Welcome back to another rousing edition of TRS Round Table! In this edition, we discuss the opener of the next comic story, Neigh Anything! TRS Round Table is our group analysis and chat about the book, and maybe you’ll learn something new or look at it in a different light. Joining the Round Table today are Wayoshi, Brunellus, Sind, Rarietty, The Doctor, and Stavekoff. Find out our thoughts beyond the cut.
Do be warned that this review will take a detailed look at the events and details in the book. Spoilers will be kept to a minimum, but if you want to read the book blind, turn away now. You can find the comic book at your favorite local comic book store, online retailers like Things From Another World, or digital distributors like Comixology and iTunes.
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Wayoshi: Now, Katie begins to explore two royal characters who have not gotten much opportunity to distinguish themselves on the show, by taking a trip down memory lane for Shining Armor & Cadance. How’s she done so far?
Brunellus: I think Cook’s prior work speaks for itself and predict the second part will force a rereading of this in light of the new information. Hopefully it works both ways such that a person getting only Cadance’s end of the story by reading issue 12 before issue 11 would get a similar experience.
The Doctor: They seem to be taking to task the issue of Cadance and Shining Armor really not being all that interesting in the show. They were there, but they’ve never really had much in the way of characterization. Some of that is on the show runners, introducing two new character and not doing much with them. On the other hand it gives Cook the chance to work with relatively blank slates. It seems to be that this issue is Shining Armor’s issue, and next issue with be Cadance’s. For Shining Armor, I think it was done well. I think the D&D nerd works well since Equestria really is one big D&D campaign. Gary Neighgax is probably in charge of Equestria’s West Point equivalent.
Sind: In the show, Shining Armour and Cadance are very bland and uninteresting characters, with painfully little personality. You really can’t describe them as much other than “nice cool people”. When I found out that Cook and Price were going in a fairly new direction with the characters, I was quite stoked, as both characters desperately needed it, and Katie and Andy have shown that writing characters is something they are capable of, especially in the latest Big Mac issues.
And the execution in this issue is… less than stellar. Yes, they did manage to give Shining Armour some personality. but it’s just another bland “geek/nerd” stereotype with little to no effort put into making it unique. He barely does anything that could actually lead to Cadance falling in love with him, and it ends up feeling like a nerd empowerment fantasy more than anything. Meanwhile, Cadance’s ‘new’ personality has depth rivaling a piece of cardboard. She only stands around and serves no role other than being Shining’s object of desire. She doesn’t help him when he’s publicly bullied after the performance, and barely even talks to him outside of one time on page four. I said earlier that Cadance had no reason for liking Shining. Well, it’s even more so the other way around. The story fails to give any credibility for Shining Armour’s feelings toward Cadance, and it comes off as if he only wants her cause she’s a pretty pink princess.
Rarietty: Okay, I’ll admit to being part of the 1% of people in the fandom who actually really likes Cadance and always has. I dunno, it’s probably just my Disney Princess bias seeping through, but I’ve always liked how much depth and emotion her character alone gained just through the use of great acting and a musical number. The crew did the best with what they were set up with-a pink princess made to sell toys. However, this doesn’t excuse the fact that every episode she’s shown up in since then has basically shoved her aside and the show isn’t even bothering to try to develop her despite the fact that she has potential to be developed into whatever the writers want her to be. That’s the great thing about “bland” characters. Character development is always awesome and often fun to write for “bland” characters. Sadly however, the comic so far hasn’t really bothered so to take this opportunity. She’s the love interest in every single teen movie ever-bland, predictable and submissive. She exists to fall in love with Shining Armor (despite hardly even interacting with him) and doesn’t do anything else. I know that the next issue seems to shift into her perspective, but it seems like a wasted opportunity. Shining Armor’s personality on the other hand is great and totally makes sense. I hope that his personality is introduced into the show sometime.
Sind: Exactly. Even if they make Cadance’s character interesting in the upcoming Issue, it’s too late; the damage has already been done.
Stavekoff: I’m going to have second Sind here. They just traded one boring character for Shining with another, and he’s worse off for it. This might go into whiny preaching here, but SA always came off as a jock type guy to me, from what little we’ve seen of him in the show, and making him some dumb 80s movie generic geek doesn’t improve him at all. People have been saying that #12 will be Cadance’s issue, so I’m going to be holding off any major judgement of her until that comes along, but so far no good. She’s just nice. Bleh.
