• Let's Review: MLP #61

    "Who are you wearing?" In a land of sentient creatures with coats, that sounds wrong. 

    Regardless, a Convocation of Critters awaits us! What does Equestrian diplomacy look like? Probably lots of hugging.

    Let's find out about today's newest issue after the break. Beware that the committee on spoilers is about to make a full report!

    Ah, politics. Should I hide now?

    Alas, the world of second-tier canon can be harsh.

    There shouldn't be a need since nothing in today's issue strikes me as a reflection on the current political climate. If anything, this is how I'd always hoped to see politics: open communication. We're in for a lot of sights this issue, though the story can feel thin.

    How grand a tightwad must you be to cramp Celestia's style?

    It helps then that this issue is drawn by my favorite artist, Andy Price. There is a lot to celebrate about Price's work, from the expressions to the hidden references. The thing I enjoy most about Price's work is that he never settles for the minimum amount. There's always something to see in the background or how characters interact. Often it takes several read-throughs to spot all the references and inside jokes, and even months later I might come back and find something I didn't remember.

    I had to search the net for "Coridan".
    It is indeed a Star Trek reference.

    That's not to say that sometimes an expression isn't simply odd or a pose looking awkward. It's most down to preference. One odd note for this issue is the background colors. The Summit is being held on Mount Metazoa, high above. Yet a majority of the story takes place within the Hall of Unity and its very brown interior. There's nothing wrong with the varying tones that help our pastel ponies stand out, but it does take away the sense of height that such a location would invoke. We also have some scenes predominately violet to convey a darkened and quiet atmosphere. I find these colors match the setting best.

    There will be no admission during the riveting
    "Form 37A" reading! 

    Our very first shot of this story shows both Equestria's power and Price's love of all things Star Trek. The E.S. Socialize, as I like to call it, is a massive ship with hints of Kirk's old ride. You can tell its grandeur by the tiny windows lining the hull, offering a sense of perspective. On board are a set of familiar faces both from the show and comics. It's nice to see Kibitz guiding the wheel while Twilight takes in the sights. I suppose this means Luna is enjoying a less structured time covering for her sister.

    This is the Twilight I most enjoy.

    Twilight is presented alongside Raven, Celestia's bureaucrat and assistant who has not yet enjoyed a speaking roll. In fact, I can't recall her being in the show much beyond The Crystal Empire. She will be fulfilling the role of stick-in-the-mud so Kibitz can likewise take a holiday.

    Not even Flash Sentry has earned the heart eyes from Twilight.
    Those are reserved for dead trees.

    Mount Metazoa seems to be a testament to this gathering but also a challenge to its attendees. Thanks to Price's artwork we get to see a variety of transports, including the flying contraption from Applejack and Rarity's Friends Forever issue. However, does this placement also exclude countries that haven't invested in air power? That could be why we won't see any Zebras in this story.

    Ironically, this place was built with non-union labor.

    What we do see is a reunion with Cadance, representing the Crystal Empire. While the greeting with Twilight is adorable, I appreciate her interaction with Celestia more. Aside from correcting her name during the wedding, Cadance hasn't said much directly to Celestia. A small display of affection between niece and aunt is very welcome.

    It's just a nice little PDA.

    I admit that as the quartet of ponies entered, I expected them to enter a scene of chaos. It's been 750 years since the last summit and thus it seemed an easy setup for the ponies to come into a high-tension setting. Instead, we get to see that every race is getting along. The only ones who seem on the outside are the Changelings, who admittedly have a difficult history to overcome. However, given that half the cultures we see here have threatened Equestria in some way, I can't say folks like the Deer are in a position to judge.

    No glaring at the delegates! 
    That's for the pundits!

    It's strange to use the term "conflict" in this issue because there's very little hostility. However, the conflict that drives this story is discovering a new setting, something to which Twilight takes with great enthusiasm. We get to see that she and Queen Novo are on much better terms since the movie. Ember is tense but finding encouragement in friends. Rutherford is not declaring war every five steps, for which I applaud him. Even the Abyssians seem to have bounced back from the Storm King's invasion and pillaging.

