• Let's Review: G5 #2

    Welp, the internet spoiled the reveal on this one. Even so, there is a lot to unpack in this issue.

    Check out the full review after the break. Normally I'd warn about spoilers but at this point I think any who wanted to know have crossed that threshold!

    So much to talk about in this one issue. A surprise, given that I've come to regard the second part of a comic story as a bridge piece. Getting everything moving towards the final confrontation but not expressing much in the moment. This issue breaks that mold; but before we can cover that we shall consider the other aspects, such as art.

    Places, everypony!
    The conflict's about to start! 
    Amy Mebberson's style is still on strong display as the characters are lively and expressive. Many of these looks are exhaggerated, which is part of the fun. Sunny could look excited... or she could be crying tears of joy as hearts and stars glitter over her head. I find the latter far more fitting for MLP than a restrained approach. That's not to say every character is hyper-emoting. Hitch seems far more restrained in his expressions until a breach of the law comes up. Or when Sunny's excitement has shaken him silly.
    And I only had to kill one friend to get here!

    Canterlot has certainly seen better days as there's an omnipresent gloom represented by grays and chilled colors. Even Twilight's throneroom is desaturated to emphasize a lost era. Yet nothing is so overly gray that Sunny and crew look out of place. A difficult balance that colorist Heather Breckel achieves nicely.
    What? No mention of Cadance?

    We see many a familiar sight in Canterlot, right down to Donut Joe's. Yet while the delapidated city is drawn with very distinct colors, textures, and obvious destruction, there's very little play with the setting. Even as Sunny and the others re-encounter Izzy in the donut shop, there's no easter eggs or jokes worked into the background. Even a menu listing several Mane Six-themed flavors would be a fun wink. Mebberson seems to be approaching this setting very seriously, aside from a "kick me" sign on the back of a tea party chair. But that's getting ahead of ourselves.
    This demonstrates their relationships wonderfully.

    Let's take a look at how each member of the cast contributes before the big reveal. Sunny starts off with an odd observation. She's nothing the status of the forest and it's potential for pollenation. I don't recall her ever being so scientific or interested in floral attributes. Even her continual fangirling over the sights feels more reminiscent of Twilight geeking out. Though that the same time, Sunny's enthusiasm was well documented in the movie. It's a shame Sunny doesn't have her father's journal nearby to reference.
    Maybe bottany's a hobby of hers?

    More unique to Sunny is the juxtaposition of the Canterlot she remembered and the ruined state before her. Sunny is an idealist, and a very big pitfall for such souls is being confronted with imperfection. The Canterlot she describes to Izzy is much more pristine than what G4 fans witnessed. We remember Canterlot as a very elitist culture with resistance to change. Sunny has been picturing Canterlot under Twilight's rule and glossed over any possibility for imperfection. In many ways, seeing the ruins is a test of Sunny's commitment. She has to reconcile an idealistic goal against the concept of entropy.
    Nothing lasts forever.
    What you do here and now is what you can control.

    Hitch starts coming into his own as he often takes point entering an unexplored area. He even imposes himself between Sunny and the perceived thief. I appreciate that Sunny and the other mares are not damsels in need of constant rescue, but Hitch is a sheriff in the most idealized way. He is willing to be the first into danger and the last one out. I don't think his willingness to be a protector diminishes the others' independence.
    Um... Did Twilight install those?

    And "independence" sums up Izzy pretty well. The setting does little to dampen her spirits. Although she really shouldn't be eating donuts from a bygone era. There's a risk in having a character acting so oblivious. The more a character becomes detached from reality, the less the audience can empathize. Humor often succeeds by presenting a bond between lack and excess. Too much of a lack of awareness, however, makes a character seem less of an individual. We can start to see them as a joke machine without much insight into the unfolding events. I'm glad Izzy has a moment of vulnerability near the issue's end that helps bring her back into the story as an aware individual.
    The only way those are still edible
    is if they were inorganic to begin with.

    A similar danger looms over Pipp. The combo of lack/excess comes from her lack of enthusiasm while the others gush over Canterlot's remains. Then her constant fears as the others charge forward. Or complaining about the environment's lighting effects. Pipp is being presented as a long-suffering character, some of which is earned. Yet if she remains this one-note throughout the story I fear she'll quickly wear out her welcome. I don't think there's one moment where she offers an idea or perspective that helps the group move forward. Her main contribution is pointing out Izzy's poor diet, and even that becomes a joke of resisting adventure's call. Pipp is very easily dismissed as "the online idol" personality, but I think she can offer a lot of insight when pressed. Hopefully we'll reach a point where the situation will demand she surpass her fears.
    All eyes up, except for Pipp!

    Zipp has much less of a presence here than the first issue. A moment of observation that moves the group in the right direction. Afterwards, her main presence is reactions that help enhance a joke or reflect the scene's mood. Little more to say for her, but I get the sense she'll be more prominent next issue.
    Maybe it's because she's at the head of the table
    that Zipp looks the most freaked out to me.

