• Let's Review: Maretime Mysteries #2


    Hello everypony! We’re here with the second issue of “Maretime Mysteries.” Can Misty and her companions save Maretime Bay from the spirit who’s ensnared it in a game’s curse? Let’s roll the dice and find out, but beware of spoilers!



    We left off the first issue with Misty, Sunny, Hitch, and Sparky, playing a game called Maretime Mysteries. Modeled on Maretime Bay and supposedly based on the mysteries of the town, Misty bought it at an eccentric shop in the hopes of familiarizing herself with her new home. She had spent the issue questioning herself and her place in Maretime Bay, not helped by being unable to find her way around. She thought a game about the town itself would help with that. The game revolves around a curse placed on Maretime Bay from a mysterious spirit and a magical artifact it possesses. But once they start playing, an actual spirit emerges to make the game all-too real. 


    Yeah, it's one of those.

    The second issue starts with the ponies realizing to their horror, most especially Misty, that the curse is indeed real and Maretime Bay is encased under a magical barrier.

    Homer Simpson: D’ooooome!

    Misty feels naturally guilty and her immediate reaction is to blame herself, which will be a recurring feeling for her throughout the course of the issue. 


    That's the look a look we've all made at one time or another. It screams "it must be a Thursday. I could never get the hang of Thursdays."


    However, Sunny and Hitch quickly bolster her up; reminding her that there was naturally no way for Misty to know that a game would be cursed like that. Not unless it was made by Ubisoft. 


    This is why disclaimers on game boxes are so important.


    The spirit lays out the rules: the three ponies (and one baby dragon) cannot leave Maretime Bay (not that the barrier would let them anyway), and cannot get any additional or outside help. That means they can’t use their phones to search for answers, they can’t contact other ponies for assistance, nothing. It’s all on them. On top of this, there’s a time limit. If they fail to find the enchantment stone and win the game before the time runs out, Maretime Bay will be cursed forever.

    So no pressure or anything.

    To start things off, the spirit leaves them with a riddle to solve before cackling and vanishing, as these game spirits are wont to do.


    When you find yourself released from captivity in a box after how many years, you'd want to enjoy yourself too.

    Hitch and Misty spend a moment lamenting that they don’t have Zipp with them since her skill set would be ideal for this situation—which as I laid out in my review of the first issue, is probably why she wasn’t here for this. She’d solve it too easily.


    Also as if in answer to my previous review, we see Sparky still suffering from some lingering hiccups, Hitch encouraging him to finish drinking the tea Misty had prepared for him last issue. I had questioned why the comic devoted three pages to the matter of Sparky’s hiccups and Misty’s tea, wondering if this would be set up for something later. Considering it being mentioned again here but not otherwise having any overall influence in this issue, I think it’s safe to say it’ll come into play later in the series.


    What is more dangerous? A dragon with allergies or acid reflux?

    The meat of the comic follows a familiar pattern repeated in triplicate. The ponies and Sparky are given a clue (the first time by the spirit, the rest from game cards they find at each new location) in reference to an item or other: sunshine, a rainbow, a seashell, a clock. From there they have to deduce where in town the clue is directing them towards in order to find the next clue card. As they travel, they see the different ways the curse is affecting the town, which changes each time a new clue is found: first ponies are frozen in place “in reverse” (which doesn’t make a lot of sense), then they lose their memories, then they’re doing things backwards.


    Each time Misty expresses some manner of self-recrimination or guilt, usually about how the destination they’re heading for is one she wasn’t able to find on her own last issue or how the curse is worsening, resulting in some discouragement on her part. But she's then bolstered by a comment by her friends and they keep going and solve the next piece of the puzzle.


    Dang she remains cute.

    The issue ends with them finding the enchantment stone and the spirit appears, directing them to a place full of stories where they’ll learn of a key “that’s lost in time, where legends intertwine, to unveil the gem’s origin, a keeper you’ll need to find.” But their time is running short, as is the miniseries'.

    Tick-tock ponies...


    The art remains consistent, having the same creative team behind the first issue. There’s a sickly green tinting whenever the spirit is about that seems to infect the whole panel, a nice touch. I had actually raised this same question on Silver Quill's most recent "Pinkie Pie Says Goodnight" comic: when did we just seemingly decide that pale, sickly green is indicative of something ethereal or ghostly?


    "The way is shut. It was made by those who are Dead, and the Dead keep it, until the time comes. The way is shut...unless you have a yak."

    Credit: MLP-Silver Quill


    I also have to give credit to some of the less often seen emotions the ponies are expressing. Not just basic things like the ponies being happy or sad, but a rueful smile, a wry grin, things that feel a bit more layered, emotionally, if that makes sense. 


    Now that is a certified Look. 


