Holy new personas, ponies! You’re the Power Ponies! – Spike / Humdrum
Spike takes the centre stage in this episode. Late at night, he is reading a comic book instead of sleeping. Twilight tells him they need to get a good night's sleep, because the Mane Six and Spike are restoring the Castle of The Royal Pony Sisters in the morning. Of course, she relents a bit after he excitedly describes the plot - the heroic Power Ponies are facing their arch-nemesis, Maneiac, but their bumbling sidekick, Humdrum, keeps messing up.
The next day, the crew are cleaning the castle, but Spike seems to be at a loose end, since his help is not currently needed. Twilight suggests he go read his comic book: wasn't Humdrum about to defeat the villain? Spike says Humdrum is only the comic relief, and never saves the day. Gee, could this scene possibly be setting something up?
Spike, back in the library room where they found the journal, is stumped to find that his comic book doesn't have an ending... only a small verse (of sorts) written in on the last page in the corner:
You can return to the place where you started,
When the Maneiac is defeated,
He finishes reading it just as the Mane Six arrive, having decided to break for tea and biscuits:
Take a closer look, to join the adventure in this book.
The comic books starts to glow, and then sucks Spike in, a sight which strongly reminded me of the game Fable III, which features the player character also being sucked into a book. The rest of the Mane Six grab him, but they are all pulled into the book too. Well, Pinkie isn't sucked in as much as she jumps in with a "Whee!"
They find themselves on top of a building, wearing the costumes and possessing the powers of the Power Ponies:
Twilight is Masked Matterhorn, who can shoot energy beams from her horn. So not much change there.
Pinkie is Filly Second, who is basically a pony version of the Flash. Again, not much change, just look at "Party of One".
Rainbow Dash is now Zap, an expy of Storm from X-men, since she can control the weather (didn't she always?)
Rarity is Radiance, who can create energy constructs from her bracelets, making her Green Lantern in purple.
Applejack is Mistress Marevellous, who has a lasso she can control with her mind. The lasso reminds me of Wonder Woman, who has the Lasso of Truth, so I see what they did there. Another clue is the star symbol on her throwable horseshoes, which matches the one on Wonder Woman's tiara.
Fluttershy is Saddle Rager. She is Hulk. That is all. Actually that's a really fitting choice, since we've seen Fluttershy angry... and we do not like her when she is angry...
Spike himself has been given the role of Humdrum, who is basically Robin, only useless.
They don't have much time to get over the shock of suddenly being in a comic book, and y'know, having super powers, before the villainness Maneiac appears, carrying the McGuffin she needs to complete her dastardly plans. And man, oh man, is this mare just so much fun to watch. Her power is her prehensile hair, which she variously uses like Doctor Octopus to walk on, or throw things. She can also use it like Spiderman to swing away. Oh, yeah, and she is utterly. Bugfuck. Insane.
The battle begins, with Pinkie (I mean, Filly Second) using her speed powers to escape from a thrown post box. When Applejack (I mean Mistress Marevellous) tries to use her lasso like a regular one to attack Maneiac, things don't turn out so good, leaving her roped (is this the second or third time this has happened to her?) to a streetlamp. At least the "mistress" part makes sense now.
She isn't the only one having difficulty. While Spike (I mean, Humdrum) knows all their powers, they don't seem able to control them properly. Matterhorn's attempt at a Cold Beam attack fizzles, and Zap accidentally summons a tornado instead of lightning, which sucks up our heroes instead of the villain. Radiance's attempts at making something useful are tainted by her unfulfilled desire for those tea and biscuits, and Rager doesn't want to be rude by Hulking out.
Despite being able to briefly steal away the McGuffin, Humdrum trips on his own useless cape and drops it again. Maneiac sarcastically thanks him for helping her, before leaving (like Spiderman, as I mentioned before) by swinging away on her living tresses. Humdrum tells Marevellous how to use her lasso properly, which is by telekinesis and she uses it to "pop" the tornado... um... well, it's a comic book world, so we'll pretend this works.
Humdrum is depressed to be the bumbling sidekick, but the others try to cheer him up. He's not really Humdrum, so he doesn't have to ruin things. They head to Maneiac's Top Secret Headquarters - a shampoo factory (who wrote this script, Joel Schumacher? That's as secret as Mr. Freeze hiding in an ice-cream parlour.)