The Doctor: I think they did fine with Shining Armor, and I disagree that they went for the nerd stereotype. While they do have a D&D group, other than Poindexter, none of the group comes off as the stereotypical nerd. I think it’s a happy mix of a few different types of characters
Stavekoff: Well, he certainly didn’t gain any character at all. Still blander than the mush they serve at a retirement home.
Rarietty: I highly disagree there Stavekoff. I could see him still being considered bland, but the comic had nothing to work with in the the first place. The team did probably the best they could when given only 22 pages to give a handsome royal guard/prince character an actual personality. Now, Shining is shown here as awkward, a geek, a hopeless romantic, clumsy and sort of similar personality-wise to his sister. It is objective that he at least gained character in this comic. Bland still? Maybe, but I have to give credit to Cook for at least building simple character foundations. He’s still way less bland here than in the show itself. If the show/comic decided to give Shining Armor some more character development they could always build off of his nerdiness and make him more properly fleshed out anyway. Plus, it would be anything but stereotypical if adult Shining Armor was shown to continue being a huge nerd even into the show’s present and while still maintaining a princely, brave and athletic image.
Wayoshi: Price basically took the “late 80s romantic comedy” setup and ran full-throttle with it, especially on the rock concert spread.
Brunellus: I got pretty psyched when I saw the highwayman makeup going on.
Rarietty: Of course, no 80s teenage comedy (or teenage comedy in general) is complete without a scene inside a basement, a musical number, a scene that has to do with a sports game, multiple pop cultural references, a jerk jock, an overly nice love interest who hardly even interacts with the main character…yup. You’ve got it spot on Cook.
Sind: An 80’s story is fine, and can be quite interesting and funny if done properly. What we have here though is another round of Cook&Price reference hailstorm, except now worse than ever. They waste no panel putting in an obscure reference(or five), leaving the issue with little to no personality of its own. Contrast this to how they did it in issue 9. Sure, there were still a ton of references thrown in all directions, but they managed to make the story feel a lot more ‘pony’ by having more focus on big mac and the people of ponyville. This issue however spends a majority of it’s gags with “look how hilariously 80s this is!”. Blargh.
Wayoshi: It was interesting to see the end of the issue acknowledge the meat of this arc is a memory being retold, and is exaggerated (which I think Price complemented really well). Seems Acme isn’t quite as cartoony in Equestria as perhaps expected.
The Doctor: I kind of want to see Cadance embellish even more than Shining Armor. It will be interesting to see how they deal with her story. She is the pony of love. Will her story be accented with pinks and have spinning roses in the margins everywhere?
Stavekoff: Yeah it’s actually more fun this way. Goes to show you that what we remember isn’t how it actually was. That’s why I think Cadance was so dull. I’m thinking her side will be a bit more eye opening.
Brunellus: The Shaggy Dog outside the window was a nice, subtle touch. A follow up story of Twilight’s “neutral” interpretation of events might make for a good issue.
Sind: Sure, the end of the issue reminds us that this is a retelling, but it also made me aware that the medium wasn’t used to it’s fullest. Not once was Shining interrupted by anypony in the audience. Sure, this isn’t actually necessary, but it feels like a wasted potential to me.
Also, that looks more like a painting than a window to me, Brunellus. =P
Wayoshi: In addition to usual interesting tidbits like Vinyl Scratch getting her cutie mark, Price & Cook are starting to create their own continuity. (With Spike & Angel never fading in a gag role, of course.)
Brunellus: While I’m fond of world-building, I’ve noticed that there is a tendency to appropriate existing characters to fill out roles in the stories. Used sparingly, this can facilitate robust development of characters and setting. However, when overused, it tends to shrink the world by creating too much synchronicity to the point of absurdity. Within the context of this issue, the only time this is a concern is the cover featuring the yearbook.
The Doctor: LIttle bit from the opening that got me was Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy. Rainbow Dash blowing off the story, and Fluttershy yelling at her. The two have such fun and interesting interactions in the show, and I am glad to see it in the comics. I can just see Fluttershy dragging Rainbow Dash to this little tea party.
