• Let's Review: The Nightmare Rarity Arc

    Welcome to our Nightmare, Rarity.

    Let's take a look back at the second story arc for the IDW comics line.

    Be warned, there are some dark spoilers after the break!

    Let me run these two sentences by you. Spot the difference:

    Princess Celestia banished Nightmare Moon in the moon. 

    Princess Celestia banished Nightmare Moon on the moon. 

    One letter’s difference, and yet the sentence’s meaning changes. That is the power of the written word and it’s a peeve of mine to see it maligned. The “send it to the moon” joke has become so widespread that many substitute meanings, even the comic staff.

    Not the best introduction the Nightmare Rarity arc. The entire conflict is based on the assumption that Nightmare Moon stood upon the moon’s surface for 1,000 years rather than being sealed within. One interpretation is arguably more scientific than the other (if we ignore that pesky “oxygen” question), but in a fantasy setting I’m drawn to the magical seal. 

    Help! I'm being chased by the spirit of
    "Twilight's Secret Ship Fic!"

    The story proper begins with Twilight stumbling sleep-deprived through town and running into her equally groggy friends. It’s quickly established that each has been suffering nightmares. All featuring a dark fog.

    Sound familiar? Well, before you cry “Shenanigans!”, this comic came out long before Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep? And arguably did it better. While the dreams in Magic Sheep were designed to frighten, the nightmares suffered in the comic are designed to attack each heroine at their core. Each of them dreams of failures that hurt not only themselves but those they love.

    However, only one pony dreams of losing her friends. Rarity’s dream features her being shunned by everyone she knows, and thus there’s no hope. She becomes the prime target of the nightmare forces. 

    The true horror: being snubbed by Fluttershy!

    Who are the nightmare forces? Well, turns out that the moon was home to an actual species. The Nightmare Moon Fiendship is Magic issue would later name these creatures the Nyx, who craft Equestria’s dreams. Whether she realized it or not, Celestia ended up dumping Nightmare Moon on their doorstep, and within a few days the fallen alicorn had corrupted everyone. 

    All this is conveyed by the timely arrival of Celestia and Luna, the latter of whom still resembles her original appearance. It’s a bold attempt to try and reconcile the continuity hiccup between seasons 1 and 2. Unfortunately, it’s foundation is unstable.

    My mama was the Fausticorn. Hold thy tongue!

    Luna and company journey to the moon via magical rope to confront both their worst nightmares and their new enemies. Luna is conflicted about a secret, for which the nightmare forces taunt her. This secret is never revealed, leaving me to assume some points but mostly remain confused. It seems more that Luna blames herself for the current situation, though the next development undermines that guilt.

    Such an awesome design.

    Rarity is transformed into the newest villain. Although she inherits some of Rarity’s personality traits such as a love of fashion, Nightmare Rarity speaks as though she has possessed this body. In essence, Nightmare Moon is a mind parasite. 

    This is the second undermining aspect of the story. Luna’s fall is a cautionary tale against envy and pride. It’s a demon of her own creation and she has to wrestle with the consequences. If Nightmare Moon suddenly changes to an external, evil power that possessed Luna in her vulnerability, then that responsibility changes. Now suddenly there’s a third power involved. One that’s is an arbitrary, unrelatable entity that made Luna its victim. 

    The fight ends swiftly with the Mane Five captured and Luna retreating to warn Ponyville. Spike finally has a chance to shine as he infiltrates the Nightmare Castle. Despite her corrupt form, the Rarity we know never fails to appear in each issue, even as an illusion meant to seduce Spike. This comic gets extra respect from for treating Spike as an active character, with very sincere feelings towards Rarity. Maybe not true love, but care that's deeper than a mere crush. 

    After the buildup to the invasion events move even faster. The Nightmare Forces attack but struggle against Ponyville's hijinks. This was the first instance of big, goofy battles that would become a staple of the comics. Though I had fun reading, later issues would make me doubt if this was the best choice. 

    Up on the moon, the Mane Six start to glow. A combination of Pinkie’s antics and Spike infiltration frees the ponies so that they can use their newfound auras to fly back home.

    Where did they get this new power? Heck if I know! They just starting arguing, then talking about their friendship, and now they’re the Elements of Harmony sans any jewels. This development comes on suddenly and tastes of happening to force the next act into play. It’s a magical escape clause, and we’ll see it again in a later story. 

    Trixie is currently on chance #47.

    The conclusion features a reunion of all parties and holds the record for simultaneous redemptions. Luna transforms with the support of the town ponies (and Trixie), thus making me further question how they could forget her in Luna Eclipsed

    Huh. I completely forgot that Lightning Dust was in the back– GUMMY!

    And perhaps that is the appeal and weakness for this comic. It strives to bridge the gap between seasons 1 and 2. Yet because of key misconceptions, it becomes a puzzle piece that can’t settle into the overall imagery. 

    On its own, the story is a high-stakes battle with some whimsy. Amy Mebberson renders the nightmare forces in frightening detail with strong use of grays and blacks to contrast our pastel heroines. I love his design for Nightmare Rarity as she dons more elaborate costumes, and the Nyx’s later forms. 

    This story shows a lot of the strengths the comic enjoys. Often times the comics can get away with darker themes and imagery than what we see in the show. Without the need for voice actors, far more ponies can be involved. The final battle is fun, energetic, and comedic. Unfortunately, the comics has less breathing room than the show and many elements feel rushed or forced. The increased cast stretches the focus and thus weakens the character development. 

    My biggest gripe is that Rarity emerges unaffected. While Luna’s guilt over Nightmare Moon is a consistent debate within the fandom, Rarity will never again mention her corruption/possession. For all its strengths, this comic becomes a non-event. 

    Nightmare Moon’s legacy, however, is going to haunt the ponies again and again. Nightmare Moon was not the first evil to face Equestria, but she is the one who had the greatest impact. Without Nightmare Moon, there'd be no Ponyville. Twilight and company gathered to stop her, and in doing so began their journey as friends. So if ever there should be a recurring antagonist, the princess of eternal night seems like a good choice. 

    At least they won’t have to deal with any other fallen alicorns. Right? 

    As a great loon once said: "Wait til they get a a load of me."

    Twitter: Silver Quill