• Let's Review: Nightmare Knights #5

    At last we reach the conclusion of Nightmare Knights. Luna and her team versus Eris, the self-proclaimed queen of chance.

    How did this finale play out? Check out the full review with some spoilers after the break!

    It's been a quite the journey for Luna and the others. Walking amongst villains, facing their nightmares, and running out of time . Of all the characters, this issue seems to focus the most on Capper, Luna, and surprisingly Daybreaker. 

    Tempest, less scowl and more shame!
    You'll ruin the whole bit!

    Sadly, we aren't treated to any more cameos from past villains. All of this issue features a conflict away from the public eye. Then again, imagine how much genuine chaos would be at play if the crystal ball holding Luna's magic bounced from table to table with villains from every world taking note? Instead, Tony Fleecs' artwork severs best by conveying action. This is especially true for magical attacks, which Eris can even counter and transform into harmless trinkets. 

    I understand Lucky Charms.
    Are you trying to get in on that industry?

    I especially enjoy how Fleecs implies magical shapes, such as the aftermath of Luna presenting herself as Nightmare Moon.

    That's a very clever depiction of a glamor spell.

    As in previous issues, colorist Heather Breckel relies on many violet gradients to add an evening chill and implied danger to the environment. That's not the say the panels are all dark tones. Even though many of the Knights have coats that would be considered dark by pony standards, they're still lively and stand out. Plus there's the aforementioned magical battles. I don't think there's a panel in this issue that strikes me as dull. 

    Despite the dark background, there are bright elements.
    Such as the pink on Eris' throne, which is now Capper's.

    Capper gets to show his best at the beginning. Playing the part of the betrayer, he lounges alongside Eris and talks about their similarities. Rather that try to fake an alternate attitude, Capper goes a parody of sincerity. He flat-out states his knowledge of misdirection and how he's not like the ponies. He understands their loyalty but he's lived a different life. One could say that for all the Knights, but Capper is the only one who didn't get to choose.

    "I'm totally taking your throne one day!"

    Eris' presentation shifts this issue. As far she knows she still holds the advantage. She still has Luna's magic and  the Knights are all contained. Only the de-powered Luna remains an unknown. Eris should enjoying her near-triumph but she displays a very short temper with Capper and is suddenly prone to making violent threats. I wonder if she's felt this way before the Pony of Shadows took her prisoner. She's so close to success that she's actually on-edge about what could happen at the eleventh hour. 

    This does serve a purpose. It shows that Eris is not adept at spotting tricks.

    A theme in this issue is the long game. Capper may not have planned on being caught, but we find out that a minor action in issue #3 holds greater significance. From the moment he walked in the front door–if not before–he's been prepping to deceive Eris. Yet while Capper is the sharpest of the Knights, he is not the master schemer. That title goes to Daybreaker. 

    Can't show the payoff to this panel from issue #3,
    but it shows he was thinking far ahead.

    I once assumed this broken version of Celestia was a voiceless force. Mindless violence checked only by Eris' control. This issue shows that Daybreaker has been taking advantage of a resource not available to Luna and the others: time. Centuries under Eris' control and serving as her head of security have given Daybreaker the chance to know her captor's weaknesses, such as an inability to spot deception.

    "I wish I could quit you."

    The final conflict features a grand display of magic, though the real spectacle is watching a group of former villains critique the situation. Tempest can't stand another monologue and Capper thought his act would be the highlight, only to be overshadowed. Trixie and Stygian's moments of triumph took place last issue and so they're primarily there as magical support. 

    She doesn't have a big role, but Trixie never fails to make an impact.

    Yet all this meta-humor sets up something important. Just look at the scenario. Declarations of friendship, former enemies now aligned with the heroes, and at the last second it even looked like Eris would be shown mercy. Even the most jaded characters assumed that this would end the same as Twilight and company's adventures. After all, that's how it worked for them.

    Friendship speech!
    Now hold still while we kill you.

    Daybreaker subverts all of this, showing that she played everyone. Even the scheming Capper and hardened Tempest assumed too much. Suddenly, Luna understands how Celestia felt against Nightmare Moon. A loved one is going down the wrong path, and she can do nothing. Unlike Applebloom at this series' start or helping Stygian last issue, there's no higher self to which Luna can appeal. The Pony of Shadows damaged Daybreaker to the point where the name "Celestia" means nothing.

    Gotta give her props. I haven't seen Celestia use herself as a shield before.

    At first I thought it sad that Luna hadn't the Elements of Harmony to at least contain Daybreaker. After all, this villain will have access to multiple worlds. Then I considered that Daybreaker is going to have to assert her authority over an entire casino and its villainous patrons. A task that will demand a great deal of time and energy. In a sense, she has been banished to a prison of her own making, and she may distract some other villains as well.  

    Oh, c'mon! She nearly took a magic bullet for you!

    Despite Daybreaker's immediate success there is a tragic note in that she can't see how this will go. The Pony of Shadows thought himself the victor and Eris destroyed him. Eris then assumed she'd be in charge forever, setting the stage for Daybreaker's rebellion. How long before Daybreaker finds a servant of her own and lays the groundwork for her own destruction? The real darkness in this alternate dimension is that the cycle keeps repeating. No one is trying to make the situation better for all and thus their short-term success dissolves. Granted, "short-term" can involve almost a millenium, but the wheel always turns. 

    I think you were pretty bonkers before 
    the Pony of Shadows bottled you up.

    It's startling how fast this ends. In some ways it makes sense. Saving Daybreaker wasn't the goal. It's something Twilight and friends might have accomplished, but they're not here. Daybreaker's turn is a bitter reminder of that. The Knights return home, but I don't know if they feel triumph. If there's one negative to this story it's a sense that we never saw the Knights fully sync. They are a team, but a team that is a perfect storm of quirks, bad choices, and improvisation. Which makes them a lot of fun to read, but it also leaves a question of how they'd coordinate again.

    See you all next crisis!

    I'd very much like to see the Knights return for another mission. It's a great take on characters who don't fit Equestria's mold, and yet can sometimes fall prey to the same assumptions.

    "I've only been kidnapped once."

    Given that this is the final issue, I think it absurd for me to try and weigh in on whether or not fans should buy it. This series has been a treat and I have a hard time believing anyone would invest in the story only to skip the ending. Yet I invite everyone to come back tomorrow as I do a full retrospective on the series. 

    Feel like she would be a great teacher
    at a school for villainy. She could get tenure!

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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