• Let's Review: Legends of Magic Annual

    And so we arrive at the final entry. Legends of Magic has offered an insight into the Pillar's lives this past year and now the Annual closes it out.

    What final adventure awaits? Let's talk about it. But be wary, young traveler!

    You are about to enter the shadowy realm of spoilers!

    If I had to describe this issue succinctly, I'd call it a "victory lap". But I don't have to be succinct because they don't put a word cap on these entries. So here we go!

    Still love that Celestia had a bratty phase growing up.
    How they've changed!

    This Annual comes courtesy of Jeremy Whitley, Brenda Hickey, and Heather Breckel. Fitting that we conclude this series with the same trio that started it. I've enjoyed Brenda Hickey's artwork throughout the first half of Legends of Magic and that continues here. She does a fine job matching the visuals of the show while still providing her own style. I especially like how she populates the shadow dimension with creatures not yet seen before. Or, in the case of the Lumbears, we've seen them before but this issue features a higher detail.

    If you go out in the woods today,
    you're sure of a BIG surprise.

    Yet one of the main selling points in Heather Breckel's color choices. Her work helps emphasize the wrongness of this alternate world. The characters can talk about the unease all throughout their travel, but the visuals of purple leaves and acid-green skies reminds us that it isn't just a feeling. There is something truly unnatural about this place.

    Not quite "Avengers Assemble!" material,
    but it works!

    How did we get to this place? Well, Celestia and Luna got abducted. But in the defense of the shadow forces, they did it before it became the norm.

    "Why does this keep happening to us?"

    I'm being harsh. I have read comments in yesterday's posting that fans have grown weary of Celestia and Luna being abducted. I view this as a shortcut. Equestria's health and well-being is linked to these two. Putting a realm in danger is abstract and hard for an audience member to hold. It's simply too big for the imagination. Yet if that realm can be embodied in one or two characters, suddenly it becomes more manageable.

    Oh Starswirl, you have no idea the trouble
    these mirrors shall cause.

    Does that make it the best choice for a story? I don't think so. This is a topic that is hotly debated across the net and offline. For now I will say that it gets the conflict going, but is also a plot point used so often that it's begun to wear down the audience's enthusiasm.

    "Really? I'm just keeping you all around for bingo night."

    It also sets the stage for an adventure. Those are hard to talk about because they are often a series of events against external threats. It's a challenge to show the characters' best traits as they counter each threat. Thankfully, I think this Annual does exhibit some of their different viewpoints through how each character responds. Somnambula might take the direct approach.


    While Mistmane has one of the more heart-wrenching scenes.

    Maybe everyone can be saved.
    But not everyone can be the savior.

    We see that since the Siren's defeat, the Pillar's haven't separated but are instead helping knit Equestria closer together. Captain Steela is giving the Royal Legion some extra training. I think we're witnessing the groundwork that will one day culminate in Ponyville. Either before the quest or during it, each of the Pillars is given a moment to shine.

    I'd like to believe she's not on fire due to sheer willpower.

    Yet the three most pivotal characters to my mind are Rockhoof, Starswirl, and Stygian. Rockhoof is the best virtues in terms of interpersonal relations. He stands as the simple and focused individual. He isn't interested in fame or a legacy and is happy to simply follow orders. This is not him settling for less. He does take initiative, especially in coaching Stygian; but he knows where he works best and is not demanding more than he can offer.

    Makes sense they'd be closest.
    Stygian met Rockhoof first.

    Starswirl is the embodiment of duty. He knows his role as a teacher but pushes himself far beyond the limits of one pony can do. In keeping with his character flaws he thinks that he alone must save the princesses. Not because he thinks less of the Pillars who rescued and cared for him, but because he demand so much of himself that he can't see help even when offered. That's where Stygian comes in.

    Sunset who? Never heard of her!

    I anticipated this Annual would cover those final days of Stygian's fall, but this is more about the growing hunger inside him. Stygian has become more assertive since the battle with the Sirens. He's willing to debate with Mistmane and can even tell off Starswirl. He is still the voice of unity, but he's torn between Rockhoof's example of humble service and Starswirl's example of renowned struggle.

    Stygian called it, but I don't think it was Starswirl's need for glory.
    I think he kept it secret because he was so ashamed.

    This leaves Stygian focused on the wrong thing: being the hero and getting credit. In many ways he's less likable than what we witnessed in the series' latter half, but knowing what has come before and what will happen paints him as a very sympathetic character. His fall from grace started with good intentions but became corrupted as he began to do the right thing for the wrong reasons.

    Speaking truth to power, but not listening to his own advice.

    Speaking of corruption, let's talk about the dark force's plans for Celestia and Luna. Back in the very first issue I commented that having outside forces change Luna lessened the cautionary tale of Nightmare Moon. Jeremy Whitley even twitted about it, saying that we were in agreement and offering a take on what was happening. 

    I still think the forces of darkness are really aggressive cosplayers.

    I'm a fan of the "death of the author" idea, which basically states that an author's intent is not law and the audience has the freedom of interpretation. Yet I like this idea and wish to explore it. The concept here is that these shadow forces, commanded by an alternate-world Pony of Shadows, recognize the growing darkness and potential within Celestia and Luna. They're trying to force that darkness to the surface rather than instill it within them.

    I think the green makes the Pony of Shadows even cooler.

    Here's where my interpretation and Whitely's intent likely divert. I recall Nightmare Moon being the result of years of neglect and isolation, combined with Luna's jealousy and pride. That only happened as she grew older. Within these stories, she and Celestia are still young and developing. Even their negative emotions are still taking shape. Yet the Pony of Shadows knows how they should dress and even calls them by name.

    Just to confirm,
    are you sure you're not in another castle?

    There's a power in naming. It's a signal of completion. Of knowing. We christen ships when they launch and hold ceremonies to name children. By forcing them to wear regalia and naming Nightmare Moon and Daybreaker, the Pony of Shadows seems to know them more fully than they've yet developed. It's why it feels more like the darkness is being forced upon them rather than drawn from within. Though that is my interpretation. Reader's experience may vary.
    You mean you'd gladly put two young lives in danger just to be the hero again?
    Think about that, dude!

    I called this Annual a victory lap. It features each character having one final run in the spotlight. It revisits and expands upon a dangerous realm witnessed in the first issue. It reminds the audience of Stygian's dark future and redemption and offers characters that represent different mindsets and goals.

    I like the contrast the two heroes set with Stygian in the middle.

    I've enjoyed each issue in this series and this Annual is no exception. Although I think that LoM #12 is the end of the Pillar's prequel, this issue is a welcome addendum. It's one more journey with the characters we've come to know through the comics and I'd give it a ready recommendation.

    Holy cow! She does have two eyes!

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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