Wednesday, April 30, 2014

March of the Ponies: My Little Pony Season 4 review (to date)

[NOTE: Links to other March of the Ponies stories will go here as they are published.Part 1 - Abridged MLP historyPart 2 - Review of Lauren Faust's prior works, Part 3 - MLP Comics (TwilightRainbowDashRarityFluttershyPinkiePieApplejackCMCs/Celestia,Spike/LunaNightmare Rarity arc (main series)), Part 4 - Equestria Girls review, Part 5 - Fan-made episodes (Dusk's DawnDouble RainboomSnowdrop); Part 6 - Fan works (MusicDoctor WhoovesFriendship is Witchcraft/Mentally Advanced Series, Fanfictions), Part 7 - Season Reviews: Season 1, Season 2Season 3, Magical Mystery Cure]

Sorry folks, but no more Ron White comparisons for the seasons. (I know how disappointed you all must be.)

But I do have a quick Season 4 rundown for you to see. What I've basically learned is that when they're not trying to force a plot to exist and just let the characters interact, the episodes can be as good as any in the past. This is especially true from about the midpoint of the season onward.

However, early season episodes, especially ones setting up the new status quo and trying to have a plot that continued the absurdity of Season 3, fell flat on their faces.

I will say, Season 4 is freaking Apple Season. Applejack and Apple Bloom combined for some excellent, excellent episodes so far this go-around. Rarity and Pinkie Pie have had their shares as well, and surprisingly, this season has been weakest for Fluttershy and Twilight.

That's mostly an irritation in the case of Twilight because she's the one who NEEDED to be justified in my mind. With 23 episodes in the books, Twilight's princesshood has been important in FOUR episodes (the two-part premiere, Twilight Time and Trade Ya!); her transition to Alicorn was only important in the premiere, and even the wings themselves were only useful in two episodes (Three's a Crowd and Testing Testing 123).

Any time outside those specific instances, she might as well be a background character.

On one hand, this has allowed great episodes to exist and kept a Twilight that everyone has enjoyed for three years. On the other, it makes the move feel borderline pointless.

I said with Magical Mystery Cure that this was a game-changer. Twilight would either need to take a more central role or fade out of the picture to let the others develop. It seems like they're trying to do both, but while other characters are stepping up, Twilight feels like she's losing ground.

She's hitting that sweet spot where she's not gone long enough for us to appreciate her few appearances of note, but is too out of the picture to mean anything in most stories. She's usually just a catalyst to start plots and then she's largely out of the story.

In any case, let me give my thoughts on how the episodes rank to date. This could all change by season's end, as the last three episodes are supposed to pay off plots that started the season (and yes, I'll give a final season review when those come to pass).

23Daring Don't
21Princess Twilight Sparkle II
20Power Ponies
19Castle Mane-ia
18Princess Twilight Sparkle I
17Rainbow Falls
16Trade Ya!
15Three's a Crowd
14Filli Vanilli
13It Ain't Easy Being Breezies
12Leap of Faith
11Twilight Time
10Flight to the Finish
9Maud Pie
8Rarity Takes Manehattan
7Simple Ways
6Pinkie Pride
5Inspiration Manifestation
4Somepony to Watch Over Me
3For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils
2Testing Testing 1, 2, 3
1Pinkie Apple Pie

Best Song: Apples to the Core (Pinkie Apple Pie)
Best Song Sequence: Tie - Apples to the Core/Super Duper Party Pony (Pinkie Pride)
Worst Song: Bats (Bats!)
Worst Song Sequence: Find the Music in You (Filli Vanilli)

Funniest Episode: Pinkie Apple Pie (narrowly beating Inspiration Manifestation, Somepony to Watch Over Me and Simple Ways)
Best Joke/Funny Moment: Tie between "We don't have a raft (bout the only thing that didn't get packed)" and the hide-and-seek sequence with Maud's pet rock. (Pinkie Apple Pie and Maud Pie, respectively)

Deal with it.
As a final note, I'd like to note that Season 4 gave possibly the closest moment to creating a canon gay character.

From "Simple Ways," Applejack said in response to being hit on by a male pony, "Look, you're a fine pony, but... uh, well... I'm a..."

This could very well be a case where she was saying "I'm, uh" but given that it's the first love episode they've really tried with the Mane 6, and how abruptly Rarity interrupted, I felt like something was understood between the two.

