• Let's Review: Nightmare Knights #2

    Eh? She said it! She said it!

    It's time for Luna to gather her team. What does this say about her mission and maybe about her as well?

    Check out the full review after the break. That's where Luna recruits all the spoilers!

    The first issue of Nightmare Knights was a visual feast. Villains from all over coupled with a new setting and even callbacks to a darker alternate universe. This issue tests Tony Fleecs' skills differently as we witness locations far and wide with a very different cast. Las Pegasus, the Crystal Empire, and even Yakyakistan. It's very rare to see a panel that features a simplified background. You can tell that Fleecs studied any and all references available to get the look down. That's one of the things I'm enjoying most about this series. Even if a location is new, it looks like ti could be part of the show.

    This is clever writing, but the fact that Capper is
     featured on the cover really spoils the payoff.

    Though if we're talking about the backgrounds we must also talk about the background characters. Particularly the Las Pegasus ponies and the yaks. Both groups are rendered well and feature a diverse set of colors, mane or fur styles, and a mixture to prevent a copy/paste look. I do find it funny that there don't appear to be any Pegasi attending Capper's seminar. It's predominantly earth ponies, who probably have the most to gain by improving their selling skills.

    You! I like you!

    If I had to pick, I'm more a fan of how Fleecs draw the yaks. There's a great deal more detail to each yak than the ponies we've come to expect. However, this does bring up an old quibble of mine. I've said before that I'm not a fan of digitally-imposed cutie marks. There are only a handful of times we see this in the story, mostly because a variety of capes or wings cover the marks. Yet even I find a charm that one of the seminar attendees has "The More You Know" star as a cutie mark.

    Don't care if it's intentional or not.
    I find it funny!

    Fun story: at Babscon 2017, Andy Price mentioned that he was glad when Twilight received wings because he could use them to cover her mark and avoid drawing such a small detail. Browsing through the comic, I see only a few panels where Luna's own mark isn't either covered by her wings or her stance's angle. I don't know if this is intentional but I think Fleecs is following a similar idea.

    Most people take up a hobby to pass the time.
    Capper scams the scammers.

    So, we learned the stakes from the last issue though we start with a hiccup. I've seen people remark that Luna being able to lower the moon and try to contact Stygian via dreams doesn't make sense. These are the very powers Eris gloated about selling off. I'm betting that Luna is running on fumes, as later in the comic she has to rely on another pony for teleportation. Yet because we start with her doing business as usual, some the urgency drains away.

    Maybe Luna could have said,
    "You couldn't have checkd in?
    I couldn't even muster the magic to send you a message!"

    The story really picks up as Stygian suggests members for a team to infiltrate Eris' castle/casino. We're reminded of the gauge at the front that blocks ponies like Twilight & Co. I appreciate that author Jeremy Whitley goes into detail, stating that it's not a simple case of good and evil. The funny thing is that Twilight and her friends have almost all caused harm to Ponyville at some point, though not by intent. I think the unspoken rule is that you have to intend harm or mischief rather than a byproduct. We're also given reasons why Starlight Glimmer and Sunset Shimmer are not a part of this.

    Strangely, I think Eris' design is more reliable than Bullion's.

    Though I'd add a reason for both. Starlight is used to taking command, even if she's theoretically following Twilight's lead. In an operation like this, Luna and Stygian really can't afford having another pony questioning their decisions on the fly. Sunset has a history of being hyper-competitive. A casino is probably one of the worst places for her. So, as much as I'd like to see them partake in a big adventure I'm glad they're setting this one out.

    Don't let the shipper pony hear you say that!

    Which leads us to the recruits, but I'm not going to talk about them in chronological order. Rather, I shall address them by my interest. Starting with Tempest.

    The Timberwolf problem seems to be expanding.

    I enjoyed her return and story from the main line, but because it's more recent it's not the most intriguing. We see that she's continued her role in the Crystal Empire's frontier, growing closer with her one estranged friend. Of all the Knights, Tempest is the most guarded. She doesn't like ponies spying on her dreams, or keeping secrets from a friend, and she recognizes a false cover story right away. Of the three recruits I think she's the most stable as her goal is a bit more altruistic.

