• Let's Review: Friendship is Magic #101

    It’s time to start in on this finale. Twilight leads Canterlot in defense against the Knights of Harmony! There’s guest-shots and fights aplenty!

    Check out the full review after the break. Be wary! There are no defenses against spoilers.



    Given that this is the start of the main line’s finale, I expect to see Andy Price illustrating this issue. End the series as it began. That’s not to say that I’m disappointed to see the artwork of fan-turned-professional Tony Kuusisto. If anything he is in his element depicting all of Canterlot readying for an attack. I doubt there are many illustrators who could draw a street plan for Canterlot and decorate each building.


    Of odd note is the panel with Cadence, Starswirl, and Discord. The misplacement of the word balloons between Cadence and Starswirl is distracting, yet I enjoy how well Kuusisto conveys the towers height. Getting vertigo just by looking!

    He's got style!

    There’s an odd mix when Kuusisto draws the lead cast as well. In standard 3/4 turn views as we’re used to seeing, Kuusisto tends to draw the ponies with downward-slanting muzzles or perhaps makes the snouts smaller than usual. The end result is that something feels off even though it’s familiar.


    When drawing ponies at more dynamic angles–especially action scenes–the look becomes much stronger. I get the sense Kuusisto is more familiar with action and stepping beyond the show’s standard look for characters. These strengths apply even moreso to the Knights of Harmony, whom we’ll discuss shortly.


    After receiving Rainbow’s warning last issue, Twilight has been hastily assembling Canterlot’s defenses. Oddly, Celestia and Luna do not factor into these plans, other than a quick joke at their own histories.

    You've already had two abductions.
    You'll adapt!

    This joke cuts both ways. It does rightly point out how often Celestia and Luna were indisposed to show that the freshest villain was a credible threat. Yet that same principle is going to apply here. These new antagonists need to push our heroes, and so for all of Twilight’s planning, her own forces are predestined to be defeated.


    As soon as the first tremor shakes Canterlot, the majority of the comic becomes a battle spectacle. Each fight serves to introduce a Knight and demonstrate their Elements and Powerr. The visual power is fun to watch and consider. The Element descriptions less because we’re simply being told the Element without seeing much of the wielder’s personality.


    For instance, the first Knight we meet is Danu. Named for a Celtic Earth Goddess/Mother, I’m surprised that his features seem more masculine. He even hales from Cunabula, a name meaning “cradle” or “origin”. He appears to be part pony and part lion, with a frustrating emphasis on pride.

    Despite this, he tells us his Element is loyalty even as he demonstrates power over the ground. He makes brief mention that his homeland was nearly destroyed by reaching out to the world as Twilight has. So it’s possible that he’s doing all this for the sake of his homeland. At the same time, he is so matter-of-fact about their destruction that I get the impression he’s looking down on the other Kingdoms and has no moral qualms about their extermination.


    Going along with this plan is the Element of Acceptance, a squid-fish hybrid whose name is not yet mentioned. Although tentacles and a fish tail don’t offer much by way of gender, the shape of this character’s eyes suggest more feminine features. If we go by the Celtic-themed names for all the other members, then I’d wager this character is named for either the goddess of water, Belisama, or the sea god Lir.


    Next up is the ophiotaurus Taranis, whose Element may be Pride but he doesn’t seem nearly so full of himself as Danu. Though named for the Celtic god of thunder, Danu’s forte is wind control. His spinning staff and whirlwind tie in with another aspect of Celtic mythology. Taranis is associated with the wheel, which was an important symbol. He won’t get to demonstrate mastery over thunder and lightning until he squares off against Tempest.


    Having been introduced last issue, there’s not as much to be said of Ceridwen, sharing a name with the Celtic goddess of rebirth and transformation. Ceridwen’s Element is Equity; which makes this expression the most unbalanced of all. There’s very little fairness at play here, including Ceridwen shrinking Big Macintosh to a palm-sized pony.

    Completing the earth-wind-water set is the fire-themed Balor. Contrasted with Danu’s name origin, Balor is a Celtic demon who’s cyclopic gaze can kill. Fitting that this issue’s Balor can somehow see the Element’s power and mark them for termination. Balor himself is the Element of Magic, given him the power to shut down other magical sources. A definite advantage that Balor applies with glee.


    Most frightening of all is Morrigan, the Element of Faith. An etherial avian, she matches both the “Great Queen” and “Phantom Queen” of her namesake. Past Morrigans have been seen as a portent of war and fate, usually foretelling doom. She does have the power to inspire warriors to do brave deeds. Or, in this case, treason. Her brainwashing ability is far more frightening than either Sombra or Chrysalis. It invokes infection rather than overpowering.


    So let’s count this off. Loyalty, Magic, Pride, Acceptance, Equity, and Faith. Only two of these Elements coincide with Equestria, and of those two similarities the bearers are far more arrogant and even sadistic. I wonder if this Element combination denotes something about the theme.


    Ocypete stated in issue 100 that the various Elements sets represented various bonds. The Knights appear to be the bond of Patriotism. Loyalty to the homeland, pride in one’s place and upbringing, equity between neighbors, acceptance of differences, and faith in others. Magic is the big variable in such a world.


    Yet all those traits can twist patriotism into something darker. Fanatical support, arrogance that looks down on others, compliance with any action, false trades, and the destruction of the individual. These Knights seem too eager to exercise the power they’ve inherited. They are not able to see how monstrous they appear to their victims.


    It’s worth noting that, in addition to the four natural elements, Balor and Morrigan represent the physical world and the imaginary. One is able to alter an individual’s body while the other can alter their thoughts. Even if trimmed down to just two members, these Knights are exceptionally dangerous.

    Thus we leave Canterlot for a month looking pretty bad. The big question on my mind is if the ponies will reform or–with the aid of others–destroy them. The usual pony approach has been a group working to redeem an individual. When faced with the Triad of Cozy Glow, Chrysalis, and Tirek, the solution changed to varying forms of imprisonment.

    All signs point to Twilight’s crew having the strength of five sets of Element users next issue, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to get the Knights to change their ways. I’m curious to see how this series will go out. Reformation or full consequence. What would you choose?


    I’m Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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