• Let's Review: MLP #71

    Happy October! It's time for folks to get into the spirit, and that includes ponies.

    What frights are in store for this Halloween-themed issue? Find out with the full review after the break.

    Take care when you trick-or-treat. There are some spoilers haunting the post!

    Ah, a Halloween issue. Like the MLP episodes, this hits a special note. It's a unique time where the entire setting can enjoy a departure from the norm. It's exciting to see what costumes the ponies don while seeing how they've changed the town.

    That giant bat summons the Castlevania theme to mind.

    This issue was made for Andy Price, not the other way around. Who better to tackle the transformed town and setting. There are so many references in this issue that I think you'd need at least 4–5 re-reads just to be sure. It's not just the variety of background ponies but also small side jokes filling in the empty space around panels. 

    Even a princess must sit upon a different throne from time to time.

    This is also a standout issue as it features the Student Six and their comic debut. Price does an excellent job not only rendering them to resemble their show appearance while matching his style, he also transforms each. During a high-intensity scene near the end, each character must channel their emotions. Price has long been a master of taking these adorable characters and presenting them in snarling expressions. His stand-out piece has always been Queen Chrysalis but I think some of the Student Six expressions this issue come close. 

    Smolder SMASH!

    The only negatives I can offer for Price's art require very in-depth show knowledge. I'm talking borderline obsessive. Case in point, Applejack's costumes over the series have featured a "Wizard of Oz" theme. First a scarecrow then a lion. I would have been pleased to see her as a Tin Mare, but that doesn't lessen the design of her "Bride of Frankenstag". 

    Still requires less hair gel
    than a Yu-Gi-Oh protagonist.

    However, the Mane Six are not the focus here. That belongs to the Student Six, and their personalities are on full display. Smolder and Gallus are "too cool" to go with the pony holiday and thus they don't dress up. At the opposite extreme, Silverstream is so excited that she tries to wear several costumes. Yona and Ocellus fall midway on the reactions, while Sandbar exhibits some pony pride as he talks about the holiday.

    Do I want to know what that snake just ate?

    Sandbar's probably the hardest character to portray because he's just... the pony. He doesn't have the extremes of the other students and often he seems to be the audience proxy. His role in this story is to remind everyone that the haunted house they explore isn't the norm. I think Sandbar can often serve as the common ground between extremes, or perhaps exemplify the blind spots in Equestria's philosophies. As it is, he's still the least noticeable in this story. 

    How funny would it be if Sandbar called them "gang"
    while dressed like Freddy from Scooby Doo?

    Our stand-out character is Yona, though we'll get to that in a moment. 

    Whoa. Yona rage mode!

    It's difficult to talk about the story for this issue because much of it relies on the Student Six encountering a mismatched haunted house and their reactions. A play-by-play would be less fun than reading the story, and since I have no reservations about recommending this issue I won't try to compete. 

    I normally think of Ocellus as cute.

    It is important to talk about why this haunted house is so badly thought-out. It seems that, once again, Twilight and friends have proven to be poor communicators. Thus what is meant to be a fun setting full of illusionary danger has become an actual deathtrap. This ties into a criticism that's been a part of the most recent season. We mostly see the school when Twilight and friends are messing up. The school could be running smoothly 90% of the time, but if we only get to check in for that 10% then it seems as if Chancellor Neighsay was right. 

    I wonder if Price gets to write the background dialog.

    Gallus' intelligence helps him see through Twilight's setup, but I wonder if it would have been an interesting twist to have a surprise within the surprise. Have the Student Six think this is a friendship lesson at first, then think they're in actual danger, only to reveal Twilight was one step ahead. Moments like that would allow the Student Six to show their best without making Twilight and friends look less competent. 

    I'm assuming Fluttershy broke her non-participation rule
    in order to help the students.

    However, this issue also features a great strength. At the height of peril, Yona brings her own culture's view on fear. Using this she is able to motivate her friends and clear the way to a solution. This is a demonstration of the School of Friendship at its best: blending cultures to combine their greatest strengths. So I think this comic shows the idea of the School at its worst and best. 

    Anyone tries something like this on Halloween,
    go inform an adult!

    So much of this story relies on Andy Price's skill. The setting and expressions drive a story that is mostly a series of loosely-connected events. If the panels were less detailed or lacking in energy I think the story would suffer, even on a conceptual level. But thanks to the visuals the story never lacks energy or a sense that the characters are milling about. Even a panel where a character is thinking is loaded with imagery to make the process look more complex.

    What is the square root of pumpkin pie?

    This issue is pure fun with some hints to how the School of Friendship can work as a story device but also fall short. I readily recommend it not only for the first appearance of the Student Six but also for the variety of characters displayed and an example of how you can draw the same character a variety of ways. It's a fun issue for a fun month.

    This is the jewel for this issue.
    Can you spot all the references?

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

    Silver Quill on Twitter