Stavekoff: The whole parade bit was the most entertaining part of the issue I feel. Price and Breckel can team up to make some really beautifully done pages that are pure eye candy. I seriously laughed at the “Little Girls” rendition Shining put on, top notch stuff. The ponified D&D was fun too. On the topic of their continuity dealio, I’m usually a fan, but there a few things in this issue that came off as too convenient, like Twilight Velvet being the author of Daring Do, and Vinyl getting her cutie mark from Shining’s big number. Can’t these characters get their own stories? Why do they have to tie in with the main ones all the time? It makes the world feel too small.
Sind: Unlike some others, I didn’t really mind Twilight Velvet being revealed as the author of Daring Do. Her blind bag card already revealed her to be an ‘adventure story writer’; Her having written Daring Do wouldn’t be far fetched. Nor does it feel tacked on or out of place, given that they are in her home and everything. The Vinyl Scratch cutie mark thing however… yikes.
As for the Spike/Angel thing, I’ve quite liked the gag so far, but in this Issue it felt fairly forced. They had no reason to be present, and only served in creating a load of excess contrast.
The Doctor: I don’t really find the Twilight Velvet thing to be offensive. It does seem a little too convenient though. Though, an episode about Rainbow Dash stalking down the author would end in hilarity now. Vinyl Scratch getting her cutie mark was a cute little background thing. I know she is very popular in the fandom, and many have their own headcanon of how she got it. I am sure that Shining Armor and a bunch of nerds playing a cover of “Little Girls” was not the cause in most stories. Cook and the rest of the folks at IDW get to do their own things, and I am kind of glad they are willing to tackle big fandom pillars.
Wayoshi: It looks like Cadance will assume narrator duty in the second half. It will be great to see her exaggerated viewpoint on the proceedings after the polo game.
The Doctor: It is a chance to give a character to this pretty pink Pony Princess. Cook has shown that she likes to put the ponies up to mischief, and I think mischievous Cadance could be interesting. While they are going full 80’s, I am kind of hoping for a unique finale to this issue. There are certainly many stereotypical ways this could go, but I would like to be surprised rather than see the joke coming a mile away.
Rarietty: I’m mostly just curious to see how the dance goes. Considering a certain teenage-pony movie, if they can fit a rather large amount of fan references into a fall formal I can’t wait to see what they do with a fall formal gala. I’m praying for 80s prom dresses galore. And, of course, actually seizing the opportunity to give Cadance decent character development.
Stavekoff: What if Cadance’s retelling was like inspired by Heavy Metal but also pink and full of hearts. Some kind of fusion between ultra fem and hardcore stell and ugly. I’m probably just projecting, but hopefully she will get more than just “Hi, I’m pink and I’m also a princess.” Not to say they take away her pink and princess, but something that will wow us and shame us for thinking this character has nothing going for her. I honestly trust Cook and Price, and I really hope they don’t disappoint with giving Cadance some substance.
Sind: As with the others, what I’m hoping for is some proper character development, though I can’t really say I have high expectations anymore…
Brunellus: “That’s not how it ended. That’s how it began.”
Rarietty: Sind, I’m just curious. Your expectations originally seemed really high for this and they seem to be tarnished completely. I’m just wondering, how exactly would you personally approach this if you were to write the next issue and were given only 22 pages?
Sind: Oh, I’d quite hate to be in that position. Trying to turn this around and making it good with such limited space, while still keeping true to the previous issue, is hardly a task I’d be able to face with my current writing abilities. I’d probably go with something like revealing a flashback(inside the flashback) that tells us why they would have feelings for eachother in the first place. That would still not quite make up for the lack of explanation in the first issue, but it’s as good as it can get now, I think. Just don’t make it something too contrived… please…
Sind: Just for fun, what race/class would you play in Oubliettes & Ogres?
The Doctor: Dawns on me that ponies making their own OC’s is now a thing. As for the question, I would play an Arcane Pegasus Archer.
Brunellus: Esquilax Witch Doctor/Bard
Sind: Personally, I’d probably be a Unicorn Mage. Yeah I know, pretty unimaginative; but I like keeping it simple.
Stavekoff: Whatever the heck Pinkie Pie is. That’s my class. Let’s run a homebrew campaign you guys. ■