• Let's Review: The Return of Tempest Shadow

    It's been about two months since Tempest made her return appearance within IDW comics' pages. She faced a force of nature and her own inner turmoil.

    How did this conflict fare and how well did each each character stand out. Find out the full review after the break. But beware the Return of Spoilers!

    What a task to undertake. This two-part issue covered a lot. It features a followup to the events of My Little Pony: The Movie, especially regarding Tempest's reintegration to Equestrian culture. It delved further into her history while simultaneously addressing some very real criticisms of Equestria's defenses and leadership. Couple that with fleshing out a pony important to Tempest's history but hitherto unseen and you've got a very full plate.

    You may need to hire an impressionist voice actress, however!

    Let's start this off talking about one of my favorite aspects:

    The Art
    I will trumpet Andy Price's art style from the rooftops. Just as soon as I buy a tall enough ladder.

    Pinkie can be almost as scary as an Ursa Minor.

    Price has been a favorite of mine for a long time and these two issues are a prime example. He puts so much effort into backgrounds, expressions, and textures. One of the funnier aspects to this story arc is the reduced references. There are plenty present, to be sure. Yet because much of this takes place in the wilds beyond the Crystal Empire, there simply aren't as many opportunities as there might be in a more urban center like Manehatten. 

    Try to spot all the references in this one panel.
    It's okay. I'll wait.

    Yet this piece is very character-driven and so great emphasis lies with the expressions. The early Tempest is all scowls and barely-concealed contempt. Price has a special gift for drawing facial muscles, which contrasts against the show's usual, smooth vectors.

    I imagine this was Tempest's inner thought
    every time Grubber said or did something.

    As the first half transitions we get to see Tempest stepping into unfamiliar realms, both beyond the Crystal Empire and expanding her emotional range. Her expressions and poses are still judgemental, but gradually she becomes more an more angry before reaching her emotional breaking point. After Glitter Drops saves her from the Ursa Minor, Tempest's expressions are more diverse. Fear, uncertainty, gentleness, affection. In a way that moment of pure terror broke the dams holding back her own feelings.

    Anyone would have nightmares over this.

    Speaking of the Ursa Minor, I love how price renders it as semi-transparent. He uses shadow to make the creature either a fearsome silhouette that holds a very recognizable set of fangs, or as a lost creature that has no hope.

    Funny how that one paw stands out against the black but doesn't look sharp.
    Or at least, it doens't convey a sense of menace.

    I could go on and on about each character's drawing but better to talk about their characterizations, which the artwork supports. However, I should also address a few franchise hiccups.

    There are little things scattered throughout the franchise that might raise questions. In School Daze, Twilight says that she offered Tempest a home in Ponyville, but she declined and went on her own journey. The Great Princess Caper further states that she went with Grubber, who wanted to be her loyal sidekick.

    Goodbye, non-sidekick!
    Maybe you'll get another chance down the road!

    That last line never struck true to me, as Grubber never showed that level of support or devotion in the movie. Lip service, perhaps, but he never put himself on the line to help Tempest. So I'm actually releived for his absence. He would have been a barrier between Glitter Drops and Tempest Shadow.

    If there's a problem, she'll solve it.
    Check out the story while Tempest evolves it!

    As to the fact this story starts out with Tempest in Ponyville and has apparently been there for a measurable length of time, it doesn't really change what Tempest said. She hung around, realized it wasn't her place, and went on her own journey. It requires some flexibility in the interpretation but doesn't outright break the idea.

    Continuity works against you, oh King!
    How's about a little empathy?

    There may be more continuity questions, such as with The Stormy Road to Canterlot. That is one book I had not read and avoided to see how well I could interpret this story without it. Now that that's settled, I may revisit it down the road.

    Not yet ready to be called Fizzlepop Berrytwist by her fellow ponies, Tempest is at a difficult transition point. She turned her back on the Storm King's way of life but that doesn't mean she's willing to accept the ponies more gentle lifestyle. After all, this was the culture that failed her. Even moreso, this is the nation that couldn't resist her.

    The Storm King wasn't a great antagonist,
    but he sure has proven a launchpad for better stories.

    Tempest is quick to judge other ponies as too lax. Too interested in friendship and giving no thought to defense and military strength. Tempest has lived a hard life and devoted herself to a style that emphasizes a position of power. No trust, because that's just an avenue for betrayal. These countless parties and easy-going citizens are now so foreign that they might as well be from a different planet.

    All this power... wasted on barns...
    Where Applejack spent her formative years.

    All that starts to crumble when she meets her old friend and remembers, from her perspective, the original betrayal. The past seems to keep on coming as all her strength and anger falls away when she confronts the Ursa and is nearly paralyzed. Even when she survives she can't accept this. She's supposed to be more and the idea that somepony else saved her–the same pony who abandoned her–undermines everything she believed. She was supposed to be the strong one, always master of her environment. To the old Tempest, the future was as unchangeable as the past.

