• Let's Review: MLP #57

    Let the chaotic games begin! This week we take a look at Pinkie Pie's journey into Discord's realm.

    Does this story spark new creativity or will the chaos within overwhelm?

    Find the review after the break but watch out. When you stare at spoilers, the spoilers are staring right back!

    Today's story features a little bit of everything. The friendship between Fluttershy and Discord. The dynamic between Discord and Maud. Twilight and Starlight's talents. A whole lot of Pinkie Pie. A well-packed story for a stand-alone issue. 

    Gummy is strangely expressive in this comic.

    Featuring Discord and Starlight is a delicate subject as the last time we saw them was in Chaos Theory. It's not fair to compare the two as they're entirely different tales, but I do want to highlight things that I think this comic did better. More on that in a bit.

    All you need is one chocolate rain thunderstorm and this world is perfect!

    I hope that Tony Fleecs had fun drawing this comic, because the visuals are wonderful. Pinkie's jaunt through the chaos dimension and its transformation are an artistic carte blanche. One can play with the setting and how characters interact, but it's a balancing act for how far to push the visuals. At some point it might get so weird that the audience gets left behind. I think Fleecs walks that tightrope well and gives us some memorable visuals. 

    Was that self-dunking teabag sentient?
    If so... that's messed up!

    There is an ongoing internal struggle as I read this comic. I find that my view on utility clashes with my enjoyment. Often I'm arguing with myself over the chain of events. Take the opening. Discord and Fluttershy continue their visits as we saw in Discordant Harmony. What's so contrary about that, you ask? Consider how Discord and Fluttershy return. I've never know Discord to open a portal to his private domain. He's just blinked in and out, bold as he pleases. 

    Off you go!

    Yet there's two problems with that line of thought. First and foremost, I'm expecting consistency from a Chaos Spirit. Second, we've seen him open portals to other realms before, such as in Make New Friends But Keep Discord, and so while we haven't seen it happen it doesn't follow that it's impossible. Overall my enjoyment side wins out because the start of a story often has more leeway with convenience or coincidence to get the ball rolling. Or in this case, the fish flying.

    I'm expecting a air pirate ship 
    or Link on a giant bird to come flying by.

    This convenient portal is left open as Discord gets a look at Sweet Feather Sanctuary and Pinkie Pie chases Gummy into parts unknown. We get our first smattering of chaos on the second page. Contrasting it against what we saw in Make New Friends, this looks like a more appealing place. It has a more vibrant color scheme and I haven't enjoyed seeing a sky whale since The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Yet the goldfish prove this isn't a place to drop one's guard. 

    Would you like the Benny Hill theme or Scooby Doo?
    We also revisit elements from Make New Friends as Maud and Discord have a reunion. Discord doesn't seem to remember the pony who gave him his worst comedic burn, and the sudden absence of his powers doesn't allow him to come out on top. Given that both are now friends with Starlight Glimmer now, I'm curious if we'll get an episode where they play off one another more. As it is, Maud's role is simply to establish that Pinkie Pie has gone missing and Discord's powers are disappearing. Here my utility side accepts that she's served a purpose, but my enjoyment side would like to see her take a more active role.

    Maud Pie. Pony of sick burns!

    Discord is losing his powers because the chaotic dimension has a new tenant, soon to be landlord. Is it too much to hope that we can see a Pinkie Pie balloon for real? The world would seem a slightly happier place if that were done well.

    Seriously, I would want to see the world from that little bubble of joy...

    Discord and Fluttershy seek out Twilight and Starlight's help, and this is why I reference Chaos Theory. Back then, Starlight was the pony with all the answers and the most autonomy. Here, the scales balance. She has several ideas that are inspired by Twilight's lessons, but when the time comes to act she follows Twilight's lead. There's a sense of mutual effort rather than one carrying the other. There's also some fun visual humor in their montage. 

    Be sure to read the chapter on Rocky training scenes!

    It's halfway into the comic that the other ponies become proactive. No Maud for this rescue mission, but the core group is set. The Mane Five will go with Discord into the chaotic dimension while Starlight acts as an anchor and Spike... um, he's going to offer Starlight moral support.

