• Let's Review: Legends of Magic #1

    And so a new series begins!

    Let's take a look at this new comic and see how Equestria's past takes form.

    Find the review after the break, but watch out for long-lost spoilers!

    I'll say this for Legends of Magic before even touching on the issue itself: I don't envy its challenge. Despite the many aspects I enjoy about Friendship is Magic, its lore has struggled. I get the sense that much of it is being made up on the fly, and while it works to set up a single episode it might contradict itself down the line. There are vague notions of time with many questions left unanswered.

    So for a comic line to try and flesh out Equestria's history is a daunting task. When the 3-page preview came out, many fans pointed out that Reflections had established that Canterlot castle did not exist before the Castle of the Two Sisters. Opinions on the canon of comics has varied. If a contradiction does arise, I'm inclined to accept what's presented here in Legends because the comics are working closer with the show at this stage than several years ago.

    Goodness, it really has been several years since that arc, hasn't it? Time flies!

    The artwork for this comic is very enjoyable. It manages to resemble the show without settling for imitation. Sometimes it's the way a character moves or a look one never expected to see. Many of these moments come from a very young Princess Celestia. Luna's younger form is familiar from Friendship is Magic's premier, but I don't think we've seen Celestia presented this young before. In some panels I thought she resembled Princess Cadance. I mean that as a compliment as it hints that Cadance might also grow to resemble Celestia, as might Twilight.

    Heather Breckel returns as colorist for these old and new settings. She conveys the mood of the setting well with Canterlot being bright and full of sunshine. The darker realm, which resembles the Everfree Forest, features an emphasis on black voids but also a heavy amount of poisonous green. The green helps convey that this land is filled with life, but there is nothing beneficial about it.
    Must...resist... Evil Dead reference!

    Celestia's mane is a special note. Throughout the comic we see she has the gradient of her holder self, but it's not yet defined. Almost like she is not yet in balance. Yet as the Illustrious Q pointed out, the credits page depicts Celestia with a purely pink mane, much as fans have come to expect. I might be in the minority on this but I prefer the gradient as it says more about Celestia's personality than a monotone mane.

    Celestia is the true star of this comic. Though Luna will have some hinted development, it's Celestia who features the most prominently and will undergo the greatest change. We get a hint of this as Celestia shows Sunburst a special study. Starswirl the Bearded's study.

    I always find it funny when someone goes "gasp" in a comic.
    I picture them just saying the word aloud.

    Though told in exposition, this comic touches on Celestia's feelings immediately after Luna's banishment. We saw how Celestia performed the deed in Princess Twilight and some of the changes she enacted in Friends Forever #7 and Reflections, though again I'm not sure how much weight those stories now carry. It's a question I find fascinating: how did Celestia cope? The opening hints that she put up some walls between herself and the past, including leaving Starswirl's study untouched.

    Hey, Sunburst? How about some empathy for your princess!

    Sunburst's first exploration takes him to when Celestia and Luna were Starswirl's pupils and perpetual headaches. We've seen several takes on Starswirl's character and appearance. Reflections showed a quirky, somewhat irresponsible magician who could be firm when needed. Fiendship is Magic #3 depicted a more serious Starswirl who doubted the limits of his own power.

    This comic's Starswirl is a compromise. He's much more serious and worldly, but possessing an acid tongue and some physical quirks. He's faced with training Equestria's future rulers and defenders, one of whom is struggling and the other frustrated.

    Fleshing out Celestia's backstory has always been dangerous. Given the image of perfection she often projects, trying to give her flaws has sometimes made her more unappealing than endearing. Yet I like this presentation. Young Celestia knows she is skilled and is frustrated by how Luna's struggle hinders her own growth. She's being forced to wait (a trait that rarely comes easily to the young) and she takes out her frustration by tormenting Luna.

    Epic pouty face!

    Though Starswirl berates Celestia for her attitude, he's not coddling Luna either. He's fixed on the goal of preparing them and makes it clear they can't afford to wait for Luna to simply "git gud". Given that we know the future, it's easy to see why Luna would harbor an inferiority complex.

    It all culminates as Luna goes a step too far thanks to Celestia's goading and opens a portal to another dimension. She's immediately ponynapped by a dark force, leaving Celestia at her most vulnerable. This is the moment where Celestia experiences a "death". The proud, brash would-be princess is gone but she's not yet sure of who she is now. She only knows that her sister is gone and she is scared.

    Get Twilight! Wait, curses!
    That won't work for 1,000 years!

    Starswirl continues his trend of firm mentoring as he lays out just how Celestia screwed up before venturing into the dark dimension. It isn't long before they find Luna, who is being forced by the denizens to become Nightmare Moon.

    Turns out the forces of darkness are really aggressive cosplayers.

    My criticism here is the same I had for the Nightmare Rarity arc. Nightmare Moon is a cautionary tale against pride and envy. It was a fall engineered by Luna herself. There seems to be this fixation with making Nightmare Moon a mind parasite, or a reincarnation, or the construct of at least two separate dark powers. In each case Luna becomes more victim than perpetrator. It is true that her pride and envy could leave her vulnerable to an outside force, but even then I think such an idea diminishes the idea behind Luna's fall.

    The rescue is swift, but not without some awesome imagery. I wasn't too intimidated by the little golems that were forcing Luna into a helm and horse slippers. The deluxe size, however, is a different story.

    Okay, that's awesome.

    Luna and Celestia make their escape with some sisterly bonding to boot. As the tale draws to a close, we learn the real reason that Luna became Nightmare Moon.

    Not because of dark forces nor her own failings. There is only one true reason the sisters were divided again.

    Starswirl jinxed it.

    Way to go, Starswirl the Bearded Jerk! You jinxed it all!

    The timing for this comic is both beneficial and awkward. It wasn't meant to come out until Friends Forever completed its run with an issue featuring modern-day Celestia and Luna. Yet this delay sets an interesting idea. We get to see how the sisters were originally before we see how they interact in the modern day. So having seen them overcome one obstacle as teens, next we get to see how well or poorly they get along as adults. I'm looking forward to a compare and contrast.

    They can laugh now, but I see some discomfort in their expressions.

    As a first issue of Legends of Magic, this comic offers a taste of the familiar while expanding the scope. I enjoyed seeing this younger, bratty Celestia. It shows that individuals are not born to perfect virtue and they often learn harsh lessons along the way. Celestia has always struck me as a model of experience.

    Luna's development is more awkward because I don't think the fault for Nightmare Moon should lie with anyone except herself. If Celestia is the example of learned maturity, Luna is an example of overcoming one's own mistakes.

    Yet I think the positives outweigh any criticisms and I think this is a strong start to the series. We'll see how the comic handles an original character in the next issue.

    This, class, is known as a "sister complex".

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!