Obviously, they'd never state it outright, but I do think it's good that this show will allow ANY ambiguity.

Did anyone else pick up on it? Or am I reading too much into a line's delivery? Feel free to address it in the comments!

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Friday, April 25, 2014

March of the Ponies: Power Rangers vs. MLP (Magical Mystery Cure review)

[NOTE: Links to other March of the Ponies stories will go here as they are published.Part 1 - Abridged MLP historyPart 2 - Review of Lauren Faust's prior works, Part 3 - MLP Comics (TwilightRainbowDashRarityFluttershyPinkiePieApplejackCMCs/Celestia,Spike/LunaNightmare Rarity arc (main series)), Part 4 - Equestria Girls review, Part 5 - Fan-made episodes (Dusk's DawnDouble RainboomSnowdrop); Part 6 - Fan works (MusicDoctor WhoovesFriendship is Witchcraft/Mentally Advanced Series, Fanfictions), Part 7 - Season Reviews: Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4 (to date)]

The long run of pony episodes have led to what, at one point, had to have been considered the series finale.

I feel like if it had been, I could be more lenient with it. It wouldn't have made the episode good, mind you, but at least if they had gone that route I could give them credit for rounding out their series with a big ending.

Instead, I have to compare "Magical Mystery Cure," and yes I get it's a reference to The Beatles' EP from the 1960s, unfavorably to a show that I really can't believe can be considered a parallel to My Little Pony: the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.

Yeah, believe it or not, the two have a lot of similarities.

Both follow a format with a few big continuity episodes and a bunch of character developing episodes. Both feature a main cast that steps up for the forces of good. And both feature a cast of six that are supposed to represent a certain characteristic.

Many forget this, but those power coins were granted for specific reasons:

Tyrannosaurus (Red) - Strength
Triceratops (Blue) - Wisdom
Mastodon (Black) - Horrible racial oversight Bravery
Sabre-toothed Tiger (Yellow) - Agility
Pterodactyl (Pink) - Grace
Dragon (Green) - Honor? (It was largely forgotten in "Green With Evil," but that was my interpretation of Tommy's powers in "Ninja Quest.")

Like the Elements of Harmony, five power coins were originally displayed before the sixth was revealed later. Likewise, the Dragon coin appears to be the strongest individually, but it is incapable of victory without the other five.

To me, an underlying theme in both MMPR and MLP has been the theme of balance. Regardless of power, it took the whole unit to win. The rangers needed the Megazord at minimum to win, and one missing ranger prevented that. Same goes for the Elements of Harmony's rainbow beam of doom.

There was always a mutual dependence between the Element of Magic and the other five. The other five were needed to reveal the sixth element, and while the five elements needed the Element of Magic to activate, the wave came from them. The offensive capabilities of the elements depended entirely on the five elements creating the wave for the Element of Magic to channel and fire.

In a similar fashion, while the Dragonzord was the strongest Dinozord, it couldn't win a fight without other zords attaching to it, either 3 of them for Dragonzord Battle Mode or all 5 for the Dragon Megazord.

At this point you may notice that Twilight Sparkle and Tommy Oliver, the Green Ranger, are parallels, which is why I liken Magical Mystery Cure to "White Light," the two-part episode where Tommy became the White Ranger.

My video does a far better job of explaining the flaws of this episode (it's currently being reworked and will be up again shortly), but I will give a quick rundown as to how Twilight's ascension to a princess was handled far, far worse than an MMPR series that seemed to change its plans on the fly on multiple occasions (Peace conference? Really?).

Both episodes had an end goal that would drastically alter the dynamic of the show. After this episode, Twilight would formally outrank the other Elements and would have the combined powers of a unicorn and pegasus, throwing off the 2 Earth, 2 Pegasus, 2 Unicorn dynamic the show held for three years.

Likewise, after the two-parter, Tommy was moved into a leader position that he'd carry uncontested once Jason left for his, ahem, peace conference less than 10 episodes later. The show would become more Tommy-centric than at any point in the previous seasons, and half the rangers bordered on being non-entities for much of the next season and a half.

Besides that point, it was a visual shift. Twilight was gaining wings and Tommy was changing costumes. In both cases, this moment would be a significant change in the series.

How'd MMPR handle it? They played up the need for a sixth ranger. They showed how difficult dealing with Lord Zedd was with only five rangers and acknowledged that a sixth ranger helping would be welcome.

