• Let's Review: Maretime Mysteries #1

    Greetings one and all!

    Trinary here, stepping in as the new comic reviewer for Equestria Daily at the behest of my bud, Silver Quill. As he previously announced, he’s stepping back from doing the official comic reviews here on EQD in favor of refocusing on more regular and creative efforts. He leaves me with some mighty large hooves to fill and I hope that I can do right by the people who come to read these reviews for his insights, his humor, and his puns. I can only try to do my best to deliver my own insights and humor. Puns will probably be used more sparingly from here on out (sorry but not sorry, puns belong to Silver).

    Today we’re here to look at Maretime Mysteries #1, the start of a new G5 four-issue miniseries from IDW. What’s the mystery? Well, let’s find out!

    Cover A (left) by Abigail Starling, Cover B (right) by Shauna Grant


    The Creatives

    The creative team behind this issue and, by all accounts, the miniseries as a whole, is writer Stephanie Williams and artist Abby Bulmer.

    Stephanie Williams (www.whysteph.com) is a black comic book historian and pop-culture critic. She has a number of writing credits for the Big Two of Marvel and DC in the 2020s: X-Men, Marvel’s Voices, Infinity Comics, Captain America, Wonder Woman, Nubia, DC Pride, DC Power, among others. She also has previous experience with IDW in general, including Star Trek: Celebrations, and with our beloved franchise in particular, writing issue #7 of MLP (G5), featuring Hitch. She featured on Adweek’s 2023 Creative 100 and also has her own webcomics, Parenthood Activate! and But What If Though, as well as Living Heroes on Kickstarter.

    Abby Bulmer (https://Abbybulmer.com) is a freelance cartoonist based in Manchester, England. Much of her work has been for Rebellion comics (2000 AD, Judge Dredd, Kingdom, Monster Fun, Cor!! Buster, etc.) but she’s also done a fair bit for IDW, including Sonic the Hedgehog and has previously worked on the G5 MLP comics with the Mane Event one-shot and several issues of the main series: #11, #13, and #19, specifically. 

    The Comic

    Our story starts with the mares of the Mane Six gathered in the Crystal Brighthouse with Misty wondering what everypony is getting up to. They go through their planned activities for the day, including Sunny meeting up with Hitch and Sparky, Izzy and Pipp doing a creative collaboration, and Zipp teasing the return of a certain pegasi competition we saw way back in a classic episode of Season 1 of Friendship is Magic. I for one would love to see a follow up to this!

    One may wonder why Misty wasn’t invited to any of these outings. But before you assume the worst of her friends, bear in mind her introduction to the Crystal Brighthouse in Tell Your Tale’s “Misty Moves In” where she was swiftly overwhelmed by being drawn into the various activities of the group. She found that despite wanting friends after her long lonely time with Opaline, Misty still craved her own personal space. With that in mind, I interpret this as Misty’s friends being respectful and considerate of her more introverted tendencies rather than being inconsiderate and overlooking or forgetting to include her.

    Still, Misty is self-conscious enough of her lack of plans to bluff and make it sound like she has a full day planned—which she quickly reveals once the others have left to be a lie. She has no idea what to do with herself and is feeling down about it.



    She's so cute even when she's lying her cutie mark off.

    Luckily a call from Alpha Bittle provides a timely distraction and opportunity for Misty to talk about her feelings over a father-daughter game of checkers.


    Misty sees this and declared her father was on a "pun-tea" roll. I'd say she was a pony after Silver Quill's heart, but I'm more amazed whenever a pony actually notices a pun is being made. They're so ubiquitous in this series I started assuming it was just part of their language!

    Sidebar: I love how the checkers are personalized with their cutie marks, among other items. It’s like having your own personal sigil or crest or coat of arms. I love that sort of thing. Might be why I’m so into pins, come to think of it.

    While father and daughter playfully talk smack and engage in some apparently “super-strategic maneuvers” Misty expresses her frustrations. She feels that she should be more sure of herself and her place in Maretime Bay and is unhappy that she’s not. Alpha Bittle advises patience; that these things take time, which Misty accepts and her mood is improved.



    I see Alpha Bittle has lost none of his competitive streak from A New Generation.

    Having lost the game but gained some perspective, Misty is feeling better about things. Alpha Bittle segues into asking for a favor, and considering she had previously been feeling glum and directionless, I suspect Alpha Bittle wanted to give her something she could accomplish in order to feel better now that the game was over. There’s a new tea shop in Maretime Bay that apparently has some unique tea blends Alpha Bittle is curious about. Sure enough, Misty perks right up and agrees to go to the shop for him, delighted by the punny name: "Brewtanical Wonders."