Matterhorn wants to decide on a plan, but as usual, Zap soars in headfirst, shouting a challenge and summoning lightning to zap the factory sign. At this, Maneiac's henchponies appear.
The second fight begins, but while Matterhorn still seems to be having difficulty making her freezing ray work, Radiance has gotten the hang of things, levitating on flying carpets, creating giant parasols as shields (Hilarious in Hindsight to anyone who has seen the Fighting is Magic footage of Rarity ) tying up bad guys in strings, etc. Wait, wait, did Radiance just kill that guy when she bounced the falling sign back at him? Hard core.
Filly Second is also putting her speed powers to good use, Marevellous can use her horseshoes as a bola, and Zap's gotten the lightning down pat. Only Rager is unable to help, since she can't seem to get angry.
Despite beating the mooks, the Power Ponies find themselves petrified and depowered when Maneiac hits them with her Hairspray Ray of Doom, leaving only Humdrum free, because he's so useless. And... bucket. Despite his slump, he sneaks into the factory via the air vents. He finds the Power Ponies trapped in a cage, and regularly dosed with Doomy Hairspray, keeping them from recovering and using their powers.
Maneiac takes her time with a triumphant monologue about her plans to use a giant hairdryer gun to, you guessed it, take over Maretropelis (OF COURSE!) The Power Ponies remind her that Humdrum is still around to stop her, but she dismisses him as useless. This vote of confidence from his friends, however, cheers Humdrum... no wait, cheers SPIKE up, and he starts sneaking around and preparing a few plans of his own.
He uses the tarpaulin to snag the henchponies, and knocks over the Hairspray Ray, which gives the Power Ponies the time they need to recover their powers and break out. The battle rages once more! But poor Rager still can't get mad, until Maneiac callously knocks down a cute little firefly. This results in one of the best pre-flank-kicking speeches ever to grace Friendship is Magic:
Fluttershy: Are... you... kidding me?! I mean, I know you're evil and everything, but you'd hurt a teensy, harmless little fire-fly? REALLY?! Well, you're just a great, big MEANIE! There, I said it! What makes you think you're so special? Like the rules of common courtesy don't apply to you? WHY DON'T YOU PICK ON SOMEPONY YOUR OWN SIZE!
Hulk!Rager takes the giant ray to the face and bounces it back at Maneiac, then proceeds to smash the hairdryer gun to little pieces, stopping only when she finds her friends staring at her in awestruck horror.
Maneiac herself finds she is having a bad hair day, as her own mane tightens up into a straight-jacket. She continues to giggle and cackle madly, though, so at least she's having fun.
Spike begins with "Once again the day is saved...", which is really funny when you consider Lauren Faust's previous works, but they are sucked back to Equestria before he can finish it. The Mane Six babble excitedly about their adventure, and congratulate Spike for saving them, and remind him that he is an important part of the team. Lesson learned!
The idea of them being transported into the comic is very good. If this sort of trick had been used in the Daring Don't episode, I personally would have liked it much better, and many of the complaints fans had about that episode would have been avoided. But then again, I suppose then the complaint would have been that they're re-using the gimmick too soon. The costumes of the Power Ponies were very creative but their powers were not. In fact, the powers were extremely generic. They were, however, appropriately chosen for the ponies themselves.
The villain was tons of fun to watch, laughing (what else?) maniacally, shouting out classic comic book villain lines about how "nopony can stop me now", etc. The voice for Maneiac was provided by Ellen Kennedy, and she does an absolutely fantastic job. I wouldn't mind a story at some point about Maneiac somehow escaping the comic book, with a grudge against Humdrum, and having to be put back in again by the Mane Six.
The actions scenes were well choreographed, and very entertaining, as well as including some luscious animation.
Although at the end of my last Season 4 review, I admitted being worried about how they would pull this off, I think they did a decent job of it. It wasn't quite a parody of the superhero genre, but it didn't take itself too seriously either, which is a good balance. If there is a negative, it's that the plot was way too easy to figure out. The second the comic was introduced, it was obvious that they would somehow end up inside it, and that Spike would have to rescue everyone.
Pros: Spike was in character, and showed once again that he can be useful; creative costumes; entertaining villain.
Cons: Generic powers, utterly predictable plot.
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moon!
Keep emitting that yellow solar radiation, everyone!