The scene with the White Ranger was played up like he was a God-send and his reveal felt justified because it was a character who, in his last appearance, pushed himself to his limits just to get one last chance to help his teammates as the Green Ranger. It was a true reward for someone we knew earned his credits as a true hero.

How did MLP: FIM handle it? They had Twilight accidentally switch everyone's cutie marks, mope for (at least) a full day while the whole town struggled with five ponies in the wrong job, solve the mess she made by not being straightforward with her friends (because she's being an idiot, a key to Meghan McCarthy's writing, and apparently something that carries over into plot-based episodes she oversees like this one), and then somehow get rewarded for her colossal mishandling of a situation by promoting her to princesshood.

Um... what?

Yeah, there was no villain that might have necessitated the power upgrade, nor was there a point where you felt like she had achieved something monumental. She just wasted two thirds of the episode on a low-stakes, nonsense story that (somehow) was the last step in a list of magical feats Twilight needed to attain - a list we NEVER saw or knew existed.

Despite this not making a lick of sense, the last five minutes of the episode are a grand coronation where the writers seem to congratulate themselves on a job well-done. What a load.

Add in seven song sequences, five of which were outright corny and badly written, and the general fact that this was all done in a disjointed episode, and I'm left feeling very empty about what I've seen.

Many would argue they did what they could in 22 minutes, but then, why was it 22 minutes? You really couldn't have cut one of the terrible episodes early in the season to make the finale a two-parter? You couldn't have added a villain to justify this move?

Heck, imagine if Celestia had to give her princesshood to Twilight to win the day. Can you imagine the stories you could tell? Luna mentoring Twilight on raising celestial bodies, Celestia and Luna's sisterhood, Twilight trying to maintain friendships from a city away, Celestia learning that the wings don't make the princess. All of this comes with two new Princess Twilight and wingless Celestia toys that can be marketed.

Power Rangers was able to create whole new toys to market while still making an interesting new dynamic in the show feel important. I can criticize MMPR for a lot of storytelling holes, but making Zord upgrades and new rangers feel like a big deal was not one of them.

My Little Pony could learn a lot about making a competent paradigm-shifting episode going forward by watching a show like Power Rangers.

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

March of the Ponies: My Little Pony Season 3 review

[NOTE: Links to other March of the Ponies stories will go here as they are published.Part 1 - Abridged MLP historyPart 2 - Review of Lauren Faust's prior works, Part 3 - MLP Comics (TwilightRainbowDashRarityFluttershyPinkiePieApplejackCMCs/Celestia,Spike/LunaNightmare Rarity arc (main series)), Part 4 - Equestria Girls review, Part 5 - Fan-made episodes (Dusk's DawnDouble RainboomSnowdrop); Part 6 - Fan works (MusicDoctor WhoovesFriendship is Witchcraft/Mentally Advanced Series, Fanfictions), Part 7 - Season Reviews: Season 1, Season 2, Magical Mystery Cure, Season 4 (to date)]

Sorry for the delay due to work and video editing, but let's continue the Ron White analogy for Friendship is Magic.

Season 1 was "They Call Me Tater Salad." Everything was consistently good with moments of greatness.

Season 2 was "You Can't Fix Stupid." It hit higher highs but showcased more true misses and had true low points.

Probably the best descriptor for this season.
And now Season 3. Season 3 is "Behavioral Problems." It's got a consistent quality to it, but there are no high points like the previous incarnations, but does manage to occasionally hit a low point.

Season 3 is notable because it's only 13 episodes, half the length of a normal season. Additionally, I'm not 100 percent sure that the third season was being produced with the prospect that it would be the last, but if it wasn't I'd be in shock.

Many of these episodes feel like they're trying to get characters into a position where they can say their arc is in the books. Everyone needs to be in a good place in time for what appears to be the end of the series.

What this leads to, though, is a colossal mess of a season where plot points are introduced and rushed through quickly, and it leads to resolutions that don't feel like they're justified and motivations that don't make a whole lot of sense.

You have to make A LOT of assumptions during this season, and to me, that makes this season the weakest. Earlier seasons could be picked up at any time and you'd immediately have an understanding of the character. You might not get anywhere near the same interpretation through an episode in this season.

That said, there were some truly good episodes, so let's rank the episodes.

