• Let's Review: Spirit of the Forest #3

    The time has come to close out the Cutie Mark Crusaders' mini-adventure. With all avenues seemingly closed, how will they persuade Filthy Rich to change his plans for the Whitetail Woods?

    Catch the full review after the break. Take care, though. I'm logging some spoilers!

    Where did we leave off with our favorite fillies? Well, they done screwed up. An attempt to scare Filthy Rich's workers away resulted in harm to the Crusaders' neighbors, conflict with their families, and Filthy Rich is now completely closed off to their input. Definitely not a high point.

    That's what they just said, Applebloom?
    Do you not speak "Blargish"?

    Reinforcing this mood is Brenda Hickey and Heather Breckel's combined effort. This comic doesn't skimp on the environment. Even when it's just squiggly lines and a blue gradient, it serves a purpose of conveying a somber mood. By that same notion, there are parts where a bright orange and yellow gradient and explosive lines add to the action as the Crusaders start a new initiative.

    They didn't say give up. They said you'd done all that you could.
    Maybe it's time for someone else to step up?

    Applebloom's frustration is understandable but she's making the wrong assumptions. Inaction can often be misinterpreted for apathy, but as we established last issue the older ponies realize they have limited influence with Filthy Rich. Without an avenue for discussion, trying to force a dialog might worsen the situation.

    The Mayor can give advice on legal courses of actions.
    The Ponyville citizens can still lend support. 
    It's about keeping options open, not closing them down.

    I also think the Crusaders' immaturity is serving as an obstacle. They're viewing this situation as an all-or-nothing scenario. If anyone has a reason to side with Filthy Rich, such as relying on the lumber, the Crusaders assume those same ponies won't listen. There is the possible gray area of needing the lumber but championing preservation efforts.

    See? A new contender has entered the ring!

    This same mentality is what's kept them from reaching out more to Diamond Tiara. Even though she's expressed support for the forest, the fact that her father is their opponent translates into her exclusion. It isn't until Diamond Tiara appears and affirms her intentions that the Crusaders trust her.

    See the above banner for my demise reaction.

    So with all reasonable options exhausted, they go for the longshot: find the Spirit of the Forest. This raises the curious question of how, in a magical land of monsters and other creatures, one could rule out the Spirit of the Forest as a fable. Yet that's the hurdle with fantasy in general. From our everyday experience, these creatures seem fantastic. If we were to live in a fantasy world, these same creatures would be as exceptional as a whale, bear, or any other animal we might not easily encounter. They're part of everyday fact while beings like the Spirit are so one-of-a-kind that they lie outside the expected norms.

    Love the framing in this panel.
    The focus is on Diamond Tiara, but the surrounding lets us know what she's thinking about.

    I'm not going to spoil whether or not the Spirit actually exists because this is secondary to its real purpose: conveying an idea. The search for the Spirit helps Diamond Tiara reconnect with her drive. As is true of many, the struggle can sometimes overshadow the original drive. The Spirit of the Forest represents a connection and care for the natural world. That meaning doesn't go away just because the story of the Spirit is considered fiction.

    That's how most horror movies start.

    Realizing this, Diamond Tiara is the only one who can talk sense into Filthy Rich. I especially like that she emphasizes that he might not make as much money as before but the benefits are beyond financial measure. One of the crippling ethical flaws I've seen is this idea that not making the most money somehow equates to failure. There are plenty of businesses that do well enough to keep momentum without squeezing everything out of their workforce, customers, or environment. Yet the news we often hear is the opposite. We learn of companies that prioritized profit so much that they essentially undermined themselves. I've no doubt we'll see more such stories.

    You cannot say no to that face!

    Filthy is spared such a fate, though he's so fixated on money that his daughter has to talk a lot of sense into him. It's a testament to Diamond Tiara that her empathy has expanded so far the she can now counsel her father on how the feelings for their family's history with the forest are a reflection of what other ponies must feel. Since we're denied a followup for Diamond Tiara in the show proper, this is a moment to savor.

    Uh... What happened to "together"?

    Having watched a lot of environmental message shows, even Captain Planet, I'm a little disappointed by Filthy's presentation. In many ways he is affirming that he lost sight of the Spirit's message when he stopped believing that the Spirit itself was true. Yet I wondered if some kind of friction with his family sparked this action. It turns out that his mindset is much more simplified and family relations weren't even within his sight until his daughter made him look. I'm not sure that Filthy's view is relatable enough to serve as a cautionary tale.

    Ugh... Baby steps.

    With his eyes now open, the other ponies can approach Filthy Rich about conservation plans. That includes the same ponies Applebloom and the others assumed didn't care. It turns out that can contribute if they know an avenue for communication exists. That avenue would not be possible without Diamond Tiara.

    I wish this could be emphasized when
    talking about business and ethics.

    So I love this issue for its artwork, its exploration of the Crusaders' and Diamond Tiara's new relationship, and the message of an ideal surviving well past the fable. The only stumbling point is that Filthy Rich is over-simplified as a greedy businessman, albeit a much more personable one than many other stories.

    Again, you cannot resist that expression!
    Abandon all hope, all ye who witness the puppy eyes!

    I'm going to save final thoughts on the series overall for next week's post. Yet for this single issue I think it's a very satisfying conclusion to the story and a good message. It's well worth a read and I hope folks will enjoy it as much as I have.

    Forest swagger!

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

    Silver Quill on Twitter