• Let's Review: Friendship is Magic #87

    We begin the journey of a two-part story that will close out this phase of the IDW comics before Season 10 begins. Funny enough, our lead is none other than Big Macintosh!

    What secrets lie in his past and what do they have to do with Rainbow Dash? Let's find out!

    Check out the full review after the break but cruise with care. You'll see some spoilers before the checkered flag.

    A great of the artwork in this issue–courtesy of Tony Fleecs–is geared towards comic-exclusive characters. Seems wrong to talk about this dynamic separate of the story, so we'll go over the designs as we meet the characters. There are some stand-out settings, such a carved mountainside in the dragonlands. It is here we encounter one of the strangest aspects of this story: blunt sound effects.

    You have to have just the right tempo to affect that sound!

    Yes, this story says "nuts to your onomatopoeia!" and just states "run" and "sneak" as actual sound effects. Though there's a double-standard here. How many times have we seen the sound effect "nod"? I can recall a few times, mostly in comedies. It is kind of funny to see these actions stated so literally. In fact, a lot of the character actions are what carry this story visually.

    Consider this training for when you become
    a parent, Big Macintosh!

    The locals are mostly limited to the Apple family barn's interior and a drab set of tents at the Draytona 500. What really adds vitality is when either Rainbow or Big Macintosh practice their race or when their supporting friends add some cheer. Not to forget that there are some great montages spread across a page. It's here that both Fleecs' artwork and Heather Breckel's coloring are at their most expressive. Perhaps the duller backgrounds are meant to express how the characters feel more alive when they race.

    This situation is so dire that even the
    sound effects' spelling is breaking!

    We learn about the Draytona 500 through Rainbow Dash's exposition. My Little Pony is no stranger to an overt backstory, but what makes this more fun and palatable is the punchline at the end. I don't know why Rainbow assumed Applejack wouldn't know about one of the most intense races in Equestria. It began as a cider run, which implies apples. That alone should summon Applejack. Yet it is funny to see Rainbow shut down and realize that she could train under Ponyville's quietest resident.

    Having seen "The Final Problem", I can't
    watch these scene without shipping!

    Actually, this comic takes Big Macintosh's silence to a new level. He's always relied on a selective vocabulary, but now he's downright stoic. Even his expressions seem to carry a forced disinterest. Perhaps because the Draytona 500 holds some bitter memories for him.

    Yona is taking over Spike's role for side commentary!

    This comes in the form of our first comic-exclusive character, Silver Streak. A name I'd normally expect from a pegasus, but this earth pony's talent is racing and having a chin sculpted in the image of Bruce Campbell. Fleecs does a lot to convey his personality and role through visuals. His smiles are sharp enough to look insincere and carries himself with a mock confidence. Yet the fact he's wearing what appears to be a varsity jacket implies that he's stuck in the past.

    Can't tell if that gray in his mane is age or duotone.
    Then again, stallions often don't have duotones.

    When we learn the backstory for his tension with Big Macintosh, I think it's easy to pin all the blame on Silver Streak. After all, he wasted an opportunity to improve by learning from Big Mac, who was simply a better racer. Yet I wonder how Big Macintosh carried himself after those past victories. Did he thank Silver Streak for inviting him into this world? Share the spotlight? It's very likely that Big Macintosh regrets his own actions, hence his elevated silence.  

    This is the only time we see 
    Big Mac smile this issue.

    Silence that can only be broken by Spike, who is the best support. While Rainbow seems to force Big Macintosh further into conflict and Yona is a fun cheering section, Spike is Big Macintosh's interpreter. His ability to translate the stoic stallion's actions is the funniest part, and makes me hope Sugar Belle will take notes.

    All those sessions of Oubliettes and Ogres
    leveled up his perception!

    Yet throughout all this we're left wondering about Rainbow's role. Despite her desire to participate and her training sequences, most of the attention and emotional weight lies with Big Macintosh. I'm not a sports fan, but I've observed that personal stories are the most powerful draw. Case in point: Babe Ruth hitting a home run is an event. The promise he made to a young fan the night before is a story.

    What a coincidence! I don't know whose luck is worse:
    Rainbow Dash or Sacks Roamer.

    The interpersonal story here lies completely between Big Macintosh and Silver Streak. This can make Rainbow Dash seem superfluous, which she would take as an insult. Her role in this story hinges on a pair she's yet to meet. Sacks Roamer and his crony Lumpy are stylized in the proud tradition of Dick Dastardly and Muttley. Roamer carries himself with a comical regalness and insistence on his own genius. Lumpy–who carries on the Thunder Gremlin look that Fleecs has crafted–is the bumbling, uncouth counterpart and a great deal of their appeal lies in the conflicting energy. Given Roamer's color scheme I'm actually reminded of Shadow Locke, though that may be more the cape adding to Roamer's form.

    He's pulling a Doctor Doom; emboldening his
    introductory text like that.

    Sacks Roamer's smuggling scheme and Lumpy's bumbling force Rainbow into the conflict, but at this point it's more a promise. The emotional weight for this race still lies with Big Macintosh and Silver Streak. Roamer is a potential danger, though his inflated ego and poor planning make him more comedic than threatening. That's not to say his plan doesn't put Rainbow in jeopardy, but I'm expecting a great many false starts before Roamer gets close to his goal.

    Don't bring logic into this!
    That's supposed to be my role.

    This issue is all about setup. We learn the setting, the characters, and the stakes with the promise that next month will be the payoff. As such, this episode exist in a undetermined form. It's certainly got fun moments and some nice character designs. I'm glad when the comic staff are willing to add more to a character's history, including new characters. Yet a lot of this can turn sour if the story ends on a poor note.

    Even harder to affect that
    "scamper scamper" sound than "Run-run-run"!

    So I eagerly await next month's issue and the chance to find out how this will all come together. And then, the new adventures of Season 10 start!

    I don't know if I'd be cool being asked
    to serve as inert weight.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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