• Let's Review: Ponyville Mysteries #2

    The time has come to delve into the newest comic mini-series. The Cutie Mark Crusaders Super Sleuths are on the case to track down some pinheads. 

    Does this story score a strike or does it wind up in the gutter? Catch the full review after the break but watch out. The spoilers abide!

    Have you seen The Big Lebowski? I ask because while it's not required reading for this issue, it will help you understand most of the humor. Much like Friendship is Magic #2 (also starring the CMC) there is a tremendous amount of reference humor here. Such comedy can make an issue stand out but can also leave a chunk of the audience behind.

    There are only Elements of Harmony to be found here!

    Agnes Garbowska and Heather Breckle have ample opportunity for references and cameos here. In addition to drawing a variety of ponies from several Equestira locales, they get to expand on a set of background ponies. The Letrowski and Walter ponies have a variety of freakouts and reactions. Locales like Cloudsdale and Dodge Junction are faithfully represented and we get a tone of background winks. This comic manages to feature Twilight's parents, Moondancer, and even Marion the Librarian from Friends Forever #9. Much like the Lebowski references, these easter eggs only have meaning if you're familiar with the material but they don't distract from the story proper. 

    The presence of three ponies should not make me smile so.
    But it does. I cannot share Sweetie Belle's scowl.

    Said story begins immediately where the last issue left off. No sooner have the Crusaders decided to be super-sleuths then Letrowski and Walter come storming in, asking them to solve the theft of bowling pins. 

    First time I saw this I thought Walter was dabbing.
    I'm still too old to understand what dabbing even means.

    We get to see a bit more of Ponyville life as we see the full team setup. Big MacIntosh's social life has certainly exploded these past few years. The Ponytones, a relationship with Sugar Belle, and now he's on the bowling team. Though more interesting is Mayor Mare's presence. She briefly mentioned enjoying bowling back in the Ponyville Days two-parter. Dare I say we have a wink towards...

    I wrote in last month's review that each member of the CMC embodies a trait that contributes towards the overall group. Heart, mind, and body. Sweetie Belle is usually the one supplying the clear thought but that doesn't place her beyond reproach. In one of the issue's funniest jokes she tries to solve the case based on past experience. Problem is that this is more of her own enthusiasm clouding clear thought. Yet that becomes a common theme. 

    Love that awkward pause middle panel. Great tension.

    In between the investigation we get appearances by Snips, Snails, and Twist. The latter references the main book line, written by Nicole Dubuc and Mike Vogel. To me, this was more distraction than sales pitch. Stolen bowling pins are much less interesting than a young pony slowly becoming a timberwolf. I've not yet read the books but I felt the temptation to put this issue down and seek that out instead. 

    I should want to read that book in addition to this issue.
    Not replace one with the other.

    One element that's becoming common is plot convenience. The Crusaders often find themselves in a bind only for serendipity to open the way. In this case they've ruled out that anypony in Ponyville would want the team to fail, so they suspect the rival teams in Cloudsdale, Dodge Junction, and Canterlot. How will they go to such places to investigate? Easy, at that very moment the opportunity presents itself. 

    Stop smiling at a glum Pinkie Pie.
    It's like frowning at a puppy. You do not do it!

    Plot convenience is more common than I think people acknowledge but we tend to forgive it early on. If being in the right place at the wrong time gets the story going then audiences tend to accept it. If introduced later in the story to solve a struggle then the audience can recognize the artificial story structure. Here I find it more the latter category. 

    Cheerilee provides some great humor as well.

    From this point forward the Crusaders are operating more on emotion than investigative thought. By observing the three teams they all come to admire that each is working to win the tournament fairly. A more cynical or critical mind would hold on to the idea that this might be a front or other agents might be involved. The Crusaders–showing a childish innocence and trust–conclude that it couldn't possibly be them. It's fitting then that Apple Bloom–the Crusaders' heart–is given the most focus in this phase. 

    D'oh! You jinxed it!

    Without any other leads, the Crusaders have to track down Kingpin, a figure referenced throughout the story. However, going into that would spoil the culprit and the solution. Unlike last issue, this mystery does feature malice aforethought, though the motives are still positive. I would be genuinely surprised if any issue featured a culprit acting out of purely negative impulses. There's an innocence to these stories and such an event wouldn't fit. 

    I begin to wonder if any Pegasi besides the Wonderbolts
    feature in competitive sports.

    I'd say this is a fun read for the references from both The Big Lebowski and previous episodes and comic issues. Yet references cannot make a story. The core mystery is interesting and the Crusaders tackle the investigation with enthusiasm. There's no doubt they give it their all. Yet the moments where fate intervenes to solve a problem for them lessens the story's appeal. It steals away from the very energy each Crusaders offers since the solution isn't a result of their combined talents. 

    Wow... you're lying to your sister.
    Did you learn nothing from When the Apple Lies?

    One other note is that the devastation shown on one of the covers never happens. Aside from missing pins, the Ponyville bowling ally is untouched. Comic book covers are notorious for presenting false scenes to draw readers, but here I think there's a secondary purpose. Looking over some old covers, I notice that there's always a severity to how the people carry themselves. Even the most mundane activities are suddenly loaded with meaning. I think these covers are both tribute and satire to such covers.

    The most serious digging scene in literary history!

    In closing, I'd like to leave you all with a morbid thought. You may wonder why there was no Donny pony. Well, it's easy to miss but there was a coffee can in Slice of Life being carried by Walter. Could that be the first confirmed fatality in My Little Pony

    What scarier still is that they don't seem broken up about it.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

    Silver Quill on Twitter