• Let's Review: Ponyville Mysteries #3

    The time has come once again to grab our magnifying glasses and follow the Cutie Mark Super Sleuths! This month's issue features a fire mystery.

    Did this issue burn bright or fizzle out? Find the review after the break but beware inhaling spoilers!

    Three is a special number. It matches the Cutie Mark Crusaders and it's also a signal. Over the past few issues I've noticed a few themes and by this point I view them as a given.

    I wonder if they, Twilight, Pinkie, and Spike
    all shop at the same sneaking suit store?

    The artwork continues to be enjoyable, with a lot of detail to Ponyville and highlighting important clues in the background. In the past I've critiqued that Agnes Garbowska's sense of perspective seems off. Sometimes the buildings seem so small compared to the ponies that it messes with the illusion of depth. This issue is a much stronger showing as ponies are often close to a building and so it's easier to set a sense of scale. 

    This is really strong proportions since it looks like a home
    in which many ponies could live.

    Yet the real draw (pun intended) is the appearance of Scootaloo's aunts. Aunt Holiday and her partner, Auntie Lofty, hit the scene in Riddle of the Rusty Horseshoe. Although there have been fandom expressions, including an excellent piece by Pixelkitties, this comic is the first time we've seen them drawn. Are these designs fully canon? I don't know but given how closely the comics and show are working now I think it a safe assumption. Always open to change but right now it's another case of the comics fleshing out Equestria beyond the show. 

    That's Holiday in green on the left and Lofty on the right.

    Said aunts will have a role in this story, but one can argue that Granny Smith is the greater participant. It's she who interrupts Holiday and Lofty's camp-out training to talk about a fire. Someone lit up the kitchen of the Ponyville Retirement Village.

    That doesn't sound like something you should say to a bunch of civilians.

    This calls for an investigation. Not by the Crusaders/Super Sleuths, but by a fire department pony named Fire Streak. Granny Smith seems to be encouraging the Crusaders to do their own investigation. It could be her trying to encourage her granddaughter and friends to be bold, yet it also highlights a recurring theme. Each issue of Ponyville Mysteries features adult ponies who are not being responsible. The hospital staff were not secure enough with their supplies and the local bowling ally couldn't keep out a repeat thief. This is the first issue that features a professional who is conducting an investigation. 

    It does speak well of the Apple Family that they'd
    house every retiree. Apple Family is kindest family.

    From what I understand of older mysteries like Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, one element is that they are often ignored due to their age. This is doubly-true for Nancy as she was a girl in the 1930's. The main characters had to act independently because no one would take them seriously. Ponyville Mysteries appears to be the reversal. Granny Smith and Aunt Lofty actively encourage the Crusaders to do their own investigation, even to the point of contaminating a possible crime scene. 

    This meddling is 100% Big Macintosh approved.
    Just look at that smile!

    Here's one thing I think this story lacks: a mentor. The Cutie Mark Super Sleuths do not do a good job of questioning the Retirement Village residents and staff. The basic line of questioning is, "Who do you think did it?" This leads to accusations and suspicion, damaging relationships instead of revealing information. The Sleuths are young and don't yet understand how words can have unintended consequences. They need someone to coach them or offer advice on how to gather evidence. 

    He's not wrong. If all these three do is spread dissent,
    they're not contributing to a solution.

    As thing stand, they only succeed in alienating the Rich family, Fire Streak, and several Retirement Village residents. It's here that the trio's strengths come into play. I wrote back in my issue #1 review that the Crusaders each represent a part of a whole. Mind, heart, and body. The first issue was Sweetie Belle putting information together to find the answer. The second featured the Crusaders, represented by Apple Bloom, eliminating suspects based more on empathy and emotion than facts. Now it's Scootaloo's turn.

    Scootaloo, extreme sports investigator!

    Scootaloo shows her best through action, and in this case she takes point on a late-night entry into a crime scene. She alone is willing to actually taste a suspicious substance. In addition to contaminating a crime scene, this is not a very safe or practical approach. I certainly hope Scootaloo had some mouthwash nearby afterwards. This helps give them the vital clue to solve the case, but it also highlights a missing element: consequence. 

    They've escaped the panel! Watch out for the white void!

    This was not a secret mission. Both Holiday and Lofty are aware and though they have different priorities, there is no consequence. Even Fire Streak has a stern warning but no punishment. I'm not a fan of this situation because it hints at the ends justifying the means. There are times where breaking the rules must take place to prevent a greater wrong, but I don't sense that urgency here. There are false accusations being lobbed about, but it's the Sleuths themselves who exacerbate the situation.  

    Truly, I think her mother is the only rotten Rich left.

    I think the Sleuths' actions would have a greater urgency if someone close to them were in danger. Perhaps Filthy Rich should be under investigation, and the team must act to help out a former antagonist. This would have been a good chance to show how their relationship with Diamond Tiara has changed. As it is, this shows more that they may have lost some of Diamond Tiara's trust. 

    Oops! Old habits die hard.

    So let's go over some of the constant themes. The first is the combination of the Sleuths' various strengths, but we also see their inexperience. Their approaches thus far have led to strained relations, but haven't yet undermined them. We also witness a lack of consequence both for the Sleuths' actions and the guilty party. Another theme is the lack of malice in each action. 

    Does the name "Watergate" mean anything to you?

    Let's look at American law for a moment. Arson can be a charge in any event involving a fire, but often that hinges upon a demonstrable motive to cause harm. A person who accidentally starts a fire might not face an arson charge unless that fire was a result of gross negligence. We don't know if Equestria has a similar distinction, but it doesn't matter since there is no punishment. 

    Props to Apple Bloom for her devotion.
    Not many would make a space for their bow.

    Is this a bad thing? Depends on how you view punishment. My Little Pony has a habit of showing villains apologize and reform but often skips over acts of penance or consequence. I think this is a topic that should be discussed in a full post, but for right now I have a single thought. Sometimes a punishment isn't about reinforcing guilt but signaling a willingness to reach out to others. It needn't be viewed as a shameful event. 

    Never get in a dare contest with Scootaloo!

    I think the main draws for this issue is seeing Scootaloo's bold action combined with Holiday and Lofty's appearances. In terms of story this issue highlights some elements left vague or unexplored. Because Fire Streak is the first official we've seen conducting an investigation, the Super Sleuths come out looking poorer for not respecting his involvement and possibly undermining the investigation. 

    You'll be selling boxes of this to earn the scouts even more money!

    We've got two more issues for this series approaching. Next one promises to have greater stakes as a member of a Crusader's own family is a suspect. We'll see how things unfold then.

    I'm not really a pear guy.
    Unless it's Pear Butter and Bright Mac!

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

    Silver Quill on Twitter