• Let's Review: Spirit of the Forest #1

    A new mini-series is upon us! The Cutie Mark Crusaders return in their own tale as they work to save the White Tail Woods.

    Let's crack open this first issue and see what's inside. I think we might discover the Spirit of Spoilers.

    Okay, cards on the table. This is a story featuring young protagonists on an environmentally-friendly adventure to save the forest. I am trying to refrain from making Captain Planet jokes, and I will fail.

    I remember when I would declare, "Family trip!" at the start of every vacation.
    I got left behind a lot for some reason.

    What's not a joke is Brenda Hickey's artwork and the colors by Heather Breckel. This issue is filled with detail as the forest is rendered similar to the My Little Pony style while having its own flavor. Yet I think the best art is when one of the characters has an extreme reactions. Hickey draws the characters very faithfully, but when they get peeved we have a chance to see some truly unique faces. Sweetie Belle gets the most love in this regard.

    The wrath of Sweetie Belle can only be
    sated by the blood of the guilty!

    Even though variations of brown and green are present–as one would expect in a story set in a forest–Breckel adds a great deal of variety. Events set in the daytime feature a red tint to the tree trunks while the foliage takes on a chilling blue when ponies discuss the Spirit of the Forest. The most monotone segment would likely be the latter half within a lumber mill, where the worker ponies add visual variety to the environment's browns and yellows.

    Nice security, ponies.
    There must be at least five safety codes being violated in this panel!

    The only awkward visual is a part of the opening where hills are depicted as a grayish-blue gradient. This is part of the environmental perspective and so details aren't to be expected, but instead of fading into the distance it actually jumps out. At first I thought it was a wall or some kind of scent indicator, as the Crusaders discuss a stench in the forst. It wasn't until after studying several panels that I understood.

    The Apple family's honor is impugned!

    That stench being garbage left by careless ponies. I think a common theme in this story will be the younger generation clashing against the old. The Crusaders gather a clean-up crew and provides  Diamond Tiara further characterization.

    They may take our leafs, but they'll never take
    our photosynthesis!

    Diamond Tiara is surprisingly passionate about preserving the White Tail Woods because of the memories associated with it. Given that the show has emphasized a lack of connection with her parents, this comes across as something very precious and perhaps the first thing DT doesn't think she can buy.

    Be grateful for that Buckball career, kid.
    It's all you've got.

    We're also introduced to the concept of the Spirit of the Forest. Given that this is not the Everfree Forest I don't think King Aspen can sue for copyright or trademark infringement. Despite a fake-out by Snails, the comic gives a not-so-subtle hint that this being will be a factor later on. I'm curious as to just how forceful this Spirit will be. A part of me calls back to Princess Mononoke, but that wouldn't mesh with My Little Pony's style.

    It's a bit of a sad statement that these are the only
    ponies who would volunteer.

    Those super-angry Sweetie Belle expressions I mentioned come into full effect when the Crusaders discover that all their work is undone surprisingly fast. Calling back to their week-long detective adventures, they stakeout and find the real culprit.

    Talk about an active week as well!

    This is where we get several key moments. It establishes the main conflict, the antagonist's motivations, and a moral.

    She is on the cusp of greatness,
    but just needs a little rewording.

    Let's tackle the moral first. Applebloom's cautioning Sweetie Belle against rudeness has the right idea but not the best word choice. Getting attention and making a statement often requires that we break social norms, and so rudeness should not be the concern. But to borrow from Stephen Fry, "I believe on of the greatest human failings is to prefer to be right than to be effective."

    Sweetie Belle's actually lucky. Suppose this guy's mama
    didn't give a feather about the woods?

    Denouncing the workers for littering comes from a belief that is mostly right, but it's not effective. It's very natural that if someone approaches you in hostility and demands that you obey their doctrine–even if you might agree with parts–the confrontation will spark resistance or dismissal. So Applebloom has the right idea about going to the top because that is where you can generate the most effective change.

    That's a unique compromise.
    Preserve the forest until you can destroy it!

    However, this is where the Crusaders learn that Filthy Rich will be their opponent for this series. I've often liked Filthy Rich as he doens't seem as shallow or greedy as his wife, but he's often made the fool. The same holds here. I appreciate that his motivation is not simply, "I love money, who care about trees?" Yet how he reasons turning a forest into furniture as an expression of love is baffling. I get the sense he'd turn his grandmother's cottage into an apartment complex just to show how much he cared.

    You ever run into a line of logic so baffling that
    you can't dissect it properly? I'm having that right now.

    Thus we end with the Crusaders solving the litter problem but are now faced with an even greater challenge. They've been effective in going to the top, but how will the effect change now that the top is the opposition?

    Your pats only fuel
    Sweetie Belle's battle fever.

    All in all, I consider this a very good start. The environmental message is heavy-handed but doesn't try to present the opposite side as monsters. Most of the ponies are simply doing their job and unaware. Filthy Rich even works to mend a minor problem though he is in the fool's role of not seeing the larger issue. So I fully expect Diamond Tiara and her investment to come into conflict with her father.

    I feel like this is repeating the joke from "Hearts and Hooves
    Day", but I don't care because funny!

    The Crusaders play off each other well, giving extreme reactions as one would expect from the young. They're still preadolescent, as far as I can tell, so there's room for a little naivety and outbursts while being believable. We'll see how this story unfolds.

    If you've even visited a farm you will know this is true.

    But goodness me, My Little Pony #78 won't be out until June 12th? Unless Comixology has steered me wrong, we've got a week between new releases. How about next week we take a look at the concept of Chaos as represented by three spirits: Discord, Eris, and Cosmos.

    Did he build all this in secret? I think everypony would know otherwise.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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