• Let's Review: Night of the Living Apples

    Happy Halloween, everyone! In honor of All Hallow's Eve, let's look back at a two-parter story.

    The ponies have faced their fair share of enemies, both frightening and strange. But a swarm of warmongering apples? That'll cause Applejack and family some issues.

    Check out the full review after the break, but beware. Spoilers can be rotten to the core.

    It's been a while since this story first hit comic book shelves. Released in 2015, almost two years after "Bats!" first aired, it was a strange story that one could argue is either a great trope reversal or attempting to cash in on one of the Brony fandom's favorite topics.

    And the fans did squeal for joy!

    Looking back at the artwork I would put it as a midpoint in Tony Fleec's artwork. It's stronger than the style witnessed in early issues like Rainbow Dash's Micro comic, but not quite as strong as what we've been witnessing in Legends of Magic and Nightmare Knights. There's plenty to see as Fleecs features cameos by comic-exclusive ponies like Marion the Librarian, or the PNN news pony as well as out-of-town ponies like Flash Sentry and Fleetfoot. It also features Princess Luna in Ponyville for some reason, though her role is reserved until the very end.

    This isn't new for Luna.
    Applejack has this nightmare often.

    Colorist Heather Breckel does a fine job of adding a recognizable palette, which is likely thanks to the fact this story takes place in Ponyville. There are ample references. Yet one trait has confused me across multiple issues. Spike's mouth and tongue are often colored green. I don't know why this is and though it's a small difference the disconnect is jarring. In a strange way it makes him seem alien to the rest of Equestria.

    There's something about that green maw
    that makes Spike seem out of place.

    Of course, the stand-out challenge in all this is drawing an army of angry apples. There's not a lot of flexibility there, given that most just feature mouths and some kind of accessory. I wouldn't be surprised if the line work featured some copy/paste shapes, but a combination of gradients and highlights keeps the panels interesting.

    Plenty of apples in this shot but the line art and coloring succeed in 
    avoiding a duplicated look.

    There's a big question that comes with this story: is it satire? It's certainly based on an outlandish idea like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, but it treats the conflict very straight-faced. These apples are seen as a legitimate threat and treated as such, though the character dialog offers a few self-aware winks. While the apple soldiers often comment on their own invasion, it's the pony commentary that I find funniest.

    We went from kidnapped by Chrysalis
    to captured by apples!

    So how did we wind up with a fascist fruit frenzy? The story starts with a look back at Nightmare Moon's banishment, including a hint to her Fiendship is Magic issue. In her anger, a mixture of her power and Celestia's fell back to the planet in a meteorite, which infected Sweet Apple Acres. It is amazing how often Nightmare Moon becomes the cause for further conflicts. At this point I'm surprised the Smooze was not the product of Nightmare Moon blowing her nose.

    This does play to my peeve about "In the Moon/On the Moon".
    But let's leave that be.

    This is where the threat is treated as completely serious. We witness each of the ponies and Spike being dragged down by the swarm, and then the town. For some reason they are immune to magic, though why ponies can't simply eat or step on them is never addressed. In fact, I don't think we see even one apple get bruised. Forget the Storm King's army. This might be Equestria's most embarrassing defeat.

    It's an organized villain who builds in time for gloating.

    Let's pause for a moment to explore how this could have gone. Some of you have likely seen an old Halloween special of The Simpsons in which dolphins conquer the world. The climax featured a battle, but the climax is left to the imagination as we cut to the defeated party. I think this story would have been more comical if they'd left the ponies' defeat a mystery.

    Never thought I'd use this an example
    for anything.

    Equally perplexing is that Mayor Mare is treated as the ultimate authority in Ponyville while Twilight is standing a short distance away. However, Twilight's reasons for honoring the surrender terms make more sense here than her self-limitations in "The Good, the Bad, and Ponies". If she acts out and is discovered, other ponies might pay the price. This is her limiting herself to defend others, while the previous story was more limiting herself for her own morals while others paid the price.

    That's... actually a very effective threat.

    Yet Twilight is not content to sit and wait, thus creating a plan to turn Pinkie into an apple and have her investigate. The logic behind this is slightly disrespectful to Pinkie, but the truth is that she does have a knack for getting to places that should be impossible. This leads to one of my favorite jokes ever.
    As someone who refuses to "upgrade" to Mojave,
    I approve of this joke!

    But it's with the new information of the apple's plans that Twilight hatches a new scheme. This is where the comic likely divides plans. She causes Fluttershy to revert into Flutterbat, then ties her down. Before you can say, "Fifty Shades of Pony" Twilight then uses the same spell from It Ain't Easy Being Breezies to make all the Mane Six vampire ponies.

    Surprised we haven't seen a toy set for these ponies yet.

    On the one hand, I do enjoy the naming styles and designs. However, this seems like it's trying to take Flutterbat's popularity and extend it by making it the norm. Flutterbat captured the fandom's interest because it was a large departure from Fluttershy's more timid nature and was a unique design. Each of the Mane Six has a state that is special to them. Twilight's freakouts, Pinkie's mopey side, Wonderbolt Rainbow Dash, Punk Rarity, Apple Jewel. You wouldn't try to make these part of each of the Mane Six because that makes them less special. So it is with Flutterbat.

    The safe word is "yay".

    Yet I do like how this suddenly gets the audience rooting for the monsters. It is a fun idea and so I can't totally dismiss this scene. While we might not have gotten physical violence against the apples, suddenly we witness their dried-up shells. That's more hardcore than the first part.

    Okay, this is far darker than I originally thought.
    Dang, Pinkie–I mean–Drinkie!

    As the fight escalates we receive our resolution through Good Apple, a counterpart to the apple's leader, Bad Apple. I've said before that I'm not a fan of binary morality. When you reduce the idea of good and evil to interchangeable parts, it undermines the idea. Celestia gives voice to this during the resolution. I think she's right to say that you rise above more selfish or destructive impulses rather than expel them. It's why the ponies are so appealing as character. Their virtues and vices are intertwined, while Good and Bad Apple are simply exchangeable components.

    This is what happens when you exceed the
    "Apple A Day" approach.

    I think this story relies very heavily on spectacle. The fun of seeing apples conquer Ponyville and the imagery of vampire ponies fighting back. A Godzilla-inspired apple/Spike monster. Looking at some of the plot points paints a different picture. There are some very forced aspects and the overall message is undermined by splitting morality into two actual characters.

    Fluttershy is "and more"? 
    I think Celestia just dissed her!

    If memory serves, this issue was not widely discussed and likely the mixed presentation is a part of that. It can be fun but you have to accept some of the ideas presented can be self-contradicting.

    You're arbitrary, lacking any negative thought or impulse.
    That's not good. That's limited.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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