• Let's Review: Nigthmare Knights #1

    A new adventure begins! What challenges await the Princess of the Night?

    I've been looking forward to this for a good, long while. Excited to take a look at this so let's not delay.

    Catch the review after the break but watch out for spoilers!

    Nightmare Knights could be considered the counterbalance to Ponyville Mysteries. A multi-part story too offset a series of single-issue vignettes. A menacing story compared to the Crusaders' innocence. And though this is still aimed at a young audience I think it invites more from older fans as well.

    This probably makes greeting in the waking world
    very awkward. Everyone assumes they're dreaming.

    We'll talk about the artwork as it goes, starting with Luna keeping an eye on Twilight. Picking up on an idea from Friends Forever #14, Luna finds some contentment in watching Twilight bring order to a library. A fitting opening as her opponents this time are advocates for chaos.

    Should Twilight file you under L for "Luna", A for "Alicorn", 
    P for "Princess" or O for "Observer"?

    The first member of the team comes courtesy of a memory dream. Back with the My Little Pony Annual, I said that the last story for the Pillars of Equestria felt like a victory lap. Celebrating the characters without necessarily adding anything new to the legend. I don't know if Jeremy Whitley intended the Annual to serve as a launch for the new story, but he's just increased the appeal of an older issue and combined it with a new one. Dare I say he's wisely wielding...

    And because Tony Fleecs and Jeremy Whitley worked together on the latter half of Legends of Equestria, there's a nice visual consistency. It does feel that we're right back in the battle with the other-dimension's Pony of Shadows. Except this time we're treated to something unnerving. In a hijack of the dream, the young Celestia is taken in an emotionally intense scene. Yes, this comic also features a Celestia in distress. I'm starting to think the phrase "kidnap me" is etched into the back of her crown as a joke.

    He's stealing your fashion with those horseshoes!

    The twist is that this is not the Celestia we know. Rather, it is the Celestia from the other dimension where the Pony of Shadows triumphed. This is confusing as he mentioned in the Annual that his Starswirl had thwarted his attempts to corrupt Celestia and Luna into Daybreaker and Nightmare Moon.

    Still think the forces of darkness are very aggressive cosplayers.

    However, it's never stated how Starswirl accomplished this. It's very possible that Starswirl's measure only delayed the tragedy and this took place after the dimensional conflict. What's surprising is that we briefly touch on the concept of mortality. The Pony of Shadows gloats that his Luna did not survive the torture. I'm impressed IDW wouldn't try to censor this, as they did with shattering Princess Amore's crystalized body.

    Wow, it turns out there's a Celestia
    whose got it worse than the one we know.

    Thus an unlikely pair go on a rescue mission, expecting darkness and finding something else. This is where Fleecs' artwork really starts to shine. In past issues featuring both Fleecs and other artists, I've criticized that new locations are often modeled to resemble Earth locales. They can be wonderfully drawn, but not mixing with the show's style. This strange castle looks like something we would see in Friendship is Magic.

    Either a MLP setting or the next
    Kingdom Hearts level.

    The morality scale is a new twist. I could see it happening the show, but would take issue with the idea. As a child of the 80's, I saw plenty of stories were bad guys were bad simply because they were evil, and there were stories where characters were drained of good and morally swapped. We've seen similar themes in stories like Reflections and even in the idea that the Elements "made" Luna good again.

    Ah, the Bowser Koopa school of thought.

    I think this is actually a harmful message to children. It over-simplifies the idea of morality. We don't have measurements of just good and evil within us. We make choices and sometimes the benefit or harm we cause is unintentional. So if the morality scale was a perfect system, I'd have greater issue with it. Luna's bypassing the scale hints at a different story.

    Love how Fleecs draws Luna's shout.

    Having passed this obstacle, she remarks disliking letting loose because it feels too good. Much like in Ponies of Dark Water, the change is not filling one's thoughts with evil. It's shutting down filters and lifting restrictions. In many stories, the villain often appears stronger because they have shed any idea of restraint. It's more difficult for heroic figures to do this because they are trying to achieve a selfless goal.

