• Let's Review: MLP #51

    New comic! New logo! New story arc!

    Let's see how this first step goes. Find the review after the break but watch out! There is no spell to make spoilers disappear.

    Well, I guess there are spoiler tags. But that's science!

    Just for the record, if anyone tried to conquer my home with a Pinkie Pie Trojan Horse... I would not object.

    So Friendship is Magic the comic enters a new phase. Word is that the comics moving forward will tie more closely to season 7 and thus could be considered in-line with the show's continuity. However, since season 7's premier has not yet aired and I am clueless as to how it will unfold, I think it's better to address this as a self-contained story. Any lead-ins to the show should be more enjoyable in hindsight.

    Oh, Twilight. Is there any mane style that doesn't look good on you?

    Tony Fleecs has done a tremendous job drawing this comic and Heather Breckel made some interesting choices in how to distinguish each locale. I'll mention specifics as we go over the story but the key thing here is solid design and detailed settings. It makes this a much more visually entertaining experience.

    Speaking of visual entertainment, our heroines are one their way back from a play, The Bridal of Frankenstag. How that works we'll never know, but perhaps the greater mystery is how Twilight has gained Marge Simpson-powers hair.

    Just don't take the piggy bank she's hiding up there!

    There is a common question running through this first part: what could this scene mean? The Bridal of Fankenstag will have meaning by this issue's end, but the conversation about fear between Spike and Twilight seems more general. The idea of fearing what might happen versus what has happened seems like an interesting idea. A little heavy-handed, perhaps, but I enjoy first-parts because they set up ideas.

    I'd be more scared of how a real monster might actually eat me.

    When the previews for this issue came out, many criticized that Twilight should have some form of castle security. She's already had one intruder who messed with the map and nearly broke time. I agree with this criticism, but I want to put forth a follow-up thought: Equestrian security is awful. I don't think it has even once succeeded in keeping somepony's home safe. So even if Twilight had guards around, I'm pretty sure they'd fail.

    Although, Sunset stole Twilight's crown and became her friend. Starlight tampered with the map and became her student. Pinkie Pie broke into the library and set up a party in the very first episode, and look at them now. Twilight seems to have a very odd history with ponies invading her personal property. I wonder if she'll start to view breaking and entering as a odd form of "hello."

    You sure the head villain isn't Murky Dismal from Rainbow Bright?

    It's here that we hit our first interesting color choice. To add to the tension, Twilight's castle is presented in very saturated tones that make the green doorways and windows look more poisonous. It's an effective tool for conveying the mood and introducing Shadow Lock. There's some nice weight to his appearance as he seems to affect his surroundings.

    Of course you realize this means war.

    I'm confident that this was deliberate because after Shadow Lock's escape, Twilight's friends help restore the library to its full state and more vivid colors. Even the green of Rarity and Spike's mud masks looks less ominous... ish.

    Yet I wonder why Twilight decided to wait and hold a sleepover rather than give chase. I do get the desire to feel safer in one's home after an intrusion, but Twilight has always struck me as more action-oriented and would likely want to track the thief.

    I also question what significance Pinkie Pie's Full Moon Fiesta/Tails-Gate Party dream holds. Much like the fear conversation, this could be either a diversion or setup for a later idea. A plan-within-a-plan scenario.

    Is it arrogant to plan a shopping spree after defeating a villain?
    Or is it just an indication that fabulousness never rests!

    Heather Breckel does an excellent job setting up phases with background colors. The opening scenes featured an ominous red sky while the relief after Shadow Lock's intrusion is more peaceful violets. The ponies travel under a bright blue sky but the setting takes on earthen tones as they visit the worst town in Equestria.

    That's not hyperbole. I think one could factually argue this is the worst place in Equestria. The ponies within it are mostly terrible, though wonderfully designed. A hoof-wrestling obsessed cowpony bears some resemblance to Buffalo Bull, and the local candy shop owner follows the same fashion sense as Mrs. Cake. This isn't a criticism as both have unique elements. They look like ponies we could see in the show.

    Though my favorite design is the magic shop owner. I wish I could get this kind of customer service when I visit most retail stores. Plus Fleec's detail of magical items and curiosities really makes the place stand out.

    I'm going to be buying Doctor Strange next week.
    I'd love it if someone in the store could appear like this.

    So why do I say this place is the worst town? Because every pony seems to know about Shadow Lock and his activities, but none want to help. I don't get the sense that the ponies at the bar are being controlled. Nor are they Shadow Lock's friends. They just want to put up an absurd rule for newcomers. The candy store owner doesn't confess until Pinkie Pie applies a unique pressure. That magic shop owner has the audacity to shake down a princess for money, though I do admire her chutzpah!

    Relax, Twilight. You have access to Equestria's taxation system.
    I bet she's overdue for an audit.

    Yet often other people's worst gives us a chance to show our best, and that's what I enjoy most. Big arcs have struggled with giving the Mane Six a chance to shine. I don't feel like any member of the troupe is lacking for a funny scene this issue. Some get more time than others, but I think this single issue has done more to balance the focus than some past arcs.

    Cupid's arrow is stronger than any bicep!

    So let's talk Shadow Lock. He's not the traditional MLP antagonist. He wants to be gone before Twilight returns home and his chief goal is escape. He's genuinely surprised when Twilight and crew appear but he doesn't take steps to antagonize until cornered. Despite the fact that he is up to something, he seems to announce his plans or at least his intentions to whomever will listen. I can't tell if he's intentionally leading others on, or if he suffers from a chronic lack of an inner monologue.

     If not for "Gift of the Maud Pie", I would question if there were any police in Equestria.
    Clearly, no one ever thinks to call them.

    Design-wise he's very solid, albeit familiar. Much like the cowpony and the candy store owner, his design reminds me of an in-show character. A gray unicorn with a violet mane, whom the fans have named Written Script.

    The fetlocks and hooded cape add distinction. The scar has already drawn "edgelord" jokes but I'm holding off until we know where he got it. Yet I'm most fascinated by his eyes. We've not yet seen their color because his mane obscures them or they're white with magical power, but the dark lines underneath hint that he's been pushing himself. There's an intensity to this guy that seems more than the usual "I want to conquer whilst taunting!" fare. I'm eager to see where his intentions truly lie.

    One final note is that this comic makes it a point to state that Starlight Glimmer is in Canterlot and likely won't be a participant in this story. I am glad for some time away from her character after FiM #50's focus. However, if she only shows up in stories where she becomes the central protagonist then I think fans will recognize this trend and come to resent it. I still hope she'll have a chance to participate in events without having to be the single source for resolution.

    I'm betting you won't talk Shadow Lock down.

    All in all, this issue does an effective job of establishing the conflict with some great visuals and supporting cast. Every pony has a chance to stand out and the only part that feels off is Twilight's passivity in the middle. We'll see how this mystery unfolds.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

    Twitter: Silver Quill