• Let's Review: Prequel #4, Legends of Magic #5, FiM #58

    Greetings, my fellow fans! I return from my extended vacation but, gadzooks, there've been several issues left un-reviewed!

    Let's fix that, shall we? Catch three reviews for the click of one after the break!

    Let's start with an ending. The end of the prequels.

    This scene has its own humor if you've read 
    the Art of My Little Pony the Movie book.

    Word is that this chapter is basically a comic version of The Stormy Road to Canterlot's final chapters. However, I've not yet read that book and so my review is going to focus on the comic exclusively. 

    I wonder if anyone in Equestria has heard of "radiation".

    As with the previous issues, Andy Price never fails to slip in a few references to keep the reader sharp. I've enjoyed his run over these issues. Comparing them to other entries, I've come to appreciate how each panel often features some manner of background, even if only implied. The trees in the final scenes are a good example. Just enough to convey the idea of a tree without distracting with details. 

    I'm sorry too.
    Sorry you're such a jerk!

    Another important detail is the set of paw prints leading away from Chummer's wrecked ship. No sign of the traitorous feline and we don't learn his fate. Perhaps he and Strife are chilling in continuity limbo, awaiting appearances down the road. Regardless, Chummer's role as a thread between stories has ended, but the Misfortune Malachite is not yet done. It's newest owner, a mystery unicorn, hangs on to it after escaping Grubber and some of the Storm King's soldiers.

    Sand! One of my many weaknesses!

    We finally get to see some of the magic behind the Malachite as the unicorn taps into residual memories of the previous owners. The real message that shines through, however, is that all power is a trap. More on that in a sec.

    So bring a surge protector!

    When we and the unicorn are introduced to Rambler, I fully expected him to be another traitor. Someone to take advantage of a vulnerable protagonist and darken her world view. We certainly get to see the unicorn's vulnerability as she recounts the day she lost her horn.

    Yep, I'm feeling!

    As bad as I feel for the weeping pony, I can't help but wonder how this guy is faring. 

    Seriously, does Equestria not know how to fix this?

    However, when the unicorn actually abandons Rambler, a lot of that sympathy drains away. It's here that we get to the meat of Tempest Shadow's character. Much like Captain Celaeno, this shows best when contrasted against the Storm King. 

    One day, I will know who "they" are.

    Tempest fits the archetype of the Amazon's shadow, the Castrator. 

    Now that you've all finished giggling and/or cringing, I'll elaborate. Tempest recognizes that all that has happened to her can be traced back to someone's mistakes, including her own. She doesn't try to deflect responsibility, nor does she try to rise above the events. She accepts that life is unfair and harsh, but rather than attempt to change it she becomes part the cruelty. That's why she could abandon Rambler, and why she betrays Equestria. From her perspective, that's how the world works.   

    Yes, I do know here real name.
    I'm still looking forward to the movie!

    The Storm King is not about accepting responsibility. In his eyes, there is only so much control to go around, and so he has to believe in bad luck because that is a power that could contest his own. It's also why he requires Tempest to give the Malachite over if only to smash it. He needs a demonstration of her submission to his authority, and only then does he grant her a portion of power within his own military. 

    Is that species-ist or harshly practical?

    This was an effective closer. It brings an end to the game of hot-potato played with the Malachite, and the Storm King fills the void left by Strife. The stage is set for many of the characters who will interact with the Mane Six and all that's left is to await the movie. 

    However, I'm still not sure that the Misfortune Malachite lived up to its name. The memories blamed it for their ruin, but that could easily be a scapegoat for their own foolishness. The Malachite had magic, but no one truly tried to use it before Tempest. The message that power is a trap definitely applies to both Tempest and the Storm King. One seeks power to heal, the other power to control. Yet they're both locked in on a path that could lead to their own destruction. 

    Next up, let's take a look at Somnambula's adventure.

    They had good dental care back then.

    I find it odd they chose such a name. G1's Somnambula was a witch who stole the ponies' youth for herself and their magic to strengthen her illusions. None of that applies to this character, but I find it an interesting idea all the same.  

    I can totally see a resemblance!
    If I squint, tilt my head, and turn off the lights.

