• Let's Review: Friendship is Magic #92

    It's been a long time coming, but the conclusion of Zecora's homecoming is here! Secrets will be revealed. New mysteries unfold. And Tempest finally gets to punch something!

    Come check out the full review (with spoilers) after the break!

    Feels like it's been a long time since the last issue. Yet here we are. The last comic review of 2020. Fitting then that it's the conclusion of Zecora's return to the Farasian Shore.

    A direct approach to a vision quest.
    Double-vision quest.

    This issue provides some unique opportunities for Andy Price. While he's well known to pepper his backgrounds with references and he loves to play with the panel layout, he now gets the chance to draw several characters in different moods. Rockhoof is likely the biggest example. Throughout this story, he has been the loud, friendly character who will hug you until theres's a risk of spinal fracture. Given this warm nature, it's easy to forget that he's a legend for battle as well as heart. So when Price draws him with smaller pupils and a savage grin on his face, it's startling to remember he's more than a loveable lunk.

    Really don't want to consider the force that creates a double-head-spin.

    Price also gets the chance to lay some further mysteries as Zecora's friends explore the desert temple. Though it can be hard to discern what is hinting at future issues versus tributes to the past. That image of Cosmos on a pillar could be both.

    A hint of things to come or some self-celebration from the artist?
    You, the viewer, decide!

    One of my favorite aspects to Price's work is how he treates the entire page as a canvas. Rarely have I seen space to go waste. Such is especially true with Zecora's vision quest, as Price gets to utilize an array of characters settings, and a blue, crystal-themed border to convey the dream-like state. This story also confirms that Trees of Harmony love to impersonate Twilight Sparkle at some point. She really needs to do something about this ongoing identity theft.

    Probably the two most important ponies in her life.

    In terms of plot points, we've already hit the biggest ones. This issue is meant to be a culmination of Zecora's journey from a damaged friendship to a reconciliation and evolution. I've been aprehensive about this point because an ongoing criticism of the past two issues has been the organizational template borrowed from Equestria. The Four Kings and their parallels to Celestia and the others. The journey through the desert that mimiced Twilight's trek through the Everfree Forest. Even the Grootslang could be seen as a lesser Nightmare Moon, though its approach has been more predatory whereas Nightmare Moon tried psychological intimidation.

    Is it weird I want to see it blowing sand bubbles?

    By all accounts, witnessing Zecora and her friends become new Elements of Harmony should cement this critique. Though oddly, the story goes a step beyond and changes this last plot point.

    This is called "foreshadowing".
    We only see it in during season premiers!

    It's stated through a vision with the Tree that there are multiple sites contianing Elements. Murals on the temple walls stress that there are several across the world, and a display furthr defines six temples. This conveys the idea that friendship is not exclusive to Equestria and other nations need not depend on the ponies when in need. I actually like this idea as it sets the stage for genuine friendship between nations, not dependency. But if we are to witness six sets of Elements across multiple nations, I hope we'll get to see different cultural organzations and events. We need not see the same governing structure or the same journey repeated several times over to understand what's unfolding.

    Applejack, let them have this!

    We've only gotten a brief meeting with Dust Devil, Cactus Rose, Melody Brook, Crystal, and Marini. The real payoff here is seeing Zecora–at one time Twilight's mentor–become the Element of Magic in her own right. I'd argue that Zecroa's drive and frustrations have been the most unique aspect to this story, and seeing her step on to that panel and seeing it light up feels satisfying.

    So much for the "mundane" mark.

    More uncertain is witnessing the Grootslang's defeat. No restoration to a more innocent state or petrification. Either these new Elements poofed the Grootslang out of existence, or they transformed it into a pebble. Or... did they restore it to its original form of a pebble?

    ... I saw another living thing end and I liked it!

    There is, of course, a continuity dissonance here. The Pillars claimed that it was they who planted the seed that became the Tree of Harmony. So either there's more information that we do not yet know, the Pillars were lying, or we're facing a very forceful retcon. It is possible that the Elements are an inevitable aspect with different origins, but the hint that there are temples devoted to each suggests a larger, planned design. It'll depend on how future issues unfold.

    Will magic doodads ever not be useful?
    Also, you don't have hands!

    Equally curious is how the water returns and the land flourishes after the Grootslang's defeat. It's not clear if this is tied to the monster or to the temple's activation. Whatever the case, we get a hint at another power. One that is much more knowledgable than any of the current parties.

    Guessing this is a villain. 
    I don't usually hear "Commander" in a positive way.

    Zecora's decision to stay feels natrual. If this were her departure from the show, I think it would have been a good sendoff. While not all will agree with her presentation herein, this story has done more to flesh her out than the show's several seasons. Hopefully we'll get to see more of these new Elements down the road, but if not we can at least say goodbye to Zecora as she's fulfilled her own goal.

    Given how they first met, this is a grand sight.

    Next week will feature my overall thoughts on this arc. For this issue, it is a culmination of what we've witnessed before while also opening the door on a new mystery and perhaps a larger setting. I don't think the reveal of the new Elements carries the same sense of triumph as we saw with Twilight, but one can take a lot of pleasure in seeing Zecora ascend. What happens next is anyone's guess. Except for the writers.

    You didn't think I'd let that sweet moment last,
    did you?


    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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