• Let's Review: MLP #83

    We have bid a loving farewell to the show, but the comics are still rolling! This month highlights Twilight Sparkle on the case.

    What mysteries await and how many Sherlock Holmes references can you spot?

    Catch the full review after the break. If you go in and get spoiled, then I owe you a thousand apologies!

    Feels like it's been a while since the last issue, though that may simply be the scope of events in between. Regardless, this comic picks up on an idea I talked about last month. The IDW comics are at their best when celebrating a character's strengths. This issue is one such example.

    Those are some loud ellipsis...

    Illustrating this issue is Kate Sherron, whose work we last witnessed in issue #80. Getting to study both issues let's me see more of Sherron's style and strengths. Since Pinkie's foray into roleplaying, I think Sherron has become more comfortable with drawing ponies, if only a little. The flow of events in the panels is easy to track and thus there's no need to number the actions. Most of all, I get the sense that Sherron's strength lies in drawing circles.

    What? She draws circles while looking cute!
    I had to include Kettle Corn!

    One such scene is when Twilight makes a dramatic reveal. Rather than bracketing an item being lifted, Sherron angles the scene so Twilight's forelegs form a nearly-perfect oval. Such is often the case where ponies are presented at angles the foreshorten their snouts and instead create a rounded image. Similar scenarios highlight a room's curvature. Though there's plenty of angular housing and perspective, Sherron finds ways to include organic curves in every panel.

    Everything curves, even that strange lower half of the banister.

    The flip-side of this strength can be that sometimes the curvature takes too much precedence, leaving the ponies looking slightly off. The oddest image being a low-angle shot of Twilight and Inspector Leigh Stride. It accomplishes the rounded look that is this comic's strength, but it also makes them look like towering figures.

    I shall call you "My Little Beanpoles".

    Conspicuously absent this issue are Spike's wings. In fact, the first page features several poses that appear to be copied from episode stills. Unlike the vectors and lifted artwork in issue #81, it looks like Sherron still drew these herself but needed an easy reference. Perhaps because Spike is the most atypical figure this issue? Whatever the case, it only lasts for the first three pages. Afterwards, Spike is usually out of frame or drawn in Sherron's own style. The reasons behind these actions are unknown, but I don't like this trend.

    To her credit, Sherron drew Spike full-body rather than modify a vector.
    But when readers can recognize the source it loses its appeal.

    Twilight and Spike are escorting Tank to the Great Northern Tortoise Race. So of course they explain all this on the Exposition Express. I don't know what it is about that train, but every scene featuring the ponies on said train features them explaining unfolding events. I think it'd be funnier if they were talking to some random passenger–preferably the same pony every time–who looks long-suffering. Upon arrival, however, they find the town less than lively.

    Pinkie Pie would have a conniption with this!

    Whether intentional or not, this ties back to the Rainbow Roadtrip special. When Inspector Leigh Stride (get it?) says that the camaraderie inspired by the race has gone away, all that's left is a very gray town. Twilight takes it upon herself, Spike, and Tank to hunt down the missing star tortoise, Silver Blaze.

    I tried to confirm this pun, but a Google search of "Downey"
    just turns up the Robert variety.

    The search itself is a fun series of nods to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective, with every pony named for one of his characters. I'm not as well versed in the Sherlock Holmes series as others, so I'll look forward to seeing the comments and who can list all the references and their meaning. Hint, hint.
    Is she shivering with excitement
    or cold? The answer is cold!

    Yet that alone wouldn't be enough to really sell the story without highlighting Twilight as a character. After all, Holmes was his own kind of eccentric on the cases. Twilight should be true to herself. Her overt declarations of friendship can be over-the-top, but it's the personal approach she takes that really celebrates her. She approaches each resident with respect, even when receiving none. She's optimistic and aware but admits that trying to spread that kind of energy is exhausting.

    The copious amounts of sugar consumed 
    might be a clue, Twilight!

    Her strongest moment is talking with groundskeeper Millerspoke, whom everyone blames for Silver Blaze's disappearance. Twilight seems to be the first one to empathize with his position, which earns his support and a familiar set of clothes.

    Leigh Stride seems to be taking this in... well... stride.

    One aspect to the story is that the highlands are a colder place. While not a problem for the residents, we see a few instances where Twilight is shivering. However, I think the color palette could reflect this further. Perhaps a slight blue tint or de-saturated areas. Something to visually emphasize the cold, which is too easy to forget when reading.

    Aside from the smoke plumes I can't say I'd think "cold" when
    look at this landscape.

    The mystery itself is both a set of first-hand accounts by residents and visual cues that attest to Twilight's observation. While Ponyville Mysteries often featured key pieces of information being given to the Crusaders, this story instead relies on a turn of phrase to connect the dots. As someone who enjoys mysteries on the second read-through and spotting all the missed hints, this comic serves to show Twilight's strengths while provided a case worth re-reading.

    She commands you to be riveted.

    Of course, the tortoise race itself is its own spectacle. I especially enjoy a panel where Sherron portrays the lack of speed by drawing a line of mirrored positions with only one difference. The reactions from the ponies, along with Spike's dry commentary, makes it a pretty fun scene.

    I can only imagine the time-lapse on this race.
    One hour? Two?

    If you want to know whodunit, you'll need to read the comic yourself. You don't spoil a mystery. That's half the fun!

    Alas, because that shell is not blue I am
    denied my Super Mario Kart reference!

    Although the art can sometimes give pause, I think this is a strong entry that shows Twilight at her best, solving a mystery with stakes and high emotions. It doesn't feature her flaws, such as the tendency to overthink or link her ego to a role. Yet this story has enough conflict without calling for Twilight to self-sabotage. If you're a Twilight Sparkle fan or a fan of Doyle's works, I think this issue will have some fun appeal.

    Reminds me of those inflatable,
    flappy display puppets.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

    Silver Quill on Twitter