13Magical Mystery Cure
12Just For Sidekicks
11Crystal Empire I
10Crystal Empire II
9Magic Duel
8Games Ponies Play
7Wonderbolts Academy
6Too Many Pinkie Pies
5One Bad Apple
4Spike at Your Service
3Apple Family Reunion
2Keep Calm and Flutter On
1Sleepless in Ponyville

Honestly, only the top two were obvious high-level episodes that compare to the early seasons. The bottom two were the authentically bad episodes. And everything else is fairly interchangeable and really are determined by what you value in your plots.

You'll get more information about my thoughts on these episodes in the audio/video (and even more on Magical Mystery Cure in the separate blog I'm setting for it), but yeah, not exactly the best set of episodes.

Best Song/Song Sequence: Raise This Barn (Apple Family Reunion)
Worst Song: Behold, Princess Twilight Sparkle (Magical Mystery Cure)
Worst Song Sequence: I've Got To Find A Way (Magical Mystery Cure)

Funniest Episode: Too Many Pinkie Pies
Best Joke: The full setup and resolution to the Discord paper-eating (Keep Calm and Flutter On), narrowly beating the G3 Pinkie Pie head (Too Many Pinkie Pies)

Seriously... WTF?
Stay tuned for the big finale review (I compare it to one of my favorite childhood shows.)

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Comic Book Review: Batman Eternal #3

This was a good issue.

I really can't say much else. It's a 9/10. Ok, you want more? Let's talk the three plots in this story.

First, the Batman interrogation of Penguin was great and it was fun to see Batman and Alfred doing legitimate detective work. Also, I'm looking forward to this gang war between Cobblepot and the Roman.

Second, the Gotham Police Department had something to do, and the inner workings of what will once again be a corrupt organization will be a fascinating subplot.

Third and finally, the Stephanie Brown story... HELL. YES. I have been waiting for this character to return and I'm thrilled the origin of the Spoiler will be left almost totally intact. She's just as funny as before and I'm really looking forward to her role in this story.

Jason Fabok did the art this issue, and his detail, his paneling, etc. was on its A-game. He's definitely up there with Greg Capullo and Patrick Gleason for top Batman artist. I'm going to miss his work...

Anyway, the only reason not to buy this is if you don't plan to buy each week. This is great stuff.

Friday, April 18, 2014

March of the Ponies: My Little Pony Season 2 review

[NOTE: Links to other March of the Ponies stories will go here as they are published.Part 1 - Abridged MLP historyPart 2 - Review of Lauren Faust's prior works, Part 3 - MLP Comics (TwilightRainbowDashRarityFluttershyPinkiePieApplejackCMCs/Celestia,Spike/LunaNightmare Rarity arc (main series)), Part 4 - Equestria Girls review, Part 5 - Fan-made episodes (Dusk's DawnDouble RainboomSnowdrop); Part 6 - Fan works (MusicDoctor WhoovesFriendship is Witchcraft/Mentally Advanced Series, Fanfictions), Part 7 - Season Reviews: Season 1, Season 3, Magical Mystery Cure, Season 4 (to date)]

I'd equate Season 1 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic to Ron White's special "They Call Me Tater Salad."

- Worst Episodes

- Best Episodes

Be honest, you didn't think this analogy was happening
when you clicked this.
It was a consistently good-to-great viewing that rarely missed and hit near the bulls-eye most of the time. Season 2 is closer to White's "You Can't Fix Stupid."

By that I mean, it hits as high, if not higher, than the predecessor, but it also misses wildly and has some of the lowest moments in the comedian's run. I really felt that in MLP: FIM Season 2.

You'll hear what I really take issue with in either the audio or YouTube videos (depending on which you choose), but I'll give a little rationale about some episodes following the rankings, so scroll on down if you want some reasoning for why episodes are bad and good.

26Ponyville Confidential
25The Mysterious Mare-Do-Well
24Hearth's Warming Eve
23Dragon Quest
22A Canterlot Wedding I
21Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000
20A Canterlot Wedding II
19MMMystery on the Friendship Express
18May The Best Pet Win
17Hearts and Hooves Day
16The Last Roundup
15Sweet and Elite
14Baby Cakes
13A Friend in Deed
12Return to Harmony II
11Sisterhooves Social
10Cutie Pox
9Return to Harmony I
8It's About Time
7Luna Eclipsed
6Read It and Weep
5Lesson Zero
4Secret of My Excess
3Putting Your Hoof Down
2Family Appreciation Day
1Hurricane Fluttershy

I wavered on the rankings for a lot of episodes (heck, 2-8 probably could be interchanged with any in that set of seven and I wouldn't debate it at all), but I feel like the episodes I set as Best and Worst were unquestionably, head-and-shoulders most deserving of those positions.

