• Let's Review: MLP #68

    The time has come to close out Tempest Shadow's return. Can anything turn that frown upside down?

    Check out the review after the break. Be aware that spoilers can generate frowns big enough to shatter continents.

    Last issue featured a lot of challenges to Equestria's setup. Tempest was in many ways a proxy for those who might say Equestria is too cutesy. Too innocent. Too weak. This issue serves as an answer to those challenges, though I think it will be debated.

    Well... that's heartbreaking.
    We're off to a fun start!

    My praise for Andy Price's artwork remains the same as last time, so instead I'll focus on what I couldn't talk about. The Ursa Minor is fantastically rendered.  Whether it be the semi-transparent interaction with its background or the lines suggesting the fur and muscles, this creature looks both fantastic and frighteningly solid. The biggest aspect is when it attacks Tempest. The mouth is always surrounded by black, hinting at a consuming void. There's no boundary, only fangs. It triggers a primal fear that helps empathize with Tempest's breakdown.

    Tempest looks like how I'd feel in that situation.

    Later we see the Ursa in a much more vulnerable state. There, the mouth is more clearly defined and the fangs less emphasized. If anything, the same shading is used to emphasize how hollowed out the bear seems. It emphasizes vulnerability and a feeling of isolation.

    That, or it's doing its best motorboat impersonation.

    I also have to praise Tempest's various fear expressions. The frowning and scowling from last issue seems a distant memory as the Ursa invokes past trauma. 

    I'm not laughing at Tempest being on-edge after what happened.
    I am admiring that the Storm King apparently had a good dental plan.

    Yet there are two panels that distract due to continuity. The first is a panel referencing past threats. Last issue featured some comments on whether or not past IDW stories were still worth acknowledging. Case in point, Starswirl's presentation in Shadow Play undermines the quirky character seen in Reflections. So is it worthwhile to show the mirror princesses?

    I think the key word in this panel is "nearly". 
    Equestria still stands!

    I think so. Even if the show has rendered some stories contradictory or moot, it doesn't change the fact that they could be entertaining or generate ideas. The villains shown in that panel are meant to reinforce an idea: Equestria faces a steady stream of threats and yet it has endured all. Even if you swapped in Tirek and the Storm King while removing comic-exclusive characters, the core message wouldn't change. If Price wants to reference his own work and those of his peers in a story he illustrated, I have no complaint.

    I never question the Observer Pony's presence.
    I simply accept it.

    Young Sunset is another story. I get the idea of having a fun reference to Equestria Girls, but Sunset's age has always been a confusing point. How old was she when she left and how long was she away? Having her be the same general age as Spring Rain and Glitter Drops would make them both much older than Twilight and... nope... can't do it. I've already gone cross-eyed. Instead I shall focus on this story's theme: reinterpreting the world.

    This is one of the best pieces in IDW's line.
    Since it was part of the preview, I have no qualms posting it here.

    Tempest grew up instilling fear in others so she would not have to face that fear herself. And yet for all her conquests, all her reputation and triumph, all it takes is a single creature to reduce her to mindless terror. Yet that same being becomes a bridge as Glitter Drops intervenes, a fact that angers Tempest to no end.

    Who is she trying to convince?

    The Ursa and Glitter Drops together undermine what Tempest assumed to be the norm. She was strong, others were weak. She had overcome her past, but that strange bear made her feel as if she never changed from that scared filly. And then the pony who let her down once suddenly has the gall to risk her life.

    This issue really fleshes out Glitter Drops.

    To say that this creates a dissonance is as close to a meta joke we'll get. Tempest's anger rages until she achieves her goal. She wanted to hurt Glitter Drops, and now she has no idea why. For all the times she wished that terrible event never happened, it seems Tempest never truly wished it had happened to someone else.

    I'm not sure I'm following the metaphore.
    Have you considered something involving cheese?

    Summarizing a large part of Tempest's interactions with both Glitter Drops and the Ursa Minor would be a disservice. This is something to be experienced directly. The theme here is changing perceptions. Tempest was sure she knew the facts from both the original Ursa's attack and its aftermath. Now she's experiencing both from a different perspective. This doesn't mean she was entirely wrong or that her feelings were invalid, but now she's adding a more complete view.

    Wow, she's even reconsidering the creatures that hurt her.
    That takes some courage.

    The fact Tempest has to work with Glitter Drops rather than feeling she has to carry her shows how this is causing an evolution. Tempest is dropping barriers she thought kept her safe and as a result is growing stronger. By sharing strength with another it allows them to complete a task no individual could achieve.

    Not gonna give away how they solved this.
    Go read the comic!

    Though I have to wonder about Glitter Drops' account of Celestia's school for gifted unicorns. Equestria seems pretty easy-going, but now we have at least two ponies who dropped out and were too ashamed to go home. This place sounds harsh. I wonder if Glitter Drops and Sunburst have had a chance to share horror stories. I also wonder if this idea of princesshood via the school is a misconception. Only one graduate from that school has become a princess.  We know from ponies like Minuette and the others that princesshood isn't a requirement to be considered a success. 

    All these ponies graduated the school.
    Only one is a princess!

    So with the day won and a friendship mended, Tempest now faces her most difficult test: a very proud Cadance. Just as Tempest viewed Cadance as a symbol for everything soft and "weak" about Equestria, now Cadance is using this experience to show how Equestria displays a different strength. I'm going to save my full thoughts on this for the two-part retrospective, but in the moment I'll say this story has been one of Cadance's Best showings. Glitter Drops' praise for her is unnecessary because we get to see Cadance bring her best through subtle action.

    That look just screams,
    "I totally owned you through support!"

    There is a lingering question, however. Tempest has achieved some good and made peace with part of her past. So what comes next? Hang out in the Empire for a while? Or will we someday see her seek out Rain Drops and reconcile with him? Tempest has many story opportunities.

    Daaaw! Bashful Tempest
    is best Tempest.

    This is a two-parter I'd highly recommend and may be a better story for Tempest than the actual movie. It shows character growth, fleshing out of her backstory, all while set against a very present and physical threat. Combine that with great artwork and there's a lot to draw the reader in.

    This panel alone should convince you to buy the comic.
    Go forth!

    At the time this post goes live, I will be flying towards Bronycon. So the retrospective post will be next week. Until then!

    Tempest isn't the only one getting a new perspective.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

    Silver Quill on Twitter