• Let's Review: Friendship in Disguise #4

    Insecticons on Sweet Apple Acres! This is going to take more than a can of bugspray. The unlikely crossover between Transformers and My Little Pony concludes with Applejack facing a metallic infestation and all sides converging for the final showdown.

    Catch the full review, with some spoilers in disguise, after the break. Transform and party on!

    Hard to believe we're at the end. This comic series suffered a long delay and after that switched from a weekly publication to a monthly. Yet now we close on the ending, but not without Applejack getting her moment to shine.
    "Shine" is a subjective term.

    Strength In Numbers
    Sadly, Applejack has no Autobot partner to help her out. Which is doubly-unfortunate as she's up against no less than seven Insecticons!
    Applejack is lucky they never use their cloning ability.

    Sara Pitre-Durocher returns as the artist for this confrontation and once again she shows an amazing attention to detail on both franchises. It's an interesting contrast because Pitre-Durocher's previous work with Spike and Grimlock took place in the Transformers universe. Now she is called upon to draw Sweet Apple Acres.
    From a giant computer to an apple orchard.
    Quite the array!

    As has been the case with Transformers artists who now draw Equestrian settings, there's a strong reliance on even, straight lines that create a very solid background. Yet Pitre-Durocher makes an effort to match MLP's style when it comes to the variety of trees around the farm. The art style for MLP could best be described as decepitvely simple. The trees themselves can look like cardboard cutouts, but with some surprising detail when one truly looks. The biggest weakeness is that the branches of these trees is that thier branches tend to go too short and too vertical.
    Funny how even the trees look like bitten apples.

    Yet for that minor detail, Pitre-Durocher show some impressive devotion to the characters. Most folks know the Insecticons for the trio of Kickback, Bombshell, and Shrapnel. Yet we get to witness an additional four Insecticons: Venom, Barrage, Chop Shop, and Ransack. These "second wave" Insecticons have undergone a color shift to the tranditional violet-yellow-black color scheme, but the visual differences are distinct. Except for Kickback and Ransack, but that's because their insect modes are very similarly designed.
    Without looking elsewhere, can you tell me which is
    Ransack and which is Kickback?

    The Insecticons never transform for this conflict, which is a loss. At the same time, their alt modes are well suited to putting them in conflict with the Apple family. It's possible that Applejack is missing the parasprites right about now.
    Discord calling someone tactless?
    Kettle, meet pot.

    Instead of an Autobot to help out, Applejack instead has Discord. The chaos spirit seems to have gotten over his shock at seeing Soundwave and is now treating the Decepticons as a distractions or entertainment. To help even the odds, he calls in the entire Apple family.
    On your left!

    This is where Pitre-Durocher's attention to detail really shines. She must have reviewed "Apple Family Reunion" at least, because I can recognize each pony.
    Interesting battle cry.

    One might assume that the swarm vs farm motif is the main idea behind this clash, but I'd like to propose another aspect. The Insecticons have always been rogue elements, even amongst their fellow Decepticons. They're driven by pure instinct, and yet no matter how much they crossed Megatron they would return to the fold because even the idea of being a Decepticon is engraned into their impulses. As such, the Insecticons are a very unaware group. They act only on instinct.
    These guys never really wowed me as a kid.
    Even with their diverse powers.

    There's an argument to be made that family is also instinctive, but I don't think that's the whole story. Especially as we become older, family becomes a choice. Who you welcome into your life, who you expend energy to connect with, who you welcome into the family as a spouse, sibling, or honorary member. The Apples represent a conscious choice and the bond that comes with it. I think the highlight of this comes when Bombshell succumbs to his own mind-control cyber shell.
    Not so fun when it happens to you, eh?

    Though the question remains, who would be a good Autobot partner to Applejack? At one point I would have paired her with Optimus Prime. While he's more associated with Twilight (for reasons we'll shortly review), Applejack and Optimus often serve a similar role. The cast of both Transformers and My Little Pony and Transformers feature exccentric personalities that can be larger than life and often conflict. These groups would both fall apart if not for a more balanced presence holding things together. I think that role goes to both Applejack and Optimus, though it's often a thankless job.
    "Now remember, Rodimus. I should fight Galvetron.
    We're in the same toy size category. You stick to Cyclonus."

    But there's a lot between Twilight and Optimus' characters as well. So perhaps Applejack's best Autobot counterpart is a figure who fulfilled a similar role to Optimus: Ultra Magnus. Magnus helped keep the inexperienced Rodimus on track and was the most mature voice of the third season, but he's not well celebrated for this role. He was calm, balanced, and mature. Thus he gave other the chance to be off-blance and grow while he held the fort. I think these two would be a good teamup, though they'd likely need a surrounding cast in order to commisorate over their unsung contributions.
    Nope. No clop jokes.

