• Let's Review: The Creature Convocation

    Two months, two issues, but not too late to look back. Let's have a look at the overall story.

    If you haven't read issues 61 and 62 of IDW's Friendship is Magic line, I recommend giving them a read before journey after the break.

    Still going, brave soul? Then let us begin!

    Before going over this total story, let's talk context. A comment I've seen on several sites is that within this fictional world, the rules and structures we take for granted might not exist. Case in point, this story originated from two political parties that brokered a deal. It was before Celestia's time and the griffon kingdom has changed to a new form as well. So one could argue that in our world, such a contract would be void due to the changing parties. That might not be the same case in Equestria, and it's very worthwhile to question our own assumptions.

    I still wonder how the Breezies got up there.

    However, there's a flipside to this. If a fictional land operates under different rules, the audience needs an introduction. Something to establish this new mindset before the main conflict arises. Consider how we watched Rainbow Dash clear the skies in season one's premier, which lay the ground work for both how pegasi control the weather and Equestria doesn't feature our idea of a natural system.

    There we go. Rainbow Dash reference on Rainbow Dash Day.

    So I understand the idea of how the Convocation of Creatures might feature a different rule set, but we're left to assume those rules based on the available actions. It's harder to voice the framework or how they apply since we're guessing more.

    Apparently, there's no rule to enforce proper spacing.
    The refreshment bar is too close to registration.

    Let's talk about the best aspect of this story: the actual Convocation. Andy Price's artwork lends itself to populating the halls of Mount Metazoa with any number of creatures. Each one is distinct with just the right amount of detail to avoid being overwhelming. It's also fun to see what easter eggs make their way into each panel. Most are a Trekkie's delight.

    Remember kids, the leaders of MLP engage in gambling.
    Good lesson!

    I'd argue that the Convocation and its visuals are the main selling point. Which might be the greatest compliment because the story is hindered by the scope. Our first experience is to witness various rulers. Some, like Queen Novo and Prince Rutherford, are familiar faces that greet Twilight and company but don't hint at a deeper issue. Ember and Thorax are presented as facing more challenges. Ember admits to being out of her element but we never witness her rise to the challenge. Thorax has it worse because not only is he a more timid soul, he and his fellow Changelings are still under a stigma from Chrysalis' reign. Both would make for interesting stories but are not the focus.

    Way to break the ice, Gestal.

    Instead, we get introduced to the bureaucrats from some of the races. I notice there is no hippogriff historian (harumph!), but I figure if they kept any records they were either ransacked by the Storm King or... well... undersea kingdom and scrolls do not mix!

    Show that Disney red head who's boss!

    Raven takes a quiet pride in her roll but has spent so much time apart from others that she lacks social grace or tactics. In some ways she's got an even more uphill battle than Twilight at series' premier. This experience forces Raven not only to step out of the background, but rely on others. Though she demonstrates a encyclopedic knowledge and quick calculations, she can't be the one with all the answers this time.

    I wish all couriers could make such an entrance.
    And refer to me by that title.

    That trust can be hard to offer with dragons like Blacktip. As the dragon archivist, I get the sense's relying on his heritage to help stand out. His first words are to dismiss a culture in comparison to dragon history, and he's not eager to help others until he knows how it would benefit his own kind. Once he does commit, however, he's actually very passionate. The most frustrated member during the search and the one to take the greatest physical risk in escorting Raven to Celestia.

    It's a unique day when a gorilla in fez
    is the least strangest sight.

    Horwitz is probably my third favorite yak... after the two adorable young yaks seen thus far. She mentions losing her accent while studying abroad, which creates this idea that she's the most classically educated member besides Twilight and Raven. She's the most mellow of the group and easily approachable, likely because her time studying helped her learn to interact more with non-yaks. So it's surprising when she doesn't keep in mind that there's a catalog variance between each race's systems. Of the group, this seems the most forced plot point.

    She's like this when she finds a penny as well.

    But Horwitz's blunder gives the timid Urtica a chance to shine. At first I wondered if her stutter would be a condition, but in the second part it only appears during a crisis and so I chalked it up to nerves. She amongst the group has the most to prove as her argument with Blacktip shows. She's intelligent and eager to meet others despite her fears, but awkward in both word and action.

    Starlight Glimmer? Who's that?

    Last but not least is Glenda, the most innocent archivist. She's too trusting in the presence of Lord Goldstone and I'm not sure she takes the lesson of healthy skepticism to heart. There's no malice in the fact that she finds the fateful treaty and she does berate herself even though it wasn't her fault. Yet during the chase her role is surprisingly brief. She's the counterpoint to Goldstone to show his greed is not the norm. Besides Raven, I'd hoped she'd be more proactive.

    "–ourse not!" is how you finish that sentence.

    Which leads us to Goldstone who is... an antagonist. I won't credit him with the term villain because this doesn't even count as an evil plan. He is an opportunist who had a sweet deal fall in his lap. He's meant to be a personable threat even though he doesn't have the wit or subtlety for me to take him seriously. He's not my least favorite antagonist but I do find him to be baseline. Though, to my surprise, my least-favorite antagonist does show up in this comic.

    Okay, tiny tea cup is funny,
    but why is he here?

    Twilight does get a chance to show her best in drawing the various historians, archivists, and bureaucrats out of their seclusion and into the larger world. That sort of proactive choice is what makes a character stand in a positive light, and so I celebrate Twilight for this part. Still confused why she didn't just hold the griffons in place while Raven spirited the receipt to Celestia. I get that having Blacktip spew fire in a room full of parchment would be a bad idea, but Twilight's need to flee feels forced.

    I'm surprised this hasn't become one of those
    "Replace the Text" memes.

    That leads to the ultimate crux. Celestia has no chance to show her skills as a negotiator in this story, which leads many to frustration. If ever there were a time she could show her best beyond magical muscle, it's here. I think the story's misstep is that proof of payment does exist.

    I want to swim through cash like that.
    No coins, though! I ain't Scrooge McDuck.

    Which raises a question, if it didn't exist then what would be the point of Raven and the others? For my own imagining, I look at this group and see the sum total of knowledge from various parts of the world. Each witnessing a piece but none having the total view. So let them collaborate. Let them search and puzzle to find an alternative. Celestia can't dismiss a debt owed without creating resentment, so give her leverage. Perhaps discovering an artifact in one land that once belonged to the griffons. Take that information to Celestia and she could wipe away Equestria's debt by negotiating the return of a priceless artifact. Then everyone gets to shine.

    I feel like there aren't may events
    that were before Celestia's time.

    As it is, a chase scene is fun with plenty of comedy bits, but I think it falls into the idea that an adventure only has meaning if we witness physical feats. This is a group whose best aspects come from their minds and their pride in each cultures' identity. I do enjoy Blacktip and Raven's dive to reach Celestia, but it's no loss to see them pool that mental power to overcome a problem.

    I am impressed Raven could calculate that so quickly.
    Reminds me to fear tax season.

    Looking at all of this, the Convocation storyline invited us to take in any number of sights and characters, but then limited itself to a single goal: find a scroll. It's a similar same reaction to the set up the Equestria Games episode. There's nothing wrong with the focus for the story, but it feels like so much of the venue went unexplored. If the IDW team ever chose to revisit the event and tell a story running parallel to Twilight and Raven's adventure, I think it would be a welcome event.

    No reason for including this
    other than it's immensely cute.

    If memory serves, we've got some single-issue stories coming up. Let's see what happens as we return to Ponyville.

    Before remembering I'd cropped out a Breezy,
    I feared the king there was having an attack.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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