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Synopsis:

The Mane Six are summoned to the Canterlot Royal Palace but, surprisingly enough, by Luna instead of Celestia. Celestia went into a magic mirror similar to the Crystal Mirror and hasn’t come back for a week. Knowing only that Starswirl the Bearded created the mirror back in the days when he was Celestia’s advisor and the greatest unicorn in the world, Luna sends the girls into the “back wing” of the palace built right into the mountain Canterlot is on to find his old work station and see what they can dig up. Twilight, seeming to be the same “mentality” as Starswirl, finds her way along, but at the same time notes pictures of the younger Celestia and statues of Starswirl the Bearded, and remarks about being at a crossroads in her own life: having always thought she’d eventually become someone like Starswirl, but now wondering if she’s fated to become more like Princess Celestia. Eventually she and the girls find his notes and discover that the mirror is an advanced magical item that, with the right spell and/or heavenly-body-alignment, opens portals into other universes and worlds. She further finds both he and Celestia advanced their knowledge dramatically by visiting a multitude of different worlds together around the time Luna began to grow corrupt. However, behind his back, Celestia kept visiting one world in particular, and this apparently angered him and caused him to seal off that world from Celestia permanently. After that, the notes mysteriously halt with Starswirl saying he couldn’t keep journeying “by himself” anymore. The girls return and begin to give this news to Luna, only to get a dual shock: a battered and beaten Celestia emerging from the mirror and, behind it, the shadow of King Sombra.

Celestia, after being patched up, explains that the world she went to is a mirror opposite of theirs: King Sombra is the good and benevolent ruler of Equestria, while the world’s greatest villains are Celestia and Luna. She mentions that something has happened to make the worlds grow unstable and the natural separation between the two to be reduced. She says her being there, or Luna being there, would make things worse as it’s causing the world to grow more “together”. But since the Mane Six in their world have the Elements of Harmony and their counterparts do not, she thinks the Mane Six can more safely cross over and use them to “tip the scales” and help Sombra defeat her evil counterpart. The girls cross over while Luna gives Celestia a rather rough interrogation, and while it is not revealed immediately what was said, it makes Luna angry, but in the end she seems to forgive Celestia for doing “something” rash, reckless, and dangerous to all of Equestria when she was younger. In the Mirror Equestria, the girls see everyone appears to have been swapped, but the world as a whole is a dismal and ruined place. After accidentally being arrested, they’re freed by King Sombra who is far friendlier, kinder, and even more handsome than their own version. Apparently he knows Celestia very well, but while talking with the girls the evil Celestia and Luna show up. A fight breaks out and goes even for a bit, but as it looks like the girls could get the upper hand, Spike suddenly gets a message from their own version of Celestia and Luna telling them that their worlds are drawing so close together that what happens to one version of them impacts both versions, and both she and Luna are getting “beat up” in their world. The girls are forced to stop and the evil Celestia and Luna fly off, but soon make another shocking discovery: this world’s version of Sombra and their own version of Celestia are lovers.

Back in the real Equestria, Celestia explains to Luna when she first entered the Mirror Universe, she loved it due to there being a “good” Luna there (as the Luna in Equestria turned evil, the Luna in Mirror Equestria turned good), but more so due to instantly falling for King Sombra. She revisted with Starswirl frequently and finally began to go on her own. But eventually Starswirl found out that frequent visits to the same world began to make the barrier between them erode and start to slowly merge to become one universe. He made Celestia promise not to go back, but unable to keep that vow she continued to cross over behind his back and made a promise to Sombra to love him forever. When Starswirl found out, he sealed the mirror. But unable to stand being apart, Celestia soon devoted herself into breaking the spell and using it herself, and eventually succeeded. Her further visits, however, have caused greater instability, and now that Luna in that world has turned evil again the Mirror Equestria is in mortal danger. Meanwhile, in Mirror Equestria, Sombra reveals evil Celestia offered to let the Equestrian Princess Celestia come into this world and live in peace with him forever, if he gave up the spell to allow the two evil princesses to cross into Equestria and rule it unopposed. He refused, knowing that Celestia’s heart would break to see her own world ruined, and because he suspects they plan to rule both worlds anyway. Twilight suggests they imprison both evil Celestia and evil Luna in a magic crystal, keeping them alive and safe so that their own version of Celestia and Luna will be unharmed. Twilight also confesses her misgivings about whether to be a “normal” pony or a princess, and Sombra ends up telling her that it’s possible to be both, and that no matter what she does in life to be a “good pony”. Unfortunately, evil Luna (using her ability to turn into mist) overhears all of their plans and reports it back to evil Celestia…