    Of the three issues I'm covering, I think this makes the best use of color. Brenda Hicky does a fantastic job of conveying energy through the character's poses and expressions. She also draws one of the most surreal Pinkie Pie poses I've ever witnessed.

    How does she do that with her lips?
    Never mind. I shudder to know.

    With all the vitality in these characters, its easy to miss how the coloring sets the tone for each environement. Canterlot is repsented in mild blues, which is calm and relaxing. As we flash back to Somnambula's home, the tones become more earthy and a yellow tint colors the sky. There's a greater sense of warmth. Once we're in the belly of the beast, the overall coloring becomes a claustrophobic dark purple. At the very end, as Sunburst is thoroughly creeped out by Pinkie's reading, even the atmosphere has a darker blue. Props to Heather Breckle for conveying the mood. 

    I wish fear could be reasoned away like that.

    There are some panels that feature empty space, of which I'm less a fan. However, it all depends on context. In some cases it helps narrow the focus as with Sunburst's physicality. This panel wouldn't flow as well if there were dividers between each action, so instead they reduced it to just the key components.


    This next panel is a different matter. Somnambula is making a strong statement to her core beliefs, but the empty white space isn't drawing any attention towards her words. If anything, I think she'd do well to be shown as a light in the dark. 

    One other element of hope is that no matter how sincere,
    you always sound silly when praising it.

    Unlike the other Legends of Magic issues, which attempted to wet our appetites for Campfire Tales, this issue is meant as a supplement to Daring Done. We know this thanks to Pinkie, who helps educate an otherwise ignorant Sunburst.

    Is that how most Earth Ponies carry books?

    Odd that Somnambula isn't well known in Canterlot or the Crystal Empire, but I guess that's another cultural barrier from Southern Equestria. This does create a special role for Pinkie, whose personality matches with Somnambula far more in the comic than in Daring Done.

    Does that mean he didn't do the funny voices for Starlight Glimmer?

    Though not as bubbly or gleeful as Pinkie, Somnambula shares her gift for looking at the world in different ways. This is why I'm especially glad that the Prince made her a royal adviser after she saved him from the Sphinx. Always nice to see royalty making smart choices. No evil viziers in this neck of the world!

    No matter what the era,
    guards in Equestria are useless.

    Rather than go plot point to plot point, I want to talk about Somnambula's outlook and her emphasis on hope. That's a term I often romanticize, though the word has been cheapened by its use in campaigns like the 2008 election. Hope is something that we often fail to define but can give shape through action.

    Did this just confirm your average pony is only 4 feet tall?
    Except, I think that a " denotes inches. So... 4 inches tall?
    My little pony indeed.

    Somnambula embodies active hope. While she might seem oblivious to the situation at first, she's taking a look at the factors and drawing her own conclusions. Most others stop at the danger and give up. The fear that is limiting their views doesn't affect her, and so she sees more possibilities. At the same time, she can't lead them forward because there's too great a disconnect. Instead, she knows where to send them for the best outcome and in turn inspires the passive form of hope.

    She is literally lighting the way.

    That's the hope where you wait for a change. There's little you can do, so hope becomes a shield against a panic attack and meltdown. Yet without someone offering an active hope, the passive form is either complacency, delusion, or ignorance.

    I could see Hasbro make a board game out of this.

    Somnambula keeps her eyes open and takes in all accounts, slowly tracing her way through the snake's body until she finds the answer while offering others the promise that there is a way out. And she delivers, not through a miracle but through action. All the heroes in Legends of Magic perceive the world differently than their peers and thus they set apart from the crowd.

    Congrats! You have worse fashion sense than Sunburst!

    There are some logistic questions. Such as why the snake has no digestive system and, more importantly, how did it swallow so many ponies if it wasn't yet large enough? It's a technical issue yet I find myself enjoying Somnambula and her journey enough that it doesn't derail me.

    Love the faces on the ponies.

    Of the three comics this time around, this issue stands out as my favorite. I enjoy Somnambula's mix of quirkiness and optimism, combined with a story where the answer doesn't lie in slaying the beast, but understanding the situation and its causes. 

    I bet I'd feel the same after a Pinkie Pie story.
    Unless we're talking Pinkie Tales on Youtube. 

    They're awesome.

