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Synopsis:

Twilight Sparkle hasn’t been able to sleep all week, constantly having nightmares about being pursued by an evil shadowy mist. She discovers the rest of the Mane Six, except Pinkie Pie, has been having the same problem. To try and get over them, all of the girls head over to Pinkie’s for a slumber party, but that night they’re all struck by the worst nightmares yet. Twilight dreams Princess Celestia rejects her completely, Applejack can’t grow anything, all animals run away from Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash can’t fly, Pinkie Pie can’t make anypony laugh, and Rarity’s generosity is completely rejected as she’s replaced by a different pony. Rarity’s nightmare impacts her the worst, and the girls all awaken to find, much to their horror, Rarity is being abducted by the same shadow from their dreams. Before they can grab her, she’s taken to the moon. Fearing what this means, Twilight quickly writes to Celestia, and it turns out both she and Luna personally come to the library. Luna, while looking deeply troubled and not saying “everything”, discloses the existence of the “Nightmares” from the dark side of the moon. These evil creatures of shadow know how to seduce and tempt others by exploiting their hidden fears, which was how she was eventually corrupted into Nightmare Moon. They use individuals like her to try and gain a kingdom of their own. While she hoped they were gone after she was blasted with the Elements of Harmony, they were only driven out of her body back to the dark side of the moon, where they rebuilt their strength to try again. In spite of her insistence she needs to go to the moon and the “Nightmare Dreamscape” alone, the girls insist on coming. Meanwhile, the Nightmares have Rarity tied up in a ruined castle on the moon and manifest themselves before her…

Princess Celestia and Princess Luna combine their powers to literally bring the moon close enough to lasso it, making a tightrope that the non-flying members of the Mane Six and Spike, who insists on coming to save Rarity, can use to cross over. Although the rope snaps halfway, Luna and the group land on the moon while Celestia begins to rally Ponyville for battle. Soon the girls are assaulted by Nightmares, who try and trap them in their fears, but Luna helps free Twilight from hers, and she in turn frees the rest of her friends. Yet even out of the illusions, the actual Nightmares, having gained physical form by already corrupting all of the native creatures that live on the moon, surround them and try to prey on Luna’s lingering self-doubt and disappointment at herself, apparently at something even worse than Nightmare Moon that she is fearful of revealing, and tell her to join them in exchange for sparing the others. While Luna is fearful and hesitant, the girls intervene for her instead, but this only prompts the Nightmares to proclaim they already have a new queen to give them their promised kingdom. Soon after, she appears before them: Nightmare Rarity.

While Princess Celestia continues to ready Ponyville, she suddenly notices the image of Nightmare Moon on the moon’s surface, but realizes that it’s not Luna’s shape… Back on the moon, Nightmare Rarity boasts that Rarity’s persona is gone and that she’s purely Nightmare Moon reincarnated, and that without the Elements of Harmony combined they can never defeat her again. When Spike begins to call out to her, however, some traces of Rarity’s personality start to leak through, enraging Nightmare Rarity and having her command the shadows to attack. During the fight, Twilight shouts at the reluctant Luna to return to Ponyville and prepare for the assault as well, and while she escapes, Spike is knocked into the moon’s dark oblivion and the others captured. The baby dragon manages to recover and start making his way back to Nightmare Rarity’s palace as the girls are locked up, and sneaks in by making use of some of the moon’s remaining uncorrupted residents: Camouflage Slugs. Once inside, he discovers a room that’s brightly lit and decked with jewels, and the seemingly-normal Rarity, now a queen, is there and asks Spike to become her king: “forget the past” and “serve only me”. Yet Spike manages to snap out of his daze and realize something is up, and when he asks Rarity about the Fire Ruby and she regards it with indifference, he realizes this is an illusion. This prompts Nightmare Rarity to reveal herself and capture him as well, and immediately start stomping on his feelings.

