• Let's Review: The Cosmos Arc

    It's time to take a look back at Discord's crazy ex. A four-issue series that featured the ponies traveling far and wide with Cosmos' threat steadily growing.

    Check out the full review after the break. Just be aware that reality is warped by spoilers!

    The IDW comics have taken some bold steps in the past. Fleshing out and reforming King Sombra. Presenting Starswirl well before his show debut. Creating an origin for the Changeling race. Often these presentations have been rendered moot as the show creates a very different storyline. In this arc, however, the comic is attempting to revise the show's presentation.

    Forcing him to carry luggage is one thing.
    But trying to force coffee upon ponies? Too far!

    Discord has long been considered the lord of chaos and despite his reformation, he has a history as a tyrant who forced ponies to play by his rules. With the introduction of Cosmos, much of that past torment is siphoned off to empower the new character and change Discord's presentation.

    School's out forever!

    Andy Price's artwork is a strong treat throughout this journey. He has a gift for alternating between comedic and horrifying. The reactions of the ponies to dangerous events or surprises and wonderfully over-the-top with bulging eyes and stressed expressions. I think some of the best expressions belong to Big Macintosh during his long-suffrage working alongside Pinkie Pie.

    Big Macintosh may be a good pony, but he's not above the direct approach.

    Yet when Cosmos corrupts the landscape we witness true nightmares. Tentacles, teeth, and eyeballs. Inanimate objects taking on living parts and attacking nearby ponies. This isn't a realm where your expectations are subverted. It's a reality that pulls you under, screaming. I considered this a more extreme view on chaos until we learned that Cosmos is a being of malice.

    Is that yogurt? I'm afraid to think of alternatives.

    Cosmos herself is a wonderful design. Her cobra hood and scorpion tail emphasize a poisonous aspect to her character while the claws and facial stripes invoke predatory imagery. Despite being a composite creature, Andy Price stated that she is not a draconequus. I certainly assumed she was, but the symmetry of her design is the one qualifier. Mixing parts is nothing new in fantasy. The Chimera, the manticore, griffons, hippogriffs, cockatrice, the list goes on and on. It's strange to reflect that while Discord also possesses body parts of predators and poisonous creatures, they don't carry the same threat. Likely because these parts are not emphasized. His lion's leg has no claws and a snake's tail isn't so threatening as its fangs.

    Price said that Cosmos was as much fun to draw as Chrysalis.
    I think he likes the scary characters.

    This contrast is important because while this arc features a large cast, Discord is the main character. His decisions shape much of the story and ultimately it is he who has to grown and change in order to save Equestria.

    Chocolate milk vs a bad mane day!

    The revelation of all this takes place over five parts, with the first issue taking advantage of its double-sized special. Yet there's a strange repetition to events so that while many things happen, there isn't much insight.

    Price's pop culture references make re-reads more fun.

    Consider how much we learned in the first part. Discord feared a character who constantly referred to him with romantic pet names. Yet after combining his power with the Elements of Harmony and other magical powers to banish her, he seemed legitimately sad that she was gone. Just from that we can understand the dynamic. So when other flashbacks walk us back towards their initial meeting, it seems redundant. There's no twist or deeper meaning. It only confirms what we already know.

    He never tried that level of charm with Celestia. Might have worked.

    I still consider Discord to be an unreliable narrator, though we're never given contradictory info. I'm not convinced he's as innocent as he claims, though that view is based on the show. Perhaps it would have been better to show some flashbacks of Discord before Cosmos arrived. Show the gap between him and the ponies that left him so eager to accept Cosmos' company and reluctant to reject her affections.

    I wonder if he wiped out their memory
    of him saving them as well.

    While the flashbacks don't do much to enhance Discord, his relationship to Fluttershy does. She is a great contrast to Cosmos. While Discord and Cosmos may share a lot of similarities, the bond Fluttershy demonstrates shows that she's connected with Discord through trust and affection. Cosmos simply sees him as an accessory.

    Who wouldn't run from that?

    Which raises the question of why Cosmos changed Fluttershy into a butterfly-pony. At first I wondered if it might threaten her with a reduced lifespan. When that didn't seem apparent, I thought that it was simply to make her harmless and cute. Just as Cosmos did with Capper and others. However, the revelation that she is a being of malice changed that perception. Why isn't she turning ponies into monsters or setting them against one another? The only answer I can think is that there was an order against turning characters into nightmare creations.