    So now, at long last, we can talk about Discord's appearance. The years have not been kind and the Draconequus we knew has changed in both obvious and some more subtle ways. Gone is the arrogant being drunk on his own power. Discord now shows more uncertainty as he freely admits that his actions have been based in panic and uncertainty. He's not trying to twist the situation to his whim. He wants to know what the right thing to do and has gathered an unwilling counsel.
    No mention of his defeats?
    Twilight did a hell of a PR job!

    He's also much more emotionally vulnerable, as we see in the flashbacks. Fluttershy may have had an impact on the face he's willing to show to the world. He's also less magically powerful as much of what we see seems to be taking place in his memories rather than presented on stage. He's not altering reality to add a visual punch or transporting the ponies back in time as he did with Twilight. There's a lot of questions swirling around this as Discord's chaos magic isn't bundled with the three crystals.
    Spike would have words with that title.

    Speaking of, the origin story behind these three crystals makes this comic something I never expected: required reading. I've enjoyed the comics as a companion to the show. Sometimes the comics even surpassed the show's entertainment. Yet I never felt that I had to observe one to understand the other. Yet Sunny presented several questions at the end of the most recent special, and this comic is answering more than a few in just one issue.
    The title: "Discord Explains It All!"

    The comics' relation to continuity has always been flexible at best. Ideas like Sombra's origin and personality were very different than what the show would eventually present, rendering past presentations interesting but moot. Yet Generation 5 has been a slow start. One movie, one special, and only about fifteen shorts. There hasn't been a big push to expand the world beyond Maritime Bay and these comics are being very bold in filling in the gap between Twilight's end and Sunny's beginning. I'm seriously considering that this might become the overall canon.
    C'mon, fandom.
    Name that blue pony!

    Which presents a problem. It's something I've witnessed in franchises like Star Wars and Halo. To become invested in certain characters or understand the situations surrounding a plot point, it's not enough to simply watch the movie or play the game; you must also consume several comics and a few visual dictionaries or novels. In essence, the franchise demands that the audience do their homework to enjoy full immersion. As much as I enjoy these various franchises, I am not looking for homework to enjoy a story. My fear is that MLP is stretching the story too far across several media platforms. Instead of getting to enjoy one concentrated point of storytelling, we must now coordinate between specials, shorts, and comics to get the full picture.
    We will respect individuality by all agreeing!

    That's not to say I can't see benefits to this medium. Without the need to hire voice actors like John de Lancie or to rig up new puppets, the comics have a greater freedom to tell a story and provide a visual account of events. However, there are certain details kept in literal shadow that influence how well this backstory works.

    Careful! It took the Scarlet Witch
    years to restore her public image! 
    We see hints of a villain who is likely the mystery alicorn witnessed at the end of Make Your Mark. A unicorn whose ideal of a "Perfect Equestria" likely centers around her own narcissism/authoritarianism. We know that she caused yet another divide between the three tribes but we don't know how or the scope of that damage.
    Okay. Why?

    What I do appreciate is that this was not a cataclysm that ended Twilight's reign. Discord is very clear in saying that the Mane Six prevailed and that the creation of the three crystals was a countermeasure against further abuse. I'm much more open to the idea of a gradual decline versus Twilight's rule ending in a sudden timespan. Yet because we know so little about the villain and her methods, we can't fully understand why Twilight felt the need to anchor all pony magic in the three crystals.

    So we already know this alicorn has at least one big L. 
    Last issue I commented on the oddity of Twilight creating a magical gate rather than a bridge. Now we have a scene where the magical crystals seem to be a means of forcing harmony rather than allowing magic to be up to the individuals. It might make more sense if we knew the tragedies tow which Discord alluded, but right now there's too little information to understand. Thus we have a flashback and reveals several important plot points, but is still vague enough to leave the audience in confusion.
    Fifty Shades of Discord!

    Discord resolves to avoid conflict by destroying magic. An odd turnaround from the tyrant of old who wanted to see ponies quarrel. Yet we've already seen that a world without magic doesn't lead to peace. If anything, fear of the unknown is what drove Phyllis and Sprout to nearly start a war. Nopony has pointed this out to Discord, but I have a hard time believing he wasn't aware of such sudden conflict. Plus we don't know why he's chosen to stay isolated in Canterlot rather than venturing outwards.
    Happens to lots of guys.

    So we end the comic with a foe set up, but our protagonists are woefully underpowered to face him. Unlike the Mane Six, Sunny's crew haven't any magical elements or fallback spells. In fact, they're still getting used to magic as a concept. Even with Discord seemingly less than he used to be, he's still well outside their ability to fight. I'm curious to see both how Discord will seek out his next move, and how the ponies plan to stop him.
    Interesting comparison!

    There's so much to mull over from this one issue, and behind that lies the question of how much one should empower the comics to shape the larger narrative. I can this working in some ways. The past covered by the comics, the day-to-day expressed through Tell Your Tale, and the modern conflict taking form in Make Your Mark. I can also see it becoming so disjointed that the structure begins to collapse under its own weight. We're going to have to see how this generation takes shape.
    Because negativity attracts negativity!

    In the meantime, I'm eager to see what folks think of this story. See y'all down in the comments! I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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