• Let's Review: FiM #65

    Today the princess of the sun takes on a different visage and walks among everyday ponies. What trouble does she get into?

    Check out the full review after the break but be warned! I'm shining some light on spoilers.

    Has it really been a year since the end of Friends Forever? I ask because that's the last I recall an issue specifically focusing on Celestia. This time around she's taking center stage, though there's a large supporting cast.

    That is both beautiful and terrifying at all once!

    Today's issue features the artwork of Andy Price. There are plenty of reasons to list why he's my favorite. His design of Celestia's disguise is one of them. There are just enough elements kept to establish a link, such as the locks of turquoise mane and her eyes' shape. Yet there is a drastic enough difference that I understand why ponies wouldn't recognize her on sight.

    "... draw fan art of me in this form".
    Hop to it!

    A second reason is his rendering expressions. They day-to-day looks are impressive but where the artwork really shines is the extremes. Showing Twilight having a fit or a pony being corrupted by magic, Price knows how to make these expressions stand out.

    Good grief, the blackmail material implied here.

    Plus there's always the references. More appearances by the watcher pony. A tribute to M*A*S*H* for those with keen eyes and cultural memory. Even a few hints at an upcoming episode for those who have braved the synopsis. I still need to give this a few re-reads to see what I missed.

    If Celestia looked behind her,
    would she see that dashed line?

    The synopsis for this story and its lead up promise a chance to see Celestia without her royal regalia and social status. That's because she's going incognito to poll the populace. Celestia knows that some ponies will not speak truth in her presence while others will mince words. Thus she spends on day a year exploring Equestria and eavsdropping on conversations.

    And I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more!
    Just to be the mare who walked a 1,000 miles...

    Already this walks a moral tightrope. The intention is understandable, but how comfortable would you be if someone in power were listening in on your political views. Equestria has always had a loose respect for privacy but could be considered intrusive. It doesn't help that Celestia accomplishes this using a relic that holds dark Changeling magic. Price shows his skill for callbacks with visuals that reference The Return of Queen Chrysalis and her origin story. The rotten acorn is an especially nice touch. So I will call this relic the Acorn Amulet.

    How many callbacks or easter eggs can you spot? I've found four.

    I wonder if fans will view the pones of Fillydelphia, Manehattan, and Foealedo as proxies for ourselves. After all, Celestia's role in the show and her leadership are an easy source for debate. Some focus on how often Equestria is imperiled while others highlight the prosperous results. Unlike Fame and Misfortune, I don't get the sense this story is casting judgement on any party. The ponies state their cases and Celestia does not seem troubled by criticism. She instead voices reasons for why those critics are justified, but might not demand an immediate change.

     I get the sense these two are having separate conversations while together.

    This piece about how Ponyville has the best ponies in Equestria is tricky. I certainly agree they've done more for the land than most, but that's because they've been given the chance. Could other ponies add to Equestria's well-being if Celestia knew who to call upon? If so, how would she go about finding them?

    I've been told that horses don't lap their drinks.
    Yet I cannot deny the adorableness.

    It's at Ponyville that the story shifts focus. A thief swipes the Acorn Amulet, leaving Celestia weakened and unrecognizable. In many stories this would make for great tension. Celestia has no authority to fall back upon. She could contact Luna through dreams, but that assumes she could sleep in the midst of a crisis and that Luna would know where to look. This would be a test of Celestia's skills, knowledge, and personality without any backup. There's only one problem.

    I can totally crash on their couch until I contact Luna!

    She's in Ponyville.

    Just gonna let this speak for itself.

    This is arguably the best place where Celestia could face such a challenge. Canterlot guards might block her from Luna, but Twilight Sparkle answers the door herself. It only takes a page for Celestia to convince her former pupil and now she has the combined magical muscle of Twilight and Starlight Glimmer. Her antagonist, Scarlet Petal, is no mad genius or villain. She's a young mare led astray by Auntie Shadowfall, who is using her little brother Winter Comet as leverage.

    Foals these days! Am I right?

    Much like the Alicorn Amulet, the Acorn Amulet's magic corrupts the wearer. Scarlett is not an ambitious pony, but she's a walking time bomb who might yet change into something dangerous. Sadly, we never get to see how far this threat might evolve because Celestia and Team Magic track them quickly and handle the confrontation.

    Winter Comet is not a bright lad.

    I think this comic's greatest hurdle is a low sense of tension. Imagine for a moment if we transplanted events to Manehatten. Once the Amulet is stolen, to whom could Celestia turn? How would she find one filly in the middle of a giant city? Just by changing the location the stakes become much larger. It would also address the matter raised by some of the conversational ponies: Celestia has shown too much preference to Ponyville. Here is a chance to see other ponies step up and help.

    Harsh! You made several mistakes today, oh Princess!

    Why did the comic go with the Ponyville location? To speculate, I think it's because this is only a single-issue story. There isn't enough space to introduce and flesh out new characters, have them bond with Celestia, and still present Scarlet Petal in a sympathetic light. I think this story could have worked out better if allowed more room. Perhaps even a 3-parter.  

    Ever wanted Celestia throw a tantrum?
    Here you go!

    As it is this story does celebrate some of Celestia's strengths. She emphasizes that her role is to protect the weak, nurture growth, and try to understand her subjects. Twilight emphasizes that though Celestia is powerful, she is neither omnipotent nor omniscient. The best she can do is teach others to carry their best traits into the world. However, this story also features Celestia being extremely reckless with a magical item and not considering consequences. She also validates the criticism that she relies heavily on Twilight by going to the Princess of Friendship right away. Then again and given the setting, that just seems like common sense.

    She's much more composed than I'd be in her situation.

    So I think this story is a mixed representation. Yet what I don't sense in the end is how this experience changes Celestia. She says that she'll have to find a new way to communicate with her subjects, but we don't know how. We may never learn. I'd welcome another issue where she reaches out to towns and cities besides Ponyville to see who else could give back to Equestria. It'd be sad to think Ponyville is the only home to such ponies.

    Name two politicians who haven't said such a line before.

    If IDW were to introduce a series where Celestia and Luna highlighted some heroes from modern-day Equestria besides the Mane Six, I would not complain. For this issue I think it worth a buy for the artwork and a rare glimpse into Celestia's thoughts. Yet there's a lot of territory for further stories that I fear will go unexplored.

    Just one last image of terror
    for the road!

    Today was also the release of the Annual comic. Come back tomorrow for a review on that.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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