• Let's Review: Friendship is Magic #91

    The quest against the Grootslang continues! With our cast more than doubled, it's time to see how they handle themselves on this trek.

    Catch the full review and some spoilers after the break!

    As Tempest so helpfully points out on the A cover, this issue features a song. I've witnessed several fans point out that a song in a comic seems a wasted effort. After all, readers like myself who have little skill at music might not be able to imagine the notes needed. Yet even with that I would argue a song is never wasted. There's apparently a debate within several circles if the lyrics of a song should be considered poetry or if the lyrics and music together create the full emotional effect.

    Brook may surpass Pinkie's joy at singing!
    Tempest... not so much.

    While this issue can't supply a musical underscore, it does offer a different companion to the verses. Price's artwork combines both inside jokes and dynamic poses to infuse a sense of energy. Thus I can at least envision some kind of rock ballad behind these lyrics even if I can't envision the music. 

    Don't care if this is diegetic or not.
    I find this the funniest panel in this issue!

    And who knows? Way back in the Pinkie Pie Micro, we enjoyed a song devoted to Ponyacci that found its way to an actual musical expression thanks to the ever-talented ElieMonty. Perhaps another musically-inclined fan will want to try an make a ballad to match.

    This song ties in to a larger concept for this arc: traveling familiar ground. Though not a 1:1 parallel of Twilight's initial journey through the Everfree Forest, it's not hard to see the similarities. Each of Zecora's childhood friends gets to demonstrate their best in a crisis, just as Applejack and the others have. Price's art style once again strengthens this presentation by being able to switch between comical and dramatic at a moment's notice. A prime example being Dust Devil's interaction with a Roc.

    Wow, the transportation service in this place is hardcore!

    It's a strange sight as we've already witnessed a Roc in the show. And in Friendship is Magic #24. Quite the recurring creature! This actual-rock Roc appears to be a of the litteraliformes genus. Much like Stephen Magnet before him, this Roc bars the way until a generous act from Dust Devil convinces it to relent. Unlike Rarity, Dust Devil's aid takes the form of speed, and he presents a much more optimistic personality than the boastful Rainbow Dash. Given Crystal's past mistakes, it's interesting to see her expressing loyalty even as she tries to match Tempest's tsundere attitude.

    Careful! Tempest is becoming genre-saavy!

    Rose is more outgoing than Fluttershy, but her communication with plants hearkens back to my favorite pony's own gifts. All things considered, Brook is probably the closest parallel to a Mane Six character as her innocence and enthusiasm closely matches Pinkie's. 

    How long did Cactus Rose have to practice before
    everyone figured she wasn't crazy?

    Given all of this, I have to revisit a comment from my last FiM review. These parallels are a double-edged tool. Rather than presenting the Abada, Kelpies, and Zebras as empty vessels for the pony representatives to educate, we're getting to see the parties interact on mutual ground and shared values. This is the celebration of a peer group. 

    Think it would have been funny if "This Side Up" pointed the wrong way.

    Yet from an entertainment standpoint, we are also traveling familiar ground. This story is walking a narrow path between homage and repetition. The biggest divergance is Zecora and her relation to the group, especially honest Marini. While Twilight needed to see the best of her friends in action, Zecora is reminding herself of the quality time they spent. Their greatest virtues at such a young age show through a roleplaying game.

    I imagine lots of LARP games end this way.

    Marini looks to guide the team while Crystal wants to decide events for the group without asking, though with their safety in mind. Rose seeks to help those in need and Dust Devil will steal from those with too much to give to those with too little. Brook is too busy being Brook, which wears on Zecora's creative goal and thus we end with a brawl. This flashback is so brief that it's easy to dismiss, but it emphasizes the biggest difference between the paths Zecora and Twilight's groups walk.

    I can't help but notice they didn't bring any provisions.
    While traveling the desert.

    The biggest tragedy with this group of friends is that they were too inexperienced to understand one another. They hadn't yet developed their best selves. Emotion and impulse won out, forming a drift. This journey is more about reconciliation than discovery. In this way, the Grootslang is almost an afterthought.

    Oh no! They triggered the boss encounter too soon!

    An afterthought that can eat you. It seems that while the party was reconciling, they didn't give much thought to how to handle this creature. Twilight had a plan. Get the elements to defeat Nightmare Moon. The ruins Zecora and company seek are more a mystery and with no clear objective on how to stop the Grootslang. So the group is on the backpedal right away.

    The ruins haven't been a focus much, but I thought it'd look grander.

    Which puts me in an awkward spot. The cliffhanger should be experienced by fans without me giving it away, and yet the teasers for the final part have already done that. So I'm going to be vague. A big part of how well this story differentiates itself from Twilight's journey is going to depend on how this revelation is utilized.

    They can see... the next issue!

    As a final note, there's a curious choice of pronouns in this issue. Of the two Abada, only Rose features a gender-specific, female pronoun. Dust Devil is referred to as "they" and "them". An interesting and likely conscious choice. No commentary on this aspect, just curiosity and observation.

    Dust Devil alternates between cool and silly/terrifying
    in one panel.

    Much like last month, I'm left wavering in my view. Too much similarity can lower the audience's investment. Yet it would be impulsive to denounce the story without knowing how it concluded. There's enough new elements to make this fun, including the low-level indignity Tempest expresses. Though the peril might not be at its peak, the final part is going to have a very big sway on how this story looks in hindsight. We'll find out next month.

    The reconciliation arc is complete.
    What comes next?

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

    Silver Quill on Twitter