The Weekly Pull (3/27/13) – MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #5

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Just when I think I have a moment of rest, the ponies pull me back in. Seriously, didn’t I just discuss the last issue a week or two ago? Anyway, MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #5 begins a new storyline. What is the force behind a sudden rash of terrible dreams amongst the mane six? And how is Princess Luna involved? Which of our heroines will become imperiled?

Well this answers my question from the last issue. The series will continue with a multi-issue arc format, as opposed to being episodic. Luckily for new readers, there doesn’t appear to be a need to read previous installments (at least of the comic itself) to understand the current one.

The main characters get together to discover they’ve all been plagued by terrible dreams for about a week. This comes to a head when the six have themselves a sleep over in a vain attempt to stave off their nightmares, and Rarity gets snatched up by dark smoke. Despite the best efforts of Rainbow Dash, the smoke makes off with Rarity and takes her to the moon.

Yes, the moon. If you know anything about MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC, you’ve already guessed the nature of this event.

In one of the rare examples where they appear together at the same time, Princess Celestia and Princess Luna arrive to explain what’s going on. How they knew it was going on or that they ought to visit Poniville is anyone’s guess. The obvious thing they need to do is go to the moon to launch a rescue mission, because Rarity was captured by Nondescript Generic Forces of the Darkness #457, who also happen to have ties to Princess Luna back when she was the evil Nightmare Moon. And is it just me, or does the writer seem to have a very different interpretation of how Nightmare Moon worked than what we’ve always been told by the show?

Let me drop the beat, see if you can’t pick it up. Nightmare Moon, for those who didn’t at least watch the first two episodes of the series, was what happened when Luna, jealous of the adoration her sister received, decided to plunge Equstria into eternal darkness that she would then rule. She was exiled to the moon, probably as a combination of political necessity – Celestia couldn’t very well let her sister go unpunished lest there be widespread discontent amongst her subjects – and the hopes that a thousand years of solitude might cool Luna’s head. Or at least that’s how I’ve figured it. Point is, it was always established that Luna just went evil. This comic seems to suggest that Nightmare Moon wasn’t merely an empowered alter ego of Princess Luna, but rather a force in and of itself that made her something she wasn’t, and the mane six freed her from malevolent control. This vaguely defined moon darkness being described as what turned her into Nightmare Moon, possibly against her will but with the paradoxical implication that it was suggestion.

Too long, didn’t read summation: this comic is confused about what it wants the nature of Nightmare Moon to be.

Here’s a few other nitpicks I had with MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #5. I like how the ponies have to ask how they’ll get to the moon. How? With magic of course! This shouldn’t be that hard. Also, Rainbow Dash, in a fit of being the comic relief for this issue, suggests – among other ways they could resolve the plot – to use or build a time machine. It’s a joke of course, but I can’t help remembering that they wouldn’t need a time machine. After all, they have – once again – the power of magic on their side. Literally, because Twilight Sparkle has used time travel magic before. Sure, it’s apparently bound by a stable time loop (no changing the past, because the true timeline already counts all time traveling into the “proper” sequence of events), but still.

The creative team has changed this time around, this time with Heather Nuhfer on writing and Amy Mebberson on art. The art in particular is less stylistically off-model than the previous issues, but is still very good. The style matches more closely to the show, while still including its own eccentricities. I’m going to miss the old comic style – it really grew on me – but this one is certainly good and has the benefit of not being nearly as crowded. Speaking of, the references to pop culture are fewer and less overt than in previous issues, which is probably for the best. The strongest is really early in the issue, with background ponies referencing Sailor Moon.

If I had to describe this new arc from my impressions, I’d say it’s much closer to what the show was going for. The last four issues were, by and large, a love letter to the older fanbase. With its higher adventure, more connection to established continuity, and rampant pop culture references put on full display. And while I did enjoy those issues, I often felt pandered to. I don’t tend to appreciate pandering, even if it’s on my behalf.

Do I recommend MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #5? Yes, though with the grain of salt due to a comic based on a show intended for little girls. You know, like always. And never before has the ongoing comic series been closer to the show’s intent.

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