• Let's Review: MLP Annual 2013 – Equestria Girls

    No new comic this week, so let's cast our gaze back to 2013. IDW produced an annual comic focusing on Equestria Girls.

    Catch the full review after the break. I would normally warn about spoilers, but this has been out since 2013. No complaining if you haven't read it yet!

    You might think that I'm doing this because Sunset Shimmer got to make an appearance in the comics last week. If so, I appreciate your trust in me; but the truth is this is the very last bit of IDW comics backlog I can review. I think I've covered everything else!

    Sonic the Hedgehod would like to sue...
    As soon as he's done with the movie redesign.

    There are two parts to this Annual comic, so let's start with...

    The Fall of Sunset Shimmer
    "Sunset Shimmer. A former student of mine. She began her studies with me not long before Twilight. But when she did not get what she wanted as quickly as she liked, she turned cruel and dishonest."

    Sunset, you don't know the Royal Guard that well, do you?

    This was the most backstory Sunset Shimmer had for a long time. A summary that outlines her actions but doesn't really delve into the character. One would hope that a comic devoted to Celestia and Sunset's falling out would flesh both out a bit more. Sadly, such was not the case.

    Assault with a book is punishable by a hefty fine!

    The greatest appeal of this short story is Andy Price's artwork. All the easter eggs one would expect, from jokes in the background to the Watcher Pony, are present. His more chilling work is a panel where Sunset admits to her own ambition. The heavy use of shadow and the mirror's reflection are the strongest insight we'll enjoy into her character.

    Honestly, I wonder if the reformed Sunset would make a good co-ruler alongside Twilight.

    I find that much of this Annual is funnier in hindsight. Case in point, Price and writer Katie Cook rely on several unicorns to serve as a proxy for the Mane Six. The retroactive joke is that these same five unicorns would be featured or mentioned in "Amending Fences". Moondancer is a curious sight to see modeled after Fluttershy while Minuette has a hint of Rainbow Dash. I'm not sure why these five are used so consistently. My best guess is that there were few unicorns from which to choose for a long time.

    So... is Lyra a Pinkie Pie stand in?

    Price adds an important easter egg by showing Twilight playing with a teenage Shining Armor and Cadance. A nice contrast between the two ponies' phases in life though it does bring up the timeline headache that comes with Equestria Girls.

    For a moment, I thought that bush near the "campus" sign
    spelled out "Moo!"

    This is a short story for a reason. In fact, I've declared it pointless in the past. The reason being that I don't think it adds anything to Sunset's backstory that Celestia's summary hasn't already covered. Sunset is held in high regard and greater expectations, which would likewise be touched upon in Rainbow Rocks. It's possible this pressure is a driving force behind Sunset's ego, but we don't get to see her interact beyond with ponies beyond the unicorn five.

    People often mistake humility for boring
    because it doesn't need to demand attention.

    We do learn how Sunset had greater knowledge about the Elements than Twilight. This also leads to the second "funny in hindsight" moment. Sunset gains entrance to a poorly guarded "Dark Magic" library. Something that wouldn't make it into the show until Forgotten Friendship. Her knowledge about the Element of Magic may have come from here. Yet most of this is implied rather than explored.  


    I think the most telling aspect would be if we saw a different side to Celestia. We've heard her side of the story, but this comic was a chance to portray her from Sunset Shimmer's perspective. Celestia is curt in denying her the chance to learn more about a mystical mirror, but this is after we've already established Sunset's agenda. She seeks power to become Celestia's equal.

    Celestia likely sees Luna in Sunset's failings.

    I think that this story would have had a greater impact if we had seen how much expectation and perhaps Celestia's emotional distance had an impact on Sunset. That she fell in part because Celestia was a colder figure back then, still guarded after Luna's betrayal and banishment. As it is, I get the sense that all the blame still lies with Sunset.

    She could have had a future in herbology!

    Good thing Forgotten Friendship readdressed this relationship with some hints to Celestia's past personality. There's a much longer look into the past with the second part.

    Equestria Girls
    This is the real feature of the comic but the artwork isn't as strong as Sunset's story. Even though it's illustrated by the immensely talented Tony Fleecs, this was early on within his time with MLP. He hadn't nailed down the style I celebrate now. Yet I can easily tell it's Fleecs' work because it features his favorite original characters.