    I'd like to cap this section off with a quote from Robert A. Heinlein:
    "Don't ever become a pessimist... a pessimist is correct oftener than an optimist, but an optimist has more fun, and neither can stop the march of events."

    We're not yet done with Equestria's legends! Yet FiM #58 puts me in a bind. This comic suffered from bad timing. Much like the last issue, it's meant as a supplement but this time it came out more than a week before A Health of Information. When I first read it I took it on faith that some elements would be described in the episode, but then I watched the Russian version with subtitles and discovered some pretty important elements.

    Not touching that one. Too easy and too volatile.

    So I can't really talk about this comic without also referencing the early-release episode. Let this be a warning:

    This review contains spoilers for this weekend's episode!

    Okay. So this issue features artwork by Agnes Garbowska and coloring once again by Heather Breckel. I can't say that Breckel's coloring conveys as much atmosphere. There is the chill of Twilight's castle, still featuring heavy blues that make it seem very unfriendly. Then much greener pastures in a forest and the clear skies. Yet none of it really shifts the feeling as it did in Legends of Magic #5

    The Fillydelphia dragons are back!
    I liked Mina, so I'm cool with this. 

    Garbowska's artwork is solid and she's tasked with drawing several new characters that look like they could be in the show. Yet my favorite panels are how she shows the characters, particularly Fluttershy, interacting with the elements. Though not my favorite of this set, I do enjoy her artwork.

    Loreal. Because she's worth it.

    The reason this comic has to be associated with A Health of Information isn't just the introduction of Cattail, but also the interaction between Twilight and Fluttershy. Of all the Mane Six pair-offs, this one is probably the weakest. Fluttershy and Twilight are some of the more level-headed members, with Fluttershy's weakness being her own timidity. So compared to the extremes of Applejack and Rarity or Pinkie and Rainbow Dash, this set can be overlooked. 

    Everyone in this comic contributes in some form.

    Yet in this story the roles reverse. As Twilight served as a voice of reason and caution to Fluttershy in the episode, now it's Fluttershy's turn to talk sense. Twilight is fixated on finding a new plant that could change the world of Equestrian Medicine. Thanks to the help of Zecora and some new ponies, that just might happen.

    At last! Folks are finally beginning 
    to recognize Princess Twilight.

    Fluttershy makes it clear that Twilight's goal has always been to help others and this isn't a selfish desire, it's just too much of a good thing. That's the key theme in this comic, and it's one of the best things My Little Pony does. Turning strengths into weaknesses and vice versa is one of the show's best qualities.

    Adorakable face is best face.

    The biggest question that comes from this is why Twilight, an alicorn princess, is struggling so much against wind, pollen, and sea spray. Why not just teleport the desired flower away and have done? I don't mind this personally because we've seen Twilight try to use magic as a quick fix and often seen it backfire. I also don't enjoy the idea that the princesses enjoy a magical immunity. They are powerful, but they are still flesh and blood and vulnerable to surprise.

    This is nature getting her back 
    for all those citrus frogs.

    So I don't mind that Twilight needs someone to direct her downward and help her fight the winds, though I find it hard to believe a timid flyer like Fluttershy can resist such strong gales. Either way, teamwork wins the day and all are happy. Except maybe Mage Meadowbrook.

    I'm not sure how the EPA would view this.

    Strange that she effectively gets three legendary tales between the show and comics. Yet a healer is often needed more than a monster fighter, so it makes a kind of sense. There's an element of tragedy to her tale as her perseverance gave way to obsession and cost her not only the the flower but perhaps a relationship. It's the only legendary figure who's life is hinted at having a tragic end, as is the case with most mythology.

    What a... humble family.

    However, it is worth noting that Mage Meadowbrook "disappeared", so we don't know if that was the true end.

    Shipping senses... tingling!

    This is an enjoyable story, but as with Daring Done the flashback tends to gain more empathy and attention than the present-day adventure. I was focusing more on Mage Meadowbrook's unfilled goals than I was Twilight's obsession. It's hard to balance the two stories.

    She needs friends, and is lucky to have them.

    Whew. That's one heck of a set. A good month in comics overall, and I'm looking forward as Legends of Magic reaches its crossover adventure and the My Little Pony movie hits theaters.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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