As the Mane Six, Sombra, and Spike go out to enact their plan, something is noticed in both worlds: they’re growing unstable to the point of nearly merging. Celestia begins to fear the Elements of Harmony actually made the instability worse. When the girls arrive at the Castle of the Two Sisters, evil Celestia enacts her own plan: she plots to bring the “good” Celestia back to the world and hold her hostage to force Sombra to give up the spell to go into Equestria herself. To do this…she seriously wounds her own sister, knowing that the counterpart in Equestria will be badly hurt as well. It does even worse than she plans, for the Equestrian Luna ends up spasming back and breaking the mirror on being hurt, ruining any portal between the worlds, and it also destroys the last of the barrier and causes the worlds to merge. Infuriated, Celestia moves to kill her own evil counterpart even if it means killing her as well, but Sombra captures them both and the girls use the Elements of Harmony to start making the crystal prison. But to their horror, it begins to imprison both of them and not just the evil version. Celestia orders them to do so anyway, having learned being a good ruler means making decisions that are hard and even hurtful to yourself sometimes. However, Sombra, unwilling to let the alicorn he loves be subjected to this, gets the idea to both save Celestia and restore the balance to the worlds by using his own power to draw the evil out of his version of Celestia and Luna, and take it into himself…turning himself into the same as Equestria’s counterpart but also giving the means to make both worlds “balance out perfectly” as identical to each other. Celestia embraces Sombra one last time before he turns evil and then departs, and evil Celestia and evil Luna become as good as their Equestrian counterparts. The worlds are rapidly restored and Mirror Universe Luna tries to shout “thank you” to Celestia before she and the girls rapidly return to their own world while they still can, but the portals close before she gets it out. Back home, Celestia asks Twilight if she thinks less of her for everything she did, but Twilight assures her that she thinks more of her now, realizing she’s not a “perfect goddess” but makes mistakes like her. Celestia gives Twilight the keys to Starswirl’s private library and keeps one piece of the broken mirror as a reminder, saying she’ll be alright “in time” as she cries while looking at it. Back in the Mirror Universe, the now-evil Sombra bids goodbye both to Celestia and his dream of being with her.

Review:

While I may have had mild complaints or annoyances in previous comic arcs, in my opinion…this is the first “dud” arc. And even if everything else was fine, there would be one thing that stands out in this arc that ruins it. This is the first arc where I feel the authors not only began to drift into OOC territory, but also violated the spirit of the canon show. As such, this arc is neither well-made fanfiction nor good fanfiction, but just plain fanfiction.

And, frankly…it’s kind of bad.

I’ll give it a bit of credit for once again using the comic to flesh out characters. One of my big complaints in the series was that Celestia is always this perfect ideal who does little more than just order Twilight to fix her old mistakes. This one was good in really making her the “main character” of the series and making her in a way that highlighted her personality and her own “mortality” and “shortcomings”. Granted, some of it seemed rather OOC, but that’s a bit understandable. We’ve seen very little of Celestia acting normally on the show, and the few times we have she’s been a bit of a troll. We don’t really get to see her as a well-rounded character. I think they went a tad overboard…and especially with Luna. She seems to be the “troll” in this one as well as a bit stuck-up, neither of which I like. I also like how they tried to make Sombra more of a character, even if he wasn’t the “real” Sombra…but he ended up looking a lot like an alternate universe version of Shining Armor to me.

