• Let's Review: Legends of Magic #4


    It's time for another look back at Equestria's lore with Legends of Magic #4! Oh, that rhymes. 

    Let's see what Flash Magnus and the Legionnaires got up to in the past. Check out the review after the break but watch out for ancient spoilers!

    To borrow a quote from another show, "It's hero time!"

    Yes, this story is a tried-and-true hero tale, and even as I write this blog I'm anticipating the number one complaint. Once a person has read up to the basic conflict setup, the climax and resolution are predictable. That's because many of us have been raised on stories of such heroics and so we can guess the outcome easy enough. 

    I don't know if there's a historical significance to having only one horseshoe.
    Any military history fans want to give a shout out?

    Though I'd caution against giving up on this story simply because of the "appeal to novelty" fallacy. There's a reason we're all familiar with stories where heroes do what is right simply because it is right. Stories help us interpret the world and an old story told well is often better than a new, poorly-told tale. 

    No Mane Six here. I shall call you the Flying Five!

    What is new and well-done is Brenda Hickey and Heather Breckel's artwork. The artwork is very detailed, right down to scuff marks on the Royal Legion's armor and scars along the experienced pegasi warriors. There are well-rendered backgrounds to almost every panel and even those with a gradient often use speed lines to draw the eye. I can only count three panels where the background is either pure black or white, and all are used with intent. 
    Though their designs are detailed, I notice that they haven't any of the pegai's scaring.
    The fact they're wearing medals makes them more bluster than substance. 

    Perhaps the most important aspect is the coloring during a super storm. The setting loses its saturation and the overall mood is much darker. A reader can feel the storm as the pegasi rush to save the day.

    If you gotta start a war, I ask that you focus on the yaks!

    Because the story is very straightforward, I don't think a play-by-play would do much good. Even the characters are presented very directly so I can't say we get a deep look at what drives each one. If anything, the most characterization lies with Starlight Glimmer.

    Huh. I just talked about the appeal to novelty...
    Ah, well. We're all enticed by the new.

    Because Sunburst can never read one of these stories in peace, his study of Starswirl's library gets interrupted when Starlight comes knocking. I've gotten used to seeing Starlight worry and strain under her past. It's refreshing to see her be a little boisterous. Since he ignored her invitations to lunch and dinner for two days, she has deigned it appropriate to read a story to here. Using all the funny voices. That part's important. 

    Oh, just ship already!

    I'm seeing a little bit of Trixie's attitude from All Bottled Up on display with Starlight here. Either Trixie's had an influence, or we often see our own faults within our friends. Either way, we are once again experiencing a story after the legend. Flash Magnus made a name for himself by saving Cloudsdale from dragons using only a shield. 

    Heh. Get it?
    Pegasi. Falls. 

    It's funny!

    This is the third time we've seen that Starswirl documented/expanded historical characters' lives after their most well-known event. Having witnessed this three times, however, I truly hope the show will document the most well-known events because a pegasus vs a dragon sounds flipping awesome. I have no deeper commentary than that. Sometimes all I ask from a story is that it have some action that is flipping awesome (and not directed by Michael Bay). 

    Keep that term "Warriors" in mind.
    It's more important than one might think.

    But this story does serve another purpose. There isn't a lot of time to characterize several key players, but in my learning about archetypes I see a lot of the Hero in Flash Magnus and much of the Warrior in his commander, Ironhead.

    I feel bad for Grimhoof. Fifth-fastest in the Legion is nothing to sneeze at.
    But much like the bronze medal, it just doesn't get the respect it deserves.

    What's in a name, you ask? Well, it's something of a shortcut towards characterization. Because of both the characters' designs and their namesakes, we can guess at some of their traits. Nimbus Dash is an early version (ancestor?) for our dear Rainbow. Grimhoof likely isn't very fun at parties. Bella Breeze is doing her best to look fearsome, but as she has neither scars nor damage I think it's safe to assume she's one of the more gentle members. Or she could be the most violent and unassuming. Never let assumptions be your undoing!

    Definitely a proto-Rainbow Dash here!

