• Let's Review: Friendship in Disguise #3


    I'm very biased about this guy's name. Call it a result of being a childhood fan. Anyway... 

    Autobots! Ponies! Decepticons! Draconequus! Hasbro's unlikely crossover continues with Fluttershy and Discord versus Soundwave and Rainbow Dash versus Windblade.


    Catch the full review with some spoilers and geeking out after the break!


    Today's issue is a study in opposites. Two pegasus-centered stories in which one Transformer is a polar opposite while the second is perhaps too similar. 


    Why am I afraid to know what he just described?

    Of the two stories herein, I'd argue that "Pet Sounds" is the stronger of the two. Yes, Fluttershy's presence is a boon but there's also a great presentation of the characters. Not to mention the artwork. Jack Lawrence has worked more in the Transformers sphere, including doing art for the  Lost Light series. Given that this is one of my favorite Transformers comics from IDW's run, I'm already inclined to enjoy the artwork.


    Soundwave, you know not of what you speak!

    Lawrence is well-practiced in drawing Decepticons, but I'm impressed by how well he contrasts them against the small and rounder ponies. Fluttershy in particular enjoys some wonderful expressions that make her a stand-out character. If one applied the same lines to a stiffer rendition, I think the character herself might seem less authentic.


    Oooh, Fluttersass!

    Discord might seem less menacing, given that his presentation is going more for absurdist than violent. Yet there comes a point where intimidation is his main goal. I think he could have been made more visually threatening to match this. 


    You might as well command him to not breath!
    Wait, is that even a worry for Discord?

    In talking of threats, we reach one of the strongest points for this story. With Soundwave's sudden appearance, even Discord is at a loss to understand what is happening. In a rare twist, it's Fluttershy who is the boldest as she witnesses a simple connector.


    That moment when joy shatters fear.

    Usually, Fluttershy has a goal but is held back by her own insecurities. This story utilizes her love of pets to be a motivator, making Fluttershy much more autonomous. Even Discord is following her lead out of care. It's quite fun to see my favorite pony's magic winning over the Mini-Cassettes, except Rumble Frenzy.


    What she doesn't know is that Megatron
    actually likes to boop subordinates


    This is a personal bias. I grew up watching a violet-and-blue Decepticon named Rumble crack jokes and shake the ground. When I look at this character, I think "Rumble". This has been a bit of an in-joke with the Transformers fandom since even the toy boxes liked to switch the names. 

    The confusion begins!

    So the aggression from Rumble Frenzy earns both him and Soundwave a giant bullseye as even Ravage, Laserbeak, and Ratbat side with Fluttershy. A funny scenario on its own, but it's here that Soundwave's character gets some appreciation. 

    Riiiiight. And boys don't play with dolls. They use "action figures"!

    Soundwave is as iconic as Megatron and Starscream, yet he is a very different character. Though a master at espionage, he never seemed to turn on his fellow Decepticons. He was, in fact, one of Megatron's most loyal members. The worst one could accuse him of is inaction during power struggles.

    will always love youuuuuuuuuu!

    More interesting is what IDW chose to do with Soundwave in the latter phases of their first Transformers run. Soundwave's exceptional hearing has been a staple throughout the franchise. The creative team behind the comics took this to the next level, using those senses to make Soundwave more aware than his peers. How sensitive? When Ravage died entire solar systems away, Soundwave knew it instantly. It was one of the most emotional scenes I've witnessed; made all the more poignant by a character who presents himself as "robotic".


    His ability to connect with others didn't stop there. Able to "hear" someone's mind, Soundwave became a Decepticon who gave up their agenda against organics and even aligned himself with Optimus Prime. He befriended a human, and often was the greatest proponent for protecting life. It seems a contradiction given his alignment, but Soundwave has always been exceptional. Even in G1, he cared about what happened to his Mini-Cassette subordinates and they returned this loyalty.


    Could have timed this better. Like after the 50th slaughterfest.

    Given what we've seen so far and the teasers, I think Soundwave might be the only Decepticon who forms a connection with the ponies. And it fits because of his character's history across multiple iterations. That doesn't mean this is a flawless run for him. I actually think he was nerfed to face Discord. Though the spirit of chaos might have reality-bending powers, he's far from invincible. Given Soundwaves enhanced senses, I think he could surprise and stun Discord with a sonic blast. Likely he's kept to more traditional attacks for the sake of time and the focus on Fluttershy's influence. 


    People have always been smitten with the 
    "Soundwave superior" line.

    Even with that critique, I thoroughly enjoyed this part. Yet being able to celebrate these characters highlights why the next part was less gripping. 


    Nose? Nose.

