• Let's Review: Ponyville Days

    February. A bleak month for new comics. In that there are no new comics.

    So let's take a look back at a two-part story in which Ponyville wars against itself. Whose side are you on?

    I'm on the side of a review, with spoilers. Check it all out after the break!

    This two-parter doesn't seem to stand out. It's not widely celebrated and yet it's not highly offensive either. It's a middle ground despite some pretty interesting depictions. It's a story that involves all of Ponyville plus a swarm of visitors. So there's a lot to ask of an artist.

    The Exposition Express' influence extends to its platforms!

    Agnes Garbowska gets to draw a wide range of ponies and situations with color assist by Lauren Perry. Looking at this past art against more recent work I think this was a transition period. The shading on the ponies is more hard-lined but with softer tones and gentler strokes for the backgrounds. It feels like a transitional period between the watercolor feel of early works against modern, bolder contrasts.

    Love how Applebloom looks happy without being prideful.

    This two-part arc features several two-page spreads and a significant number of background characters. In some ways this is a treat because we get to see how Garbowska draws characters not seen in the show. I'm confident more than a few references went over my head. It's those occasions when something is too detailed to be dismissed yet I can't recognize its meaning.

    Feel like I should recognize these characters,
    but I can't.

    There are some cases where the artwork stands out for the wrong reasons. At this point Garbowska had some issues with shapes as the ponies' heads could sometimes appear stretched or squished. Other times it's hard to know where to focus. Consider a panel where the town assembles. Given the prominence of characters on the left and Rarity's expression, I assumed there was something wrong with their fashion. It wasn't until a second viewing that I noticed somepony stepping on her tail.

    I'm a little concerned that one pony has a hamburger cutie mark.
    Such things have... unfortunate implications.

    We also have a case of recycled artwork as Applebloom and Diamond Tiara face off. I'm more lenient when it comes to reusing some poses, especially if used within a greater piece. The danger is when it's used too much that the comic begins to lose any unique imagery. I wouldn't remark much on this example but for one added blemish. The artwork doesn't feature Applebloom's signature bow. It's bad luck when a repeated image features an error.

    Two errors! Diamond Tiara's eyes change.
    Has she become possessed?

    Author Christina Rice has a great passion for history, so this story seems well suited. Not that Ponyville's history is a mirror to real life, but I find this scenario is timeless. Everypony is excited to celebrate the town history until we hit a detail. Twilight intended for a plaque to go to Sweet Apple Acres as the first structure in Ponyville. Yet Diamond Tiara and Filthy Rich argue that Ponyville wasn't really a town until their family opened the first shop.

    Right here. This is the moment that sets up the fall.

    In many ways this conflict represents a hurdle every group faces. People love to band together under an ideal, but once you have to get down to the details it's surprising how views can diverge. This can be said for fandoms, sports teams, politics, religion, you name it. The townfolk quickly divide into groups based on their opinions. Many of them are based on personal experience rather than any hard facts. Yet I find that more believable. However, there's one group that doesn't enjoy a positive display.

    Rarity has the most business sense.
    Sometimes, that's not a blessing.

    Rather than this becoming an Apple Family vs Rich Family scenario, it becomes Applejack vs Rarity. The town is an extension of their grudge. It'd be one thing if the friends had divided opinions based on their own worldviews, but this story starts with a very heavy fumble. Rarity swears fealty to Applejack only to switch sides when Filthy Rich points out that the plaque would be displayed in Carousel Boutique. 

    Ad hominem. The death of discussion.

    In light of this, Applejack's anger seems more justified until she starts insulting any who side with Rarity. It seems this betrayal stung deep and stubborn Applejack exacerbates the situation. Yet in this conflict of arguing adults, there's hope for the future thanks to the Crusaders. Applebloom nearly talks her sister down before Rarity escalates the conflict, leading to a very bizarre confrontation.

    And so the die is cast.
    Let loose the ponies of war!

    The scenario of flinging pies and forcing on hokey dresses is comical, but there's a dark humor in there as well. Many of the signs carried by ponies could be interpreted as a parallel to the debate over when life truly begins. I can't really tell if the goal is any deeper than a passing joke. That awareness itself is enough to make this seem less whimsical.

    I could think of worse conflicts.

    The only ponies not swept up in this conflict are Applebloom, an abstaining Fluttershy, and Mayor Mare. Yet when Twilight and Spike return from Canterlot the focus shifts to the newest Princess with little support from the others. In fact, Mayor Mare takes a hard blow to her presentation as she wasn't able to contain this conflict and is suddenly more concerned for her bowling team than the town.

    You'll have a better showing in
    Friends Forever and the election arc!

    At the time this came out, Twilight's role as a princess was still fresh and mostly unexplored. Truth be told, I still don't think the show gave her the chance to really struggle with and master her new role. It's mentioned, toyed with, and forgotten. So I'm usually hungry to see how she fares in the comics.

    I'd like to see more of that
    actually happen!

    Fluttershy offers the quick-fix of getting everyone to work, but not necessarily together. While this serves for the initial setup, a host of ponies from outside town quickly overwhelms them. So Twilight has to face the fact that it's not enough to get everyone working in parallel roles. Success can only come from everypony working together.

    One thing I forgot the first time around is that Twilight may seem
    like she's begging...

    When this comic first came out I was disappointed that Twilight seemed to be pleading for help rather than inspiring yet. With time, however, I've come to see they're not mutually exclusive. I would like to see Twilight take a more commanding presence but Ponyville is a special case. Here, asking for help is something deeply personal, which Twilight expresses by reminiscing with both Applejack and Rarity. She is connecting with the ponies on a personal level and calling them to rise above sides.

    ... but she tried the commanding approach before.

    Even Rarity and Applejack reconcile. Given that I feel Rarity was the instigator and worse antagonist in this conflict, it's pleasing to see her run off to make the first gesture. But as in the comic, people in real life might see this differently.

    A house divided cannot stand.
    But uniform agreement can also be damaging.

    Yet I don't remember many folks arguing over this issue or the conflicting sides. The most vocal opinion was that Rarity's switch was a disservice. Likely if she had sided with Flithy from the get-go, it might have smoothed over her role even as she stood in opposition to Applejack. I think the awkward start lost a lot of people and so Twilight's role in the second half couldn't compensate.

    Spike... Back off.

    This comic does feature some fun gags and visuals. Plus it was an interesting take on Twilight working within her new role. Just as time changed my view on Twilight's call for help, it's added some humor. It's now hard to picture Filthy Rich arguing with the Apples after Where The Apple Lies. Diamond Tiara's refusal to bury the hatchet with the Crusaders has some contradiction with Crusaders of the Lost Mark. Even within the comics, we'd get to see a more natural conflict like this with the Ponyville election story.

    You'll all laugh about this one day. While Twilight weeps for joy.

    It is funny to look at this comic and remember where things stood against where we are now. A personal history reflection. It touched on a lot of topics, both familiar and uncomfortable, and left an impression. I think if not for a few missteps at the very beginning, this would have drawn more discussion.

    Fluttershy has the start of a solution, but it's incomplete.

    Next week should prove interesting. Going from a drought to a deluge, we'll have the end of Nightmare Knights and the start of a four-part arc in the main line. Unless Comixology has lied to us, I plan on reviewing Nightmare Knights #5 on Wednesday, My Little Pony #75 on Thursday, and a Nightmare Knights retrospective on Friday. Until then.

    I disagree with Twilight. Choosing not to choose is indeed a choice.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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