    And, if possible, we will bring back a sky whale for study!

    Here's another utility vs enjoyment moment. From a character and story perspective, of course all of Pinkie's friends would join in a rescue mission. I'd be troubled if they weren't all going. Yet from a utility standpoint, only Rarity is going to have a minor role. Despite the array of characters, this is a Discord story for he is the only one who goes through a change. So I guess the easiest way to express it is that I'm glad that all the Mane ponies are going, even if they aren't truly needed.

    Starlight has the idea, but it's clear she learned from Twilight.
    A good balance of contributing but making another look good.

    Yet if we're talking about changes, what about Pinkie? Discord exposits that a regular pony within the realm would be driven mad. This only makes me worried for the postal pony who got thrown into parts unknown a while back.

    Yep. He dead.

    Pinkie is more adept at this place because, in my eyes, she's more open to ideas. Most ponies would insist the world isn't working right. It doesn't match the one they left behind. Pinkie has a long history of accepting the unexpected within any world and adding her own take to it. This isn't a new part of her character, but I'm glad it's on display.

    Doesn't Gummy get an adorable little throne?

    Yet even Pinkie cannot resist corruption. At the end of the day, she is still a regular pony and so her mind is being changed. I'm of mixed feelings on this. If an outside force causes  a change, then I can't say the character has learned a lesson through real experience. There's a scapegoat. If Pinkie were to become drunk on power due to her own enthusiasm, I wouldn't resent her. Who wouldn't become enamored with the ability to make anything happen? 

    That reminds me, wear sunglasses before next week's eclipse!

    It's here that we get the biggest and most memorable image in the comic.

    Should I say "Thanks Thom Zahler" or
    "Thanks Tony Fleecs"?

    Either way, I'm giggling! 

    It's alicorn Pinkie Pie vs Discord in a competition to see who can claim a chaotic realm. If that combination of words does not stir some excitement within you, then I fear we'll never come to terms. 

    Although, something Rarity says causes me to search my memory... and I'm still confused.

    This is where Fleecs' artwork really shines. Visual puns, callbacks, and perhaps some venting from writer Thom Zahler. Who knew Pinkie Pie could rely on editor's notes? That's gotta be hitting below some kind of cosmic belt. 

    Ten bucks says Maud could show them both up!
    Also, hi Thunder Gremlin!

    The ponies are made spectators during this competition, with Rarity offering the most insight on who is losing creative energy faster. So looking over this comic, Applejack and Rainbow might be the least involved. 

    Applejack's talking more about her own presentation.

    Yet I'm okay with that because this is truly a Discord story, and the final battle highlights why. This is a competition Discord hasn't had in a long time. Maybe never. A chance to test his humor and wit against a peer. This is healthy competition, something I don't often see in stories. Healthy competition motivates everyone, including the victor, to work harder for the next round. Even Discord admits that his own ideas were becoming stale and that he'll have to try some new things. That includes keeping some of Pinkie's alterations.

    That's fun character humor.

    Most important of all, he thanks the ponies. This is the guy who has been trying to provoke them at almost every turn, even after his reformation. While I've always viewed Keep Calm and Flutter On as a swift redemption, the followup has been more enjoyable. I like seeing Discord be polite and friendly, but with a hint of antagonism.  

    Teacher and student, working together.
    This is what I enjoy seeing!

    In many ways I wish this could have been a two-parter. I could easily see Pinkie's friends having to traverse the landscape she created. Yet as it is this story has a lot to offer. There are parts where I feel that ideas are forced, such as in the setup or blaming the environment for Pinkie's actions. Yet this is what I mean when overall enjoyment can outshine a few qualms. This issue wins for sheer enjoyment. Fun visuals, funny character humor, nice tie-ins to specific episodes, and some great characterization for Discord.

    I'd give this issue a hearty recommendation. And if you happen to be at Bronycon this weekend, I recommend going by Tony Fleecs' booth to get this issue autographed. The timing couldn't be better.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

    Silver Quill on Twitter