• Let's Look Back: G5's Discord Arc


    It was a long-reaching arc with a familiar face. Time, however, was not kind to either the release schedule or Discord's looks. Now, at long last, we can do a retrospective on the first G5 comic arc. 

    Catch the full article after the break!

    The Long Game
    Let's start this off by addressing the oddest aspect. This five-issue story took ten months to come out with plenty of filler comics in between. This might not sound like a bad strategy at first. Plenty of comics have kept the tension while still having micro-events in the protagonists' lives. Yet this for this to succeed, there has to be a cohesive narrative between events. This was sorely lacking as several issues had the ability to contribute to the arc but went unacknowledged. MLP #8 in particular addressed Izzy's feeling excluded due to her inability to fly, only for it to be forgotten in the larger arc.


    Andy Price remains my favorite artist,
    but Amy Mebberson joins the top-tier!

    There's also the issue of forgetting smaller elements that can contribute towards payoffs. I'd forgotten the main theme of this story over time and only recaptured it upon re-reading the earlier issues. One prime example is a set of panels from issues #1 and #10, showing the various reactions from the pony populace. Unless you possess a uniquely strong memory, I'm betting the punchline fell short.


    So... were they all hanging around the same area for several days?

    I don't know what motives or decisions led to this pattern. If the goal was to get people to purchase older issues or review what they'd already bought, I can't say it succeeded. Hopefully a trade paperback will encapsulate the core issues and that will be that. If IDW wants to try something like this again, here's hoping that they have a better path planned out.

    From comic issues to bedtime stories, Amy Mebberson has portrayed a variety of styles within the franchise. As the premier artist for the comic series I think she's rightly claimed a spot as one of the greats. If there was any benefit to this strange release schedule, it was getting to compare Mebberson's style with other artists. I like seeing different styles when it comes to drawing MLP but it's a guarantee that certain styles will have greater appeal. I say Mebberson has secured herself as one of the top artists for this series.


    Don't care how controversial the ending was.
    I like seeing these ponies again.

    Let's start with the concept of vitality. Each character in this series is lively and expressive. Actions are exhaggerated to offer the full effect while you never have to doubt how they're feeling. Mebberson does use motion lines to emphasize certain actions but I think the idea would come across even without the indicators.

    And now it's a Scooby Doo episode.
    And still much better than Velma!

    There's also the concept of magical auras, wings, and implying semi-transparency. This is most evident when drawing Sunny's alicorn magic. Her horn and wings feature a distinct outline but only hints of an interior fill. Just enough to imply their presence without a guarantee they'll remain. As magic begins to glitch out, Mebberson draws unicorn auras as broken clouds trying to form around a center. Once again, there enough visual cues to understand what's happening.


    Poor Zipp. She takes the loss of flight worse than anyone else.

    The biggest negative comes from a lack of information. Mebberson fills each panel with environmental details and only resorts to gradient voids when trying to focus on action or close-up emotion. Yet some of the environments are mistaken. Biggest example being Sunny's home. When this comic first came out, the Brighthouse had not yet been unveiled. So it seems Mebberson played it safe and assumed Sunny would rebuild her home the way it was. Continuity-minded fans will question this while long-time readers might remember a time between the movie and Netflix series and guess at the reasons. A small hiccup, especially given the detail Mebberson puts into the now-deserted Canterlot.

    Central Theme
    "Lead with your heart". It's the phrase of this entire story. First uttered by Argyle in the opening panels and again quoted by Fluttershy's message. It's easy to forget this key theme in the wait between issue, which is a tragedy since it helps contextualize everything. Discord is trying to reason his way through uncertainty while Sunny's friends are often at odds trying to decide the most rational course of action. When challenged by an idea, they become defensive and try to justify their unique abilities rather than trying to pull together. Due to this fractured style, their journey is more a collection of errors that somehow manage to compliment one-another. Progress comes only by chance rather than the group's unity. In the end, it's not a contest of power or a logical debate that talks Discord down. The main logic is creating a space in which an emotional appeal can reach him.


    A message through the ages.

    It's with this theme in mind that we look at each character and their presentation. The biggest impact on their interpretation is how much they follow or resist this theme and their impact on the group's progress. Let's start with our lead mare.

    Sunny Starscout
    Despite being the direct audience of Argyle's encouragement, Sunny struggles with her idealism. When pursuing a goal, she's often blind to the details and misses what can be happening right in front of her. Such is the case in failing to understand Izzy's feelings or act to correct an imbalance. In victory, she assumes that everything is fine and doesn't yet understand that unity is a process. Exploring the remains of Canterlot helps shake Sunny out of complacency, but it's only at the lowest point that she re-affirms her commitment to her friends on an emotional rather than an ability level. Much like the movie, she's the champion of an idea but our sympathy often goes to another.


    She's having a day.