    Did you know diplomatic immunity can 
    spare you from murder charges?

    Speaking of, we get a brief line that might explain why this summit is suddenly taking place. A Minotaur representative talks about how the Storm King's campaign disrupted many economies, creating an opportunity to develop new trade agreements. It's funny that the legacy of a tyrant might be to open up dialog lines between nations. Simply put, history doesn't end with a victory or defeat. Sometimes it's what we do in the aftermath that counts the most.

    He did nothing to help, 
    but sometimes we show our best against others' worst.

    History is also one of the motives driving Twilight. While Raven and a slew of bureaucrats from various species are tasked with cataloging documents and events, it's Twilight who brings passion. One of Twilight's first lines is, "We're about to be part of history, Raven!"

    Sleeps on pancakes and bookstacks.
    Swims through parchment.
    Our Twilight is a unique soul.

    This ties back into Twilight's view on history in From the Shadows. To her, history is a living, breathing concept that is always unfolding. So while even Raven dismisses her work as mundane, Twilight views it as a tangible expression that could become part of a history book. Her swimming through the documents is funny and adorkable, but it's also a statement of how deeply she treasures these experiences.

    She committed grand theft pearl and you bailed on Equestria.
    Good to just call it done and start over.

    That is a grand upgrade from how she's been presented in seasons 5 and 6. So often she seemed bored with her princess duties, waiting for something to save her from a mundane life. Here, she's more the proactive character I've come to celebrate.

    I wonder how I'd sound if I blrked when startled?

    Another advantage is how this issue depicts other cultures. After meeting the various catalogers and befriending them, Twilight makes sure they don't miss out on the culture exchange. We as well get to see each culture showing some of it's best traits. Within the show we've often seen places like Griffonstone, the Dragon Lands, and Yayakistan being represented as either dumps or backwards lands. It seemed like the rest of the world had nothing to offer Equestria, and that dulled my own enthusiasm. Here, I get to see artists, musicians, magics, and even an awesome masseur. This looks like a world that would hold an audiences interest.

    I would pay money to witness something like this.

    The only oddities I witness are Longhorn's presence at the summit, likely a callback joke, and Celestia having breakfast away from the others. While other species are sharing a meal and talking, Celestia seems more aloof and having breakfast only with other ponies. I think this caries as much meaning and you want to assign, but it struck me as an interesting note.

    Such dignity whilst dining!

    Oh, and the Pony Tones are singing at the Convocation, but Twilight doesn't seem aware. A little odd, but it is nice to see Fluttershy taking another step as a performer.

    I haven't really discussed these characters,
    but I think they'll be more central next issue.

    Less interesting is the hook for the next issue. Equestria appears to be indebted to Griffonstone, but I don't sense a great danger. It'll be curious to see how this unfolds. Griffonstone's Lord Gestal might indeed try to retake land from the ponies, but I think that'd be foolish. Debt forgiveness is a powerful political tool and if he's smart, Gestal might try to barter a better deal with Celestia. It'd be interesting to see how other species react to a shifting power.

    I enjoy an underdog story and have grown to really like Thorax.

    Yet I don't get the sense this is a do-or-die situation. A chance for Twilight, Raven, and the other supporting staff members to show their best. Cadance and Celestia are likely going to remain part of the background. A funny idea, focusing more on the historians and bureaucrats rather than the national leaders.

    This panel reflects much of how this story goes.
    Twilight is the focus while Cadance and Celestia are more for humor.

    This issue is light on tangible conflict but instead offers a great meany visuals and a fun presentation for a variety of species. I didn't mind that no one was trading mean words or causing a stir because, like Twilight, I was eager to see them all in this new setting. I expect things to become more strained in part two, but we'll see how that goes in a month.

    Knife-juggling is less thrilling when you know someone has super-thick scales.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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