    Backgrounds are often kept simple, frequently being nothing more than an abstract pattern or design even when the ponies are meant to be indoors. The focus is clearly on the ponies and I suspect that’s what the artist is most comfortable with. When backgrounds are drawn, they tend to be rather simplistic. One shot of the town had the buildings drawn in a very straight and clear-cut manner. I double-checked and it's not inaccurate per se to how Maretime Bay is rendered in Make Your Mark or Tell Your Tale, but it still feels stiff somehow.


    Seeing buildings that geometric and straight feels odd for Equestria.


    There are one or two moments where I found the art struggled to convey what the story was telling us, largely revolving around the curses on the town. The first curse involved the ponies of Maretime Bay being “stuck in reverse” as Sunny describes it. Of course, being utterly frozen in time poses the question is how one can tell if they’re moving backwards or forwards since they're, you know. Stuck. The only way this is conveyed (beyond our heroes simply telling us this is the case) is with onomatopoeia's being spelled backwards. 


    We get one pony who’s caught mid-sneeze, with his “achoo!” being spelled "oocha." The implication is that the snot is supposed to be flying back into his nose (to Hitch’s and our disgust) rather than being expelled outwards, but I don't think this translated well into art.

     Absent any text, would you think this pony was sneezing in reverse?


    The same holds for a bird seen frozen in the air, mid-flap, or "palf" as the comic writes it. I have to question the wisdom of going with a curse that would be that difficult to be expressed artistically.

    The only somewhat significant gaffe comes with some misplaced text balloons. At one point as they approach the destination for one of the clues, Sunny remarks about the location being enchanting. However, it seems like that text balloon should’ve rightfully gone to Hitch, as the very next panel shows Sparky shooting Hitch a chastising look, and Hitch apologizing for the poor choice of phrase, considering their current situation. So that clearly should've been his line.


    There's some certified parenting moments going on in this issue.

    We see a return of Misty’s starry-eyed expression. It’s not bad, but after some hits and (one miss) with it last issue, I hope it doesn’t get overused.


    There's something quite sweet about somepony whose early life was so sad to still be able to look upon things with wonder. That or she's secretly a seraphim from One Piece. Either/or.

    There’s also the occasional background pony whose design looks a bit too simplified to the point where it just looks off.


    The ponies and myself are both puzzled by this literal block-headed pony.

    Though to counterbalance things on the positive side with background ponies, we see one sporting a hijab-like garb, which makes arguably the second we’ve seen in G5 after we met an auroricorn in "Blockywockys" whose mane gave many the impression of a hijab.


    My summary was a touch on the short side because the story does have a recursive pattern to it, which makes the individual scenes stand out less than they might’ve otherwise. The ponies visit four different destinations in town: the Sunshine Café, the Rainbow Bridge (sadly no Heimdall), a seashell fountain at the pier, and the post office, the latter to Hitch's pleasure. 


    Hitch is a pony after Luna's heart. Screencap/Captions by Quoterific


    Misty figures out the first clue and destination, but after that all the others are figured out by Hitch. Sunny, Misty, and even Sparky might locate the game card at each destination with the next clue, but it’s Hitch who deduces the correct destination for three out of the four. While this makes sense for the sheriff to know his way around town and be able to work out clues, it does unfortunately leave Sunny with comparatively less to do. It’s been an ongoing criticism of her character after the G5 movie, that she’s usually taken a backseat in driving the plot of G5 to other characters, most significantly Zipp and Misty. That doesn’t render Sunny’s role here insignificant, but there aren’t as many opportunities to use her unique skills to advance the group towards their goal in this issue. Hopefully a later issue will address that imbalance. 


     An odd moment. Hitch is enthused when Sparky finds a card--only to look puzzled and a touch even offended when Sparky gives the card to Misty rather than him?


    The recursive nature is both boon and bane as regards to Misty, our central protagonist of this miniseries. She is, quite understandably, distraught over having, however accidentally, released this spirit and cursed the town. Her friends are naturally quick to support and cheer her up, leading to Misty acknowledging they’re right and becoming more confident and determined—only for it to fade a page or two later as Misty sees the effects of the curse or hears where they’re going and kicks herself for not being able to find it on her own last issue. Then it repeats, with her being reassured again, her accepting the reassurances again and feeling better, then something else happens and she becomes demoralized again.


    While Misty's responses might be a touch formulaic, at least they're appropriate to the situation. What is that face Hitch is making?

    This is actually reflective of dueling reactions among fans going back to Friendship is Magic. We, not infrequently, were treated to episodes that struck similar notes in terms of the moral or in addressing a given character’s particular flaws. This resulted in mixed responses by fans to things seen (correctly or otherwise) as repetitive.
    Some fans argue that characters (and people in real life) often do not learn a lesson a single time and then afterwards never ever repeat that mistake again for as long as they live; especially if the mistake flows from some deeply ingrained aspect of their personality (being too shy, too impatient, too indecisive, etc.). If they address and solve all their flaws that simply and easily, there would be far fewer stories to tell with them and they’d quickly grow past their flaws until they’re either all but unrecognizable or lack any significant flaws to them at all—neither of which is especially interesting or attractive to fans who gravitated to these characters, flaws and all, in the first place.

