• Let's Review: Friendship in Disguise

    The crossover between Equestria and Cybertron is complete! So now let's take a look back at the elements of this series and talk about its strengths and weaknesses.

    Catch the full retrospective after the break!

    Let's start with the most important question: is this series fun to read? I would give an emphatic "yes!" but with a caveat. I think this story will have an easier audience amongst Bronies than the stand-alone Transformers fan. After all, the unexpected male demographic likely has many fans who operate in both circles. The Transformers fandom I would argue is much larger due to the franchise's longevity, but a larger pool doesn't translate into as many fans who will take an interest. Exploring seibertron.com, I didn't see much activity around this comic. Which is a shame because one of the best parts of this comic is the teamups.
    This is less a team-up and  more a compare-contrast.

    Common Ground
    We know the classic idea: Transformers are for boys, My little Pony is for girls. I recall a review for the 1985 Transformers the Movie mentioned a young girl in the audience who had a Transformers "doll". Had a boy been holding the same, would it be an "action figure"?
    Rumble Frenzy needs to become more secure in his masculinity.

    Not too long ago, a Hasbro executive would have said this was a terrible idea. Better to have GI Joe blow Bumblebee up again rather than have him hang out with a bunch of pastel ponies. The fact that such a crossover even happened is a testament to how the MLP and TF franchises have evolved.
    Still worried for the guard holding on to Arcee.

    With that evolution comes a lot of character exploration. It starts with seeing how each Pony or dragon pairs with a Cybertronian. Some pairings mesh well while others were a greater struggle. The key aspect is whether or not each pairing was able to bring out the best in both characters. As an example, I'll highlight my personal low and high points.
    Windblade is trying to look confident here.
    It's... it's not working.

    The Darkest Hour: Winblade and Rainbow Dash Windblade is not a racer. She doesn't care about proving she's the best. She is a Cityspeaker, charged with providing other Cybertronians with shelter and safety whenever possible. The strange thing is that she and Rainbow Dash could easily connect over a sense of loyalty and using their skills for others. For some reason, their story instead made it all about an ego race. I found that my greatest enjoyment of this story came from the cameos of Mach Kick, Battle Unicorn, and even Misfire.
    The thoughts of every Transformer fan at some point.

    You Got the Touch!: Grimlock and Spike
    A fan-favorite already, Grimlock's an insteresting choice to work alongside Spike. Both characters got to show their best in separate scenarios but with the defense of the Ark as their chief goal. Grimlock is able to show his best not only by battling six Constructicons at once, but also acknowledging and praising the younger, hero-worshiping Spike. Some might think that this goes against the aggressive, might-makes-right Grimlock we've seen in the past. Yet a look even further back reveals another part of this series' strengths.
    Admit it. She's adorable.

    Transformers Generations Though both franchises got their start in the 1980's, one could argue that Transformers has the greater longevity as it's had a more consistent release. Title upon title of toylines, cartoons, and comics. With each handling, the characters who are iconic to the franchise undergo changes. They're redefined, celebrated, sometimes mishandled, and the fans' perception evolves.
    Soundwave has said it so it must be true!
    Wait, he said Fluttershy was non-threatening...

    Soundwave and Misfire are great examples both for and against this treatment. Soundwave has gone from Megatron's most competent spy to a misguided freedom fighter. The fact that he is the only Decepticon who made even a temporary peace with Fluttershy shows how much he's stood out amongst his peers. At the opposite end, Misfire was made a simple thug for Rainbow Dash and Windblade to thwart. Given his development in IDW's More than Meets the Eye and Lost Light, this felt more like a regression than celebration.
    Don't feel too sorry about the Rainmakers.

    But hang on! Looking over this storyline, I notice a pattern.
    You owe her a rake, Bombshell.
    Boys vs Girls? Still?

