• Let's Review: Nightmare Knights #4

    Here we go! First new comic of 2019.

    When last we saw the Nightmare Knights, the plan had not survived the first engagement. How will they get out of this new bind?

    Catch the full review after the break but be aware. This is a new year of spoilers!

    One of the benefits to a multi-part series with one artist is that you get a visual consistency that helps bind the story. Having read comics where the artist changed almost every issue this isn't something to take for granted. The downside is that I've praised Tony Fleecs' work so much in previous issues that at this point I'd be repeating myself.

    Seeing Daybreaker panic is such an odd spectacle.

    Though this issue doesn't feature as many background villains as previously, it still displays a wide array of recognizable characters. What makes the artwork in this issue distinct are the flashback panels, which are rendered with a specific border and more jagged lines to invoke a stain-glass window or a scroll. 

    "The Book Thief" pony edition.

    Heather Breckel matches the coloring to each mood. Though the casino has always stood distinct in shades of violet, we spend a lot of time in dreamscapes. As such, we often seen an array of blues with encroaching darkness. Contrast this against the soft pink and yellow tints to help Eris' deception and you can feel the persona she's trying to project. Then we have poisonous green themes whenever dark magic is involved, especially calling back to the alternate world's pony of shadows. 

    Ah, her catch phrase!

    When last we left, the team was split either by conflict, ego, or simply getting lost. They were at an extreme disadvantage because of limited plan time, lack of information, and not much chance to build trust between each member. Before this series concludes, the focus here is showing how each character reacts while delving into the antagonists' backgrounds.

    Of all the Knights, I think Tempest is the best
    one to actually reach Daybreaker.

    Stygian faces the greatest ordeal. Capper and Tempest are forced to relive events from their childhood, which is traumatic but they were not the cause of that misfortune. They were terrible events which neither could prevent due to their youth. Stygian faces a heavier burden: looking back at his own adult mistakes. While the Pillars were culpable in the misunderstanding, it was ultimately Stygian who chose to steal their magical items. Eris plays on that guilt which actually limits Stygian's reaction.

    Must... resist... Game of Thrones reference!
    Oh, shoot.

    Because he's trying to assert himself, Stygian hasn't the focus or awareness to play along like Capper. So while he shows inner strength by rejected Eris' offer he also closes off an opportunity. It's then up to Luna to pull him out of a deeper nightmare without her magic.

    Little did Luna know Stygian's dream from issue #1
    wouldn't be the most awkward she'd see.

    I should specify "dream magic" because this issue expands upon the dissonance in issue #2. The big question being how Luna could lower the moon or try to contact Stygian via his dreams if all her magic had been stolen. Here she is able to enter Stygian's dreams, which she exposits is something she could do even before her full powers matured. 

    Important info but...
    To whom are you speaking?

    I still go with the idea that Luna has a few drops of magic left within her. Nothing on par with her full strength but enough to accomplish small tasks. This is visually reinforced by the very faint magic used to connect with Stygian. However, it's harder to buy into this theory when Luna was able to raise the moon, which is a well-documented difficult task. I wonder if Luna held on to her control over the moon and only lost the dream aspect of her magic? But then she also had to rely on Stygian for a group teleport in issue #2 so... yeah, I'm confused. 

    Aw, she's using a God mod!

    Eris' use of the magic is also suspicious. Though she can project an image of herself into the others' dreams, she doesn't seem able to take information. Otherwise, she would have recognized the Knights from Tempest's dream. It seems more likely that the Eris we see in Stygian and Capper's dreams is a planted idea. A suggestion that their minds give form. Choose freedom or entrapment by accepting or rejecting her, and then the waking world Eris can ask for the real info. 

    Well, now.

    If that's the case then Luna shows a lot of courage by putting her actual consciousness into Stygian's dream with the risk that she might never emerge. She can't manipulate the dream as she did with the Crusaders. She can only try to connect with Stygian's best self and call him to realize it. The solution is a bit abrupt but it's their strongest showing. 

    Just as Tempest is the best to connect with Daybreaker,
    Luna's own experience adds some weight to her words for Stygian.

    A vast majority of this issue is exposition for Eris and Daybreak. The latter is surprising because Daybreaker has been mostly silent for this series. I realized while reading that I had assumed her mind was so broken that she could only offer a few simple phrases to her master. Here, she's much more autonomous and able to question her sense of self. It's a dark backstory and actually builds off the MLP Annual 2018. Just like when the alternate Pony of Shadows said, "I didn't recognize myself", Daybreaker has shut away her own history.

    Just when I think this can't get darker,
    this happens!

    We also get to see the flaw in Eris' view on chaos. She might claim neutrality, but the moment she involves herself in any way, both conflicting sides will pull at her. The heroes might ask for her aid to a cause, while the Pony of Shadows used her. I think she's since abandoned the neutrality idea. She might want to sow chaos by introducing unstable elements, but now she's taken measures to ensure she's in control of the situation and not simply meddling. 

    This Pony of Shadows seems more
    threatening than the one in the show.

    The strange thing is that the goal of this flashback doesn't appear to be generating sympathy for Eris. She's transitioned from a dangerous unknown to an absolute threat. She was always fine with pure chaos, until it happened to her.

    I haven't heard "cut of your jib" since Mr. Burns.

    Last but not least we have Capper. We know he's got a con going on against Eris, but how well does Luna know? The risk with dramatic irony is that if it feels too obvious then the audience's tension gives way to frustration. We wonder how the characters can't see something so blindingly obvious. Luna hasn't had much chance to react to Capper, but her "Capper, no!" lends itself to two interpretations. She might think he has genuinely betrayed them, or she might fear that he's risking too much on his own. 

    Capper is playing a long game, which I think is
    Eris' greatest weakness. Too much focus on immediate chaos.

    You might say, "Silver, you writing wren, what about Trixie?" I'm taking the same approach as I did last month. Her role in this story is too fun to spoil. People should read that without any info going in. It makes the outcome more satisfying. 

    Okay, that might not be the satisfaction she sought.

    The exposition in this issue can feel like a distraction but there's a lot happening in the present. Almost every character had a chance to expand their role and take action, with plenty of setup for the finale. The biggest distraction is a hanging question of how magic works. I feel like there's a crucial bit of information that's missing. That aside, I'm both excited and a bit morose to see how this story concludes

    "How'd that end?"
    "Petrification. Smashing. Party. The usual."

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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