• Let's Review: FIENDship is Magic #5

    It's time to cap off the FIENDship is Magic line with a look back at Queen Chrysalis. She's been up to more than we've witnessed in the show.

    Check out the full retrospective after the break. Though lurking in the shadows might be some disguised spoilers.

    I think it's safe to say that Andy Price likes to scare is readers. Some of his most memorable artworks center around Chrysalis or other characters looking threatening. They way he renders chaos landscapes in the current Cosmos arc is a clear indicator, but it was apparent when FIENDship is Magic #5 came out.

    Not the way I'd greet an invading army,
    but it might endear others!

    Unlike past issues, this story features a heavy reliance on negative space. Pitch black backgrounds or high-contrast areas that swallow any light. Or perhaps a spot of blinding white set against a darker background. Either case features shapes that are recognizable but not connected. Done with intent, it can create an uneasy sense. Consider this piece:

    Imagine that being the last thing you see.

    There are heavy dark spots but the focus follows the wisps leading back to Chrysalis' mouth. Her tongue and fangs are there, but set apart from her jaw. There's an instinct within us that recognizes threats such as an open maw. Price draws a great deal from the Aliens franchise to make the Changelings even more frightening and both prominently feature a mouth.

    We make a lot of parallels between Xenomorphs and Changelings.
    I think it's the abundance of slime.

    Some of the most striking panels are monochrome. Tints and tones of red combined with the black artwork might not convey the accuracy of a volcano's interior, but it definitely creates an uncomfortably hot sensation. Heather Breckel went above and beyond with the lighting and themes.

    That frond they're using for fanning is the
    most hardcore item in all Equestria.

    Looking back on this while reading the Cosmos arc creates a unique contrast. With Cosmos, Katie Cook seems to be siphoning off some of Discord's history to add to Cosmos' notoriety. Here, Cook is crafting Chrysalis into something different. For a time it seemed like Chrysalis was the first "new" threat to Equestria. Not a foe from a thousand years ago but something unexpected from the modern era. This issue presents the idea that Chrysalis has been an outstanding threat to Equestria for a long, long time.

    Concussions are magic!
    Wait, no they're not.

    This issue begins as a sequel to "The Return of Queen Chrysalis" but concludes by setting the stage for "Siege of the Crystal Empire". A checkup by Twilight and friends prompts them to revisit legends where Chrysalis brought down empires.

    Took a whole dang forest to craft that chin.

    Going over each legend doesn't serve much purpose. Instead, it's more important to emphasize two aspects. The first being that each story shows a piece of how Chrysalis evolved to her current self. Having bested the king of Timbucktu and his G1-callback pegasi, Chrysalis fashioned her own crown and decided she deserved to be considered royalty.

    Thus we learn Starlight Glimmer's
    comic book origin!

    When Celestia managed to avenge the vain ruler of Trot, we learn that it was an assault by the Princess of the Sun that left the Changelings riddled with holes. Yet each story serves a second point: Chrysalis knows manipulation. A warrior king is best defeated by sowing confusion and undermining his army's discipline. An appeal to a unicorn's ego will circumvent any magical defense. Even when faced against a dragon with no line of escape, Chrysalis finds a way to manipulate the situation in her favor.

    Looking at that book, I suddenly thing hanging Celestia in a cocoon
    was more a personal slight than anything.

    She does this while still demonstrating the stressed patience or long-suffering that made her a mixture of menace and laughter in the very first story arc. From the second legend onward, Chrysalis must deal with buffoons and bad advice both from her enemies and her subjects. She handles this with a very direct approach.

    Heck of a retirement plan.

    This all leads to the most controversial aspect: tricking Twilight Sparkle. The term "idiot stick" has been used a lot by MLP reviewers; so much so that I think it's lost any real meaning. Twilight is indeed duped by Chrysalis' vulnerability. Yet that's the theme of this story. She can't out-fight Twilight and friends and has nothing with which to barter. So she plays up her vulnerability, engages them with her musings, and then we learn it wasn't even the real Chrysalis this whole time.

    Lonely. I'm so lonely...

    She knew that she could play to Twilight's sense of responsibility and if she stressed the helpless factor, it would be all she needed. That is what Chrysalis does and I think this was a pretty solid deception.

    Don't forget to take the Pinkie Pie costume!
    You know you'll miss it!

    There is a question of why a whole page is devoted to a date story between Rarity and 8-Bit. Nice to see one of Shining Armor's friends from "Neigh Anything" but what purpose does it serve? I think it's there as a moment of levity. Having just read two stories about the Changelings decimating kingdoms, this aside helps ground the reader. Equestria has suffered losses but life continues and the Changelings have not succeeded in taking that away. At the same time, I had to remind myself to include this section because it's so easily removed.

    Wow, even the flower and candle passed out.
    Spike's probably loving this story.

    Chrysalis' origin is almost an afterthought because unlike Sombra's comic, this is not meant to invoke sympathy. Chrysalis is a monster in the truest sense of the word because her appearance can only herald disaster. She was not a natural event, more a perfect storm of decay, corruption, and power. In some ways it makes sense that in a world where emotions manifest in physical objects, the worst aspects would find an expression as well.

    Eyes and teeth in the darkness.
    Probably the most chilling panel.

    Yet can this origin hold up given all that's happened? Thorax doesn't match this model and the Starswirl in the show is a very different representation than the Cook/Price combo. I think this origin could still work. Once the Changelings emerged, they were subject to the world's rule. The "first generation" might have a monotone theme but there would be variances in their offspring. Thought I'm not a fan of saying people are born good or evil, it does make sense that some Changelings would be less aggressive. This origin would also explain why Chrysalis didn't believe Changelings could behave otherwise.

    Chrysalis likely throttled a few variants out of the gene pool.

    What about her prolonged history? That's a little harder to reconcile. The more a threat reappears, the more the audience questions the lack of safeguards. Bad enough that Celestia and Luna didn't implement changes after the wedding invasion, which left them vulnerable to a mass-kidnapping. Add to that the idea that Chrysalis has been a threat for over 1,000 years and suddenly their inaction becomes more damning.

    The most badass Celestia has looked since "Reflections".

    Ultimately it all comes down to each reader. This is my second favorite of the FIENDship stories.  Sombra's story gave a full background and even evoked some sympathy. This story isn't attempting the same and yet its enjoyment of Chrysalis' monstrous nature is contagious. It's also the only story in the franchise where you can say the villain wins.

    I don't think that's what Lady Gaga meant.

    Normally, I would do a retrospective on the entire series but this run has very different goals. Sombra and Chrysalis' stories set the stage for "Siege of the Crystal Empire." The Sirens' comic aimed towards comedy. Tirek and Nightmare Moon's stories attempted to flesh out their histories with mixed success. Because of this inconsistency, there's not much point in trying to talk about it as a lump-sum story.

    I would not be able to sleep
    after witnessing this in real life.

    There is value in talking about monsters. Because between Grogar's arrival, Fluttershy's insistence, and my own fixation with the term here I think it's worth expanding upon. Come back next week as we go over what the term "Monster" really means and how it may or may not apply to various antagonists.

    Alas, the most competent guard in Equestria has been lost to history!

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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