    Bringing two franchises together–regardless of what we think of as gender norms–is something worth celebrating. Yet as I look at these teamups and conflicts, I notice that the ponies only teamed up with female Autobots. Rarity and Arcee seemed a clear choice given their status as the most femnine figures. By that same notion, Grimlock and Spike are "the boys". But what about Pinkie and Gauge? Why not an equally comedic, smaller Autobot like Swerve? Why does Applejack not have help from Iron Hide or Ultra Magnus?
    Imagine if they were all carrying fly-swatters.

    Fluttershy is able to build a connection with Soundwave over care for animal friends and Twilight and Optimus lead both parties to battle. Yet when it comes to making a connection outside of combat it seems that there's still a divide. I don't know how if this was a conscious decision, but it leaves me hoping for a sequel. A chance for characters to work together without fitting so neatly into categories. This was a good introduction. A sequel could be an evolution.
    Catchphrases are magic!

    Sequel, Please?
    We are left with the door open to a sequel, which helps ease a continuity hiccup. We witness the Transformers being flung across Equestria, with hints of coming conflicts. However, Gauge/Pinkie Pie and Wind Blade/Rainbow Dash's stories have a far more organized gathering than the other stories. Equestrians have always prepped big events in short timespans, but how could one gather several Cybertronians for a race or have Gauge prepare a dish for a cooking show?
    This is quality reality TV, right here!

    As things stand, these stories don't blend well with the larger event. This is especially true at the race, given that Rainbow Dash's friends are all in the audience. If, however, a sequel were to re-open the portal between worlds and allow the two universes to mingle, we would have some retroactive continuity to smooth things out. More tempting, a sequel would give the villains a chance to show their worst.
    Funniest joke. If only for meta reasons.

    Some Villain Love
    It's okay to like the bad guys. Be a pretty boring story without some threat overhead. Unfortunately, this introduction between worlds leaves little room for the bad guys to act. Starscream and his Seekers make only brief appearances as strong-arm thugs; who are then foiled by a Pony/Autobot team. Megatron and Chrysalis stayed out of the story completely until invading the Crystal Empire, which lacked any sort of guile we'd expect from such schemers. Yet now Megatron knows about Equestria and its magic. And Chrysalis? We don't even know where she is.
    Their most awesome scene.

    Last we saw the Changeling Queen, she was in Megatron's grip. Could she now be an unwilling visitor to Cybertron? Truth is that there aren't enough pony antagonists who would have an interest in working with the Decepticons. Lesser characters like Flim and Flam wouldn't want to aid a conqueror. There'd be no profit for them. But one big bad working alongside Megatron is another story. A sequel would give these villains time to plan and craft a scheme that both worlds would have to foil. Something more than a brute-force conqureror. One can dream... Or write a fan fic!
    I learned that Decepticon fighting Arcee really
    is supposed to be Crasher from Gobots!

    Artist Swap! Usually I tackle the art of an issue first and foremost, but it's a different kind of story. We got to see several artists depicting two visually-distinct worlds. Though with the exception of Tony Fleecs, I recall the other artists all focusing on Transformers and this being a first foray into drawing My Little Pony. What I often witnessed were beautifully clean lines that would work great in a Transformers setting, but didn't necessarily match Equestria's more orangic features. Though the ponies are less detailed, drawing an expressive quadroped is likely a challenge when one is used to bipedal robots. That's not to say that the artists did a poor job depicting Equestria. More than I respect how everyone in this project was willing to draw something outside their usual rhythm.
    The background is wonderfully drawn,
    but would you look at it and identify it as Equestria?

    It's All About Fun!
    There are plenty of things to talk about with the narrative, the character presentation, and if this story could go further. At the end of the day, however, it's a question of whether or not this is fun. It absolutely is. For someone like myself, who grew up with the Transformers and gained a new appreciation for My Little Pony, this is a special kind of enjoyment. Nostalgia on two fronts with some fun chances for reflection. I wouldn't hestitate to recommend this to fans of either franchise. The four-part issues are ready now and we'll see a trade paperback in March. So give it a look and have a good read until all are one!
    No matter the generation. No matter the decade.
    Starscream getting punched will always be fun!

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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