"LOL WTF R we doing?" or, "What the writing staff of this
episode was doing while working on it."
"Ponyville Confidential" was an episode I was really excited for because it was going to focus on journalism and wound up being unfathomably bad. The characters were either completely brain-dead or unlikable dirtbags; the premise, which started cute, became horrendously nonsensical; no one seems to understand how newspapers (even student-operated newspapers) work, and even the moral that has been repeated successfully in far less competent shows only manages to hit halfway.

I still cannot believe how bad a span of 22 minutes this atrocity was. There are episodes in this series I'm indifferent to, there are some I dislike, but this is the only one I outright LOATHE.

I LOL'ed
By contrast, "Hurricane Fluttershy" is an episode I outright LOVE. FIM earned an honor with this episode that only 4 American animated shows before it have earned with me: It produced a perfect 10/10 episode.

Though I don't rate TV episodes formally, I do keep a mental list of TV episodes that I consider outright great, and MLP found one in HF. They took a simple premise and gave it multiple levels of depth, the supporting characters were likable and helpful, no one was acting inherently badly, they avoided the cliche of 100 percent perfect ending for the main characters but left them happy with what they managed, and it managed to be laugh-out-loud funny while also inducing tears.

Before MLP, Cindy Morrow was the storyboarder for one of my favorite Powerpuff Girls episodes, "The Bare Facts," as I found out while rewatching old PPG episodes. Now she can lay claim to writing an outright great episode of television.

 - Songs and Honorable Mentions

Best Song: The Smile Song (A Friend in Deed)
Best Song Sequence: This Day Aria (A Canterlot Wedding II)
Worst Song: Heart Carol Song (Hearth's Warming Eve)
Worst Song Sequence: BBBFF (A Canterlot Wedding I)

Funniest Episode: Putting Your Hoof Down, narrowly over Lesson Zero
Best Joke: Iron Will doing the extra leg shift while talking to Fluttershy when asking for his payment (Putting Your Hoof Down), narrowly beating Fluttershy in a tree (Hurricane Fluttershy)

Video reviews (Going up as they are uploaded):

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

March of the Ponies: My Little Pony Season 1 review

[NOTE: Links to other March of the Ponies stories will go here as they are published.Part 1 - Abridged MLP historyPart 2 - Review of Lauren Faust's prior works, Part 3 - MLP Comics (TwilightRainbowDashRarityFluttershyPinkiePieApplejackCMCs/Celestia,Spike/LunaNightmare Rarity arc (main series)), Part 4 - Equestria Girls review, Part 5 - Fan-made episodes (Dusk's DawnDouble RainboomSnowdrop); Part 6 - Fan works (MusicDoctor WhoovesFriendship is Witchcraft/Mentally Advanced Series, Fanfictions), Part 7 - Season Reviews: Season 2, Season 3, Magical Mystery Cure, Season 4 (to date)]

It's finally time!

After A LOT of exploration of satellite areas of this show's fandom, the time has come to discuss the show that serves as its nucleus. It's time to talk about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

OK, so this audio looks kind of long, but I have a surprise for all of you: I am debuting a video review for this one. Yeah, my first voyage into video reviews will be the season reviews of this show. I'm as surprised as anyone. Check them out at the bottom of the page!

Because 26 episodes is A LOT to cover, I'm formatting it so that I only talk in serious detail about my bottom and top 5 episodes. The second of the three videos, which is the shortest and required the least amount of real work, has my pick for best and worst song, as well as some thoughts on other notable episodes.

Since I put as much effort as I did into the video, I'm going to just have my lists and some end-of-season awards in the text. You want more of my reasoning, check out the videos.

