• Let's Review: MLP #45

    Do you think world conquest tastes as good as cake? Our three fallen heroines might say so.

    It's time to talk about the final issue of The Ponies of Dark Water. Beware that there are spoilers after the break, no matter how you slice it!

    Discussion on the artwork can wait a moment. First, we've got a doozy of a summary to do. Hm... how to begin?

    Ah, you girls are so sweet. You summed up 90% of where we stand right away. Yes, Part 2 did the work of many bridge pieces: it made the situation worse. Part 3 bears the burden of solving the problem, redeeming seven characters (plus a good chunk of Ponyville), and offering a resolution. A lot to ask in a 20 page issue.

    Unfortunately, this part features an approach that can undermine many fantasy stories. The rules for the tale begin to contradict, and with that comes a loss for the cast.

    Having read the comic, it's funny how short a role she'll play. 
    Take Nightmare Moon's return. The initial question raised is why Luna wasn't affected by the corrupting water the same way as the Mane Six? Nightmare Moon is not red-eyed, and I don't think anyone would claim she represents Luna's best traits taken to a dangerous extreme. Nightmare Moon talks as if she and Luna are completely separate personalities. So how come Twilight isn't Midnight Sparkle, or why do none of the Mane Six adopt new names for their evil selves?

    When a character operates by a new rulebook, the story weakens. Fantasy is not an "anything goes" mentality. It's asking the audience to accept an alternate rule set. While I'm not a fan of the "magically realigned" idea, this comic arc has made a case for how the Mane Six were changed. Luna to Nightmare Moon is an arbitrary flip. Worse still, throwing out the rule set lessens the heroines' accomplishments. 

    Hey! Is that medical equipment sterilized?

    Let's look at Zecora. Her role in this is to find the cure, but now that the rules have been ignored, how much meaning does her discovery hold? She assumes that Spike is unaffected because he is a dragon and his scales will purify the water. The problem is that we never saw him go in the corrupting hot spring, nor did he get hit by a water balloon. Instead of looking like Zecora has discovered the meaning behind the mystery, I get the sense that she's right for convenience. This isn't her victory; it's the script.

    That's not to say everything in the story feels forced. Nightmare Moon's desire to oust Pinkie Pie feels natural. It's an enjoyable idea that "evil" characters won't band together by default. They have their own agendas while more noble characters can align because they care about others. It's a nice display of altruism vs selfishness.

    Think that's something? The fifth line says, "Your bill is $150."

    Spike and the Cutie Mark Crusaders get to show some innovation as they lay traps for Rainbow Dash and Applejack. This is where the artwork comes into play. Tony Fleecs and Heather Breckel form a great combo for the action in this story. So much of these events require magical fights, physicality, and conveying action through static images. Joker Pie versus Nightmare Moon carries a lot of visual humor and activity. Rainbow Dash crashing into a water bucket trap conveys the sense of forward momentum.

    I'm tempted to make a "Rainbow Crash" joke, but I want to keep my teeth.

    In many ways, this comic is more about action. Big events. Big reactions. Characterization is verbalized. Each of the Mane Six gets cured in short order, and each voices how their world view distorted. My favorite explanation is Pinkie's. "There was no filter."

    Odds are each character gives this reflection to tie back to the first part, but if a reader has already read that then it's redundant info and if a person is new then there's plenty of other information they won't get. I don't think this vocal reflection adds to what each pony experienced.

    On the topic of redemptions, Twilight and Nightmare Moon are the two greatest threats. Yet their resolution feels mixed. The cure for Nightmare Moon was innovative and Luna's deception was both unexpected and clever. Twilight herself does appear smart as she sees through the veil and reveals that her ability to plan transcends morality.

    I'm proud of Twilight. Not many villains know how to properly budget time for gloating.

    Her follow through leaves something to be desired. It's odd that Twilight doesn't try to hold anyone as she does Princess Luna. She doesn't make any attempt to expel or injure them. Perhaps it's a commentary on the arrogance that has weakened so many of Twilight's foes, but the fact she saunters into another room for no reason makes me scratch my head.

    As the final pony is made right again, there's a sense of "that's it?" The two magical powerhouses get fixed quickly; almost off-panel. Again, both resolutions make sense. Especially Twilight, who has never been able to anticipate Pinkie Pie. It's a contradiction within the comic's presentation. Bold, action-oriented scenes but with a sudden and underwhelming end.

    Yes, Luna, you win the angst contest.
    There is no prize.

    The final part is a resolution of all events. The Mane Six are absolved by the town and make repairs. The mystery behind the corrupting hot spring is solved. I know from the comments section that some folks wanted the spring to be a trap by the Nightmare Forces, or some other previous enemy making an attempt. Yet one thing this arc has highlighted for me is the lack of continuity issue between multi-part stories. Events like Nightmare Rarity and The Root of the Problem are forgotten. For me this stings, so have an awesome joke as a salve:

    A Weird Al reference and a dig at Dawn of Justice at once? 
    Is it Christmas already?

    As Luna departs, I'm not sure what the story is trying to point out. "The Nature of Ponykind" comes up as a joke, but in this story of inverting good and evil, there's not a lot to take away. This issue was all about action, despite a sudden conclusion. It's fun to read and even more fun to view. Given the space and the mounted stakes, I think it did all it could in the space provided. Yet on a character level I don't get a sense of depth or insight. If it's meant to teach a lesson, that message is obscured by action and the knowledge that none of these characters are acting out choice. It's fun to read, but not something to think about in-depth.

    What about the story overall? This is the first opportunity I've had to review a multi-parter on EqD as it came out. Tomorrow, let's weigh in on the story arc as a whole. Come on back for Let's Review: The Ponies of Dark Water!

    Twitter: Silver Quill