• Let's Review: Guardians of Harmony – The Wonderbolts

    The Wonderbolts haven't had the best run over the franchise's history. Maybe they can turn it around by saving a whole Empire from Changelings.

    Of course, they've got to get there first. Let's see what they do in this chapter of Guardians of Harmony.

    Read the review after the break but watch out for super-sonic spoilers!

    That dude on the left? His name is Wave Chill.

    I meant what I said about the Wonderbolts not faring well. Across the whole series they've lost to a flailing fashionista, a hoarding dragon, Tirek, and even their own egos. So this might be a hard sell as they're tasked with reinforcing the Crystal Empire.

    The final two chapters of Guardians of Harmony are drawn by Jay Fosgitt. I've said in the past that Fosgitt's style often features a lot of energy, but that was usually on the ground. Lots of running and jumping by the ponies. A comic featuring the Wonderbolts naturally takes place in the air, so that's going to be a challenge.

    GASP! Could Spitfire be a Big MacIntosh fan?

    I can think of two ways to convey flight in a still image. The first is to keep the subject looking still but blur everything else to convey a zooming perspective. The second way is what Fosgitt employs. Speed lines and a sort of motion trail to mark the flight path.

    Fosgitt's style is good for energy, but the hyper-cartoon proportions might work against this. If Guardians of Harmony is supposed to be an action adventure then having the ponies appear cuter can undermine the feel.

    We start out with Spitfire and Soarin' reporting to Princess Celestia. They've been tasked with rescuing the Crystal Empire because Cadance still hasn't lit the heart. It does make sense that if Celestia instructed Cadance to sit tight, the princess of the sun should be responsible for sending reinforcements. Doesn't invalidate any criticism against Cadance but this makes much more sense than their plans against Tirek.

    My sister ended up as a very gooey pinata, but whatevs.

    Celestia and Luna assert that they can keep an eye on things in Canterlot. Their expressions might be an attempt at composure, but they tend to look rather bored. I've joked about Luna's line that they can hold the fort, but that in itself is a sad commentary.

    We've gotten too used to the idea of Celestia and Luna being defeated, captured, or indisposed. It's happened so much that it's become the default. That's the main reason I'm sorry these two don't enjoy their own chapter. With most of their forces directed towards protecting Ponyville and saving the Crystal Empire, a confrontation with Chrysalis would be a welcome story.

    As it is, we only see them for two panels before Spitfire and Soarin' zoom away. Soarin' appears to be the more practical one as he lists the significant distance between Canterlot and the Empire. Those who have seen the map of Equestria know that this chapter isn't factually accurate. Canterlot is central to Equestria and not on the opposite side of the Empire. Yet the point remains that it's too far a distance for them to make any difference. Spitfire is more reserved, only agreeing before instructing him to gather the others.

    I want to touch back on the idea of an emotionally-healthy Warrior. A lot of stories like The Hurt Locker talk about the idea that war is a drug and that those who have been in combat struggle with life outside the battlefield. However, the ideal of the Warrior is someone who understands balance between both phases. We see a glimpse of this as the various Wonderbolts answer the call.

    Get it? She plays soccer because she's FleetFOOT!

    Each one is engaging in some sort of peaceful activity, though I'm betting Firestreak got stuck with some kind of punishment. I don't know many folks who would enjoy cleaning out a weather exhaust port in their free time. Yet each one doesn't hesitate to drop what their doing and gather to defend their home.

    Get it? He's cleaning out the pipes because... um... I got nothing.

    Soarin' rounds them up in short order so Spitfire can deliver the plan. They're to ride on prototype sonic gliders that will allow them to match rainboom speeds. I'm not very engineer minded but as I understand it, most gliders do not have engines. So right off the bat these things are a contradiction, and we've not yet gotten to the most awkward part of this comic: the gliders' design.

    The Jetsons called. They want their scooters back!

    Fosgitt has a unique style and I often appreciate that shift from the norm. In this case, however, different works against the idea. If the goal of this comic is to promote the toy then these strange gliders look nothing like the wing pack advertised. If one reads this comic with no care for the toys, then the gliders don't make much sense. There is nothing securing the Wonderbolts to the gliders and they aren't visually impressive. Plus this panel highlight's Fosgitt's greatest challenge: inaction.

    If the Wonderbolts are perfectly still then there's not much energy to convey, though that stands in contrast to the next panel.

    Ponies, close your mouths! Gonna get bugs in your teeth!

    The real head-scratcher is that the gliders look so different, but Fosgitt got the Wonderbolts exactly right. That's no small feat. Even as I write this I'm looking up each member on the MLP Wiki to try and keep it all straight. So I don't understand how this change came about. This is one of those times I'd like to know the story behind the story.

    The gliders do the job and the Wonderbolts show they have some combat skills when facing the Changelings. We leave the battle midway as Spitfire hopes that someone else has a plan to end the attack. It seems the Wonderbolts know they are only a stopgap measure.

    How Good is the Sales Pitch?
    That's an awkward question. In terms of characters we get a little bit of building for Soarin' and Spitfire. Soarin' is the most practical and acts as second-in-command. He knows the logistics, which leaves Spitfire free to innovate. Although she's very serious and focused, her comment that riding these potentially-explosive gliders as "This is gonna be fun" shows a reckless side. Characters mean more than props in a good pitch so I'd say this part of the comic is successful.

    The wing pack turned glider is another story. It doesn't look very impressive and the mechanics don't make much sense. Granted, the actual wing pack is several rockets and a set of wings that would like shove one's legs through their stomach, but at least it conveys some power. I think it's better that the actual toy surpasses the comic rather than the inverse. As a child of the 80's, I know that disappointment all too well.

    SURPRISE! There's no real surprise.

    A very mixed pitch, but I do appreciate how it expands the Wonderbolts. When this fight is over, Fleetfoot will start a fresh soccer game. Firsstreak will finish his janitorial duty. Misty Fly can finish that nap, High Winds will keep cloud busting, and Surprise will conclude her shopping. The Wonderbolts will know that the fight is done and focus on other things. That's the greatest difference between them and the attacking Changelings.

    Tomorrow we'll wrap this up by talking about Spike's growth spurt. Until then.

    Appearance #3 for Fluttershy! You go, pony!

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!