    "The Flyin' Fox Trot" goes along a route one expects in a crossover: have the good guys challenge each other. When last we saw Windblade, she had just emerged into Equestria and was facing off, sword in hand, with the Rainbow Dash and the Wonderbolts. 

    Love the two Wonderbolts on the left.
    "Are you seeing this?"
    "Oh, good. We're both crazy."

    That storyline has since been abandoned, making me wonder about this chapter's timing. Much like Gauge and Pinkie Pie, this story seems to suggest that travel between the two dimensions remains open and the two cultures continue to interact. Though in this case, the interaction is more competitive as Rainbow Dash and Windblade posture over their skills.


    Can't help but feel this is a mixed comparison.
    Also, I didn't add that "Lorem Ipsum" text.

    One could view this story as a counterbalance to Arcee and Rarity. At this series' start, the two "ladies" of both franchises started with Arcee showing up Starscream, Rarity bonding with her over shared values, and the two teaming up and showing their best against the Seekers. Rainbow and Windblade build a bond over shared physical competition, with both showing their best early on before teaming up. 


    Those are some really slow missiles!

    The problem sets in when I look at Windblade. In part because artist Priscilla Tramontano doesn't seem as comfortable drawing ponies or Windblade. Windblade's design traditionally features a round design, helping her stand out in comparison to the classic, boxy Transformers. Tramontano's depictions emphasizes a more squared design, even though Windblade will often assume a feminine posture. Her onna bugeisha-styled head also messes with the proportions, as it makes her noggin' seem too large for her body. It's possible that this was done to better blend her with the Equestrian styles, but I find that this series does best when it enhances the contrast.


    Trying to be boxy and curvy at the same time.
    Tough sell.

    Though a skilled flier, Windblade has never much cared about being the fastest or the best. A Cityspeaker who can communicate with city-sized Titans like Metroplex, Windblade's goal was often to care for others and build a stable life. The war often demanded that she be a warrior and her character was interesting as she tried to navigate between the two demands. Though a recent addition to the franchise, Windblade has kept a pretty consistent presentation. 


    "Can I be in the crossover?"
    "Um... You'd step on any costar."

    I get the sense that this presentation of Windblade is discarding a lot of that to make her a parallel to Rainbow Dash. But if Fluttershy and Soundwave can bond over a concept like care for others, I think Windblade and Rainbow Dash can bond over a sense of duty rather than competition. Though I can't completely fault the race because it features some cameos that absolutely had to happen.


    Set your fanboys to full force!

    Battle Unicorn and Mach Kick. I totally understand if you have no idea who these two are. Products of the Beast Wars and Beast Wars Neo series, they are the only equine-themed Transformers out there. And the shout-outs to lesser-known Transformers continues as the race is interrupted by Misfire and the Rainmakers.

    Check out Nova Storm on the right.
    He's so cool, he doesn't even have to look while aiming.
    Side note, he's about to hit Misfire.

    Sounds like an 80's band, doesn't it? Ion Storm, Nova Storm, and Acid Storm were a throw-away set of Seekers in G1 who made one appearance on Cybertron. Their mission was to kill several Autobots with acid rain, hence their subgroup. They became a recurring idea within the franchise, though there's little to say by way of character.


    Seekers. Buy one, get the other twenty half-off.

    Misfire is an odder fixture. He was barely a feature at the end of G1, and I haven't yet seen the Japanese Headmasters. Yet he became an important character in Lost Light. A member of the bottom-tier Scavengers, Misfire became a caregiver to a mentally broken Grimlock. Having seen him portrayed as a goof, a healer, a Decepticon thug, and a savior, it's a bit hard to revert back to just the thug aspect. 

    Who says stroies aimed at boys can't be emotional?

    This too seems like a counterabalance. Soundwave's presentation seems to flow in the way his character has evolved with the franchise. Misfire is a regression. Like Starscream before him, he and the Rainmakers are there to take a few lumps before the heroes bond.


    Check out Nova Storm on the right.
    ... I think he's scoping out Rainbow Dash!

    I'm going to give most of my props to the first story, but even talking about things I thought could be stronger I realize how invested I am in both camps. I grew up with Transformers and have witnessed the evolution in storytelling as yesterday's fans are today's writers. I have enjoyed the creativity inspired by My Little Pony and wonder if some fans will grow to enhance the franchise in a similar way. This comic is allowing me to enjoy and ponder two phases in a lifetime. 


    See? Rumble is in this comic!

    I definitely recommend giving this a look. It's fun, it's got some surprising cameos, and some pretty adorable scenes. Next month will feature the conclusion as Applejack takes on the Insecticons and the four factions have a final clash. Until then!


    If you told my younger self Soundwave would one day face roboticized critters,
    I'd tell you to get away from me. Weirdo.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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