• Let's Review: MLP #82

    It's beauty and the beast! Rarity and Cerberus. No holds barred. Tummy rubbing fully sanctioned! Watch out for slobber!

    Rarity faces the task of disciplining the wandering guardian. How will the fabulous fashionista cope?

    Check out the full review after the break. Beware of spoilers.

    Today's romp comes courtesy of Kate Sherron. Having served as an artist for variant covers in Spirit of the Forest and the main artist for Zephyr Breeze's adventures in issue #74 we now get to see how she handles the writing role. This time the artist is Toni Kuusisto, a fandom artist whose talents earned a place on staff.

    You ever think Ponyville's layout makes no bloody sense?
    Me too.

    Kuusisto is the most detailed-oriented artist; especially when it comes to landscapes. It's clear as the dawn rises over... not Ponyville? Though I think I spy town hall on the distant right, the layout actually seems to be a very different town. Yet with this glance we can see doors and windows and even roof thatching on the nearest buildings and the details fade into atmospheric perspective. The mountains and forests feature shading and texturing to make them more solid and enhanced by colorist Heather Breckel. 

    Kuusisto's depiction of Tartarus' entrance is also very high in detail. 
    Not constrained by trying to match the show.

    Yet there are points where I wonder if too much detail undermines the image. Consider a much later scene where Rarity and Crusaders stand upon a short bluff. The heavy inks at the grasses edge, the rock surface, and the passing current are bold and define the shapes well. Yet contrast that against the ponies who are–by intent–deceptively simple. It's like we're looking at art styles for two different comics. 

    Mind that ledge!
    No pony concussions!

    There's a similar contrast in how Kuusisto draws the characters. I've commented in the past that he has a more serious tone. The ponies can make funny expressions, but they will not stretch or alter their core proportions.

    I sometimes think it's Opal who owns her.

    The same can be said for Cerberus, who is once again out and about from his post. I think Kuusisto draws him most faithfully. Never menacing or hostile. The artwork allows his size contrast against the Mane Six to convey the intimidation. Cerberus himself is just a happy dog who wants to play without realizing his own strength. Kinda like a Great Dane who thinks he's a lapdog. 

    This shot courtesy of Casters News.
    This is apparently a real life Scooby-Doo.

    The Mane Six, surprisingly, fail to contain the three-headed guardian of Tartarus. That success belongs to Celestia, who is a little snippy. She wants this pup to get some discipline training and looks to each of the Mane Six. It's here that we have a low point in character design and presentation. Let's start with Celestia.

    Looking at this isolated, her neck doesn't line up
    with her back. The necklace makes it awkward.

    I'd argue the Celestia and Luna's manes are the hardest elements to draw. Some artists try to match the usual shape while others experiment with the flow. Color is another challenge, especially with Celestia. I don't enjoy how her mane fades to white. It looks like it's losing vitality rather than having an aura. Kuusisto suggests the glitter in Celestia's mane with a few pinpoints and also some rounded shapes that don't quite match. Nor do the lines that suggest a wave in her mane. 

    Remain still.
    Celestias hunt by sight.

    For my money, the best depiction for Luna and Celestia lies with Andy Price. He doesn't try to make the manes match the show. Rather, he allows for smooth, flowing lines and has the mane trail the characters' movement. 

    Celestia and Luna's manes hang down when stationary
    and track their movement. A good style for Price.

    Characterization is a little harder. Down the line we go from Fluttershy to Rainbow Dash. Each pony has an excuse to bow out until we reach Rarity. She too has an excuse, but Pinkie–in a strange moment of betrayal–undermines her excuse. Pinkie looks smug at forcing her friend into an uncomfortable role.

    Et tu, Pinkie?

    Yet out of all the ponies, I think only Applejack and Rainbow Dash had legitimate excuses. Both relating to their professions and livelihoods. Everyone else could shift their schedules either by asking for help or delegating or simply delaying the project. So right off the bat there's a sense that this match-up feels forced. We'll return to this idea shortly.

    Love the hurt expressions when Rarity insults Cerberus.
    I cry because I love.

    The middle part of the story is mostly slapstick with Rarity's attitude overshadowed by Cerberus' power. There are some great moments for slapstick and comedic peril, sending a disheveled Rarity home in defeat. 

    I'm glad they specify those mice are stuffed toys.

    It's here that her friends get in one last round of teasing and are not terribly supportive. Fluttershy offers an insight that Cerberus is an intelligent creature and boredom is a factor. Yet none of them offer ideas on how to fix things.

    It's in-character for Rainbow and Pinkie to have a laugh.
    But it's also in-character to be supportive after.

    Far better is the Cutie Mark Crusaders' portrayal. After Rarity snaps and is turned away from support by very expressive fireflies, Sweetie Belle and the others appear. Though they don't grasp the full situation, their admiration leads to them to offer just the right observations. 

    I remember "Sisterhooves Social", Sweetie.
    You can be quite the destructive force yourself!

    Here's where Celestia's choice comes into play. Rarity wonders if her workaholic nature is why she fit this job. Yet Celestia went down the line and Rarity was the last option. Much like Fluttershy in "Fake It Til You Make It". Yet Celestia's motives and choices have always been vague enough that fans can debate what's intentional. It could very well be she saved Rarity as the last choice to make this work. 

    Celestia won the day! If nothing else, that deserves note.

    Yet even though Rarity now understands how to better train Cerberus, we never see it happen. The story ends just as she's about to start a new training approach. I find it odd because we're getting to witness the character's perspective shift but not its fulfillment. Plus there's the lingering question of who will help Cerberus afterwards. Is Rarity supposed to assume responsibility from now onward? 

    That is a good lesson delivered through a unique situation.
    But I still feel like we're missing the resolution.

    Like many themes in the comics I doubt we'll see follow-through on this. It's a one-shot story with some great moments for Rarity, Cerberus, and the CMC. It is not so complimentary to the Mane Six and their friendship. Plus Celestia is an enigma. 

    Thanks to King of the Monsters, I now want more
    triple-headed creatures to behave like Ghidorah.

    I think you'll have the most fun reading this comic if you focus on the slapstick and Rarity's wounded dignity. Not a bad comic by any means but another that arrives, entertains, and moves past memory. I remember early comics, especially the Micro series, making a greater statement about the characters and their strengths. We'll see if next month offers a bolder expression. 

    Who knew fireflies could communicate in emojis?

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

    Silver Quill on Twitter