    So now we have witnessed each of the Mane Six interact with a Cybertronian counterpart. Some were friends, some were enemies. Fluttershy earned several frenemies! But now it's time to pick up where we started. Chrysalis and Megatron are finally making their play.
    Either Chrysalis is holding a grudge, or the
    Crystal Empire has a big "Conquer Me!" sign strung up.

    Tony Fleecs started this series and likewise he is closing it out! We witnessed a lot of Transformers artists drawing the ponies. Fleecs has done some covers for IDW's Transformers series, but I think his portfolio leans more towards My Little Pony. Fleecs presents the Transformers with larger heads, which makes the bodies seems smaller. He also allows for more space around the eyes, which allows them more room to show surprise or confusion. An important part of any battle involving ponies.
    Soundwave is likely thinking,
    "As long as I don't fight Fluttershy."

    Fleecs draws these battles with such enthusiasm, going for wide actions and big reactions. This fight also serves as a cameo fest for all the ponies who didn't get an appearance. Only a few extra Autobots, like like Prowl and Ironhide.

    It's a curious thing to see the Student Six ("Young Six" according to the comic, but I prefer the alliteration). Ocellus in particular emphasizes the timeline, which Quibble Pants joked about in the first issue. All signs point that this is taking place during Twilight's reign, with Chrysalis somehow escaping her petrification and producing an unknown horde of classic Changelings. We don't get to learn a lot about these villains as they're both present to be defeated by overwhelming force.
    There are fans who have dreamed of such moments.

    Yet for all the participants in this fight, including the dream duo of Spike and Grimlock, the central focus is on Twilight and Optimus as they lead these unlikely friends.
    Light our Midnight Sparkle!

    Let's consider the similarities between Twilight and Optimus. Both had humble beginnings. Across multiple storylines, Orion Pax has served as a police officer, warehouse worker, and librarian. Though not born into a higher class that Twilight, he has often been presented as resistant to what destiny or–at least–necessity demands of him. Neither Twilight nor Optimus sought leadership. Instead, their respective situations had reached a point of complete imbalance. They stepped up when no one else could, and kept going. The mark of their leadership is that they lead from the front and inspire others to step up. Contrast that against tyrants like Megatron and Chrysalis, who spend more time insulting their subbordinates.
    Is that an evil Mirage or did Crasher from the GoBots sneak in?

    Having just praised thier attitudes, it feels strange to critize that Twilight spends too much of the fight espousing Equestrian values. The problem with this is similar to Rarity's introduction to Arcee. There's a lot of focused devoted to talking about virtues when the fight provides an opportunity to show them in action. There's also a concern with fights like this because we seem to assume that because the good guys are winning, their philosophy is prevailing. Consider that line of thought runs close to "might makes right", a philosophy Megatron would subscribe towards (as long as he's the winner). I would argue that the real measure of virtue lies not in who won the fight, but how much the world benefits in the aftermath.
    That orange cap might be the funniest joke in the series!

    Sadly, neither Megatron nor Chrysalis get to show their worst during this final part. As tried as I feel towards Cadance being made a damsel in distress, conquering the Crystal Empire would lend them a level of credibility before the final battle. Or perhaps show the Decepticons magically empowered to show the threat. The Decepticons are often outnumbered, but their focus on personal strength balances against the Autobots' teamwork. As it is, Megatron and Chrysalis' attack plan is very direct and lacking any of the distraction we would expect from these characters.
    Pulling a switcharoo through evil science?
    That I do expect from Shockwave.

    We're also left with some questions about the timing. I had wondered from Pinkie Pie/Gauge and Rainbow Dash/Windblade's stories that the portal between worlds might remain open. But with the day won, Optimus acts in the defense of both worlds. Yet Shockwave leaves the door open for a sequel, which I would eagerly welcome.
    Wise words from the Autobot dad!

    What more can be said? If you stuck with it this long, then this series did something right. How could one pass up on this climax? The finale overshadows Applejack's struggle, but I found both stories enjoyable despite a sense of imbalance. This series is a celebration of friendship between the protagonists rather than a genuine struggle between good and evil. The Decepticons are there to be defeated without gaining traction, and the evil Changelings' role is very minor. If we are treated to another crossover arc, I hope that the villains will push the situation to its edge a bit further.
    This was their coolest moment, but it was in the first issue.

    But I come away from this series and finale wonderfully satisifed. I got to celebrate a facet of my childhood and enjoy it alongside a more recent enjoyment. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this and encourage everyone to check it out and see what sort of memories it might rekindle.
    Some stories say that the Autobots are preprogrammed for kindness.
    I'm not a fan of such stories. If the Transformers are truly alive, then they can choose.

    Due to this being a hectic week, I'll hold off on a series retrospective until next week. I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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