• Let's Review: My Little Pony #73

    Prepare to witness a walk on the wild side! Fluttershy's not herself and it's up to her friends to set things right.

    Check out the full review after the break. Within it lies the spirit of spoilers, which can take hold of the unwary!

    Let's start off by dispelling an idea: this is not a Fluttershy story. Although she has a pivotal role, she is not herself for the story's majority. Much like her role in Bats! Fluttershy is a force with which her friends have to contend and repair.

    All's well that ends well.

    Because the stakes here are more serious than other stories, I think it's a good fit to draw on the talents of Toni "Pencils" Kuusisto. A fandom artist already experienced in drawing the ponies, he does a great job in presenting the pony world as a three-dimensional space. We see the ponies drawn in a variety of poses and angles that convey the scene and its actions. We likewise witness backgrounds drawn with much greater details than the norm as even small textures are conveyed through crisp lines.

    Now Fluttershy has gone to the dogs.
    That's ruff.

    However, Pencil's artwork can conflict with the mood. Though he can draw a pony with a silly expression, Pencils does not indulge in stretching or contorting bodies or faces to enhance the humor. The ponies are more fixed than I've seen other artists portray. In some ways this works, especially towards the end as Fluttershy's behavior risks turning lethal. At the same time this can feel at odds with My Little Pony's humor. Though I'm a sucker for an adventure story and often share a desire to see more action, this is ultimately a fun cartoon about friendship. Sometimes a willingness to distort the character's expressions can enhance the humor. I think it best to keep Pencil's style in reserve for the high-stakes storylines. It doesn't blend as well with a comic focused more on comedy.

    Poor Sweetie Belle looks like
    she's about to pop.

    We can explore this idea going through the opening in which Fluttershy is caring for animals within Sweet Feather Sanctuary. This includes a Timberwolf with a broken paw. How does it have a broken paw when Timberwolves seem to regenerate? We never get a true answer though there is the hint that this is a young timberwolf and the rules to their regeneration are vague. After all, the massive timberwolf from Spike at Your Service didn't just bounce back. However, its presence does illustrate something often overlooked in comics. Remember this gem from MLP #3?

    See how the cartoonish expressions enhance the humor?

    Fluttershy is strangely hardcore when it comes to mythical animals. Her usual timidity draws attention to the fact that she can smile sweetly at creatures that send other ponies packing. Given that the comics tend to emphasize the extremes to Fluttershy's nature I'm glad to see this get some attention. Things take a turn when she unwittingly activates a magical item that found its way there through a very winding process, wonderfully illustrated on the first page.

    I feel like there's a story behind this dog's design.

    As Fluttershy starts to mimic other animals' behavior we get some scenes where the humor is inherent but Pencil's style might be too serious. Take for example as scene where Fluttershy imitates an owl. Applejack's reaction is understandable and does evoke a smile, but would have been funnier if the expression were more extreme?

    See, Applejack's expression is clear,
    but it's also restrained.

    Pencils' style blends better as Fluttershy takes on the timberwolf's mannerisms and tries to attack town ponies. The fact that the ponies are more fixed in their proportions highlights the danger.

    I will call you... Timbershy!

    It's during this crisis that we have some surprise cameos. Trixie is part of the planning group, though she has no reason. She's never been close to Twilight and company and their current relationship seems more of peaceful coexistence rather than best friends. Aside from one sarcastic remark, she doesn't really bring her usual charm. I get the sense she's there as a placeholder since Rarity and Rainbow Dash have yet to enter the story, but one could easily swap in Starlight Glimmer or another pony with a similar impact. A shout-out to Trixie's fans but not much else.

    Still wonder if Fluttershy might be part Changeling.
    She seems to shift an awful lot.

    Zephyr Breeze's cameo can seem similarly baffling as he's more an audience to the climax than a  participant. The only reason I see his cameo different from Trixie's is because of the synopsis for next month's issue. This may very well be a lead in to allow more room for a following story.

    Oooh, intriguingly vague!

    One easily missed aspect to this issue is respect to certain characters. Hardhat from Fluttershy Leans In gets a mention. Given that he was part of the trio set up to fail in that story it's nice that Fluttershy kept in contact and re-employed him to a better focused job. Yet the real star is Spike, who is a major part of the solution. Given that respect for Spike has been erratic and uneven, I'm glad to see him play a proactive role. Even though the conclusion sets him up as the target for more humor, it enforces the risk and potential sacrifice he took. Good on the little guy.

    This is a set up, Spike. But never forget you did good!

    Funny thing about going over this. I'm getting a sense of déjà vu. Look at it in the abstract. A member of the mane six is possessed of unusual magic that puts the town at risk and it will take their combined efforts to set things right. We see the problem's origin, followed by comical beats as the threat takes shape, and are then hit with the larger and more dangerous implications. Pencil's artwork helps highlight the idea: this is very similar to MLP #69. There are some very distinct elements like the difference between Pinkie and Fluttershy's autonomy, but the similarities are so strong it demands attention.

    When Pinkie questions your behavior,
    something is clearly wrong.

    Even with a sense of similarity, this issue is a fun read. It has a brief highlight of Fluttershy's hidden strength but as soon as magic enters the scene it becomes more reactionary. Of all the characters I think Spike is the real champ here because he's willing to take the biggest risk. It's light on characterization but with a good amount of tension and well worth a read.

    I'm starting to think the Elements' destinies are 80%
    cleaning up Starswirl's messes. Dude was irresponsible!

    And I guess that's the last new comic for 2018. Looking forward to seeing what 2019 has in store. I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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