• Let's Review: MLP Movie Prequel #1

    The road to the MLP movie reaches its first big marker with this comic! Today we get a look into the movie characters' lives and possible motives.

    Find out more after the break, but if you want to enjoy this comic or the movie itself spoiler-free, then I'd advise you to steer clear.

    Movie prequels are a tricky business. I'm of the view that a comic, video game, or other media shouldn't be a requirement to enjoy the movie proper. Expanded media should flesh out smaller elements or build upon the movie's foundation, but it shouldn't serve as a substitute for the movie's story.

    In this situation, hissing at the enemy is probably a bad idea!

    As such, I'll be reviewing this issue and further chapters as a stand-alone story. While I know it leads into the movie proper, I'll watch that hoping to see the characters fleshed out within the film.

    Helping with visual aids in the midst of an invasion.
    That's dedication to your role!

    I think IDW was wise to choose Andy Price. It's not only his technical skill at lighting and shade, but his sense of humor as well. Often his pony-focused comics feature background characters and asides that create a game within the story. After the first read-through you can go back and scan the story for missed elements.

    Case in point, look to the west on this map.

    Is it too much to ask there be a "Silver Quill St." in the city of Buckbeak?
    No? Okay.

    See? That's part of the fun. As is Price's depiction of Abyssinia itself. How would a country of sentient cats look? Price models the architecture around some very recognizable shapes. I think more hardcore fantasy fans might balk at the designs, but in the spirit of fun I find them delightful. Of course, this comic is not 100% pony free. Price's omnipresent Observer pony is somewhere. I'll leave it to everyone to find him.

    Quick, hide the catnip!

    The only element of which I'm unsure is Strife, the Storm King's second in command. My impression is that this being is sentient thunder cloud, but we never see his like elsewhere. His design reminds me of both the Nightmare Forces from the Nightmare Rarity arc and the Umbrum from Seige of the Crystal Empire. Set against the Storm King's uniform minions (which I will indeed call Storm Troopers), this being's unique look is so alien it's almost distracting. I'm curious if we'll learn more about this being.

    Dude, is that your brain out there for all to see? Have some decency!

    The main focus, however, is the Storm King.

    Just that name likely triggers some imagery. We might picture someone who commands thunder itself, or rules a country. I know when I first heard it I envisioned someone as brooding and tense as the sky before the first raindrop falls.

    Watch out! They're becoming self-aware!

    So the comic's first step is to turn our expectations around. We're presented with an individual who has malicious intents, but acts the part of a flighty, amicable person. He seems to show genuine concern over fleet moral, being a lot more jovial than one would expect from a conqueror. He makes being evil look fun, which adds some nice appeal.

    I wonder if villains believe in Casual Friday?

    The Storm King interrupts the narrative, assuming control and addressing us in a very Pinkie Pie manner. Keep that word "control" in the back of your mind. Much of his actions will make more sense that way, because this is a very character-driven issue. It also helps to remember a single rule:

    The Storm King lies.

    I do wonder what kind of retirement package he'd envision.

    It doesn't matter if it's to his subordinates, his enemies, or himself, I don't think we see the Storm King say one truly honest thing in this entire comic. His actions are more honest, as he demonstrates when confronting Abyssina's rulers. His first action is to take the king's crown and roll it into a ring. A crown demands that the wearer live up to the a king's expectations, and despite his title the Storm King has no intent to govern. A ring conveys status but doesn't inspire as many ideals. He just wants to control the wealth and make sure the defeated know who bested their country.

    Keep that close! It might be your only defense against Superman.

    Yet despite his claims of gold over governance, his real ambition is magical artifacts. At least, that's what appears, but I notice that as soon as he has the Misfortune Malachite, he tosses it to one of his Storm Troopers. Either he's taking the warnings of a curse seriously, or he's completely confident of his lackey's loyalty, or the magical stone isn't as important as he claims. Perhaps it's enough to know he has it and others do not.

    So... how many lives do you two have left?

    During the one-sided battle we also witness two Abyssians, Capper and Chummer, evading attack and sneaking aboard one of the King's ships. Capper appears to be the more daring of the two but this comic doesn't offer much insight into their motives. That's likely something for the next part.

    "What if we want to surrender later?"
    "Then you should use that time to write a will."

    With the now bankrupt Abyssinia far behind, the Storm King's mood shifts. No longer jovial or quirky, he becomes stern and derisive. The King makes it clear that he is strong because he has no friends and therefore no competition for his focus. His subordinates, from Strife down to the cowardly Grubber, are all present to serve his ambition but not share in any camaraderie. His monologue towards Strife lacks only a neon "betray me" sign.

    Somewhere, Twilight Sparkle is having a conniption.

    But the shift is interesting. Even after the Storm King retires and addresses the audience once more. At first he's friendly once again, going for some kind of twisted "Mr. Rogers" satire; but he quickly becomes an aggressor, full of bravado.

    I don't I could sleep under that headboard.

    So if this story is supposed to introduce us to the Storm King, how are we to reconcile all these mood shifts? The Storm King takes several different approaches throughout the story and it's hard to say what is his true self. That's why I fall back on the motif of control and that the Storm King lies.

    But what kind of storm? Sand storm? Brain storm? Frog storm?
    That last one actually happened!

    At the root of all his actions, I think the King fears not having control even more than desiring the same. He has no central confidence, and so he seeks to acquire it by taking control away from others. Every action he takes is meant to assert his dominance. He can be flippant and talk about hat parties before an invasion because it demonstrates that tension can't touch him. He acts friendly and jovial, even while stripping royalty of their wealth, because it shows how much he doesn't care. Their feelings can't control him. Once victory is secured, his tone switches to remind both himself and Strife who is in charge and who is owed power.

    Even his tirade to the audience is a self-pep-talk. He says he is the Storm King, no more an no less, but when I look at how he acts and how he speaks, I think he fears being less. After all, a force of nature like a storm has nothing to prove. It genuinely does not care what others think of it. A storm has no agenda either.

    Storms don't vent frustrations, either.

    This comic shows the Storm King's most vile actions, but it also demonstrates his vulnerability. The final part reminds the Storm King that he is not as he tries to project, and his greatest threat is that someone else knows this. We'll see what happens to the Storm King and other characters next month.

    The combination of artwork, new settings, and an interesting character study makes this a very enjoyable read. Though the chain of events is very straightforward, the characters add vitality. It does draw my interest for how the Storm King will present himself in the movie, but even on its own I find it a nice example of a tyrant's mindset. I'd recommend this issue to anyone who wants just a little hype for the upcoming film.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!