• Let's Review: MLP #48

    It's time to play the music! It's time to light the lights! Let's see how they get things started.

    Click below for the review, but be mindful that there are spoilers!

    I do love first issues in a story arc. Blank slate, lots of potential. MLP comics tend to present the core idea early and so that's what really gets my mind in gear.

    The fact that Andy Price is drawing this comic doesn't hurt, either. We've seen many art forms in the comic, and some I'd argue are more visually appealing. The flashback artwork in Friends Forever #31 is a good example. Yet what makes Price my favorite artist isn't just the way he draws the ponies and their various expressions. It's the vitality he puts into the overall feel. Often times a character will bridge the divide between panels, guiding the reader's eye. Plus he adds a ton of references to the background. These additions don't demand our attention, but encourage a second and third read-through. I'll offer a challenge: try to spot both the Cheers reference and the adventures of one "Deputy Fife".

    Rainbow flew so fast she broke the panel barrier!

    Our story opens with the Mane Six and Spike returning from Abyssinia, having saved it from Ursas. Minor or... Wait, no. That was a comic about characters having their personalities altered by a magical force. Instead, let's focus on this story about characters have their personalities altered by a magical force!

    With only a two-part election story dividing Ponies of Dark Water from this arc, there's an uncomfortable repetition to the setup. Although it is interesting that this the second time Discord has made an entrance via meteorite. 

    Gotta say, Discord has really upped the meteorite showmanship.

    It's also worth noting the difference in how the characters changed. The corrupted Mane Six had their best traits taken to a dark extreme. Having been modified by a celestial alignment, Discord has become his polar opposite, Accord. What he once did to the Mane Six has come back around to him.

    He is rocking that business suite.

    Most of the ponies are fine with this, which hits on something in the show and comics. I've a history of worry when it comes to things like Cadance's love spell, reform spells, spells that force friends to reconcile, and the various mind-altering spells from Every Little Thing She Does. These are spells that remove the freedom to choose one's own actions. That alone is a terrifying idea because it reflects some very real-world attitudes about forcing people to agree. We may not have mind-control spells, but peer pressure, public shaming, even political correctness can be viewed as an attempt to force unity without respecting an individuals' free will. More troubling is how the ponies often try to show this as a positive aspect.

    Is there a prize for scariest smile? I vote for that dude on the right.

    Starlight Glimmer notes that Accord is using mind control to force cooperation, but even she doesn't raise an issue with a simple fact: Discord didn't choose this. It was forced upon him and the only pony who seems worried about this change itself is Fluttershy. Her timid nature denies her the chance to speak up against this change. Applejack serves as Discord's most vocal critic, with Twilight adding her support for Accord. I'm concerned that not one pony pauses to question if this is the right thing to allow, and I hope that Accord throws that at them if they try to argue the moral high ground.

    In the ponies' defense, Discord does show what can happen without moderation. If he's free to do as he pleases, he often ends up interfering with everyone's enjoyment. It's an interesting question to see how much discipline and oversight can go before crossing the line.

    Good to see you, Kibitz. Sorry you look so scary!

    One other question worth asking: is Accord genuine? We're told that Discord's change is the result of the alignment, but who told us this? The "altered" Discord. The fun thing about trickster characters is that you can never take assumptions for granted. This may all be a plot by Discord to point out the pony's hypocrisy. Or it might be the genuine article. One thing is certain, when Accord gets the idea to force harmony upon Equestria, the visuals are frightening.

    There's a comics-fan term for this. "Pants to be darkened."

    Throughout this comic, Starlight Glimmer is the only one observing her surroundings. From noticing an eerie green glow to questioning Accord's methods, her competency is on full display. This hints that she'll be the primary force to fix this problem. Normally, I'm happy with ponies other than the Mane Six helping save the day because that makes the rest of the world less useless. Yet Fluttershy has served as Discord's sole friend/proponent/apologist throughout this first part. My hope is she won't be left by the wayside in order to give Starlight a chance to shine.

    Look up "Depressed" in the dictionary and you'll find this image of Fluttershy. 
    At the close of this first part, the stakes are well set. Accord's menace is very real and we see that even the Mane Six and the Princesses can't immediately flip the problem back around. The issue of free will is introduced, though I'm not sure if this comic is going to tackle it from all angles. It's an interesting idea to denounce control when it's focused against us, but we also rely upon it for day-to-day functions. Where's the boundary between convenience and surrender?

    More story-driven questions going forward are how the ponies can reverse this change (if it really is genuine) and how much of a role each character will play in the conflict. We'll see in a month.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!