While Luna returns to Ponyville and mourns her failure to protect the others, Spike is loaded into Nightmare Rarity’s chariot. The Nightmares state that Rarity’s persona isn’t gone because Spike’s love is keeping it in existence, but they believe once he sees Nightmare Rarity destroy Ponyville he’ll abandon his love for her and she’ll be Nightmare Rarity forever; right before shattering the Fire Ruby in front of him. Luckily, the Camouflage Slugs arrive and act as a decoy to let Spike escape back to the girls, who are sinking into despair while imprisoned. However, Twilight Sparkle remembers the strength of their friendship and reminds them as well, causing them to literally become light sources on the darkness of the moon. Spike returns and discovers Pinkie lifted a key from one of the less-fearsome Nightmare-possessed creatures named Jerome. As he frees the girls, Jerome comes in to stop them, but then the girls start exposing him to their own light and start dispelling his own fears… Meanwhile, Nightmare Rarity leads her army of possessed creatures to Ponyville and starts the assault, while Princess Luna is determined to face Nightmare Rarity herself to prove to herself she can beat her. But when her own fears and doubts cripple her, she’s struck down with ease. Luna nearly sinks into despair and Nightmare Rarity looks poised to triumph, until she realizes the entire town of Ponyville is standing behind her and calls her “one of them” in spite of her past. Feeling stronger, Luna finally admits the reason the creatures of the moon were possessed by the Nightmares was because she abandoned them for fear they would corrupt her into Nightmare Moon a second time. When the town forgives her and stands behind her regardless, Luna regains her full power. As the girls and Spike return to Ponyville with Jerome, their own power of friendship purifying him and returning him to his former state without the aid of the Elements of Harmony, Luna unleashes her own power to purify the rest of the creatures of the moon with one blast, leaving only Nightmare Rarity. The girls unite with Luna and the “light of friendship” to get Rarity’s persona to voice her fear: that she always feared she’d be abandoned as “unnecessary” by the girls and forgotten. When that happens, the girls unite their own memories of Rarity and her generosity to assault Nightmare Rarity, and Spike throws in his own: rebuilding the Fire Ruby and giving enough power to destroy the Nightmare possessing Rarity and return her to her former self. The newly confident Princess Luna bids farewell to Ponyville, promising to return soon after returning the rest of the creatures of the moon back to it, and Luna herself gives the “letter to Celestia”: that the light of love can defeat any “nightmare” born out of inner fear.

Review:

The “Nightmare Rarity” story arc is considered easily the best out of the IDW comic series so far and one of the best of the entire series, including the show, as a whole. And you know what? I agree.

I suppose there’s plenty of room for complaints. This is, when you boil it down to its most basal level, the first arc rehashed. Whereas the first arc revived an old villain, so does the second, only using Nightmare Moon this time instead of Chrysalis. Some people questioned why it would be Rarity out of all the Mane Six characters who would be so susceptible to doubting herself, especially since the show makes it clear Twilight Sparkle is the one.

And the people that don’t like this arc have a rather good reason: it waters down Luna’s character. Part of the appeal of Princess Luna was that she was once evil. Even if she “lost her way” or “gave into darkness”, the fact remains it was her own jealousy that did it. Her own conscious choice to become evil. And…that happens. Everyone has a point in their life where they see a good choice and a bad one and they pick the bad one. Maybe it’s easier. Maybe it leads to more satisfaction. Maybe it gives a sense of dark, even sinful, pleasure. But it doesn’t mean they won’t regret it one day. It doesn’t mean, given the same choice again, at a different time in their lives they won’t adamantly say “no”. It doesn’t mean people won’t change. And that’s part of the great thing about Princess Luna. She was a vile villain. She was someone who had no love at all and only hate and power lust. Yet she got past all that, and found herself having to deal with the specter of who she once was. And, in time, she was able to not only grow past it but finally find the love and admiration she always longed for. So, in the sense that this arc basically says, “It wasn’t her; the Nightmares made her do it.”, it’s weak. The authors draw a lot of attention to the fact that Luna isn’t regretting so much being corrupted as the fact that her own fears of being unknown and her jealousy of her sister was what made her “so easy to corrupt in the first place”. It’s clear she’s not haunted by being manipulated but haunted by her own sins. Even so…the implication is that she was “forced” to become Nightmare Moon, and she wouldn’t have if not for the Nightmares. So…I can understand the complaint there.

But…everything else…

“The Return of Queen Chrysalis” had lots of action, background jokes, and goofiness as well as violence and drama. This one had heart. It’s much more in the vein of the show. You can see the emotion. You can see the love the girls have for each other. You can see the fear they have for each other’s safety. And, once again, all of them are spot-on. Princess Celestia actually does something in this one. That’s a rarity for the show.

People have wondered for a while now if the show really does endorse “Spikity”. Well…the show may not, but there’s little doubt the comic does after this. This is honestly the best Spike/Rarity moments in the series. It’s almost heartbreaking at the end of the third part where Nightmare Rarity cruelly stomps on Spike’s emotions. And it works. It actually fits and it’s very believable compared to the show’s canon. It probably wouldn’t pass on the show because that’s more Y7 material, but it’s great.

Princess Luna… Well, as always, she’s best pony…but this takes what was just hinted at in “Luna Eclipsed” and brings it to the forefront. Again, she shows she’s the most dynamic character as she’s still tormented by the “specter” of Nightmare Moon. There’s even this wonderful cover art done that shows that shadow still hanging over her. It shows that even after “Luna Eclipsed”, even if the rest of Ponyville and Equestria has forgiven her…in the end, she still has to forgive herself for her own sins. I love that part where she’s dressed in that golden armor, rises, goes into full power, and proclaims she’ll never let anyone down again. The moon rises indeed.