Anyway, to give you some exclusive content, here are my episode rankings from 1-26:

26Swarm of the Century
25Owl's Well That Ends Well
24Over A Barrel
23Boast Busters
22Green Isn't Your Color
21Dog and Pony Show
20Elements of Harmony (FIM Part 2)
19Show Stoppers
18Ticket Master
17Feeling Pinkie Keen
16Bridle Gossip
15Winter Wrap-Up
14Look Before You Sleep
13Call of the Cutie
12Stare Master
10Griffon the Brush-off
9A Bird in the Hoof
8Applebuck Season
7Cutie Mark Chronicles
6The Mare in the Moon (FIM Part 1)
5Sonic Rainboom
4Fall Weather Friends
3Party of One
2Suited For Success
1The Best Night Ever

Best Song: The Art of the Dress (Suited for Success)
Best Song Sequence: At the Gala (The Best Night Ever)
Worst Song: Evil Enchantress - Original version (Bridle Gossip)
Worst full-length song: Cutie Mark Crusaders theme song (Show Stoppers)

Funniest Episode: Party of One
Best Joke: "Were we arguing? I'm sorry." (Sonic Rainboom)

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Arrow Season 2, Episode 19 review

I've moved to video to review Arrow, so take a look at my thoughts!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Comic Book Reviews: Batman #30 and Batman Eternal #2 (plus the return of Robin!)

I'm going to save my actual comic reviews for the audio (Give it a listen. We had two good ones this week.) and instead use the print to talk about an announcement from DC Comics.

I freaking love this cover.
It was announced that the 'Batman &' title I recently dropped from my pull list is returning to the title Batman & Robin, and there will be a Robin again come July.

It's generally assumed it will be Damian, as it makes no sense for any of the previous Robins to take up the mantle (as much as I'd like Tim Drake to just do it) and Harper Row is apparently becoming a heroine called Bluebird.

The only other major candidate would be the Carrie Kelley character they created, but it seemed clear she has no fighting skills. At a stretch, Cassandra Cain or Spoiler could take on the role upon introduction, but that wouldn't really make a lot of sense.

If it is indeed going to be Damian, my thoughts are... I have mixed emotions on it.

Don't get me wrong, I thought Damian was a great Robin and there were great stories that could be told with him alive. Heck, my top book of 2013 that would have received a 10/10 had I been giving out ratings was the Batman & Robin Annual #1 issue.

Batman Eternal #2
But the thing is, I think there are real stories that could be told with a dead Robin. I like Jason Todd as Red Hood, but I'd be lying if real emotion didn't shine through in Batman during the 1990s thanks to Todd's death.

It gives the Bat-verse a sense of stakes. Having child sidekicks is, in fact, a risk and a dead Robin is a good reminder of the weight that these battles carry.

It's already heavily implied that Jason came back in this universe thanks to Talia al-Ghul and the Lazarus Pit. And considering the issue before B&R returns to its name is titled 'Batman and Ra's al-Ghul' it looks like Damian will be back through the same means.

If any Batman character dies, there's essentially a get-out-of-jail-free card in place. If you go through the emotion of a silent issue and have Batman go through the five stages of grief, I'd rather Ra's destroy the body and leave the emotional scar.

Besides, Bluebird could serve as a great sidekick to Batman and could help distinguish New 52 Batman from pre-Flashpoint Batman. Why not make it 'Batman and Bluebird?' Or turn B&R into a true 'Brave and the Bold' style book?

See you soon, Damian?
And if you are going to do something like this, why not surprise your audience and not give them months to analyze it? I'm sure some people in DC's offices watch wrestling. Did you see the reaction to Undertaker's loss? That's going to stick with people for a LONG time.

WrestleMania XXX became must-see for any wrestling fan, even if they didn't watch it live. WWE will make lots of money off that decision. Without an issue for people to judge, this announcement could be long forgotten by the time Damian comes back or the new Robin is named.

I may still rejoin the B&R reading brigade because Bruce and Damian are great in the hands of Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, but it's more likely to be like Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior's second runs with WWF - unable to recapture the magic - more than a true restoration like Shawn Michaels' second run.

But hey, if you're going to take a risk, at least it's with a capable creative team.

