• Let's Review: The Return of Queen Chrysalis

    We loved her even before we knew her name. And she would want to devour that love. So evil!

    Let's talk about Queen Chrysalis, her revenge scheme, and the first four issues of IDW's comics.

    Just in case you missed this back in 2012, be warned that here be spoilers!

    Get jiggy with it! That's what the young kids still say, right?

    This is it! The story that started it all. On November 28, 2012, IDW published the very first issue of a comic line that has expanded over several years. It’s hard to remember the lead up to this first run. There were uncertainties. Would the comics capture the feel of the show? Would IDW try to make it cutesier or hold back on story? 

    In many ways, The Return of Queen Chrysalis makes a statement: these comics can go places you wouldn’t imagine. 

    Hit or miss, Andy Price and Katie Cook have made Equestria’s unknown their playground. In almost every comic they love to take the Mane Six and transition them into new territory or have them face off against new foes. Although the premise of this four-parter doesn’t sound like that. 

    Queen Chrysalis and her Changelings abduct the Cutie Mark Crusaders and use them to bait Twilight and company. Almost sounds like a fan fiction that’s trying to re-use show elements. Yet like many fantasy adventures, it’s the journey that takes center stage. The Changeling’s familiarity is a springboard to meet other threats. The Mane Six face a cave troll with a collector’s fixation, oddly dressed giant spiders, vampiric jackalopes, chupacabaras, and pony-eating petunias. 

    Stay strong, Fluttershy. Stay strong.

    Each phase of this journey has it own conflict, though not always smooth. It begins with a flawed idea: Changelings are awful at their namesake. It simultaneously highlights the best and worst aspects of Cook and Price’s work. They excel at pop culture references, turning the Changelings into Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets Aliens. Yet to make this joke the Changelings are anything but skilled infiltrators. The push for the humor can come at the story’s expense.

    This then leads into the duo’s other famous tactic: hijinks battles. The Mane Six don’t tackle a fight with just strength and magical blasts. They employ party cannons, fashion throwbacks, and Fluttershy’s inner rage. Even while battling Changeling hordes Rarity will pause to stylize Pinkie’s mane. It seems like they’re trying to serve two goals here. This is meant to be a fun, light-hearted comic set in dark, oppressive settings. 

    Not sure if I should roll my eyes or admire her dedication.

    Character behaviors also vary. The Mane Six banter off one another wonderfully; often reacting to their own absurdities. Yet to set up these jokes the characters sometime slip into flanderization. The Cutie Mark Crusaders in particular seem to be in their own world, which is probably more fun than the confines of their cocoon prison. The most grievous moment, however, is when the filly-ship is broken. Tricked by the Changelings mid-journey, the Mane Six become furious at one another and split off into pairs. They abandon the larger group in the middle of foreign, hostile territory. It’s those moments where characters do things to further the plot rather than to be themselves that can shake the reader. 

    Yet for every critique there is a positive. The Mane Six’s reunion features an array of comedic misadventures and slapstick reunions. Plus one of the most meme-tastic moments in the franchise:  

    The climactic battle is a mixture. My criticism is something that extends to many comics from every publisher. Why won’t these characters shut up and punch? Comics attempt to express motion in static images, the ultimate paradox. Many time a comic will have characters arguing ideologies while they punch each other. Yet as Twilight and Chrysalis jabber back and forth about love, power, and who will win, one starts to wonder how they have any breath. I get the sense Cook was self-aware:  

    Can we renew peon as an insult? 
    The usual net put-downs have gotten old.

    The turning point is the early-established Secretariat Comet passing overhead, altering the magical properties of everything underneath. Chrysalis and other creatures may get a boost, but none of them can match Twilight. Let me put it this way: alicorn Twilight has great magical power. Enhanced Twilight is magical power. 

    I’ve yet to talk about the strongest element in this story arch: Chrysalis herself. Bronies hadn’t even learned the Queen’s true name before they knew they wanted more. It’s no stretch to say that she was the most popular element of A Canterlot Wedding. Cook and Price took special delight in her presentation. Chrysalis could be a snarling predator one moment and seamlessly transition into a suffering monarch the next. She was threatening and hilarious. Dark actions but light-hearted words. She’d share a good laugh, then threaten to end you. 

    I don't think there was a panel in this story
    where I failed to enjoy Chrysalis' expressions.

    One of the most infamous scenes is the revelation of what happened after Chrysalis had been expelled from Canterlot. I wonder if Cadance and Shining Armor would sleep well knowing their love shockwave doomed the citizens of “Wuy-Dovey Smoochy Land.” It’s probably the darkest imagery of this arc. A representation of the cutesy, playful land people feared G4 would become getting decimated by the Changelings, with even darker humor to follow. The message seems clear: this franchise is marketed towards girls but don’t assume you know what that means.

    Think of this scene every time you hear "Love is in Bloom". You're welcome.

    "Duality" sums up IDW’s first story arc. It’s funny, with whimsical moments. Then it’s terrifying with ominous artwork and life-threatening peril. Then suddenly it’s both. Some moments will hold the audience while others seem to throw readers aside. Sometimes it’s like part of an episode and then it goes places the show wouldn’t dare. 

    In my eyes this started the comic universe off with a bang. Not the best story to come out, but certainly a strong start. If you have either the paperback collection or individual comics, give them a dust-off and see how the story looks in hindsight.

    Twitter: Silver Quill