    The individuals part of me agrees with Tempest.
    The shipper part of me says, "Go oooooon!"

    Trixie is a bit more intriguing. Despite the fact that she's a regular in more recent seasons, we don't often see her outside her friendship with Starlight. In fact, of the three Knights we know the least about her past. Trixie's appeal lies in her assertion that she was never a villain, and she doesn't follow objective morality. At first her greatest crime was being a braggart and humiliating ponies on stage. Not anything I'd celebrate but hardly villainy. If being full of yourself is a crime then 90% of the internet is guilty.

    Grotesque? I shouldn't be intrigued, but I am!

    Yet she also doesn't want to own that she went too far. The alicorn amulet was a shortcut to beating Twilight, but it amplified what was already there. A fact that she's yet to confront. Trixie agrees to this not because of past guilt like Tempest, but because she's tired of being sidelined for missions. This is a chance to do something of true renown. Can you imagine her reaction if the Friendship Map ever selected her for a mission?

    Trixie–I mean–Roxy 
    for best line!

    My greatest interest lies with Capper. While Tempest and Trixie's roles as antagonists were the result of their own choices, Capper's history seems more about survival. If you live in a town where betrayal and greed are the norm, it's either die a martyr to none or adapt. Yet as we get to check on how he's fared, it's questionable whether or not he wants to leave that behind. His seminar is about salesmanship rather than scamming, though the skills work in either role. He is one of the few beings to con both Flim and Flam yet he does so to protect Princess Luna's reputation. He's good at what he does and he takes pride in it. I'm not sure if that's him unwilling to leave his old con-cat ways behind, or if he's unwilling to try something new.

    Really love how Fleecs renders black clothing. Helps it be
    more than an ink blot. Plus, Capper must bench press.

    There's also a nugget in his lie to Flim and Flam about liberating Abyssinia. We've seen that place mentioned and represented in previous comics so this might be Capper banking on Flim and Flam's ignorance. Or this may be a seed of a future story since the Storm King's defeat doesn't immediately signal world peace.

    Very satisfying to see the brothers on the ropes.

    But even with introducing three more characters, we get a little development for Stygian and Luna. For Stygian it's a slip as he almost says "my time" and switches over to a more academic term. I get the sense that he's still struggling to accept his place in the modern era.

    I would think Stygian would be more at home in the Crystal Empire.
    With its displaced citizens, there could be a sense of bonding.

    Luna's role is based more on visuals and her history. Of all the princesses, Luna is the most rigid. Her expression as she recruits Capper carries a sense of frustration. Perhaps because Capper sees through her motives very quickly or perhaps that she feels frustrated being forced to call upon a thief, a showboat, and an invader. Even naming them her knights seems like a way to legitimize them and lessen the dissonance.

    Well, you were sort-of-a-villain, Trixie.
    But don't stop challenging preconceptions!

    That likely sounds harsh, but consider how vulnerable this group stands. Most heist stories feature thorough information gathering and planning. Luna and her knights are going into this place practically blind. More than that, Luna can't rely much on their integrity. Twilight's friends joined against Nightmare Moon to save Equestria. Starlight's team banded together because each wanted to save a loved one. Luna's team is driven primarily by ego. Capper for the challenge. Trixie for the attention. Tempest to ease her own guilt. Perhaps the same is true for Stygian.

    The lighting almost makes it look like Luna is blushing.
    But the frustration on her face sells the true feeling.

    Now they're about to enter an environment where ego reigns supreme. They may be able to get in the front door, but this group is very, very vulnerable. Perhaps Sunset isn't the only character who'd be a liability here.

    You can't eclipse your past with virtue points like a scoreboard.
    You can only learn from it.

    So now all the players are set and we're about to see the heist take form. Of course, no heist ever goes according to plan in fiction. Let's see how things go south next month!

    Celebrate an excellent rendition of a yak audience...
    Or be enchanted by Luna in a scarf and earmuffs...
    I can't decide! Don't make me choose!

    I've Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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