In closing, here are my issue scores:

Batman #30 - 9.0/10
Batman Eternal #2 - 7.0/10

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

March of the Ponies: Fan Works (Fanfictions)

[NOTE: Links to other March of the Ponies stories will go here as they are published.Part 1 - Abridged MLP historyPart 2 - Review of Lauren Faust's prior works, Part 3 - MLP Comics (TwilightRainbowDashRarityFluttershyPinkiePieApplejackCMCs/Celestia,Spike/LunaNightmare Rarity arc (main series)), Part 4 - Equestria Girls review, Part 5 - Fan-made episodes (Dusk's DawnDouble RainboomSnowdrop); Part 6 - Fan works (MusicDoctor Whooves, Friendship is Witchcraft/Mentally Advanced Series), Part 7 - Season Reviews: Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Magical Mystery Cure, Season 4 (to date)]

So it's time to talk about the most powerful element of any fan base: its ability to create original stories with the characters.

I make suggestions in the audio above, but I'll do a brief synopsis of each of my major picks below. (The audio also includes "Cupcakes" thoughts, but I'm not linking it on principle.)

My Little Dashie by Robcakeran53

Synopsis: A human dealing with loneliness and a lack of closure in his life finds a young Rainbow Dash in a box and raises her for more than a decade.

The legitimate gold standard for MLP fanfictions. People rave about this story, and honestly, the hype is justified.

It's very much an 'Old Yeller' kind of story where it's mostly a chronicle of life the two have together. If anything, it needed to be longer so that the emotional punch was that much harder.

If you read ANY fic from this franchise, make it this one.

My Little Dashie: A sequel by TY 500600

Synopsis: A 'what if' where Dashie's memories aren't corrected, due to a reason explained later, and she looks to return home.

This is the best sequel of the unofficial sequels. The voice matches perfectly and there's a real theme of making sacrifices for those you care for that is present throughout. I'd say this story nearly matches the original, and I wish there was a sequel that took place after the epilogue.

Audio reading is below:

Other sequels I'd note:
My Little Dashie Part II (comic form)
Synopsis: Discord offers a deal to Dashie and her father.

My Little Dashie: The Return
Synopsis: Rainbow Dash's memories return and now she wants to see her adoptive father.

Let's move on to my other high recommendation:

Her Own Pony by Jorofrarie
Synopsis: What if the Mane 6 missed a Pinkie Pie clone during "Too Many Pinkie Pies" and she saw her fellow clones' destruction?

This one is a legitimately good story that needed to be told in my opinion. It presents a realistic 'what if' scenario and dives into what would happen if a being who had six hours life experience suddenly dealt with a massive trauma and existential crisis.

Admittedly, much of chapters 2-5 are 'sadfic' territory and really harp on what she's feeling when such detail is understood, but the actual plot gives a glimpse into a person trying to find their place in the world, all while the clone tries to reach the palace so her life might be pardoned.

It's beautifully done and kudos to this writer.

A Look into Witchcraft by Masterweaver
Synopsis: Twilight discovers the FIW universe and characters of both universes have to react to each other.

This has been both a hilarious and heartfelt story, which makes it all the more upsetting that it hasn't been updated in so long.

Seriously get on this writer to finish the story! In the meantime, check out one of his other hilarious works:

Dance of the Rainbow
Synopsis: Rainbow Dash has a family secret that she doesn't want anyone to know. What follows has to be shown, not told.

Yeah I laughed big at this thing. The end is so absurd it's amazing. The only downside is that there are clear ethical flaws in the characters that make it seem like no one learned anything from the Mare-do-well story.

My Little Powerpuff: Teamwork is Magic by PrinceofBrony
Synopsis: The Powerpuff Girls, Utonium, Mojo and Princess are thrown into Equestria and meet the Mane 6.

Much like Masterweaver's crossover, this one has had a long delay, but this one does go 7 chapters deep first. All characters are written properly and there's no faked conflict. Overall, it's a good story that could be great if an end was written for it.

Once again, get on the writer.

Bride of Discord by DisneyFanatic2364
Synopsis: The events of 'Keep Calm and Flutter On' don't happen and Discord gets free, and requests a bride in exchange for the princesses.

(I forgot to put this fic in the original audio, so it's here.)

Admittedly, I haven't read this one; I've listened to the in-progress audio series. But this is the one and only 'shipfic' that will get mention from me (Discord/Fluttershy, if you're curious). It's kept itself from going over the line into creepy territory and is actually plausible, heartfelt and funny.

The only thing I find off is the Applejack subplot (AJ/Spike, again, if you're curious), as it feels like I need more in their history to be added to make it feel in character. Otherwise, though, it's a really nicely done work. The audio series' first chapter is below.

