• Let's Review: Friendship is Magic #102

    So we come the end of Season 10's journey. It's a Harmoneous War as the invading Elements from Cunabula take on Canterlot's defenders.

    Have Twilight's efforts saved Equestria or are we given a glimpse of what causes the next Dark Age?

    Check out the full review after the break. As always, there'll be some spoilers mixed in.

    Wow, it's been a while. So long that I needed to glimpse through the previous issue to refresh myself. Sadly, Friendship is Magic has suffered a very unsteady release schedule. Yet here we are at journey's end, learning how this conflict started.


    The flashback and the enusing conflict are all enhanced by Andy Price's art style. I feel a nice completion knowing the same artist who started this comic series will also help conclude it. He even throws in a quick shout-out to Katie Cook near story's end.


    The thing I most enjoy about Price's artwork is that he's willing to mold the layout to match the story. A panel that serves as the resolution's start also serves as the final farewell. A panel that denotes the history of the respective Element sets also takes the shape of the species two which those elements belong.


    Through it all there's an array of references, tributes, and inside jokes. There's even a spilled coffee that makes me wonder if this isn't a jab at the final season of Game of Thrones and their infamous Starbucks moment.


    Yet there's a big difference here than in past conflicts. I'm used to Price demonstrating the high-energy absurdity of a pony fight. Characters run around and act out mini-skits or make references while defeating the main enemy with absurdity. This issue has a much different flavor. While Discord provides some cartoonish moments, the ponies at large are taking this much more seriously and their opponents are equally severe. We even get a pretty badass look for Cadance.

     Yet before all that we have to learn how this started. It's all Discord's fault. Again.

    Having just had Discord revealed as the inciter of the apocolypse in "The End of the End", this feels like an extra condemnation. Granted, his actions were far in Equestria's past when he was a tyrant and we've seen he didn't limit his actions to Equestria. Yet there's a question left unanswered: Why didn't he mention any of this when he and Fluttershy discovered the Abyssinian temple? It's very possible that he either didn't know about the Temples specificially or was too afraid of saying anything that might diminish himself before Fluttershy. Either way, it's a question left to speculation.


    The hardest part about this flashback is understanding truth from propoganda. History is a narrative. Like all narratives, it can be manipulated by emphasizing one perspective, omitting certain facts, or over-emphasizing others. As the heir to a very strict magical system, Danu is an embodiment of this narrative. His nationalism blinds him to the realization that by invading Equestria, he has become the same force that once assaulted his own home.


    When Season 10 started, there was a fear that Equestria would be the lone light of reason and enlightement going forth to brighten the ignorant, distant lands. I find it interesting that the Elements of Order first saw themselves as that role. Danu's story would have you believe that they were completely generious with the Zebra, Diamond Dogs, and Abyssinians and that the latter groups repaid their generosity with treason. I wonder what facts have been omitted by Danu's culture that might show there was more motivation to this conflict than Discord's meddling.


    This same historical narrative has made Discord the ultimate boogeyman in Cunabula. So opportunity comes when that collective fear creates an opening.


    Last issue did a lot to establish that the Elements of Order far outclass the others in individual magic. Even Cadance's brief moment of assertion gets undermined as she is trapped underground once more. So the middle of this issue becomes a different kind of conflict. The three generations of Elements, plus several friends, rely on individual talents, distraction, and isolation to take out the Cunabula Elements one-by-one. My personal favorite of the setups was the Student Six, whose diversity enables them to counter many of the elemental-themed magic on display. Plus, Silverstream doesn't get many chances to shine.


    A recurring theme in this is that Cunabula has undone itself through its own isolation. Its Elements have no knowledge of the larger world and varying abilities and technologys within. So they're almost completely defeated and are only able to turn the tide again by employing the exact same strategy as the three generations of Equestrian champions.


    It's here at Canterlot's end that Season 10 brings it together with help from the other nations Elements. There's a varying degree of satisfaction with this. The Farasian Elements are by far my favorite group and seeing Zecora again is a great moment. Greater unknowns like the Ornithia and Caninia invoke a lesser response. Whatever the case, Twilight's policy of reaching out has saved Canterlot. Yet we're left with a question about her policy towards their attackers.


    Twilight asserts through this entire conflict that she wants to reach out and build a relation with other nations. Taking the opposite view of Danu, she asserts that each nation has its own identity, friendships, and value that needn't be measured against Equestria. This is a positive perspective I would applaud, but I'm hesitant about how she'll impart this view to Danu and his allies.


    I asked last time whether fans would rather seen punishment or mercy given to these invaders. Truth is we get neither. After Danu's defeat, the fate of each being is unknown. They're too powerful to simply send off, but holding them would leave Cunabula without its best defenders. If the goal is to build relations, is Twilight going to reach out to the mysterious ruler mentioned in the flashback? Does that ruler still exist?


    C.S. Lewis once cautioned that a jailer who thought they were helping the imprisoned could be far worse than a mere tyrant. After all, a tyrant might have a distraction or a slower day, but a zealot will never stop until they're convinced they've converted you. So I get a little worried at the idea of Twilight holding these Elements captive until they come around to her line of thinking. A question that is sadly left to our imaginations. And let's be honest; we can have pretty dark imaginations.


    The final panel serves several purposes. It is a thank you to all the fans from the creative staff, a possible setup for the Friendship in Disguise series as Chrysalis breaks free, and a tribute to several comic arcs including "Neigh Anything" and "Reflections". That last part is clever given that a large part of this comic line has struggled against the show's continuity or contradictions.


    As a battle against powerful enemies, I enjoyed the clever tactics employed and the imagery to the conflict. Yet a comic finale, however, I don't feel like it's the true end. Likely because My Little Pony: Generations enjoys a several-page preview and the ending for this story heavily emphasizes that this story is only just beginning.


    Which leads to one final question. Danu provided a prophesy of doom that I think many could interpret as the reason for Equestria's collapse before we resumed the setting with Sunny Starscout and the others. That a war between Elements was inevitable and that Equestria would suffer for Twilight's choices. I don't think that this is the truth behind Equestria's fall. If there's any aspect that betrays Danu's version of history, it's the arrogance on display. Whatever really happened before I think it safe to assume that Cunabula contributed to its own downfall through its dealings. Twilight's work strives towards mutual understanding rather than a one-sided relationship. So unless we learn more information, I see Danu's prophecy as a condemnation of his own people.


    But perhaps you have a different interpretation? I think this comic is worth reading as a conclusion to "Season 10" and a payoff to the time spent in other countries. Yet I don't think I'll refelect on this as a true ending until we read Generations. Until then, I'll look forward to reading people's thoughts in the comments.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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