• Let's Review: G5 #16 and Camp Bighoof #2

    Two comics in one day? A challenge to which I will rise.

    Check out a double-comic review after the break. Just be careful. Double the comics means twice as many spoilers.


    My Little Pony #16


    Let's start things off with the main series and the start of a three-parter. It's been a while since we had a multi-issue story and this time we can expect no filler issues. Already a plus in my book!

    Is this the first in-comic appearance of the Pippsqueaks?
    The art for this issue once again comes from Amy Mebberson, who I think has become a premier artist for this series. She knows how to express the ponies in varied and dynamic ways while also introducing new characters that have a unique identity without looking out-of-place. This issue in particular gives a chance to show a wide range of emotions, albeit a majority revolving around dread, annoyance, and anger.

    This is one of my favorite panels ever.
    Of all time.
    I think the only aspect that is underdeveloped is the identity of rising musician Carotang. Having watched the Bridlewoodstock special, we've seen some strong identities for one-off characters. Whether it be making the phrase "Electric Blue" quite literal or demonstrating the appeal of 80's music, the characters embodied the music they performed. If you asked me to guess at Carotang's music, I would sooner think he was a music agent than a performer.

    The red background really helps emphasize the nature of this attack.
    This story by Celeste Bronfman features Pipp and Zipp preparing for different aspects of the same event: The Zephyr Heights Royal Dinner. The one night the entirety of Zephyr Heights is welcomed into the palace and treated to dinner and a show by the royal family. Queen Haven's lectures to Zipp help contextualize this as a noble act by the family to strengthen the bond with their subjects. She does make it sound like a very altrusitic goal even when set against the "Divine Right of Wings" lie the family perpetuated for generations. Rather than contradicting one another, it does shift the view more towards a desire for stability and hope rather than an empty justification.

    In a comic where many ponies are despairing, 
    this smile is a wonderful treat.
    To put it simply: everything the royal family does in this series is indeed for the good of Zephyr Heights and its residents. And that's a greater fantasy than magical talking horses.

    Zipp's burden in all of this is serving as a main representative. It's her time to organize the dinner, pick the arrangements, and write a greeting speech to her future subjects. Her dread is apparent from the very first panel and thus she garners the most sympathy off the bat. Queen Haven's speech does lift Zipp's spirits, but the Queen's coaching also demonstrates Zipp's inexperience.

    Case in point: Zipp isn't able to choose the floral arrangements based on personal preference. She has to consider what will foster connection and discussion amongst the attendees. The same attendees who will be too varied and numerous for her to actually invest her time. Her contribution to the discussion is to set the stage and then watch it unfold from afar. So in this way, Queen Haven is both Zipp's main support and antagonist. A representation of all the factors involved in just planning an event.

    Jeez! One at a time, ponies!
    Pipp starts off as a harder sell as providing the musical entertainment is her main interest. She's all about the show and greets it with eager excitement. Sunny and Izzy are her bandmates for some reason–likely a way to involve them in this story–and thus Pipp even has friends on stage to support her. If anything, she seems far more in her element than Zipp. This is where the aforementioned Carotang comes in. His name is foreign to me. I get the sense that he is a reference to a musician or genre which is going completely over my head. What I do recognize is that he represents the lose of support and validation that Pipp craves.

    I'm getting a Scott Pilgrim vibe here.
    His continual attempts to usurp Pipp's popularity and his gaslighting her royal birth present a direct threat to her standing. It's true that, as a royal, Pipp enjoys an advantage in launching her career. But Pipp has never been one to rely on that standing and always pushes herself to create something new and unique. So it's clear that Carotang doesn't have a full view or appreciation for the work Pipp puts in and is simply trying to shock his way into the public's attention.
    You have awoken the beast.
    God have mercy on your soul.
    Both sisters are in a terrible headspace to hear the other's frustrations and as such they only end up dismissing the other's responsibilities. While a exaggerated for drama, I do see this as a believable scenario where neither party is entirely wrong. It's more a case of short fuses and high pressure. This quarrel sets the stage for the newest introduction to the G5 community.

    Any siblings identifying with this moment?
    I would readily classify the nymph Milkyway as Cozy Glow's spiritual successor. A cute appearance, some humor, and a great many crocodile tears endear her to Pipp and allow Milkyway to hear the princess' frustrations. Thus she has the information to throw life into complete chaos. This makes me wonder if Milkyway is also a chaos spirit like Discord. Given that his powers diminished and his focus has been on eliminating magic for a time, it's possible that the universe conspired to find his replacement. Enter Milkyway, who is less bombastic but still big on visual gags and props.