    Izzy Moonbow
    As the most emotionally-motivated character in the group, there are times where it feels as though Izzy is this story's real protagonist. As the lead perspective character, we see her feeling left out on several occassions, arguging on her own against the entire group, and ultimately being the unifying spirit. Izzy is the group's heart and thus this story is her domain. That's not to say that she's completely brainless. We see her innovate and improvie in tight situations, such as rescuing a falling Pipp with a smoothie stand. She is the greatest advocate for understading their opponents and is the one who ultimately talks Discord down. I would argue that while Sunny is meant to be the lead focus, this comic makes Izzy the lead protagonist.


    She's still my G5 fav.

    Zipp Storm
    If Izzy is the group's emotional core, Zipp is the brains. Her growing detective skills come into display early on, but then she is hamstrung by obsession. In a fine tradition of Twilight freakouts, Zipp often gets so fixated on a crime scene that she comes across as freaking out. So hyper-fixated that she needs her friends to help her see what's right in front of her. It's the classic issue of being so close to a problem that details go unobserved. When not on the case, she's often butting heads with her sister; and yet in moments of crisis she's the first to rush to Pipp's aid and keep her safe. Zipp's style makes her one a difficult character to mesh with the story's theme but there are plenty of moments where she is able to unveil Discord's plan and emtional points where her love for her sister shines through.


    This came up even before the first special.

    Pipp Petals In every group, there needs to be a voice of dissent. Pipp has to bear this burden, which can make her seem the most negative character. She's far too practical for her own good. For the first two issues, her main role seems to be complaining about difficult circumstances and panicking the populace. I understand her desire for transparency, but warning the populace about flickering magic is only half the responsibility. She also needs to emphasize what's being done to solve the crisis. Because she only emphasizes the threat, Pipp may be a greater sower of chaos than Discord. It's only in the later half of the story that she starts contributing towards success, either through observation or utilizing her connections. She remains the most resistant to the call of adventure, but she is a part of the group dynamic.


    Mebberson does love some Disney characters!

    Hitch Trailblazer
    Poor Hitch. I would argue that he's the most out-of-place character here. While his ability to talk with animals is a cruicial resource in several instances, Hitch himself is often the pratt fall pony. He's quick to interpose himself between the group and any danger, but that just sets him up to slip and fall first. Of our new team, I think he gets the least attention and development. If anything, he's a means to fleshing out the critter population and Cloudpuff. Nothing truly negative or positive to say about him.


    Aw, Hitch. You've already stolen puff's heart!

    The main draw of this arc. The surviving element from Twilight's Equestria and a much changed draconequus. Gone is the cocky, impulsive Discord. This modern version is much less sure of himself, more reliant on the physical world, and curiously depowered. There was a time Discord could change both himself and his opponents in a situation to be part of a larger skit. Now he can barely summon props and has to mutilate his own body to fight back. I'm not sure what's caused this shortage as Discord's magic isn't said to be linked to the unity crystals. He was already ancient when he first met Twiligth and the Mane Six, so I doubt aging is crippling his power. It's more like he's willingly let himself degrade, perhaps because he misses Fluttershy.


    Well, he hasn't lost his flare for the dramatic.

    Discord said, "If you're not paying attention to Fluttershy, you're not really paying attention to what matters." I cannot fault his wisdom. I found it very touching that it was her message that reached him. Even after supposed centuries, she's still helping him be his best self. Discord tried to rationalize his decision to destroy the unity crystal, but on an emotional level I think he already knew this act would upset Fluttershy. Hence he's making multiple speeches and declarations; self-sabotaging instead of chucking the crystal and being done. Her appeal for hope is what reawakens his best self.


    She is his shoulder angel.

    Yet now we are faced with a question within the comics: what next?

    Past Secrets
    With Discord's return, Canterlot's rediscovery, and Fluttershy's cottage hinting at Ponyville's remains, there's a lot left unexplored here. Discord can provide a first-hoof account of Opaline's rise to power and explain Equestria's decline. I appreciated that his summary made it clear that Opaline's attempt was not the disaster that ended Twilight's reign overnight. We're still left wondering how things changed between generations, but I think it's important to note that Twilight's Equestria didn't topple under Opaline's attack. Now he can bring everypony up to speed; provided that he actually stays within the comic series.


    I would like to see more of fangirling Sunny.

    There's also ample opportunities to explore Canterlot's remains and find new secrets. Or visit Fluttershy's cottage and find out what became of Ponyville. I get the sense that the comics are the most willing medium to explore the interim between G4 and G5. None of this may become canon to the show, but I find it fun to explore the idea. We'll have to see if the IDW staff follow up on this idea.

    For abusing Misty, Opaline deserves pain.
    For pushing Fluttershy... unspeakable pain.

    Taken together, these five issues provide a strong arc that is a worthy start to the G5 comic line. So again I wonder why they were spaced out with so much filler. Whatever the case, they're well worth a read to take in the whole story without any lulls or distractions. Give it a look and see how well G4 and G5 mix for you.


    "Let me help, ponies.
    I'm your only hope."

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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