    You have to accept yourself first, then you can accept the situation!

    This story is about alternate perspectives. Seeing more than before and realizing that a lot of things we might take as fact become more uncertain. The past has not changed, but our view of it can. Tempest's growth involves giving herself permission to see things in a different light without feeling weaker. In doing so, she's able to see the strength in her friend and recognize the Ursa's vulnerability.

    It's still an odd simile.

    It's a fitting conclusion that Tempest has to force herself to thank Princess Cadance. She had made Cadance a symbol of the unnecessary and soft elements of Equestria. Just a day ago, the act of thanking Cadance would have made Tempest feel diminished. Though Cadance's subtle gloat might chaff, Tempest has gained a lot of flexibility thanks to her "friendship trap".

    Glitter Drops
    Can I really call this character comic exclusive? She's been featured in the movie's flashbacks and various print media but this was the first time we really got to see her drawn. More than that, it's the first time we get to find out what happened after she and Tempest parted ways.

    Favorite panel of the story.

    At first she seems oblivious to Tempest's frustration and doesn't get why Glitter's former friend is going by a different name and acting so hostile. I might call her oblivious if not for her role. Glitter took on a job that involves putting herself in the dangerous unknown to defend ponies beyond the Empire's protection. We later learn she did this after the double-whammy of dropping out of Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns and not being able to study the Everfree Forest. Yet it says something that she's taken on a role that seems to match her previous failure.

    None can compete with a Sunset Shimmer cameo!
    Not even you, Watcher Pony!

    It isn't until Tempest's breakdown that we see what's driving Glitter Drops. She felt all the guilt Tempest wanted, but took it ever further. She felt that she should have been the one to go into that cave, something even Tempest herself never wished.

    Into every friendship a little
    storming rage must fall.

    Tempest isn't the only one gaining new perspective. Glitter thought that avoiding games would prevent Tempest's pain while it actually deepened it. And as she reveals even her loss of communication had no malice. Her life had its own share of burdens and failures and she couldn't share that with Tempest.


    So in many ways this campaign against the Ursa Minor features both ponies giving ground. Tempest has to recognize Glitter's strengths while Glitter has to surrender control to another's direction. Thus their shared strength triumphs and I wonder if their third friend, Spring Rain, might appear someday. Lot of potential in Tempest's future. If nothing else, I'm eager to see her role in Nightmare Knights.

    Princess Cadance
    Long-time readers and viewers of my videos will note I'm not a Cadance supporter. I've had more than my share of criticisms. So it's a testament to this comic that I consider this to be one of her strongest presentations.

    Love how Price uses charcole to render Cadance's mane.
    So much more interesting looking!

    We need to start from the end with this one. When Glitter Drops praises Cadance and says she may be more powerful than Celestia, I get a sense of the old style. For a while, Cadance's virtues have been praised by characters but not shown first-hand. More often than not we just witnessed her waiting for someone to fix the problem for her, or rolling her eyes at others' silliness. This was not making Cadance look like a strong character, but rather diminishing others.

    I still support Flurry Heart for 
    Princess of Explosions!

    This comic features Cadance being aware, proactive, and mature. Most of all, she sets the stage and then allows it to unfold naturally. How she learned about Glitter Drops and Tempests' relationship is beyond me, but the Princesses likely have resources most do not. In Princess Cadance and the Spring Hearts Garden, we learn that she can have prophetic visions and so that may be the secret. What's more important is what she does with this information. She takes stock of Tempest's strengths and needs, engages her as a peer, and asks her to perform a task that's much more subtle than Twilight's friendship traps.

    I feel like that's a diss,
    even though it's not.

    Tempest sees her as an embodiment of Equestria's weaknesses. This comic turns her into a representation of all its strengths. Equestria may have been attacked multiple times (most of those cases featuring the princesses imprisoned), but it's always emerged unconquered. Cadance sets the stage for empathy, emotional bonds, and shared strength. All of which are resources used for Equestria's defense.

    I feel like she's trying to do my job.
    Stop it, Tempest!

    Sure, she's prideful at the end but she earned it. I hope we'll get to see more of Cadance taking active role in others' growth and offering guidance. She may very well be stronger than Celestia, but power does not make a good character. I'm eager to see her have more stories of this caliber.

    Is It Worth It?
    Yes. Nice to be able to give a direct answer.

    You had no chance, fish!
    This battle is on a different scale!

    This is a story that fleshes out Tempest beyond the movie in a believable way and can be used to convey a genuine life lesson. Every character gets to bring their best to the table and reconciles with their past mistakes. It provides an argument in favor of Equestria's defense, though I think that will deserve its own blog post as there are strengths and weaknesses to the argument.

    I want the Princess of Lazy Sundays.
    Can we get that?

    This is one of the strongest arcs in IDW's lineup and I hope we'll get to enjoy more like it. Next week should feature a return to a single-issue story. We'll see how that plays out.

    This panel alone makes me love this story.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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