• Let's Review – Manehatten Mysteries

    With no new comic this week, let's close out November with a look back at a two-parter.

    Applejack and crew end up teaming up with Trixie to solve a mystery and catch a crook.

    Was this a great and powerful tale or did it pull a vanishing act? Check out the full review after the break!

    So here's a strange start: this comic features ponies in the most clothing I've witnessed throughout the series. From the first page to the last, the ponies are wearing dresses, disguises, uniforms, and sneaking suits. I'm curious if Agnes Garbowska enjoyed this process as it's more detailed than the standard pony comics. Some designs are recognizable, such as Apple Jewel's dress from Simple Ways while other ensembles appear unique.

    Fluttershy's dress looks nice
    but Rarity's looks a little drab.

    This story serves as a time capsule for Garbowska's older style where the coloring often had a watercolor effect. Though beautifully stylized, it could negatively influence perspective as everything appeared to be close together. The first issue in particular features a heavy use of red backgrounds. The watercolor texture helps add diversity, but there are entire pages that look to be bleeding. Red is a very energizing color, not synonymous with aggression but often a close companion. It makes sense for this color to surround a situation with rising tension and accusations. At the same time, too much of a good thing can spoil the impact.

    Bet ya Penn & Teller never tried that!

    The second half features a much cooler tone pallet. Greens and grays for the most part, though visits to jewelry shops feature a brighter pink background. One of the funnier things I noticed was that with the background ponies and officers, many of their coats are shades of gray, blue, and violet. Applejack, Fluttershy, and Applebloom have the warmest toned coats. Early on I think this was a contrast against the theater's red setting. Not sure about later.

    Love how Rarity and Applejack bracket everyone with opposite expressions.

    Garbowska adds a lot of energy to the comic by using high-angle framing. Often we're looking down as the ponies themselves face a drop or are seeking entrance to a subway. Many times the scenes emphasize the ponies' vulnerability as they face pursuit or a situation beyond their control.

    Not quite the Manticore cannon trick,
    but definitely don't try it at home!

    How did they get so vulnerable? It starts with a simple trip to Manehatten so Applebloom and Applejack can reunite with Babs. Not sure why Rarity and Fluttershy tag along. Though between this issue, MLP #64, and Fake It Til You Make It, I wonder if there's something about these two that links them to such a large-scale city. Rarity is a no-brainer but Fluttershy has always been more in touch with the wild. Perhaps its the elegance mentioned in Green Isn't Your Color that pulls her in despite her intentions.

    Shadow Spades would not approve!

    Trixie's show is the evening's highlight, though I get a kick out of Applejack's sour expression. I think she's still holding a grudge from that embarrassment back in Season 1. Rarity seems to have gotten over it. The show takes a turn when a priceless diamond is suddenly missing. The prompts the entrance of the firm but fair Chief Stablemaker and his officers.

    Manehatten is the only city we've seen with law enforcement.

    It's also here that the technology level begins to shift. Trixie and the Chief both rely on tracker chips, though the locator is a spell hovering above a unicorn's horn. The subway system featured later is likewise more modern. Yet much of the setting is closer to a more retro-style city and even a security system substitutes lasers with ropes. Equestria's technological level has always been flexible to meet the stories needs but I've never seen it shift so far in a story.

    That looks like a computer chip.
    Maybe a magic chip?

    A series of outmaneuvers by the infamous Rough Diamond places the blame squarely on Trixie and her associates. We know Rough Diamond is a big deal because all the lead characters stand in a circle and talk about her exploits. This exposition is very heavy handed and often not a great tactic. Given that most of the ponies are out of town, there'd be a justification in the Chief explaining it to them.

    Her greatest crime involves a Luna cosplay?
    I don't know how to feel about that.

    Throughout the first half, Trixie is staying true to her larger-than-life persona and laughing gleefully as she thinks she's outfoxed the thief. Her attitude becomes much more reserved in the second half as she's already judged guilty for her past actions. I'd argue that the first part is Trixie's story but the second part belongs to Babs.

    I'm betting Rarity did not
    pick Trixie's costume.

    Our mane characters help fulfill a crew count as they investigate museums and jewelry stores for possible targets and sales points. They also provide exposition on Trixie to Babs. Yet they do not change their opinions or philosophies here. It's Babs who undergoes growth and change as she learns about misdirection from Trixie while at the same time empathizing with and encouraging her. This is one of the best aspects of the comics. Without the need to rely on a vocal cast, you can pair up characters from the show who otherwise wouldn't meet.

    Now I know why Fluttershy is in this story.
    The return of the sneaking suit!

    The one character we don't learn much about with Rough Diamond herself. More an idea than a character, she's revealed at the end and carted off. This is a very different type of criminal than Flim and Flam, who often scam people through legal technicalities. A flat-out criminal is a rare breed of pony and I'm curious to know how they reach such a state. Surely there isn't a cutie mark in theft.

    Rough Diamond never returned.

    There isn't a whole lot by way of plot twists here. It's a very direct story that focuses on forging a bond between Trixie and Babs while unraveling Rough Diamond's plan. The real mystery is why this isn't talked about more often. This came out well before Trixie became a truly recurring character. I remember expecting this to have greater discussion if only for Trixie's role.

    The bow of mine glows with an awesome power.
    Its burning grip tells me to defeat you!

    I think a big part of this has to do more with the fact it immediately followed after Reflections. After a story that divided the fandom's opinions, I'm afraid this story was overshadowed. Though not a huge study in the characters, it is a rare chance to have unrelated ponies connect over themes or past experience. I hope that IDW will continue this trend. Regardless, I think this story is worth a second look to see if time has made it more appealing.

    Quite the stylized escape!

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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