• Let's Review: Camp Bighoof #4 and MLP G5 #18

    Happy November! Looks like IDW wanted to do another comic double display! Fine by me. I'll just tackle both in one post.

    So catch reviews and spoilers for both issues after the break!

    One might think that covering two issues would lead to a very lengthy review, but I don't think that's the case. In both instances, we're presented with comics that are bridging towards the conculusion but aren't offering a lot on their own. We'll start with Camp Bighoof #4, as I consider that the lighter of the two issues.

    "We're off to exploit a living creature for our own benefit!"
    "Lighter" might be the best description for the art as it remains a wide contrast of warm colors set against much darker shades. A colorful array that may be trying to visually stimulate while the story remains low-stakes and low-conflict. There's very little I can offer by way of observation that hasn't already been mentioned in past reviews. Although I can lament my own immaturity as I look at this panel and think of several raunchy jokes.

    Oh dear.
    The biggest expression in this comic comes from the contrast of energy between Sunny and Zipp. One just trying to keep up with the other's enthusiasm and determination. At points, they seem to be moving at polar opposite speeds and other times they are perfectly synced. If you're looking to find ways to increase expressing the characters, a study of their physicality might help come up with new ideas.

    I think Zipp is trying to fly without wings.
    There is an unfortunate recycling moment in the comic as two campfire moments reuse the same setting and change one pony's expression. A visual similarity should help convey an idea; like two characters experiencing the same scenario at different times. It can help establish a thematic link and leave the audience to wonder if one character will choose a different path than their predacessor or if tragedy will strike twice. In this case, however, there is no significant meaning and likely it was a time-saving technique. I know very little about the deadlines that IDW artists face but reusing the same art carries a high risk. If it wasn't important enough to draw, why should we be invested?

    I thought about comparing the two panels, but I've already got double the comic load.
    Plus, there's only one change so it's not very impressive.

    I'm pretty harsh on this series and there are moments where I wonder if I'm arguing more for the story that could have been rather than appreciating what's in front of me. Yet that latter option comes with a question: what has changed since the first issue? The campers continue to clear the entrance of rubble and seem to be mastering their magic in the process. That shows a collective growth, but is there a camper whose progress we can celebrate? Somepony who is discovering their own growth and potential? The campers are a collective identity but it's hard to truly celebrate that growth without feeling like there are at least a few individuals who shine in overcoming personal obstacles.

    Still not sure this is the best approach for a camp activity.

    Similarly, the hunt for Bighoof has not seen a lot of development. After learning of three camera traps activating, Sunny and Zipp are all set to explore. The only obstacle is Hitch telling htem to get a good night's rest before starting out. Because we removed any doubt from the other characters last issue, there is no growing tension from within. Sunny and Zipp have Hitch's blessing so long as they exercise some prudence. There's no need for validation or affirmation because the group has no internal strife. Plus, the photos taken can be either hilarious or freudian.

    Less questionable. More meta!

    Bighoof himself has made few appearances and his role has not been all that destructive. It seems that he only ate some snacks from the camp but left plent of food for the others. Even a seeming attack is less-than-satisfying. What we wind up with are two parallel stories that rarely intersect but neither enjoys a full commitment. Thus we're back to why I'm so hard on this mini-series: I am presented with an array of characters, situations, and plotlines. Sadly, they're all bland.

    Oh, hey! They embedded the text on this one.

    Lest you think there's nothing positive to say here, I do enjoy the campfire scene. It is brief and it does commit the mistake of recycling artwork (on the same page no less), but it also harkens back to one of the best scenes in the introductory movie. It always impressed me that–given the techonology level presented–the group unified around one of the simplest and most primal sites. We get a callback to that in this issue, however brief.

    "I believe you.
    Now convince my squirrel."

    We're near the end but it feels like we've traveled in a semi-circle. A full circle would convey a sense of growth, but I'm not feeling that. Camp Bighoof needs to do something different in the final issue. Establish the Bighoof character in some unique way. Encourage us to cheer for a specific camper. Anything to hit on a more personal note than a group identity. Otherwise, I don't think I'll have much more to say next month.

