• Let's Review: Legends of Magic #2


    The time has come to look back into Equestrian history and bear witness to the most awesome beard ever! Starswirl ain't got nothing on this dude.

    Oh, and the fate of an entire town and an important life lesson are in play.

    Catch the full review after the break, but beware! You cannot comb spoilers out of your brain.

    The Crusaders cover has nothing to do with this story,
    but darned if I haven't felt the same way about homework.

    Last issue introduced a new series, but kept the focus to the familiar Celestia/Luna duo. Not so this time. Now we explore Legends of Magic's main goal of fleshing out Equestrian history and lore. One of the criticisms I've heard from fellow fans is that this will be a series of one-shots, which can appeal less than other issues that feature recurring main and supporting characters. This of course does not include introductions by Sunburst and any pony with whom he interacts.

    The Royal Canterlot Voice shall never go out of style!

    While I enjoy the chance to see our modern-day ponies in action, I'm eager to see what IDW's writers have in mind. It's fun to see the lore that shapes Equestria and perhaps see which stories would appeal to certain ponies. I'll gladly celebrate a story with a strong lead character and a well-told tale, even if we never see this character again. However, one should also note that just because this is a legend, it doesn't follow that it's truly the end.

    Case in point, the legend of Rockhoof and its sequel documented by Starswirl the Bearded. Sunburst once again acts as our introduction to the story as he follows up with Princess Luna. Turns out that Luna's something of a Rockhoof fangirl as she's actually squeeing to hear more. This does raise a question for me.

    It's been indicated with a bookmark that reads,
    "Please like and subscribe."

    This story takes place after Rockhoof's greatest feat: diverting a lava flow using only his shovel. This is the moment that made him a legend. So did Starswirl locate a less-known tomb of Rockhoof's further exploits, or are we reading Starswirl's fan fic? I'm more a fan of the latter explanation. It makes it more clear why Twilight would idolize Starswirl.

    Oh Twilight. I can only imagine who you ship.

    It's a funny idea, creating a story to supplement a cultural legend. I think a lot of people would roll their eyes because antiquity has an absolute authority. No one person has the right to claim their work is the definitive sequel. Yet the whole point of stories is to convey an idea. If one can recruit a legendary figure to help present this theory, relying on the familiar while presenting something knew, I think it's worth at least considering.

    So let's start off by talking about Rockhoof himself. There are basic design elements that I enjoy. The Nordic-style clothing. His blue coat that contrasts against the background's earthy tones and greenery. The Big MacIntosh body type that conveys his physical power. That awesome beard. I'm usually not a fan of pony beards because it seems so odd. I know the ponies already have a pastel-colored coat. Where is this new stuff coming from? But then again, cartoon logic!

    Thanks to Norse-Mythology.org for the image!

    Yet the most intriguing thing about Rockhoof is his cutie mark. The three interlocking triangles' real name has been lost to time, but modern Norwegians gave the term "Valknut" or "Knot of those fallen in battle." It might not seem relevant to Rockhoof, but a little more explanation is required. This symbol appears on runestones and memorial stones from the Viking era. It's often displayed alongside Odin, who was synonymous with the afterlife and leading heroic hordes back into the land of the living. His power heavily influences life and death, and so this symbol is often associated. Very fitting then that it appears as a complex knot.

    Rockhoof is going to hold sway over life and death in this story. His actions and choices will be particularly important, and his failures will endanger more than might seem apparent. He's already averted death by saving his village from a lava flow, and has earned his place amongst the Mighty Helm guard. At first it seems great, especially as he's able to outrace, fight, or generally best any other member.

    This would later become the rallying cry for over-actors eating the scenery.

    At first I wondered if this would be like Rainbow Dash joining the Wonderbolts, but this story took the opposite approach. Instead of feeling excluded, Rockhoof is much too popular. Late night parties with weaker members of the Mighty Helm cost him his training regiment. He becomes overweight, slow, and weary. Completely unreliable. To borrow a quote from a certain someone:

    He's cuter, but no more intelligible.