    If she thinks that name is good, I'd love to see her walk around The Good Place sometime.


    Brewtanical Wonders was good, these are better.


    Credit: @MeganAmram on Twitter.

    As Misty travels through Maretime Bay, she comments on it doubling in size—which I’m not sure is conveyed by the largely empty streets, with a dozen or so background ponies spaced out rather far apart. Still, regardless of the size of the town or the number of inhabitants it now has, neither helps Misty very much when it comes to directions.

    Having just hit forty, I wonder if the people reading this comic (or this review, for that matter) are young enough to remember what it was like to try to get directions without the assistance of Google Maps, Siri, GPS, SatNav, and so on. I remember well the frustration of visiting a small town and trying to be guided by landmarks that the locals were confident couldn’t be missed—except that they most certainly could. So I fully share Misty’s frustration. This only fuels her own sense of not belonging and not being able to make her own way without her friends.

    Discouraged, Misty prepares to give up and turn back when she has a chance (literal) run-in.


    Strike! Ooh, spinning eyes. You know it's not too bad since there aren't any birds flying around her head.

    After this too close encounter of the physical kind, she finds herself standing in the doorway of a previously undiscovered shop. It rather quickly catches her interest, being quite quirky. That holds doubly true of the store’s proprietor, who goes unnamed, but introduces the shop as the “Emporium of Eccentric Antique Oddities” (doesn’t the fact that they’re oddities make them eccentric by definition?).

    Waitaminute, emporium?! Misty, no, stop! Never trust a store that calls itself an emporium. It never works out well!




    Disregarding this sound advice, Misty wanders around the store, clearly enraptured by it.


    Misty declares it's like "stepping into an attic you'd read about in a storybook." All I can think is: haven't you done just that?



    Just saying.

    She’s quite taken by the various curios in the shop and we get two pages of Misty simply delighting over the things she sees. It’s like putting Twilight Sparkle in an archive or Rainbow Dash in a Wonderbolt/Daring Do museum or Rarity in front of a mirror.



    It's always a shame when knockoff merchandise gets more attention than the original. Then again, at least this music box didn't transport Misty to a world populated by frogs.


    Misty: "I totally feel like a time traveler!"
    Didn't ponies wear hats like that to the Kenbucky Derby in the last miniseries?



    Just saying. Again.

    In all seriousness, Misty’s literal starry-eyed enjoyment is quite enjoyable to see. Sometimes simply seeing a character’s unbridled (dangit, I guess there will be some puns after all!) joy can get you on board with them more than just about anything else.


    This might be my favorite Applejack moment.

    Finally, there’s something in particular that draws Misty’s attention. On a shelf full of games (including Guess Hoof?, Dragon Tiles, The Settlers of Equestria—one can only assume they sold out of Maneopoloy) is a game called Maretime Mysteries.



    Yeesh with the spiderwebs. Rarity would throw a fit about how presentation counts! It's no wonder nopony's picked this up yet, as the store owner comments.

    The store owner, appearing suddenly and thoroughly spooking our shy protagonist (great salesmareship right there), says she doesn't know much about the game herself, but that it is based on real mysteries of Maretime Bay. Misty thinks this could be a good way to have fun while learning more about Maretime Bay, specifically stating she wants to be able to find her way around without getting lost. I really hope the implication isn’t that the poorly described local landmarks are meant to be one of the mysteries in question. In any event, she buys the game and finds that she was right across from Brewtanical Wonders this whole time.



     Featuring the Average and Moderately Strong Pixie?

    The story skips to her back at the Brighthouse, Misty having gotten whatever it was she needed from Brewtanical Wonders off panel. She calls Alpha Bittle to tell him about the game, which he isn’t familiar with either, despite his love of games (as we saw in A New Generation). Sunny, Hitch, and Sparky return at that moment, the latter having a case of the hiccups. This then occupies the next three pages of the comic as Misty brews up some tea with her new ingredients to cure said hiccups. Once Sparky’s hiccups are under control, the gang turns their attention to the game itself. It’s a traditional-looking board game with the setting being a simplified looking version of Maretime Bay itself. There are several game pieces, several locations on the board (what appears to be a house, a cave, a library, and the brighthouse), and a stack of cards labeled Maretime Mysteries.


    Heart, Crystal, Butterfly, Book, Rainbow, Horseshoe--part of these Lucky Charms!