    She says she's a wishing well nymph,
    but I think there's a design flaw.
    I find it interesting that Milkyway swapped the princesses' cutie marks and the public's perception, but left their consciousnesses within their own bodies. Usually, a role swap story involves the characters having swapped bodies so that the outside world can't tell the difference. Milkyway has altered everypony's perception except the two victims, which is an interesting twist. We'll see how the Pipp and Zipp figure out this switch and confront their challenges next month! But until then we have another story to cover.

    Don't stare too long!

    Camp Bighoof #2
    Our next comic continues the tale of campers trapped in a valley with a wild being that is part pony, part unknown.

    Might want to step away from that newly-fallen rock pile!
    The dual release creates an interesting comparison as we have Kate Sherron's art style combined with Reggie Graham, a different colorist than our usual Heather Breckel. The two of them go for a more surreal expression of an environment. Cliffsides are an array of triangles while trees are basic circles with pointy sticks holding them upright. Nature is a series of simplfiied shapes that helps the slightly more detailed ponies stand out.

    Greens and blues for most of the environment to let the warmer
    ponies stand out. Purples for the closer nature elements.

    Grahams coloring is also a huge factor in perception. I accidentally discovered this last issue and thought I would repeat the experiment of desaturating the panel and seeing which pony is the most prominent.

    I'd say the blue pony stands out the most in this one.
    One cool color amidst an array of warmth.

    The flipside of this unique style is that the characters look static in their poses or have more trouble emoting. The colors provide a burst of energy, but the characters have simplified reactions.

    We left our camp counselors and campers amongst the rubble of a magic lesson gone wrong. The valley entrance is sealed off, but given that two of the counselors are pegasi it doesn't seem like that big a deal. They can be gone and back with help in just a few hours.

    Hitch is leading the ponies he once pursued.
    Life has a sense of humor.
    This is where I think we hit our first blunder. Hitch reasons that since they have a means of getting help at any time and there's plenty of food, they'll just carry on without reacting to this change. I think a real-life camp, even with working phone service, wouldn't risk further misfortune and would at least call for a team to open the passage. This story needs the cast to be bound in the valley alongside the threat of Bighoof, but the pegasi are the biggest obstacle to any sense of entrapment. So now the characters are making poor choices to compensate.

    A majority of this issue involves the search for Bigfhoof. Zipp is all set for the adventure, while Sunny volunteers to assist because Hitch must take care of all the campers. Right here, we have a demonstration of a weird aspect within G5. Since the premier movie and her temporary alicorn ascention, we would assume that Sunny would take the lead on developing this new world and expanding the ponies' boundaries. Instead, it's been Zipp who has served as the driving force for exploration and questioning the unknown. Rather that dealing with the burden of being an heir to the throne, Zipp is a detective and nothing offers a greater mystery than the unknown world.

    VERY sunny.
    So we have Zipp taking the lead and dividing the valley map into a grid while Sunny is there as support. Not a bad setup but it requires us to let go of some expectations for better or ill.

    It's amazing how rare and precious maps are in this franchise.
    With the campers practicing magic once again as the greater focus on the search, a great deal of this issue contains antics as Zipp and Sunny check the valley grid-by-grid. Plenty of hijinx to enjoy but we only get a brief glimpse of our wild pony when they return to camp. Remember, Hitch claimed they would stay since there was plenty of food and now Bighoof has just helped himself to an unhealthy amount. So what we have here is a threat escalation, but we still have the option of pegasi leaving the camp to bring help.

    Wait, aren't some of those X's outside the valley?
    Are they really trapped?
    This is a short review because much of this issue is a search for Bighoof that only pays off at issue's end. If one is looking for a point to the search, I would argue that it demonstrates that the ponies are often out-of-place in the wild and don't know what to approach and what to avoid. The wild is Bighoof's territory and while he/it knows the lay of the land and its inhabitants, the ponies are ignorant intruders who stumble about.

    Were they all subsisting on potato chips?
    I imagine that next issue will address why the pegasi can't go for help in greater earnest and further escalate the danger. Until then, this issue is something of a breath between bigger events. A common feeling for second issues in a larger arc.

    Both Issue #16 and Camp Bighoof #2 offer an interesting presentation of art, interactions, and depicting the magical unknown that is often a part of My Little Pony. Given that G5 hasn't featured a lot of magical creatures in its run thus far, it's nice to see both nymphs and unknown beings make an appearance. The return of magic may have signaled a calling to the unknown, which makes for better stories. I say give both issues a look and see what appeals to you.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

    Silver Quill on Twitter