    So when the volcano stirs once more, Rockhoof is paired up with two of the wimpiest guards ponies. It's a perfect storm of awful as Rockhoof actually makes the situation worse. Thus we're shown the life that comes after the legend. Rockhoof might never accomplish the same level miracle as he did when he saved his village, but "Happily Ever After" should not translate into lacking future challenges. Failure on this second venture meant retraining and refocusing, finding the drive that earned him that original victory.

    I look at this image and think of the song "Exile, Vilify" by The National. Dunno why.

    But here's where I realize this wouldn't be a story for Rainbow Dash, though I think she'd appreciate it. We tend to define mythical heroes by their feats. Hercules slew the Nemean Lion. Beowulf took down Grendel. Twin Navajo heroes Naayéé’neizghání (Slayer of Monsters) and Tóbájíshchíní (Born for Water) slew a host of creatures that preyed upon their people. The temptation here is to judge and value these characters based on their violence. They kill, therefore they are remembered. But not so.

    HEY! Language!

    The acts of slaying threats were necessary, but their path started with the virtues embodied by each character. Courage, empathy, discipline, adaptability, etc. They were fighting for something, rather than proving their own ability to harm. Rockhoof's own introspection follows this line. He is powerful, but it's his awareness and judgement that truly makes him a hero. Best of all, he doesn't have to end a life to show this.

    No being, mythical or otherwise, can handle such intensity!

    The Cherufe creature is something I'm hesitant to touch. I did warn about spoilers, but I think explaining this creature would take away some of the fun and undermine Rockhoof's presentation. So I'd like to substitute in the Tri-Horn Bunyip from P.P.O.V.

    I wanna give it a tummy rub! Where's my scuba tank?

    I love this creature, not just because it reminds me of a doggy. Mythical creatures are often something to be feared. The term "monster" has its roots in a creature that heralds misfortune. They're great for embodying our fears but it seems much rarer to find one that symbolizes beauty. Even in Equestria, most mythical creatures view ponies as a meal. The Bunyip was refreshing because its harm was unintentional, and it was much more lovable.

    Have they invented the term "evacuate" yet?

    Though the Cherufe is less approachable, it's motives and actions are a nice change from the immediate threats of hydras, quarry eels, and that yeti from Yakyakistan. I enjoyed the dilemma this creature represented and how Rockhoof both failed and triumphed in relation.

    I also love the Captain's design, but how does she see out her right side?

    My biggest criticisms for this story relate to the Mighty Helm and the story's scope. The Helm are mostly disappointing. Except for Captain Steela Oresdotter, the rest are small wimps who are there to look pitiful in order for Rockhoof to look good. It certainly conveys the idea, but it also makes me wonder why Rockhoof would settle for such unreliable companions.

    I sense a prototypical Canterlot Guard here.

    The scope has to do with the extremes of Rockhoof's life. He went too far into indulgence and lost his discipline. When he corrected this, the story implies at the end that he swung too far back the other way. Even Luna protests this seeming downer.

    Little known fact, 
    Luna would make a fantastic YouTube reviewer.

    I genuinely think this story could have expanded into a second issue. Perhaps with less physical danger, but that's the thing about the balance of life and death. Rockhoof saved the village and more from death, but he hadn't yet grasped what it is to live. It's more than the biological fact of still drawing breath. It requires a balance of both discipline and lightheartedness. That's why I think this story would appeal to Twilight more than other ponies. As one who has often lived by extremes, I thinks she'd see a lot of herself in Rockhoof.

    Old Spice.

    All in all, I think this is a wonderful issue with some great imagery and characters. Perhaps Rockhoof will appear in Starswirl's books once again or maybe not. Either way, I think Legends of Magic had a strong foray into Equestria's mythical figures. I'm hoping the next issues can enjoy similar success.

    And yes, Rockhoof's weapon choice does make me think of Shovel Knight. Because I'm hip with the young people... Yo.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!