• Let's Review: Legends of Magic #7

    We've gotten to meet the legnedary Pillars of Equestria, who inspire our own Mane Six. Now it's time to learn how they all came together!

    Check out the review after the break, but beware the siren call of spoilers. They're more an earworm than Oh My Word, This Tune is Annoying!

    So... does this count as a crossover story? Likely not since they're all in the same world. Nevertheless, this is an important beginning as it lays the groundwork for the Season 7 finale. The leak of the finale sours this idea somewhat, but I'm going to view this comic as a stand-alone tale without referencing what comes next.

    Because I don't want to spoil more than I have to!

    This comic features a changing of the guard as the artist in charge is now Tony Fleecs. Colorist Heather Breckel is still setting the mood with a wide pallet of colors. The settings for this issue are defined more by time of day than locale. The conflict begins under cool violet skies and the growing rosy dawn signals a growing threat. The standard blue sky creates the illusion of business as normal until the chill of deep night contrasts against dark magic.

    This is how most slasher movies start off.

    There's one panel in particular that jumped out at me. As the comic's protagonist leaves for an unknown future, the sky remains a deep violet but with swirling blue lights. Some look like clouds and others like magic, but the contrast of bright and cool colors really drives home how much things are out of balance.

    Equestrian meteorologists are stumped by this phenomena.
    Mostly because they don't exist in this time period.

    More on Fleecs' art in a bit but let's get this story started!

    Whatever crisis Sunburst hinted at last issue has apparently passed. He's now back at home enjoying the happiest of dilemmas.

    Uh... good for you?

    A new book and a mysterious letter from "S" sets the stage for yet another tale that promises to offer another side to the story. Thus we begin the tale of... um... this guy.

    But are you a role model?

    Yes, throughout the comic his name is never once uttered. So for the sake of this stand-alone tale I am going to refer to him as the Scholar, since that is how he defines himself. Actually, that's the most affirming definition he offers. The first description is that he is not a hero. Please hang on to that. It will mean something more by issue's end.

    I now ship you with Twilight Sparkle.
    Get in line with a dozen other stallions.

    Our proud Scholar is not so adventurous as the ponies we've read about before. There are no legends about him. This is not a legend-behind-the-legend story as before. This unicorn is filled with passion, though it's expressed in a way that many wouldn't understand. The Scholar is driven by a need to learn and understand. He's up at dawn before anypony else and working in the chill seaside dawn to collect shells for study.

    Every morning, I hit the snooze button.

    One can expect ponies like Rainbow Dash would yawn and lose interest, but think about the drive that motivates someone to do this day after day. It can't be easy, or comfortable. There is something deeper pushing the Scholar out of bed and into the world every morning.

    His current interest is gathering evidence on sea ponies. Fitting for Halloween's month, as the G1 sea ponies with their soulless eyes and whimsical toying with others' lives scare me! But I digress.

    Here we see the Seaponies engaged in their favorite pastime: 
    endangering others.

    The Scholar has something extraordinary happen on this seemingly routine morning. Three apparent sea ponies, calling themselves the Dazzlings. Indeed, Equestria Girls Fans, the best villains of that series are getting some spotlight in their original forms. I am thrilled by how Tony Fleecs draws this issue. The detail and the flow of the characters' designs is very high quality and their deceptively benign expressions actually increase the tension.

    Hello. We'll be your antagonists for this arc.

    One thing that surprises me is what Aria Blaze says to Adagio after she loses her cool.

    I wonder if Luna ever had to talk 
    Celestia down like this?

    Funniest thing, I always figured the Dazzlings stayed together because they had to pool their power to be effective. I never thought about the possibility they might be related by blood. It wouldn't be the first time in MLP that a dysfunctional family has caused trouble.

    Springer would have a field day.

    Props to the Scholar for not letting his amazement blind him. A slip by Adagio about their town "powering them" catches his interest and raises suspicion. However, the Scholar is quickly distracted by the day-to-day routine. I think some readers will wonder why he would go back to trimming bushes and thatching baskets after such an extraordinary morning. I view this as an important part of the Hero's Journey. One of the first steps is to try and deny the journey. To flee back to the normal and the mundane because on some level we fear going forth into parts unknown.

    Can you handle the intense 
    basket-weaving action?

    "Meeting the mentor" is the next step, which at first looks like they skipped. However, the mentor takes the form of a book. Fitting for the young scholar. Apparently, Starswirl the Bearded's studies of the other Pillar's lives did make its way out into the public and even reached the Scholar's remote town. So while he's not yet met the great sorcerer, the Scholar does have some guidance.

    At this stage, should this be considered the "Non-Fiction" section?

    So we come to the "Crossing the Threshold" stage where the Scholar sets off into the unknown world to find them. This is where I wonder about his assertion. He says he is no hero, but braving the unknown and surviving isn't mundane by any measurement. The Scholar is on the hero's journey, and facing a great many dangers, challenges, and terrible directions.

    Wait, where are the Thunder Gremlins?
    Huh. You think you know an artist...

    So this begs the question: what makes a hero? I talked about this partially in last week's editorial, but it bears repeating. A hero isn't measured by violence, physical looks, and certainly not by a death count. It can be easy to lose track of that, given popular culture and the action heroes we often celebrate. The real defining trait is the willness to go and do. To step out of our own comfort zone and face the challenges life offers while others shrink back. At their core, a hero should inspire others to believe they themselves can do more.

    From Luke Skywalker to Harry Potter. From Megan to Twilight Sparkle. 
    All have walked this path in some form.

    The Scholar's travels lead him to Rockhoof's town, and we're left wondering if something's amiss. The ponies are all walking around wide-eyed and unresponsive, as if in shell shock. What can this mean? We'll have to find out next month.

    The LoM layout reminded me of an old Maximum Carnage chapter.
    Look at how both these pages direct the eye from one needing help to the hopeful figure.
    Though props to LoM, it didn't need to a two-page spread turned on its side.

    All in all I consider this a very strong start. The threat is clear and taps into something familiar to long-time fans while also being obvious on its own. We've transitioned from famous historical figures to someone who was passed over, but still embodies traits that define heroes. It seems, however, he doesn't recognize those traits in himself yet.

    Bovinely-inspired insight.

    Looking forward, however, I have to step outside MLP to express a hope and concern. While the MLP comics continue to hit store shelves, IDW is blending other Hasbro properties into giant crossovers, including the current First Strike series. The Transformers, M.A.S.K., G.I. JOE, Rom, the Micronauts, and other groups are all sharing space while trying to kill each other. The few that actually want to work towards a common good end up shunned by those in power, whereas the villains are united and more effective thanks to a common greed.

    This is how the current Transformers thank folks for offering help.
    There are some things G1 did better.

    In many ways the "looking after my own" mentality does reflect a more real-life attitude, but after a while I think it stops feeling genuine. The villains enjoy success because of the heroes' drama. My hope for Legends of Magic is that, while the personalities might conflict, the heroes of legend will recognize the need for a common good and not refuse a call for help. Sometimes I think we need our heroes to surpass reality so the audience can be inspired to make it better. Even if it's just the willingness to go forth and seek help.

    Could that be Applejack's own ancestor?

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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