• Let's Review: Ponyville Mysteries #1

    A new comic series is upon us! The Cutie Mark Crusaders have their own series.

    Our premier puts them in the hospital. But in a good way! Well, at least in the not-bad way.

    Easier to explain after the break! But beware that there is a spoiler quarantine in effect.

    I'll start this off with an admission: I'm garbage at mysteries. With stories aimed at an older audience I just follow the story and wait for the reveal. If I can guess the culprit before then, odds are it wasn't a good mystery.

    Okay, dude. 
    That is a terrible way to make an introduction.

    Yet this story is aimed at a younger audience and so the expectations shift. I don't mean that to imply kids are stupid, but it does raise the question of how much I can expect. A mystery for a young audience isn't going to be as complex as something aimed at adults. So I tend to treat stories such as this as an introduction to mysteries. Part of that is accepting more obvious red herrings, which we'll discuss shortly.

    I would comment that this would interfere with their cutie marks career.
    But look how many jobs their siblings hold. I got nothing.

    Let's talk artwork first. This issue features Agnes Garbowska's style complimented by Heather Breckle's coloring. Garbowska seems to have become much more comfortable with drawing ponies. In the past I've criticized that the proportions between ponies and their surroundings messes with the perspective. Not so here. Most of the comic takes place within Ponyville's hospital but the characters and surrounding mesh much better. It helps that locales are well-rendered to match the show. Not just the hospital but also Sweet Feather Sanctuary.

    The comic and show staffs are doing a much better job communicating.

    We also get some new characters. Of the hospital staff trio, I like the design of Nurse Neightingale. Redheart's boss has a unique style with her curling upwards mane and sweeping cloak. Truthfully, a cloak conjures an air of secrets and so I wondered right away if she might be the guilty party.

    I also told you to iron my cape!
    How can I make a dramatic flourish with wrinkles?

    Less suspicious of Distemper, the hospital janitor. His design reflects his attitude. Unkempt, frightening at first, but with some gentleness to the lines. He's the kind of character I've seen in previous mysteries. The message to not judge a person by their appearance while still presenting an assumed suspect.

    Wonder why Redheart got left out of the show so often.
    I think she has a wonderful design.

    So what is the current crime? Someone is pilfering materials from the hospital. We learn this shortly after an exposition scene. This comic series is a continuation of the books, which I have yet to read. So while I'm aware of Lilymoon and the various creatures the Crusaders have faced but I'm mostly in the dark on what this means. The exposition only lasts three panels before we get to the story proper.

    Hello, Agnes Garbowska's OC! 
    I see that you're following Tony Fleecs' method, for which I cannot fault either.

    There is a contradiction in this story. Nurse Redheart is under heavy criticism and scrutiny for not taking proper care with hospital supplies. So to counteract this she allows three volunteers to have free reign within the hospital, including the supply closet. That in itself would be grounds for discipline. It might have added an extra element if the Crusaders had to investigate while avoiding Redheart as well, though much of the snooping involves them trailing Distemper.

    You girls are technically committing a crime yourselves.

    It's here that I want to pause and talk about the Crusaders' dynamic. Unlike Twilight and company, the Crusaders have no formal leader or structure. Rather, they act as parts of a whole in terms of heart, body, and mind. Applebloom is the group's heart as she's often the one most likely to act on emotion. In this case it's her resentment of Distemper's attitude that leads her to suspect him. Scootaloo, the physical energy of the group, is eager to go along with this since it involves a lot of sneaking and makes the most immediate sense.

    Would it be pony profiling to suspect a pegasus 
    if third-story windows are involved?

    Sweetie Belle is the group's mind, even though she can be a little ditzy. Though she's the one with the greatest doubts she has a hard time asserting these thoughts until the situation worsens. It's she who points out the investigation is actually interfering with Distemper's work. It's also she who is the most uncertain about voicing their suspicions to Neightingale, though her inability to assert herself shows how emotion can often override thought.

    That face says, "I have to spell it out for you dopes?"

    It's only after the Crusaders realize their blunder that Sweetie Belle begins putting the pieces together. It's also here that I clam up. I may post a spoiler warning above, but giving away the culprit in a mystery is just bad form.

    Without any solid evidence?
    Honestly, what they did would be grounds for defamation.

    I will say this in the general sense: Ponyville is not the kind of place to easily harbor thieves or worse. We had a thief in MLP #65, but that was quickly resolved. I'm expecting the stories in this series to revolve around mysteries with innocent solutions. Perhaps it will surprise me, but going by this first issue I don't expect a great deal of maliciousness.

    The filly is cute, but why is she looking at us
    while talking to Distemper?

    Harder to critique without spoiling is that even after the revelation, I had questions. A few facts didn't match up and even hinted that the hospital staff in general aren't doing their jobs properly. It's a strange notion that in trying to clear Nurse Redheart's name, the Crusaders presented a case in which I'd choose Zecora over Ponyville Hospital.

    Something you never want to hear in a hospital.

    All in all I think this a fun start to the series but as an older reader I can tell I'm not the intended audience. I recognize the tropes and the overall story structure. For a mystery, I wasn't really surprised. For a younger reader I think this will be a much more fun read and something a parent could buy with some surety. There are questions that come from taking a more serious look at the story and yet I don't think the story is asking us to be super-serious. If you can go with the story and watch the Crusaders combine their talents in both good and bad ways, I think you'll have fun.

    Yes, no shrieking during–well–any hours!

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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