    I would say that given the number and the theme of the game pieces, I’d be inclined to think the Mane Six would each by represented by one of the pieces: Misty as the butterfly, Sunny as the heart, Izzy as the crystal, Zipp as the book, Pipp as the rainbow, and Hitch as the horseshoe. However it’s still uncertain if Zipp, Pipp, and Izzy will have much of a role in this story or not.

    The game instructions read that Maretime Bay is trapped in despair thanks to a wicked spell from a mysterious spirit and an even more mysterious magical artifact which holds many secrets (isn't that implied by having it be mysterious?). Players have to travel the “enigmatic” streets (seriously, invest in some urban planning!), solve puzzles, and learn about Maretime Bay’s hidden lore in order to understand the power of the artifact and lift the spell.

    Doing this, naturally, involves challenges that require teamwork, bravery, and all the stuff we come to our pastel ponies to get. Suitably stoked, the foursome is keen to start playing. Misty rolls a not at-all-suspicious looking die, why even mention it, and things then go pear-shaped.



    Talk about snake eyes! I think that's the equivalent of rolling a Natural 1.

    A real spirit emerges from the game and informs the gang that they’ve wandered into a Jumanji situation: rolling the die makes the game start for real: Maretime Bay is truly cursed (and this time it’s not because a giant corporation is running things) and they have to solve the mystery in order to save Maretime Bay from eternal despair.

    All things considered, maybe they should've just rented a movie.



    After a thousand years, I'm free! Time to conquer Equestria!

    Overall Thoughts:


    This miniseries is off to an interesting start. There are plenty of elements here that we’ve seen before in G5 and in Friendship is Magic: mysterious stores with magical items (I somehow have the feeling that if Misty had looked in the back section of this shop, she’d find a rack full of Power Ponies comics), games that draw characters into them for real, a mystery-based miniseries, these aren’t anything new for MLP, or even for G5. But even old, familiar tropes can be rearranged in a way that keeps them fresh, and I think the story so far has done that. Whether that will continue to be the case can only be determined by the following issues.

    The focus on mysteries in Maretime Bay is curious, considering issue #12 of the main series was dedicated to Zipp and Hitch starting up a podcast about local mysteries. I’d like to see some manner of connection there, but that seems unlikely considering we haven’t seen or heard about their podcast efforts since then and the one mystery they were investigating was self-contained, being solved within the confines of the issue in question. With Zipp and Hitch being a detective and a sheriff, respectively, you’d think they’d be the first to ring up for anything mystery-related. But then again, that may well be why the story has fallen so far on Misty as opposed to either of them.

    The attention on Misty will likely be a strength of the series. I o
    verheard one fan say at a convention last year that he expects Zipp and Misty to develop spine issues later in life from carrying G5 on their backs. While I wouldn’t have framed it that way myself, I do find that those two are the characters I find myself most engaged by and the most fond of, as well as being the ones who seem to drive most of the plot to-date. Misty is much beloved by most of the G5 fan base from what I can tell, and having her be the one to sort through a mystery has worked well enough before in Make Your Mark. It’s not too much of a leap to hazard a guess that Misty’s journey to find herself and her place in Maretime Bay (and not purely in a geographic sense) will tie into the mysteries of the game. A Mist-ery? (This is why I should leave the puns to Silver Quill). That also may be why it’s her taking the point as she is far less sure of herself and certainly isn't a natural detective or investigator than Zipp or Hitch. 



    You just want to give the poor kid a hug.

    But this isn’t just a mystery, after all, it’s a game. As her checkers match with her father helped set up, she’s likely had more experience with the game-side of things and has been trying to improve in order to keep up with him.

    It’s also interesting in that unlike some previous and upcoming G5 comics, the mystery doesn’t seem (at least so far) to stem from a connection to old Equestria, with the gang rediscovering Canterlot or Cloudsdale or the like. But then, we don’t really know a lot about Maretime Bay itself. Is it an older Equestrian settlement with a new name or did it emerge after Equestria split? But I don’t get the sense that the focus is necessarily going to be based on lore connections to Friendship is Magic, given the general lack of mention of them in this issue. Not impossible, but just not my guess.

    Will Izzy, Pipp, and Zipp become more involved as the story goes on? I would’ve thought that to be the case given there are six game pieces but the solicitations for the rest of the series keep mentioning only the four characters we had at the end of this issue: Misty, Sunny, Hitch, and Sparky.



    Stephanie Williams seems to be a good pick for this story. Her credits speak to her ability to explore and give voices to characters looking to find their own way in places where they may not fit in, as is reflected in her working on DC Pride, Marvel’s Voices, and Star Trek: Celebrations, which highlight diversity in comics and in their respective franchises. She also writes the father-daughter scenes quite well, likely drawing on her own experience as a parent (which is the backdrop of her webcomic Parenthood Activate!).