    However, other fans counter that regardless of whether or not the point about people not learning things for good after only one lesson is true (and it isn't always), it still potentially makes for a less interesting story (which is what the show and these comics are—they’re not real life) to be presented with the same lesson and same moral for the same character over and over again. Characters have to be allowed to grow and change, which includes growing past certain things, otherwise they risk becoming stagnant caricatures of themselves. There has to be some measurable character progress overtime if the series has any continuity to it or is about personal growth and development—both of which is the case for Friendship is Magic and for G5 as well. 


    There's many reasons why this episode is not fondly remembered.

    Naturally, there are of course ways to do both: there are ways to convey continually grappling with certain key flaws but having said flaw manifest in different ways or in response to different stimuli that keeps things from getting too stale. When it comes to this comic in particular, the fact that Misty is so immediately receptive to her friends’ cheering her up only to then almost immediately become demoralized again within a page or two of said cheering seems to go too fast and makes it too repetitive. 


    She twice says “you’re right” in response to her friends trying to comfort her in the span of four pages. The speed at which she both becomes discouraged and encouraged again and cycles back around just feels too fast paced. I'm sure some people can relate to this, and I know I've had days when even minor things caused me to go into a tailspin. But on those instances, it was not as easy to pull me out of it as the comic seems to suggest was the case with Misty. For me at least, the comic potentially minimizes both what is upsetting Misty if a mere sentence or two from her friends is enough to assuage her and, at the same time, minimizing and undercutting the effect of her friends' support if it proves so short-lived and transitory an impact.


    I think she should either be less receptive to her friends’ efforts at first, leading to a slower build in her confidence over the course of the comic, perhaps by letting her solve one of the later clues (as opposed to solving only the first one), or else her reversal in confidence should happen one time in reaction to something particularly upsetting. Doing so because she wasn’t able to find a café last issue doesn’t quite seem to measure up to getting the town accidentally cursed. Now, to be sure, Misty does show progress throughout the issue. When she's once more feeling her sense of guilt and self-doubt rise up again on their way to the fourth destination, she shakes it off this time without needing Sunny or Hitch to say or do anything. That is a sign of progress on her side, which is to be welcomed.

    By the end of the issue, Misty is looking ready to throw down. She'll cast fireball right in your face.

    I had mentioned last issue that I had hoped the mysteries of Maretime Bay wouldn’t revolve solely around some shops and landmarks Misty hadn’t been able to find in that issue. This issue didn’t help in that regard though they may be saving that for the next issue. I hope that's the case since this issue was a little light on mysteries and a touch heavy on pointing out the local sights, as if the problem was simply that Misty hadn’t learned her way around town yet. Obviously, the issue is that Misty is struggling to find her place in Maretime Bay in more of a “finding yourself and what matters to you” kind of way, with trying to learn directions being a more mundane reflection of the fundamental struggle. That doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant, but I hope the story moves beyond the geographical finding your way to the more fundamental, character-based sort of finding your way.


    Just saying, deeply-seated character insecurities probably shouldn't be solved by the equivalent of a pub crawl or downloading Google Maps.

    Last time I had wondered if the six game pieces (a rainbow, butterfly, heart, crystal, book, horseshoe) might align with the members of the G5 cast, but it seems that the others will be largely if not completely absent from the rest of the miniseries. In light of that, I was wondering if perhaps instead the game pieces would reflect the locations we were getting, but that likewise doesn’t seem to work either. It would’ve been a neat little send up or clue if either had been the case, but we’ll see if maybe the game pieces have some significance to them yet.


    I suspect the obvious comparison many people will be making between with this miniseries is to the Friendship is Magic episode “Power Ponies” with the comic book Spike purchased that sucked him and the Mane Six into the issue. I myself made a joking reference to it last issue. But that episode was played more for fun and for Spike to demonstrate his own value to himself, it really wasn’t playing up the pathos by having Spike feel guilty about having this happen to his friends (guilt at them getting caught maybe, but not so much about them ending up in the comic). Granted, the circumstances are different and this is affecting all of Maretime Bay. That episode was more an excuse to put the Mane Six and Spike in a fun, wacky setting outside the normal for Equestria and do something different. This miniseries is a lot more of a character study for Misty.

    If the MCU was based on these guys, superhero fatigue wouldn't be a thing.


    Differences aside, Misty does seem to view herself as the Humdrum (so to speak) to the original Mane cast of G5, trying to fit in and discover her place among a group that she was late in joining. It's one thing to be part of a group since its inception. It's another to join a established group and adjust to an existing reality as you find it, rather than shaping it from the outset.
    As to how Misty will navigate her feelings as well as the town itself, we'll have to wait for the next issue. That's all I have for today, so thank you!