• Let's Review: Friendship is Magic #88

    A race to a special finish! The last story before IDW switches to its promised Season 10. The Draytona Breach is off and running with friendships, fortune, and thievery.

    Check out the full review after the break, but use caution! There's are some spoilers running with the pack.

    There is an odd feeling to this comic as it is the last romp before the series' presentation and our own perception shifts. While I'd like to go into this in another post, there's a sense that this story–for all its strengths and faults–could be dismissed or contradicted won the line. That's been the specter haunting each comic IDW has put out and that's supposed to be exorcised next month.

    Hey! Eyes forward, ponies!
    That's rule #1 of racing.

    This is ultimately a moot point for me since my focus is not on a story's place within canon. I just want to explore if this is an enjoyable story. Yet because this is a race and relies very heavily on physical events, a point-by-point review wouldn't be effective.

    How many times do you think he's swallowed a fly
    whilst running? It happens.

    Art wise we witness many of the same strengths as last issue. In addition to some fun character designs, Tony Fleecs puts a lot of focus on physicality. Running, to be precise. In each panel, the characters lean into their runs, despite being hitched to a heavy cart. I believed that they were going full charge, even in a still image. In fact, I never had trouble buying into the characters actions because their poses sold the motion.

    Polite of all the tertiary characters to stay at the back for most of the race.

    A funny note from last issue was the use of very literal sound effects, which is more sporadic here. I don't know any way to phonetically spell out someone's evil giggling other than what we witness. Even "thumpita thumpita" is more in-line than last issue's "run run run".  

    Honestly... I can't think of a different sound effect for galloping.

    One element that is hard to reinforce is the chilling climate. As the races draw closer to Yakyakistan, the temperature drops and ensures that Sacks Roamer will be beyond dragon-kind's reach. Yet there's very little offers a reminder. Instead, a lot of emphasis deals with height as we see the racers and the course on the same level as mountain peaks.

    Proportions are strange here. Either that's a tiny mountain or
    they're much higher up than I thought.

    The blue mountains and sky are a consistently cool theme, but I often see that as a remind of a clear, sunny day. Perhaps some extra snow or breath vapors. I think adding some visual hints to the dropping temperature would help add to the tension.

    "You earn 'Rainbow Crash' name again?"

    Last month, I compared Roamer and his Thunder Gremlin subbordinate Lumpy to Dick Dastardly and Muttly of Wacky Racers. While the dynamic runs similiar, there is a very important difference. Dastardly always sought to win a race. Sacks Roamer simply needs to finish while reclaiming a stolen idol. Thus it's against his interest to interfere with the race and instead focus on taking the idol from Rainbow Dash.

    Desperation vs. Pride. Which is stronger?

    Dash remains completely oblivious to this threat as her focus lies in both winning and arguing on Big Macintosh's behalf. It's interesting to see Dash champion friendship over victory. A concept I wouldn't have believed early on in the series, but she's shown a lot of growth in becoming a Wonderbolt and wrestling with her own goals versus her teammate's needs. It's to her credit that she's the the first pony to get a smile out of Big Macintosh this issue.

    I couldn't see season one Rainbow Dash talking like this.
    But in more recent seasons, heck yeah!

    Silver Streak's protestations are a mixed bag. He claims that he wanted to test his best against Big Macintosh's best, but that doesn't explain the resentment. It's a very natural flaw to believe that–having introduced a friend to a shared interest–one would assume that the dyanmic would stay the same. When Big Mac surpassed Silver Streak's abilities, that expectation shattered.

    I don't want to give away too much of this reconciliation.
    But I think it's better done than others.

    I fully expected Big Mac to save Silver Streak from one of Roamer's assaults to mend their friendship. Though this didn't happen, it's nice to see a character get what they want and realize that it hasn't brought them satisfaction. A common element in storytelling is the expressed want versus the hidden need. More often than not, a character is entirely ignorant.

    That is pretty impressive.
    But the sound effect... "Leap?"

    Yet while all this is happening, we cut away to Spike and Yona serving as a cheering section and learning the truth behind Roamer's plans. This comes courtesy of two dragons following the thieves' trail. There's a strength and a weakness to this phase.

    Dang. Spike is intense!

    The weakness is that it takes us away from the race and takes up a significant amount of time that could be spent showing more of Roamer and Lumpy versus Rainbow Dash or Silver Streak versus Big Macintosh. Given that none of the lead characters are consciously trying to thwart Roamer, enlightening them to the threat doesn't seem to serve a purpose. Plus we then need to take time for Spike to contact Rainbow and fail to recruit her.

    Given your history with Twilight, are you in a position to criticize?

    Strength lies in how we witness the two dragons behave. Too much time with dragons like Garbble and Sludge can lead to the assumption all dragons behave with selfishness and hostility. These two unnamed dragons are surprisingly social. They explain their needs, address the race officials, and support Spike's efforts. It's a welcome change from the "jerk dragon" style we often witness.

    "Sir"? I didn't know dragons even understood honorifics.

    Spike himself gets some moments of heroism as he confronts Lumpy and tries to save everyone. He truly is at his best while being selfless. Yet the problem is that he is physically distanced from the others and so any focus on him takes away from the events where most of the emotional investment lies. Yona has an even smaller role, with one important contribution at the end.

    This will end in pain!

    The race's closing dips into some self-aware humor and sets the stage from the promise of things to come; but I feel like this is ending on a medium note. There's nothing offensively bad here and there are some moments where each character gets to shine. Yet the villain is not very creative and events that should make the race more exciting seem to take away from the central conflict of Big Macintosh and Silver Streak's broken friendship.

    "Got to stop?"
    You might as well tell a fire not to burn!

    It is a fun story, but not one that will stand out in memory. I look at all the pieces to this story and I think I know the linchpin. To find out what I mean, you'll need to check out my full-story retrospective tomorrow.

    I will miss these sound effects. They've been fun.

    Right now, I would say this is a fine read and a satisfying if low-impact resolution. You won't regret reading it but I can't say it'll be talking point down the road. We'll see what Season 10 holds in store next month.

    So META!

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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