• Let's Review: MLP #52

    Look at Shadow Lock. Trying to look all cool and disinterested, but you know he's hanging on everypony's words. So adorable.

    Wait a minute! Does this mean he's just a teenager going through "that phase"?

    This and other silly questions will come up in the review! Catch it after the break, but watch out for angst-ridden spoilers. Nobody understands them!

    Ah, Part 2. The point where nothing is really resolved but something still needs to happen. Usually it's something bad. That's for part 3 and I find that many stories face the greatest struggle in this bridge phase.

    Watch yourself, buddy!
    Fluttershy has bested bigger creatures before breakfast!

    That struggle, however, does not lie with the artwork. I am thrilled by the art in this issue. From locales to creatures to characters, there is just so much detail without things feeling crowded. This comic asks a lot because it features locations not seen in the show with a healthy population to make it look real. As a result, we not only get to see a lot of new ponies, but also some returning faces. Keep your eyes peeled for the return of Trenderhoof, Nosey News, and Prancy Drew.
    That expression says he's cited this at least 360 times today.

    However, there appears to have been a small miscommunicaton between Fleecs and writer James Asmus. Nosey News is answering to the name "Quill". I could easily rationalize this away that after that Pigasus debacle, she had to go and adopt a pseudonym. I applaud her choice.

    But the real enjoyment comes from how Shadow Lock is slowly developing. Even the artwork hints that he's beginning to come out of the... well... shadows. We'll address this more near the review's end, but one early example is how Fleecs shows that Twilight and Shadow are rivals to one another. Though Twilight is likely the superior magic user, Fleecs makes good use of Lock's cloak to convey that he represents an equal threat. No words spoken. Just visual cues.

    "I have the greater wingspan!"
    "That's a cloak."
    "It's symbolic!"

    Of course there are plenty of other visuals to be had. Case in point, Shadow Lock just brought several fictional beings to life. Thus the Frakenstag play from Part 1 might have already fulfilled its purpose. Though I'm not too worried about the big guy. He seems reasonable. In fact, he might better reflect the original Frankenstein novel.

    If the creator's name was "Stag", does that mean he was created by Deer?

    Little less sure of the eldritch horror that's been unleashed. Apparently this thing is still not as bad as whatever Shadow Lock is trying to cover up, which should say something. Bit of a stretch, given that most of Lovecraft's monsters drove people insane just on sight. Fortunately, there's something that dominates unspeakable horrors: indiscernible world views.

    A big factor in this chapter is Twilight's intelligence. Though facing a horde of fictional creatures (including a funny take on War of the Worlds), Twilight realizes the fastest and least-violent way to overcome the spell and bring everything to a close. Without losing stride, she then discerns where Shadow Lock will next strike.

    See? This is why you don't go for angsty grimdark endings.

    Some of these choices make sense. The Canterlot Daily News offers a host of archives, which would be a prime target. It also gives us a chance to see a couple familiar and new faces, plus a possible zinger.

    I believe the phrase is "Shots Fired".

    Cheerilee's school is more a mystery. Of all the schools in Equestria, why would Shadow Lock target this one? I get the impression that this was done more to give the Cutie Mark Crusaders a moment in the spotlight alongside their classmates. Although even this gives a moment for some tongue-in-cheek humor, which doesn't dismiss the question but does invite the audience to laugh along.

    They're still better off than Bart Simpson!

    And of course I always appreciate when Twilight gets to be over-enthusiastic about learning. She doesn't get to be as fun about this since she got that crown, so I'm always glad when we can see her personal quirks surface.

    This kind of innocent joy is precious.

    Although it's interesting to note that Shadow Lock does not make a play on Colonial Whinniesburg. I don't know if Twilight and company could use the list of targets to narrow the search throughout history.

    Huh. Perry White pony isn't white...

    The final setting may be the source of this arc's climax. The Canterlot Museum offers a ton of visuals, even a shot of Tirek's pendant that is somehow no longer a friendship key. But it's the displays that really draw the eye. I don't know how well the dragons of Phillydelphia's Dragon Town would react to all this.


    But here's where Twilight's foresight falters. While her friends nap unprotected, Twilight attempts to set an ambush. I was going to call out her irresponsibility with her friends' safety, but a thought struck me. This is a similar set of events to Twilight's Kingdom, where even Celestia and the other princesses didn't think the enemy might go after Twilight's friends. This naivete seems to be a pony trait, with a few noteworthy exceptions like Shadow Lock. They just can't imagine someone would go after a sleeping friend instead of the main goal.

    The true meat of this part is at the beginning and end as the library battle ends and the final confrontation takes shape. The trips to the historical site, school, and newspaper help expand on Shadow Lock's power but as of right now they don't appear to enhance the story. Part 3 might touch on their meaning down the line, but that's nebulous.  

    Why did they dismiss the museum's guards?

    With that said, we now turn our focus to Shadow Lock, who is becoming a little less mysterious. That's not just character wise, but visually. Last issue, I couldn't recall seeing his eyes aside from moments where they were magically lit. In this part he is still mostly obscured by shadows, but his eyes are becoming clearer.

    Just that clasp can serve as shipping fuel!

    Similarly, we're getting a better view of his goals and perhaps his own intelligence. He states that there is a threat in Equestria's past so great that its very memory has to be erased. I notice that he doesn't say it is returning. Only that it could. Thus erasing the knowledge from both books and ponies memories is the only defense.

    Because I'm bored!

    Offhand this seems contradictory. Removing any knowledge will make Equestria less able to adapt if it does find its way back. Plus ponies like Celestia and Luna have long memories, so there's no way to know if the memory would be expunged.

    There is a concept in some fantasy stories that remembering a being or speaking their name gives them power. The most popular example might be Candyman, or perhaps Malificent's resurrection in Kingdom Hearts II. If the only way to prevent this evil's return is for it to be completely forgotten, Shadow Lock's strategy might make sense. Any other interpretation I can imagine seems self-defeating. Twilight even calls him out on this.

    So... you should learn from the past and not cover it up, right?

    Note that he doesn't counter her quote. If anything, he agrees but isn't willing to change course. I come away from this part viewing Shadow Lock as a genuine threat and a strong improvisor, but his overall plan seems panicked and contradictory. I'd liken it to a child covering their eyes at a scary movie, thinking that if they can't see a threat then it isn't happening.

    It's also worth noting that if he can summon monsters and mobsters, Shadow Lock can likely summon super-heroes and historical champions. The dude could raise an army in an instant to combat this threat, yet he's still afraid. That might be a testament to whatever he's trying to prevent.

    This seems to be building off the conversation Twilight and Spike shared in part 1. Shadow Lock is more afraid of what could happen rather than what is happening now. If he had a moment of clarity, I wonder if how he would view his own actions. 

    "I'm edgy!"

    Whether we learn the truth of this danger or if Shadow Lock comes clean is a matter for Part 3. I'm looking forward to seeing how this concludes, though I'm not expecting a complete wrap-up. This truly feels like a lead-in to a larger threat.

    Final note: Pinkie, your sense of humor is downright scary.

    You do realize that pony likely died?

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!