• Let's Review: Friendship is Magic #62

    So, Equestria's looking at a massive displacement by an invading griffon bureaucracy. File that under "weird stuff I never thought I'd write."

    It's time to take a look at the latest issue of Friendship is Magic. Check out the full review after the break.

    By noticing this text, you have forfeited any right to be upset at spoilers. All clear? Good!

    So here we are at the conclusion of... what is this called? The comic arcs haven't been big on titles since "Chaos Theory". Well, "Convocation of Creatures" sounds good to me. I've been eager to see how this issue turns out, but not for the central conflict. More on that in a moment.

    A healthy sense of suspicion. I'm glad when our ponies 
    aren't shown as naively trusting.

    Once again we get to enjoy the hidden gems and playful layouts of Andy Price. Though there aren't as many big-scale arrangements in this issue, he still has a talent for having characters expand across panels and changing the layout from a basic grid. It's also fun to see what little Trekkie gems he can hide. 

    How does one make a tournament out of space roulette?
    Also, dig the armor!

    Plus any guy who can draw yaks doing the Can-Can is aces is my book.

    Forget pink elephants. This will haunt my nightmares.

    Like I say, the conflict in this arc isn't the real draw. Pun intended. The entire premise hinges on the idea that there's no record of Equestria paying off a sizable debt. Therefore, one would expect that the main conflict is finding a receipt. In any story we know that the ponies will emerge victorious (except that one issue of Fiendship is Magic). It's more a question of how they accomplish this feat. Heading into this story, I know how they're going to solve the problem. 

    This needs that Zelda "Da-na-na-naaaa!" music.

    So let's instead talk about the characters. Raven receives the greatest development as we see how she fits into the larger picture. On the one hand, she is woefully oblivious as she quotes facts and figures to Celestia within earshot of political opponents. She's so fixated upon her bureaucracy that situational awareness is filed under "W" for "Who's a what now?"  

    Presenting Lord Goldstone.With a grin like that, how can you not trust him?

    On the other hand, her meticulous nature is part of what gives Twilight and company the freedom to be adventurous. Whatever groundwork the Mane Six lay, Raven is tasked with securing the aftermath, as demonstrated by a flashback to Over a Barrel's events. To her credit, Raven might have been the only pony to actually help that situation!

    I can't help but wonder why they have that framed...

    Raven's role will be to both bring all her focus to the task but them step out of her comfort zone to face a more physical threat. Fortunately, she's not facing either task alone thanks to the other bureaucrats. I don't think their individual characters stand out too strongly in a single issue, so I will reserve that for an arc-spanning review tomorrow. 

    This is from the first part, but it sums up their situation nicely.

    But let's talk Celestia. Poor, hamstrung Celestia. Even with the preview fans lamented that she was once again reduced to powerlessness. We've seen her captured, petrified, and brainwashed. Now we see her unable to thwart the ambitions of a greedy griffon named Goldstone. I've witnessed several fans mention that her position as the sun's controller should give her ultimate authority.

    "Queen Celestia".
    Not sure if that's griffon culture or a typo,
    but either way he's right!

    Yet let's consider something: that immediate "I Win" mentality is the same as what Goldstone exhibits. Celestia could flex her magical muscle to force the griffons to give in, but that's only a victory in the moment. They would go away resentful and perhaps seek new ways to undermine Equestria. Celestia is keeping herself in check to play the long game, for good or ill. She is preparing for the worst outcome while delegating a solution to Twilight and Raven. Yet I pay special attention to her word choice.

    "Announcement" implies something grand.
    "Statement" seems much more guarded.

    "Statement" is a very neutral term. Not surrender nor celebration. It is an event that will happen but without any preconception. I don't know if Celestia would find a way to either draw the negotiations out or somehow play the griffon lords against one another, as I hoped Lord Gestal would. Simply put, she's never given a chance to shine because this is the beurocrat's story.

    This is only the halfway point!

    I enjoy how Price denotes the passage of time across several panels, but there's not a lot of intensity to checking records. There is a black mark against the Yak historian Hornwitz. Not remembering a staggered calendar system is pretty poor diplomacy or awareness. This negative does translate into a positive for the Changeling librarian Urtica, who only learned about this thanks to Twilight's encouragement and inclusion last issue. Pros and cons abound. 

    9 times out of 10, these words signal you're the bad guy.

    Perhaps the greatest revelation this issue is that the Yaks are actually good for helping out. How is it that between "Wings Over Yakyakistan" and this arc, the yaks enjoy much greater presentation than in the actual show?  

    This is still the the best portrayal of Rutherford.

    Of course, this wouldn't be much a story if we only witnessed searching the unsorted archives. So in classic My Little Pony fashion, from the first battle against G1 Tirek to this very day, there is a game of keep away. Bureaucrats vs corrupt leaders and guards. Now there's a match-up you won't find on C-Span or the Superbowl!

    I wonder why that sign doesn't say,
    "Rarity, Fluttershy, help me!"

    This scenario does raise some questions. One being why the protagonists feel they must flee when they have a dragon and alicorn princess amongst their ranks. I'm betting three griffons wouldn't last long against that. It's also noticeable how almost all the world leaders from the first part are absent in this issue.

    One wonders at the hors d'oeuvre budget.

    Of all the leaders, only Chief Thunderhooves appears on more than one panel. He shares a spot with Cadance, while Ember, Thorax, King Aspen, and others are nowhere to be found. This story is not truly about the leaders, but rather how members of each culture can find common ground by sharing their best. Meanwhile, the "Griffon Exceptionalism" of Lord Goldstone shows how that selfishness can regress both relations and the world's layout. 

    Delivery truth... in style!

    I'll tackle the full arc tomorrow but for this issue I will say that it's a decent read but not as much fun as other stories. The search for the records plays to the extended cast's strengths, but is also the part where I felt the least invested. A tough paradox.

    "Though I must ask, why didn't we bring our own guards?"

    I'd say Price's artwork and the chance to see other species in comic form is the story's greatest appeal. Give it a look if you're interesting in the world beyond ponies or perhaps seeking inspiration for your own characters.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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