    Now, when I hear "Flash Magnus" I think of a heroic Autobot commander who fans will complain stole their waifu. My mind is weird.

    In truth, Flash represents the young idealism of a Hero. We've all had fantasies of not only doing the impossible, but also being celebrated. Flash embodies that youthful dream as this seems like a perfect sopportunity. Even when a group of prideful griffons block the Legionnaires from the storm and deny them entry to the territory, Flash assumes they're just going to skirt the rules and get things done.

    Let's procure some popcorn rations while we wait!

    Commander Ironhead is the more experienced Warrior, the mature evolution of the young hero. His attitude and choices appear petty or cold, especially when he seems personally insulted by Blackbeak's hostility. Yet he's viewing the bigger picture. Violating griffon territory might save the town, but it'd be very easy to start a larger conflict. A young hero believes in action without much worry for consequence. A warrior understands both limitations and consequence, and that the situation isn't about personal glory. 

    This seems like military reverse-psychology.

    Given that this comic and the franchise are geared to a younger audience, it's not surprising that the climax and ending favor Flash Magnus' approach. Yet I think it's worth noting that Flash was willing to accept being kicked out of the Royal Legion if that was the only way to act freely. Though he is indeed rewarded for his bravery, I think his willingness to accept the consequences is at least a step towards maturity. 

    That griffon on the left is having one messed-up day!

    It's also worth noting that much like Rockhoof from LOM #2, Flash is not a hero because he is the strongest or fastest. These are physical skills and are needed for success, but his key trait is a willingness to act in ways others would not. He sets to a task believing he can accomplish it, but he's quickly confronted by his limitations. Yet his actions inspire others, closing the gap between Flash's ideals and reality. 

    Part of what I like about this story is the same as I enjoyed with Rockhoof. Neither pony has to hurt someone else to show their best. We've all read legends of heroes who slayed beasts, from lions to hydras and beyond. Yet so often the focus seems to be on the lives those heroes took rather than the lives they saved. Rockhoof and Flash Magnus get to show their best by saving lives, period. 

    Hang on. Did he not get a medal for repelling a dragon?

    Continuing with the question of whom this might inspire, I'm going to point to Twilight Sparkle. Though Rainbow Dash would get a kick out of adventures of storm-busting pegasi, Twilight is the one who struggles the most with rules and knowing when to break them. This might be a good story for her to consider.

    As someone who regularly submits his OC to physical pain,
    I salute this panel in all its luminescence!

    I do wonder how this story would be received if the consequences weren't so clean-cut. What would Flash Magnus, hero of the Royal Legion, do if he was suddenly cast away? I think that's an ending older fans like myself would find interesting, but I think this ending works well for a younger audience.

    I love how MLP draws clouds, and
    the Hickey/Breckel combo does wonders here!

    I'm a big believer that stories help shape our worldview. Young people should be allowed to read and dream about triumph, so they can pursue it in real life. The Warrior is never meant to replace the Hero as we get older. It tempers the view and helps us understand that there are consequences and we might not emerge from the experienced unscathed. Yet the heroic drive to accomplish shouldn't fade away. We need that motivation to accomplish things. From great social movements to being willing to have dinner with a very different friend, a little drive comes from our inner Hero. 

    I checked some screenshots of Sunburst because of this panel.
    Did you know his tail appears and disappears on a whim?

    This story does not deviate from what we might expect, and I think that will turn people away. With limited time and a larger cast, the story relies on physical appearance and names to encourage the reader to guess at personalities. Maybe we'll revisit these characters down the line and learn more, but for right now I can imagine that people will find this story a little shallow.

    But I do think it shows the dynamic between the Hero and the Warrior well and it's got enough quality to be a solid story. It's not the strongest entry in Legends of Magic to date but I don't see it conveying the wrong message or failing to provide likeable characters. Give it a read and see how it strikes you.

    Starlight: "Now, Sunburst, read to me like one of your French mares!" 
    Sunburst: "WHAT?"

    But darned if I didn't also want to hear Sunburst read the story aloud. If Ian Hanlin ever decides to attend a Brony convention, he could do a whole panel reading this comic like Sunburst. Just remember the funny voices!

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!