    Anyone looking to ship Sunny with another pony might have to contend with this.

    Talk about a difference! While Camp Bighoof lacks any sense of tension, this Freadky Friday-esq situation with Pipp and Zipp features multiple antagonists, friction between the two sisters, and a ticking clock as the royal banquet and performance draw closer. It also helps that Amy Mebberson is doing a stellar job depicting these characters. While it might not have Bighoof's color contrast, it is faithful to the show and far better and facial expressions.

    The royal family in action!

    Having covered the attempt to capture and coerce Milky Way into switching them back, Pipp and Zipp now have to see each other's responsibilities through with the assumption that it'll be far easier. Thus we get a character study in how both ponies perceieve problems. We shall start with Pipp as her struggle mostly involves extras who go along with her idea a little too easily.

    While not as bad as the squirrel, this image looks pretty damning out of context.

    Viewing Zipp as boring and out-of-touch, Pipp decides to foresake the traditional dinner and all the preparation that comes with it in favor of excitement, rides, and beauty products. One can picture the outcome pretty far in advance. Hitch swings by to tell a little bit more about Milky Way, but his true role is to serve as the audience's proxy by witnessing Pipp's strange arrangements. I don't know a lot about royal banquets and their preparation... so I used Google.

    Stiff upper lip, there!

    Turns out the main bulk of the work falls under the responsibility of the Master of the Household and features a year's worth of planning with at least five days of final prep work. Pipp is doing all of this in one afternoon. So I can simultaneously admire how quickly she pulled this together while also laughing at how MLP manages to compress everything time-wise. Of the two sisters, Pipp has always enjoyed the attention, the doting, and regalia that comes with her station. It's Zipp who has lived in the shadow of responsibility that came with it and it's clear from this shift how differently they view their stations. Zipp was willing to soldier through the preparations. Pipp is too quick to abandon them.

    You sure you want to shoo away your oh-so-experienced mother?

    That's not to say she's wrong about Zipp. The heir to the throne has never been great about interacting with ponies. Her role in this story features an even larger host than Pipp faces, but it also has a specific antagonist in the form of Carotang. That newcomer to the music scene who thought that hijacking Pipp's performance was an acceptable act and quickly turned on the offensive to make Pipp feel bad about her birth. Having been told "no", he's now seeking to boost his stature by tearing down Pipp/Zipp's status.

    Having experienced people like this online, this thread hits close to home. Carotang seems like a true narcissist. All innocent and praise to get acquainted, but quickly turning toxic and scheming afterwards once their target is no longer obedient/useful. It doesn't help that Zipp's approach is very direct, which is not how one should deal with these people. A confrontation only serves to give them an opportunity to play the victim. Silence is their weakness.

    You're pretty much doing Carotang's job for him.

    It doesn't help that Zipp is hyper-aggressive here. We've seen her come on too strong with accusations towards Misty, but here she's threatening an abuse of royal power. I think this comes from frustration at the situation and at Milky Way, who is absent this comic. Sunny and Izzy are on hoof to serve as Zipp's conscience but the damage is done. I don't know if Pipp's philosophy of talking to her audience is the best method. There's another line of the thought that it's pointless to explain yourself online, as that only gives more fuel to detractors and people often assume any form of defense is also an admission of guilt. Whatever the best line of approach may be, this does show that Pipp understands public speaking better than her sister.

    Never read the comments!

    So now we have both characters at their lowest point with the audience turning on their pop idol and the royal banquet in complete disarray. This is an expected party of any "switching places" storyline and I'm curious to see the resolution. Of the two comics released, this one gets my full endorsement while my advice with Bighoof remains the same: save the issues for when the full story is complete or wait for a trade paperback.

    One story has tension, drama, and character insight. The other has colorful, experimental art but is sorely lacking in storytelling essentials.

    Pegasi can really get things done!

    And with that, I'm plum tuckered. I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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