    Okay, turning them into fish does carry a dangerous element.
    But there are far worse things she could have done.

    I don't mind that Cosmos is so powerful that most plans fail before her. My issue with past comic villains is that they were easily bested, yet for some reason the ponies often held back. This is at least a full challenge. Even their victories become pyric. It's only when Discord steps up to his full power that they attain a lasting win.

    Cosmos! Have you had some work done?

    Discord's defeating Cosmos carries greater satisfaction because it both shows him stepping out of his old fear, and that this victory is a group effort. Each pony contributed towards Cosmos' defeat so it doesn't feel like they were just cannon fodder. Yet with Cosmos now stranded on the moon, I doubt we'll see her in any significant role. 

    Welcome to irrelevance!

    Price has a history of drawing past comic-exclusive characters as part of a joke or giving them a role in exposition. Such was the case with King Aspen and the king of Abyssinia at this story's start. Yet the only villain to make a return appearance was Long Horn. We've not seen comic antagonists make a return and I expect the same to be true for Cosmos. Then again, my predictions during this arc haven't been very successful. We'll see.

    Fluttercord and Dislestia fans will have a field day
    with this final panel.

    The ponies themselves are mostly there for short vignettes that add humor to the quest. My favorite was Pinkie Pie and Big Macintosh competing in Klugtown. It reminded me of "Zen and the Art of Gazeebo Repair" and made the most out of a fun, mismatched pair. Spike's diatribe about gem flavors served as foreshadowing just in case there were newcomers.

    Turns out this was a pretty important scene.

    Yet much like Discord's flashbacks, these quests quickly fell into a rhythm. A team would go to a location, enjoy some shenanigans, be ambushed and defeated by Cosmos. There isn't a great deal of progression because the ponies are oblivious for the most part. In their eyes, this is a fetch quest.

    Applejack might never move past this betrayal.
    I'm talking about Celestia, not possessed-Twilight.

    I think this repetitive cycle is the story's greatest weakness. There is the growing tension of Cosmos restoring herself, but there's not a measured counter-offensive from the protagonists. This has led to a very vocal criticism of the princesses, who are once again removed from the story.

    This is the second-best "WHAT" Celestia has had in the comics.

    At first I didn't mind that Celestia and Luna were caught unawares because they had no information. Discord wiped any memory of Cosmos from the publics' minds. However, we see in a single panel that Celestia found one of the stars and was instantly wary. We also saw that Zecora sensed something dangerous about the star. Thus I have to wonder what happened to that caution and why Luna and Cadance failed to sense any danger.

    Celestia was a careful pony.
    Wonder what changed?

    The criticism that the princesses are removed too easily is valid, but I don't get hung up on it because it's not unique to this comic. As much as I enjoy the world Lauren Faust created, I think she wrote the show into a corner by making Celestia and Luna so powerful. Now they have to be removed, de-powered, or otherwise excluded so that a story can unfold.

    I guess Luna can't sense the dark magic?

    A more interesting idea is that Twilight is taken out early on. This leaves the Mane Six without their usual lead. In the show, Applejack often steps up to take charge but here it's Pinkie Pie. Pinkie has a strange running joke of a toy llama in the style of G1 toys. She never fails to mention it and the ultimate punchline is the Pinkie herself is turned into a toy.

    I wonder if the cutie mark is on both sides?
    That would be more accurate than 90% of Hasbro's merch.

    At first I found it funny but too much fixation can spoil the joke. I wonder if Twilight could have used the figure as a medium to communicate with her friends even while trapped within Cosmos. As it is, it's not an offensively bad joke but it's one that wore out its welcome.

    She certainly went on about the llama for almost-forever.

    Which is a good way to summarize this story. There are some intriguing ideas and moments worth celebrating. Yet the repetitive story rhythm combined with some conflicting presentations really rob it of lasting appeal. There is great humor but tying it into the larger conflict can be difficult. In truth, four-part stories seem to be a large obstacle. I find that the best stories have been limited to two-parters.

    My favorite moment.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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