    Most of the comic was setting up Misty’s issues, talking about them with Alpha Bittle, getting some reassurance, feeling doubt creep back in, and then finding the game and bringing it back to the Brighthouse. Put in those terms, not that much has happened, but the story was meant to show us the kind of character Misty is. So it took its time to let her show her vulnerabilities and doubts as she wandered around, as well as showing her delight and joy at the items in the emporium; as well as showing her skills and connections as she played a game with her dad and brewed tea for Sparky.

    The only part of the story so far that made me tilt my head was near the end, where we had three pages dedicated to Sparky having the hiccups and Misty brewing him some tea to get them to stop. I struggle to think of a story-reason for this to occupy as much space as it does. I was half-expecting that Sparky’s magical fire hiccups would be responsible for bringing the game to life, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. It’s possible that this will pay off sometime later in the series, with Misty’s brewing techniques playing an important role; or else her observation about Sparky’s magic being “more playful” than they thought foreshadowing a later event. Perhaps it’s simply meant to demonstrate Misty being more confident and at ease, being in her element as she's being a good friend by brewing up a tea to cure Sparky’s hiccups. I suppose it works well enough in that regard, even if I find the length devoted to it to be a touch unnecessary. I could simply be biased, given the more time spent with Sparky often increases the prospect that the humor will devolve into something far cruder than what I prefer to deal with. Only time will tell if this scene anticipates later developments or not.


    All in all, the writing provides a fairly solid set-up.



    This is the area where I may struggle a bit, lacking Silver Quill’s background in graphic design and art. Abby Bulmer’s art seems to draw inspiration chiefly from the Tell Your Tale style, while other artists at the start of the G5 comic adhered more closely to the CGI-style of A New Generation or Make Your Mark, or else tried to bridge the gap by blending the two closer together. It’ll come down to personal preference which approach one likes more.

    Bulmer seems to prefer emphasizing roundness, which works well with the style of Tell Your Tale. After some of the more angular art employed in Kenbucky Derby (at least in issue #3), i find myself quite preferring this. Misty looks especially soft and cute in quite a few panels, as befits the generally beloved woobie of G5, though there are one or two moments where Misty’s starry-eyed expressions goes from being adorable to being unsettling.


    One panel displays open-eyed wonder and is quite cute. The other is unsettling and veers towards nightmare fuel.


    In one or two places though the artwork comes off as a touch flat, leading to some moments that took me out of the story. The mane of the emporium owner for example.


    I think she’s meant to have a generally frizzy mane, yet it looks so two dimensional that it gives the appearance of her being bald on the top of her head, with a flat disc of hair simply being affixed to the back of her head like a peacock's tail. It kept drawing my eye to the top of her head, rather than to her face. There was a similar thing that happened with Zipp’s snout at the beginning of the story when her face was presented in a front-on portrait (i.e. directly facing the reader, head-on), where her snout became more like a tiny nose.


    The scene where the store owner reappeared and spooked Misty also gave her a more Simpsons-like moment of fear, with tiny pupils and wide eyes. It seemed so at odds with the rest of the comic that it felt jarring. Of course, that was the goal but I’m not sure if this works with the overall style. 

    Bulmer focuses more on the character(s) in the foreground, with the background often being simple colors or shapes. When there’s a pullback shot meant to show a wider area, the ponies are drawn very simply, with dots for eyes. I tried to see if any of the toys or items in the background of the Emporium contained any easter eggs: items from Friendship is Magic, ponyfications of other franchises or the like, but aside from the punny board games, I didn’t see any. Obviously this isn’t a major deficiency or anything, just a reflection of the artist’s priorities being on the main characters of a scene.

    None of this really impacted anything significantly. The only time where I found the art to have not flowed well sequentially in terms of telling a story was when Misty bumped into a random pony outside and to the left of the emporium suddenly shifted to her being inside it with little indication of just how that happened.

    The implication is that she was either directly bumped into the store or was so disoriented by the collision, or else just so quick to try to get out of the other pony’s way, that she wandered into the open door. But it just doesn’t flow well.

    If it seems like I’m being largely negative towards the art, it’s because I lack the vocabulary to describe when the art is good and is doing its job, which it does throughout the majority of the comic. I'm glad we'll have some consistency this miniseries with the same writer and artist for all four issues, if the solicitations are to be believed. They work quite well together and I hope the mystery for our characters will be an exciting one!

    That's all for my first time out, thanks for reading. I'll see folks next time!

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