• Let's Review: MLP #96

    It's been a while, but it's new comic time! It's a mission to Abyssinia and a story focusing on Capper's past. Will this leave us feline fine or is it a hairball scheme? 

    Fine the full comic, and likely some more cat puns, after the break! There will be spoilers, so don't be hiss-terical.

    I'm not sorry.

    So, back to the written word. I'm thinking of doing written reviews for each chapter comic and follow up with a video down the road. Here and now, we get a fresh comic and a return to a not-well-know location.


    Their sign economy must be skyrocketing!

    It's been four years since we saw the Storm King invade and all but wipe out Abyssinia. Now the creative team of Jeremy Whitley and Tony Fleecs follows up on the ground work set by Ted Anderson and Andy Price. Fleec's art style is his own but it's clear that he paid attention to how Price first presented the city of Panthera. Giant scratching posts, milk towers, and plenty of cat-themed street signs. No references to a broadway show, but I don't consider that a loss. Fleec even emulates a panel of Capper and Chummer's escape.


    Imitation: The highest form of flattery.

    The art also features a style I don't immediately associate with Fleec's work: crosshatching. Especially in the tunnels, there's a very heavy use of crosshatching to convey a sharp lighting contrast. It's not often used in MLP so it's worth noting. 


    Pinkie is enchanted by this shading style.

    Of course, one can't talk about the tunnels without also discussing those who utilize the network. Capper's band of friends are a wide array of body styles that reflect their role in the group. I'm anticipating that, much like Zecora's friends, we won't have a lot of time to get to know these characters on an individual bsis. So every aspect that can be conveyed physically helps.


    Try to guess which Element corresponds to each member.
    I'll bet you're right!

    In fact, given many of the physical cues or their roles, it's pretty easy to guess each catburglar member to a corresponding Element of Harmony. Because there's a forcing working for and against this comic: Continuity!


    He's also betrayed your trust more than twice!
    Just saying...


     We know from the Zecora arc that there are several more temples that each hold a Tree of Harmony and Element set. So when a team of six comes up in the story, it's not hard to make the connection. The comic even acknowledges this in the opening as Rainbow brings up Team Applejack's adventure shortly before the two current teams part ways. This familiarity can decrease interest because we know what's coming and it's more of a waiting game. So there needs to be something new or unexpected to help reignite the interest.


    His new national anthem is just his name over and over.
    It's a hit!

    This is where the continuity factor works in the story's favor. We are experiencing a rebuilt Abyssinia after the Storm King's defeat. While the Farsean Coast from Zecora's story was so similar to Equestria it felt like it borrowed the same template, Panthero goes in the opposite direction. It's a police state that explicitly rejects outsiders, putting Fluttershy & Co on a collision course with the authorities.


    Too much has happened in real life
    for me to joke about this.

    Team Fluttershy is a curious mix of both compliments and a variable. Pinkie Pie serves as a good balane to Fluttershy, as their tendancies can both temper and support one another. Capper is an obvious choice. Discord seems to be coming along because he's Fluttershy's friend. Not for any magical brawn, as Fluttershy forbids the usage of Chaos Magic. Thus Discord is forced to go along with the arrest, despite the fact he could end this conflict with a snap. At first, I feared we were seeing a repeat of the limits from "The Good, The Bad, and The Ponies". But then came a scene with Fluttershy and Discord where they discussed how it felt to wind up in trouble without Discord being the cause.


    One panel makes this leagues better than Twilight's self-restraint.

    The key difference here is who is paying the price for this choice. In "The Good, The Bad, and The Ponies", Twilight held hersef in check but it was everyone else who paid the price. Thus, instead of any kind of noble sacrifice, Twilight came off as insensitive to the town's plight. Discord admits that he feels terrible, but he doesn't regret listening to Fluttershy. So it's a personal cost with an equal impact, and thus is actually an act of affection and respect. This does a lot for Discord, especially given he's often the cause of trouble. A much better showing. 


    While Trixie's speech in this panel is a bit robotic, the sentiment is wonderful.

    The big variable in this is Trixie. She has no relationship with Fluttershy, nor is her magic needed in this place. Yet her role is critical as this story builds on her friendship with Capper from Nightmare Knights. Trixie is able to get Capper to confess his feelings and sets the stage to catch up any new readers or help old readers recall events. Thus Trixie serves as an important connector but it's unclear why Fluttershy chose her. I doubt Luna's Knights would make their mission publically known. Best answer I can imagine is that Capper requested Trixie's inclusion. One could argue that Trixie's spontonaity also set the stage for Team Fluttershy to meet the new king.


    Dude, mind the personal bubble!

    We don't know what happened to the King and Queen after the "Convocation of Creatures", but it seems their son MeowMeow has stepped in to take reigns. He calims to be keeping the public safe, but either his memory or his narrative are faulty. The arguement is that the Storm King conqured them with magic, and thus the heavy monitoring is meant to keep magic outside the kingdom. Yet the Storm King army won using brute force and numbers. If anything, the promise of magic is what drew him towards Abyssinia. It's likely the average Abyssinian resident knows this difference, so the new King is contorting the facts to support his policy.

    No ticketing? Must be saving paper as well!


    There is one crucial element missing here. As Capper makes an impassioned speech for friendship, he says that the citizens are afraid. While we've gotten to see the city and the security measures, I don't think we actually see any citizens. No one peeking out through shutters or hiding from even casual gazes. No one forcibly minding their own business even as the police harass Fluttershy's team. In some ways, this police state looks too clean and empty to drive home the dissonance.


    Pinkie, show a little compassion!

    The biggest "What the" is the fact that the King locks up a set of foreign dignitaries. If his goal is to avoid magic, antagonizing a magical princess by mistreating her representatives is one of the worst things he could do. He should be thanking Capper's old gang for staging a prison break and showing a different side to Abyssinian culture. One might raise an eyebrow that a band of thieves are the potential Elements of Harmony. Yet in a state where order supresses all other goals, the act of befriending others can be a crime. This isn't like the Flim Flam Brothers, who swindle others out of some twisted drive for superiority. The goal for this group is survival, and next issue that goal may evolve.


    Honesty, in this case, really is the best policy.

    This issue covers a lot in a short span. Each character gets a moment to shine except for perhaps Pinkie Pie. Her contribution is running commentary and jokes, but her enthusiasm is a different kind of humor from Tempest Shadow. I didn't find her quite so funny because she is more able to accept situations. Regardless, she is helping build a relation with these new friends. So her role is not as prominent but still serving a purpose.


    Molly: "I can kill you ten different ways".

    I won't talk about the final page, as that's something a person should experience on a first read. Instead, my thoughts go to what the group accomplish next issue. Dismantling a Police State is no small venture, and in a single issue I think it might be too great a goal. Abyssinia's fate has been up in the air for four years. We can afford a little more time to witness further change. Given what we witness, I'm expecting Panthero's tunnels to hold the next temple and Tree, with Capper's gang gaining their Elements to start a resistance movement.

    Movie titles!

    Or this story might surprise us all. Given the delay in seeing this issue, I don't think we'll have to wait long for the followup. In the meantime, I think this is worth a read, especially if the movie prequel comics caught your eye. There's plenty to celebrate with the characters we know and an introduction to some new faces.


    Aw crud. Now I wish I coulda seen this in the movie.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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