And, of course, the lady of the hour…Nightmare Rarity.

I’m not sure if it’s fair to call her an original character or just simply to call her “Nightmare Moon Wonderfully Done”. Either way, she’s fantastic. Unlike the treatment of Chrysalis which made her a savage, Nightmare Rarity is cunning, cruel, sadistic, confident, and just drips with darkness. Beautiful darkness. It’s amazing how she manages to make “being bad look so good”. Because the comic authors are able to go solidly into Y7 territory, they were able to make a villain who wasn’t just Generic Doomsday or For the Evilz, but actually someone who is capable of hurting characters emotionally, which is what a truly vile and evil villain does. It’s wonderfully, wonderfully wicked.

The artwork…oh my gosh, the artwork… I absolutely adore Luna’s armor. It’s perfect. That’s all there is to say…absolutely perfect. On one hand it’s a “captain of the Canterlot Royal Guard”. On the other, it’s like a “light version” of her own Nightmare Moon armor. But Nightmare Rarity…she’s practically something out of an original creation. She has three different looks: “Basic”, “Queen”, and “Full Armored”…and each one of them is great. All of them look just like Nightmare Moon and Rarity as you would expect them to, from the diamond watermarks in her serpentine eyes to the “enhanced” Cutie Mark that incorporates stars, to the gold and jewel “touch-ups” to her original armor. Beautiful, beautiful, and beautiful. I can’t say how much it’s wonderfully done.

Similar to the Season Four closer, if it wasn’t for that big legitimate complaint…this would get 5 Stars out of 5. As it is, it’s going to have to content itself with sharing the spotlight with the best episodes of the series. It took everything that was wrong with the first arc, fixed it, and added even more. If you call yourself any kind of Brony or Pegasister…you’ve got to get this arc and read it.

Fun Facts:

Chronologically, this takes place sometime after Season Three’s “Magic Duel” and before the end of Season Three.

In Rarity’s nightmare, she imagines she’s replaced by a pony named “Maybelle”, who is the pony-fied version of Mabel from “Gravity Falls”.

As most show fans realize, Luna’s appearance changed between Season One and her subsequent appearances. While her first form seemed younger and more like a “standard pony”, her later appearances made her darker in color with a flowing, starry mane and gave her, in general, a much more god-like appearance. While this was likely simply due to a change in style, fans have made up theories in regards to it. Considering that Luna seemed to oscillate between forms in this arc, it seems the authors went for the Season One appearance to be when Luna is doubtful or stripped of power, and the other form to be her more standard appearance. Through most of this arc she appears as she did at the end of Season One. When she realizes she has the support of everyone in Ponyville behind her, she changes into her Post-Season One appearance.

The ruby in this arc is the same Fire Ruby from Season Two’s “The Secret of My Excess”, which was probably the biggest “show canon” display of the Spikity shipping ever.

When Pinkie Pie beats her respective nightmare, she yells: “You have no power over me!” This is likely an allusion to “Labyrinth”.

After being captured, Rainbow Dash says if Daring Do was there she’d make an explosive out of duct tape and Applejack’s hair to escape. This may be an allusion to “MacGuyver”.

One of the jokes the comic artists frequently employ is taking serious one of the biggest items of the fandom. The stallion with an hourglass for a Cutie Mark has been named “Doctor Whooves” by the fans and frequently is thought of as the pony-fied version of the Doctor from “Doctor Who”. Not only do the artists go with that frequently in the background jokes in the comics, they’ve gone one further and made a pony-fied version of the infamous Third Doctor played by Tom Baker, wearing a fedora, big, curly hair, and the signature scarf. On that note, the original Doctor Whooves has a Sonic Screwdriver that breaks down as soon as the fight begins.

Among the many ponies who form an army to combat the nightmares are Zecora, Granny Smith, Big Macintosh, Derpy, Mr. and Mrs. Cake and the twins, the Canterlot Royal Guard (sans Shining Armor), Spitfire of the Wonderbolts, Mayor Mare, Donut Joe, Fancy Pants, Photo Finish, and the Great and Powerful Trixie.

Ms. Cheerilee apparently rallies the school kids and pets to form their own division, and Babs Seed is among them.

Among the few residents of Ponyville who end up getting possessed by the Nightmares themselves during the fight, Diamond Tiara is one of them. She gets freed when Tank the Tortoise crashes into her head (an allusion to “Just for Sidekicks”).

Princess Luna’s golden helmet resembles Magneto’s helmet from Marvel’s “X-Men”.

The only difference between “Miss Buffy”‘s former appearance and her one after Luna zaps her is she has a bow. 😛

During the “remembering” scene, the only scene that actually happened in the series was the one Spike remembers…but I think the one with Twilight Sparkle was rather cute. 😀

Rating:

4.5 Stars out of 5

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