside down while others are reinforced. I wasn't a fan of Shining Armor and Cadance getting together at the dance. It seemed too close to the classic tropes. I would have found it interesting if their antics ended up ruining the event, and Cadance sought out Shining Armor the next day. Then again, I wouldn't have gotten to see a Quantum Leap reference.

    Wonder if they have a scrapbook of this event.

    One other qualm is when the class flocks to Shining Armor's defense. We get to hear about all he's done to help others, but we've invested two issues in seeing him isolated. In a sense we're being told the very qualities that make him worthy of Cadance's affection, but we didn't get to experience it. Likely the limited comic length forced this, but it's something I'll wish we could have seen.

    Do not use a princess as a shield! That only makes it worse.

    This two-parter is a great deal of fun. Time may have created a continuity rift between it and the show. One could argue that the ages of characters like Soarin', Cheerilee, and Mayor Mare disrupt the timeline, but a fun story in my eyes stands on its own. Even if something down the line should contradict all of this, I celebrate the visual appeal, the fun characters, and the chance for Cadance and Shining Armor to actively pursue a goal. I have no issue with them having help along the way, but I like seeing them pursue happiness. 

    Cadance wins for visualization but Shining Armor is almost clairvoyant.

    On this Singles Awareness Day–sorry–Valentine's Day, I think it's a fun read and a story well worth revisiting.

    I love their expressions.
    It makes their relationship more lively.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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