• Let's Review: MLP #66

    Lights! Camera! Ponies!

    It's time for our heroines to take a trip to tasseltown. Don't blame me. That pun is in the comic.

    Oops! That was a spoiler and it won't be the last. Check out the full review after the break but be aware there's more to come.

    Today's comic features a return to Applewood. Home of Whinny Land and pop culture references galore! 

    This was already part of the preview, so I consider a full spread okay.
    It is one of this issue's best illustrations.

    Hopefully Tony Fleecs had a good time drawing in landmarks and references with a pony flourish. He seemed to certainly delight in Rarity's reactions as she is one of the most exhuberant characters. That's saying something when a pony stands alongside Pinkie Pie. The comic features a two-page spread that really establishes the new setting and draws some energy. That contrasts against a shot of the group walking on to the Palomino Pictures lot, where the scale of the ponies makes the various stage buildings look smaller. It's a proportional disconnect that takes me out of the previous panel's excitement. 

    Those are some mighty tiny studios!

    One of my favorite aspects is how Fleecs depicts Wormer Horsehooves. Going off the character design discussion from last week I like how Wormer's personality is depicted in his design. The black sweater isn't a huge standout but among other ponies it seems a more deliberate statement. The tragedy mask cutie mark hints that he might not be well suited to a movie about friendship, which will play into a plot point early on. Most of all, the rings under his eyes hint that he might be giving all his energy towards films and not enough to his own care. 

    Truth in storytelling depends on a lot on who is telling it
    and who in the audience is willing to ask questions.

    There are several key panels that reinforce the story and we'll tackle each one in turn. Yet at the start we have to handle a very big disconnect. Despite the various covers, Twilight Sparkle is not in this issue beyond a headline photo. This already feels awkward when Rarity announces a movie about the Mane Six's lives within Twilight's castle. 

    That must be an old photo. Twilight still has her Element of Harmony.

    Why is she absent? Because she is focusing on the school. A watershed remark because this is the first time the School of Friendship has made it into comic continuity. Yet this begs the question, how can these five teachers go off all at once? 

    Feel like Rarity should head one of
    those anti-piracy PSA's.

    This question is in the back of my mind for all events moving forward. It's an example of how a question at the beginning can influence and sometimes heighten the audience's awareness. When Horsehooves turns over directing to a group of untrained guests, I get the impression that he knows this isn't going to work well and he's passing the buck. This is a character who's design and dialog hints that he's more about intensive dramas. Friendship and happy endings might not be his forte. 

    Neither of their expressions convey this is a good idea.

    This then leads to the biggest question, which is again heightened by Twilight's absence. How can Applejack say she doesn't have any plans for the next few months? Having just established the school, is it right to have 62.5% of its staff leave? Yes, I actually calculated the group's percentage. I'm a geek.

    I feel like this panel is a wink to the audience,
    but I'm too flabbergasted to laugh.

    Though this setup is raising questions, it's also answering a few. Equestria's technology has always seemed to shift between time periods. Sometimes it's steampunk-based while other times it seems perfectly modern. So how do ponies handle movies? Well, they don't.

    Okay, that pony on the right is really selling it!

    Through a very clever two-panel depiction, we see that "Magic Lantern Shows" are really just stills with an in-theater narrator. It tells us a lot without having to spend dialog explaining something these ponies would already know. I do question why these shows aren't in color but figure that might be a work-around. In a land with pastel coats are the norm, a black-and-white image may be the most affordable way to create the illusion. 

    I see you, Tony Fleec's OC!

    So now the lead ponies are making a "movie" about themselves. Once again the issues' artwork plays a key role in summarizing events through montages. Both seeing a fashionable director Rarity organizing scenes and watching the other ponies try to do things their own way. This leads to the group split and the promise that each will do their own short story.

    Kinda funny that the Mane Six's stand-ins appear to be
    complimentary-colored ponies.

    I get the feeling that in a full episode we'd witness each go through their own trials, but this single-issue doesn't allow the room for that. Instead, we jump to the end and witness a climax very similar to The Show Stoppers. The fun part here is witnessing the style of each direction.

    "My Little Pony,
    Friendship is BWAAAAAAAAM!"

    Some are predictable such as Rainbow's ego and Fluttershy's animal fixation. Rarity's noir tale is a fun callback to Rarity Investigates. My favorite goes to Applejack if only for the buildup and defying expectation. 

    You tell 'em, AJ!

    Looking at this all, it's a silly story that I'd describe as filler. It doesn't offer what I would consider character insight but it does have fun visuals and some jokes. More than anything, it shows how a question within the audience can snowball and steal away from further developments. If this were set at the same time as the Creature Convocation (and if the Pony Tones hadn't attended), I think it could have avoided the big "Where's Twilight?" obstacle. As it is, there's a feeling of disconnect between events and so it's a comic that I likely won't remember. It doesn't get things quite right but it doesn't do anything offensively bad either. 

    Rarity is still the stand-out character.

    The reason I use the term "filler" is because we're on the cusp of something bigger. Drawing on my experience as an anime fan. In many stories, a fun and silly short often precedes a big event. Next month features part one of Tempest Shadow's return and appears to be set in the Crystal Empire. At least, that's what I'm assuming based on the cover. I shouldn't, however. 

    I'm excited for both Tempest's return
    and hopefully giving Cadance a chance to shine.

    As this issue shows, a comic cover is meant to entice you to buy the book, not summarize the story. We'll see if Tempest and Princess Cadance truly cross paths next month.

    Three of the four big words here
    are reasons I watch MLP.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

    Silver Quill on Twitter