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March of the Ponies: Fan Works (Friendship is Witchcraft/Mentally Advanced Series)

[NOTE: Links to other March of the Ponies stories will go here as they are published.Part 1 - Abridged MLP historyPart 2 - Review of Lauren Faust's prior works, Part 3 - MLP Comics (TwilightRainbowDashRarityFluttershyPinkiePieApplejackCMCs/Celestia,Spike/LunaNightmare Rarity arc (main series)), Part 4 - Equestria Girls review, Part 5 - Fan-made episodes (Dusk's DawnDouble RainboomSnowdrop); Part 6 - Fan works (Music, Doctor Whooves, Fanfictions), Part 7 - Season Reviews: Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Magical Mystery Cure, Season 4 (to date)]

Two very different approaches to parody humor can be seen by the two parody series I'm looking at today.

You'll get my full thoughts on each in the audio, but let me just say that both series execute their styles about equally well. It just so happens that my style of humor is more tailored to one over the other

The two series today are Friendship is Witchcraft and The Mentally Advanced Series.

Before I start, let me say that I believe there are 3 schools of thought on how to handle a parody series:

1. Traditional abridged series (ex: Dragon Ball Z Abridged, Yu Yu Hakusho Abridged, Gargoyles Abridged) - The story and characters follow the plot of the source material and personalities are just exaggerations of the source counterparts. Most of the humor comes from the dialogue being written more as a comedy and the characters doing meta-jokes about better paths that could be taken.

2. Alternate-Universe Parody (ex: Alternate Reality Dragon Ball Z, Friendship is Witchcraft) - All rules are thrown out. The plot can deviate in order and tone, anything from any story can be shoehorned into the story, there is no real direction for the story, and the characters can be vastly different from the source. Humor comes from matching the voices and inflection enough that you're drawn into the illusion that these are the source characters JUST long enough for the show to drop something nonsensical on you.

3. Combination of 1 and 2 (ex: Mentally Advanced Series) - A story that follows the plot of the source but does so with characters that are drastically different in tone from the original source characters. Much of the humor comes from meta-commentaries about how these characters perceive the world in comparison to their source, as well as the occasional random character/joke.

I am a fan of the first two, but while I can tell what the third is going for, there's too much explaining of the joke and not enough creation of the illusion for me to really enjoy it consistently.

My audio will give my full thoughts, but here are some brief bits of information.

Friendship is Witchcraft

Style of series: AU-Parody
People who will like it: Fans who want to see the characters they're used to re-imagined in as random and crazy a way as possible.
Number of Episodes: 9 (full)
Top Episodes: Episode 3 (Dragone Baby Gone), Ep. 5 (Neigh Soul Sister), Ep. 8-9 (Foaly Matripony/Seed No Evil)
Best aspects: Voice actress has similar-sounding voice to most cast members, NAILS character speaking patterns, can't go in with any expectations as to what jokes will be used, musical numbers are strong, Sweetie Bot.
Worst aspects: Random humor and anti-humor don't work on everyone, people expecting a proper abridged series will struggle to alter their mindset to see the show as intended (in an ARDBZ alternate universe style), jokes can get REALLY out there.

Mentally Advanced Series

Style of series: Combination
People who will like it: Fans who like to see morals turned on their head by simply changing the approach a character takes, as well as those who like to have plot holes kicked at.
Number of Episodes: 11 (Most recent is numbered 12 because 11 was skipped)
Top Episodes: Ep. 5-6 (Retellings of Dragonshy and Look Before You Sleep). Admittedly, I stopped after these so the quality may have improved, but based on what little I saw of the later episodes, it's not much different from its earlier episodes
Rainbow Dash Presents: As a spinoff, its best episodes are ones where it's turning a more twisted story on its head, like with RDP: Captain Hook The Biker Gorilla or RDP: Cupcakes. Any time it tries to take on a more emotional story, like in RDP:  My Little Dashie, it tends to reach for jokes and doesn't work very well.
Best aspects: Show tries to incorporate its own sense of logic into the stories, Pinkie Pie and Thrackerzod, occasional dark humor tends to hit its mark.
Worst aspects: Long-winded explanations to set up jokes, leading to half the joke being missed to evaluate the validity of the first half; Cannot maintain any sort of illusion that the characters are acutally saying the lines because of no similar voice sound, speaking patterns or lip matching.

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