• Let's Review: Guardians of Harmony – Big Spike

    We come at last to the final chapter of Guardians of Harmony. Where does Spike fit into this grand toy-branding blitz?

    We'll see as the conflict with the Changelings reaches the final boss: Queen Chrysalis.

    Check out the review after the break, but watch out for spoilers in disguise!

    We begin with the hero of the Crystal Empire not being in the Crystal Empire. Which isn't really a big deal, but everything else has been leading up to that idea.

    Still not sure where those Changeling POW's ended up...

    Guardians of Harmony feels a lot like the old mini comics that used to be included with toys. It's why only a few seem to lead in to one another. As such, it draws attention to almost every chapter that hinted the Crystal Empire as the final goal.

    I just... I can't take you seriously like this!

    There are possible reasons why. Perhaps the presence of the Wonderbolts caused the Changeling to shift targets. Twilight Sparkle's new armor represents a long-term threat. Maybe Chrysalis wanted the bulk of Equestria's forces moving to the Crystal Empire so she could strike at Twilight and company. It's not inexplicable, but there's a warning sign when the audience has to come up with an answer.

    Again, Rarity's set of priorities is uncompromising!

    Whatever the case, we're back to our core heroines, plus Shining Armor. While the Wonderbolts needed sonic gliders to get from Canterlot to the Crystal Empire, this dude ran the whole way! I did say I hoped he'd get to show some prowess. Apparently Shining Armor majored in Track and Field.

    He really looks malnourished! Get the dude some Gatorade! 

    He delivers the potion from Princess Amore's secret chamber. Given that both chapters feature different artists, the vial's appearance has changed to a more bulbous design. However, this change also gives us the chance to see one of the best Spike expressions ever.

    When you can't use "WTF" in a comic.

    I think this chapter is better suited to Fosgitt's style. Since the ponies are going to battle in the sky and the ground, there's greater variety to show characters in action. The battle sequence between Ponyville's defenders and Chrysalis' invaders has some great energy with angry red background to increase the tension.

    We have a violet alicorn down!

    That, however, leads us to the featured pony armor. Fans have pointed out that the armor the Mane Six don matches a fan art piece by Equestria Prevails. Like many I would like to know more about how this happened, but for this review I am going to limit the scope to my own thoughts and reactions within the comic's context.

    My initial thought being, Oh my gosh! That looks so awesome. I would totally buy Guardians of Harmony figures with that armor!

    Twilight tests the magical potion and gains sudden knowledge that allows her to upgrade her friends' defenses. Perhaps a small indignity to Shining Armor. Golden armor is traditionally reserved look for the most elite fantasy heroes, but in Equestria the entire royal guard wears it. Shining Armor unintentionally looks like he's been demoted.

    They'll need that as Queen Chrysalis has been spotted advancing towards Ponyville. It seems the Changelings really have done away with stealth. But more surprising is her battle cry.

    "Take no prisoners?" You're Changelings! Prisoners are your thing. A non-prisoner is a non-food source. This adds fuel to my idea that Twilight's magic armor is a big threat. It makes sense that Chrysalis would want to eliminate both the armor and any knowledge about it. However, this could just as easily be a throw-away line.

    I'm not sure this is meant to be a toy promo for the Queen Chrysalis vs Spike 2-pack. Neither is wearing the armor featured. However, Chrysalis already got to wear such an outfit in her Fiendship is Magic issue, which looked pretty awesome.

    No torso armor piece or hind leg armor for the toy. Not sure why?

    Apparently non-armored Chrysalis is stronger than armored Twilight because the Changelings are winning through magical muscle and numbers. Spike, meanwhile, has been sidelined because Twilight doesn't want a baby dragon getting hurt. This is reasonable, despite Spike's bravery in the Crystal Empire. He's not suited for combat while the ponies–even Fluttershy–have all endured at least one brawl with Changelings.

    But with nothing to lose, Spike convinces Twilight to use the dragon-marked potion to empower him. And the results are impressive.

    By the power of Equestria! I have the POWER!

    This is one of the funner things about magic. The rules needn't always be explicit. If there's consistency then the audience can pick them up. Twilight and company are full-grown ponies, so it makes sense that a dragon-focused spell would only work halfway by bestowing armor. Used to empower an infant dragon, you get both the growth spurt and armor.

    Yet that leads to a question: why the added steps? Why not have Spike drink the potion? At first this seemed odd until I thought on the dragons we've seen thus far. Even with Ember and Spike as exceptions, dragon's aren't very altruistic. If you gave a dragon such a potion, what would stop it from saying "I do what I want!" and storm off with the prize in tow? This added step makes the dragon dependent on the caster, offering some degree of control.

    Out of all the characters featured in this comic, I think Princess Amore comes out on top with the most growth. Not bad for a deposed ruler who is trapped in a limbo state.

    Of course, there is a third question. What was Amore doing with magic to empower dragons? I'll answer that after I figure out what Zecora was doing with an alicorn time-travel memory potion... So I'm gonna need a few years.

    Still better than the 4th season opener's potion.
    No, I will not post a screenshot!

    This leads to a pretty funny joke as the Changelings try to match Spike dragon-to-dragon. The "that's cute" look between Big Spike and Shining Armor sells it. However, I am intrigued again by the magical rules.

    That's cute.
    You thought you had a chance. 

    We've seen that Chrysalis can impersonate ponies smaller than herself.

    We've also seen Luna adopt a guise of her slightly taller, evil side.

    So, let me pose this idea to you all: could a shape-shifter's powers vary depending on their own magical level? Is it possible that a more powerful being, like Chrysalis, could take on shapes much larger than herself? I'm seriously picturing a Malificent vibe.

    Apparently this doesn't occur to Chrysalis. She adopts the Monty Python strategy: RUN AWAY!

    Thus the Changeling invasion... stops. Not "ends" because that implies a resolution. It's easy to infer that the Wonderbolts saved the Crystal Empire and Celestia and Luna held Canterlot. Yet this seems so abrupt. Much like the mini comics of old, the idea is that the villain has been driven off but could launch a fresh attack tomorrow.

    So keep those toys handy to go back into battle!

    How Good is the Sales Pitch?
    Even without her armor, this is Chrysalis' sole appearance and the fact she's overpowering Twilight shows she's a legitimate threat. By that same power scale, Big Spike is able to drive Chrysalis away with a single fire breath. This demonstrates his own power and makes his toy even more appealing.

    Jay Fosgitt does a better job depicting Big Spike in full armor, though the armor's details are omitted. As long as the shapes are there I think the target audience will recognize the look better than the sonic gliders.

    More importantly, Spike's determination and courage for his friends shows. As is true of the better pitches in this comic, characters make for the best appeals. Spike's courage is already bigger than buildings. This new form just reflects that.

    Thus concludes the 2017 annual issue featuring Guardians of Harmony. Having gone over each chapter and reflected upon the various pieces, here is my breakdown from favorite to least favorite:

    1. Twilight Sparkle.
    2. Shining Armor
    3. The Shadow Bolts
    4. Big Spike
    5. The Wonderbolts
    6. Pinkie Pie & Cheese Sandwhich

    This comic does remind me of toy promotions of old, with all the strengths and limitations. It's fun to see different aspects of a wide-spread conflict, yet limited comic space makes it hard to flesh things out. Truly, I would be glad to see Guardians of Harmony become a comic line of its own with varying adventures for groups.

    I also think this comic added some appeal for future ideas. If Guardians of Harmony continues, I wouldn't be against an agent Lyra and agent Sweetie Drops set, additional Wonderbolts, or other characters.

    Those are my thoughts. What are yours?

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!