    Good thing Sunset didn't try to recruit these two.

    Switching from ponies to the odd proportions and shapes of Equestria Girls likely isn't easy. I find that I'm distracted by the shape of the characters' mouths. There's something off about. Possibly because the rest of the face doesn't change to match the expression. This works with ponies but humans run by a different set of rules. 

    Amazing they still hung around Pinkie
    after seeing that expression.

    There was something else bugging me about the art and I didn't realize until I saw a scene where human Spitfire is unnerved by Rainbow's talent. Usually, a shrunk iris is a sign of fear. Yet when we view these characters from afar, they all have tiny iris set against larger corneas. So it looks like many of them are in a state of perpetual fear. That's Fluttershy's shtick. No stealing!

    Spitfire is having a 1/6th Life Crisis.

    This comic's best visuals come in moments of isolation. These colorful characters are set against graytone hallways and social events, emphasizing their isolation. That's a big part of this story as it's all set to take place after the Freshman Fair. Unfortunately, a miscommunication within IDW meant that they used the wrong models. The clothing (though now retro) conveys that they're much older than they were when they first met. 

    Funny how Fluttershy's fashion sense hasn't changed much.

    Although the group came together in a haphazard way, the demands of school social life test each member. The elitism within Canterlot High is represented by Applejack's cousins Sunflower and Babs Seed. I'm not sure why humans always seem worse than their pony counterparts. Babs was a bully in her debut but there was at least an element of sympathy. Not so here. Instead, our sympathy varies between the lead characters. 

    Seems like Pinkie yanked them all together.

    I'd say Applejack as the most sympathetic plight. Insulted by her cousins and Rainbow Dash, she has to wrestle with her identity. To most, her country mannerisms make her a joke. So for a time she starts letting others define her and in doing so weakens her own character. Fortunately she rallies and returns to her strength when she sees the next sympathetic character in trouble.

    No one. Disses. The stetson!

    Fluttershy isn't allowed to make a big statement as we've seen in MLP episodes. Most of the comic features her simply being drown out by the high school buzz. It isn't until she musters up the courage to talk to one of her biggest detractors that she inspires awareness and change in others. Specifically Applejack and our next character.

    Save the puppy!

    It might seem like Rarity isn't all that sympathetic because she is flourishing. Her poise, fashion, and confidence make her an instant hit and quickly accepted by the exclusive cliques. Though she's not cruel or exclusive, she's is blinded by success and it isn't until Fluttershy is harassed that she starts to distinguish value from distraction. 

    The lipstick makes her look far older.

    Rainbow Dash acts mostly independent of the others, aside from Applejack's caution. She wants to be a member of the Wondercolts soccer team, giving us a chance to see Spitfire and Soarin' in human form. Her focus is so internal that she basically ignores her team on the field. Short-term glory but the team starts to lose. It isn't until a particular cheer that her mind focuses on the bigger goal and she moves beyond her own ego.

    That's not a composition. Rainbow is running so fast
    She looks like she has clones.

    I consider Pinkie the least sympathetic because she is detached from the group. No one challenges her and her quirky talents make her the envy of many clubs. Her greatest conflict is finding the right kind of expression. Unlike the others, she seems to have a good understanding of herself and her values. The challenge is that no existing club allows her to express that until she makes her own.

    I want to see the knitted skateboard!

    The conclusion reveals that it's Sunset Shimmer who was researching their history, likely a preamble to her sabotaging their friendship. This harkens back to one of Equestria Girls' loose ends. Why did Sunset want to do this? If we go by the first part, she might have learned about more than the Element of Magic within Celestia's archives. It's possible she recognized the Elements in the human world and decided to break them up as a precaution. This is, however, heavy speculation on my part. 

    Now I know the secret of Rarity's fabulousness!

    It's funny to look back on this to see how Equestria Girls started out and the mixed reception. However, there isn't anything lasting within this story. A pair of prequels to which we already know the outcome and there isn't a sense of discovering something new. The second half is more character-driven but not enough to make the Humane Five stand out more. 

    Harshwhinny as a teacher... That just seems cruel.

    And with that, my look back through the IDW archives is done. While I still plan to post editorial and new comic reviews, it won't be every week. I don't think people would want a new editorial per week as it would quickly become forced. I hope folks have enjoyed these lookbacks.

    Has she been checked for rabies?

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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