    Stygian: the voice of caution.
    Luna: the voice of action.
    Fleecs: The background pony of brawling!

    Many villains are driven by ego, a false sense of self. The ego cries, "Feed me! Feed me!" to validate its existence. The villain supplies this by putting down the surrounding world or claiming power for oneself. Even if the actions could be seen as justifiable or the mindset reasonable (Thanos, anyone?) the ultimate ego is that the character as assigned themselves power to decide for the world. When Luna makes that boast, I think she's feeling some of the ego from her time as Nightmare Moon. The morality scale seems to measure how much or how little one imposes self-restraint.

    Well... this is awkward.

    Whew. That was a lot to pontificate. We haven't even gotten to the casino's interior, which is filled to the brim with references. Tony Fleecs put out the call on social media for villain suggestions and the fandom did not disappoint. In each level of this casino castle you can see villains from the show, comics, and even a few G1 cameos. Since the clientele hail from different dimensions, it could be characters that were never redeemed, never defeated, or the timeline moves a little slower. Basically it's a blank check to include as many bad guy references as you'd like.

    Aw, is that Reflections Sombra?
    Can we have a rescue mission for him too?

    But the stand-out baddie is the newly introduced Princess Eris. Interesting that she went with "Princess" rather than "Queen". The mythological Eris was the queen of strife and chaos, known for using the apples of discord to turn the gods against one another. This Eris, though she claims to be kin to Discord, is not a composite creature like a Draconequus. According to Jeremy Whitley, he based her design off the Sarimanok. That is a mythical bird from Maranao, a major island in the Philippines. There are a variety of legends surrounding it, but one of the most important aspect is its association with chance. Fitting then that her castle is a casino and the security system emphasizes shedding self-restraint.

    So... is that a skirt or part of her body?
    What an uncomfortable question to ask!

    Given this, it's makes sense that her master plan doesn't have a specific end goal. Although Eris' pride influences her description. Despite her dismissal of Discord's pranks, they often served a selfish plan like de-powering the Elements or punishing ponies who annoy him. Eris design creates a streamline, symmetrical design. In the same way, she has put together a carefully laid-out plan, but the ultimate goal is to let the pieces fly. Just as their designs are different, their approaches and attitudes towards chaos are equally polarized.

    Trying to picture old Starlight with Luna's powers.
    Equal dreams for all!

    Even her monologuing speaks to the ego I talked about with Luna. Why do villains monologue? Because it's both a self-affirmation and a chance to make their opponents feel smaller, powerless. It's the villain trying to present themselves as in control when it's a desperate act to reinforce one's sense of self.

    Yep. She's definitely had it worse than our Celestia.
    And that's saying something.

    We also get some movie continuity with this world's Staff of Sacanas, making this the second time Luna has lost her magic to this thing. I imagine her taking special pleasure in smashing it. This model seems able to detach the magic, which hints that Eris may want to let this power loose with only two countermeasures, both of which she controls. Although she is in favor of chance, I notice that she is covering her own bases.

    You ever had one of those days?

    This comic features a lot. It sets the conflict, stake, time frame, antagonists, and hints at the team to be assembled. In some ways it feels like a revisiting of Stygian's quest in Legends of Magic #6. There is an implied threat in that similarity. I think Stygian would fear history repeating itself.

    "Becoming a successful, self-published author?"
    "Okay, name the other good thing!"

    There are some questions left dangling that I'm not sure will be addressed. The Pony of Shadows broke Celestia and made her Daybreaker, so where is he now? If Eris is as fond of chaos as she claims, she wouldn't permanently remove such a force from play. We may get to see Stygian confront his darker self again or we might not. Time will tell.

    Let us hope their true victory
    will look more dignified.

    Here and now, I have no reservations recommending this opening issue and I'm looking forward to seeing what's to come.

    You'll be the group's Fluttershy,
    won't you?

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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