The fact that Celestia and Sombra were actually lovers…hmm. I guess I should say I’m kind of indifferent to it. It’s a bit different in and of itself, to be sure. The actual pairing isn’t the shocking part. I’m into fanfiction…and if you look at enough fanfiction you’ve already seen every shipping imaginable. The real shock value is seeing that Celestia was once “mortal enough” to actually be enamored with someone. And for the most part, I think that’s done well. It’s certainly done better than the clunky romance they’ve tried on the show. You actually feel for Celestia in a lot of the flashbacks, and get a sense of how horrible it was that she couldn’t even tell him goodbye.

On the other hand, while he hasn’t been portrayed on the show yet, from the few bits we’ve seen of him (talking with Scorpan and sealing away the Dazzlings) as well as the journal entries in “Journal of the Two Sisters”, I don’t think Starswirl the Bearded was quite so goofy. And he definitely didn’t have a mustache.

But the rest of the plot is a mess. Once again showing a very poor understanding of the show’s continuity and history. Granted, it was fragmented quite a bit, but some of the timing of events is rather muddled and confusing, although I suppose only uber-geeks like me can pick up on it.

The biggest disappointment for me in this arc can be summed up in two words: wasted potential. The idea of a “Mirror Universe” with the good/evil alignment switched up has been done many times before, but with a show like MLP:FIM, there’s all sorts of possibility there. Heck, they alluded to all the possibilities with the cover art as well as the many brief nods they had in panels. There was literally so much they could do with this…and they did “Evil Celestia/Good Sombra”…and that’s all. That was an incredible letdown to me. The fact that there was such possibility that was left by the wayside. That stained glass gallery alone made me want to see all of the mirror versions of the villains, and it was never used. Seriously, with changing a few things around, you could possibly eliminate the whole “Mirror Universe” thing all together. They could have made Sombra anyone. They could have possibly made evil Celestia and evil Luna anyone. The whole thing is set up to be a story about alternate choices, and yet in the end the plot has nothing to do with it. It’s a more “challenging” take-home message and moral, to be sure: being responsible sometimes means forsaking your own happiness for the sake of doing the right thing, that we all have to make choices sometimes between “what is right and what is easy”, and true friendship…true love…means putting someone else completely ahead of yourself. But it has little to do with a Mirror Universe. You get the sense that was almost there just to make the plot more “fun”.

And last but not least, this arc did what no other arc in the comics or in the main series has done before: it ended badly. And that’s what makes it a stinker to me, to actually have an arc with a “bad end”.

“But Essayist!” You say. “You’re the one who’s always complaining about whenever the show has a have-it-all ending that’s perfectly happy! And now you’re complaining and saying it’s bad that they have an arc with a sad ending?”

First of all, I never complained about the show lacking a plotline that ended sadly. I complained about endings being too perfect. Just because not everything goes perfectly in an ending doesn’t mean the ending isn’t a happy one. It doesn’t mean that a thinking person can’t see the ending was really the best one. Picking on Season Three’s “Wonderbolt Academy”, it would have been a good ending if Rainbow Dash had abandoned her dreams for being a Wonderbolt, because she would have won the battle for her own integrity and self-respect; neither of which can be simply granted or bestowed by “easy” means. She would have lost out on being a Wonderbolt, yes, but she would have realized that she already had something worth a lot more and she would have embraced that. She would have realized that she’s already all the “superstar” she needs to be.

This wasn’t that. It was just plain a bad ending. Like I said, they managed to sell the Celestia/Sombra pairing rather well. Too well. Enough to make the ending too sad. The fact is it would have been “acceptably sad” if Celestia and Sombra realized they could never see each other again and managed to (grudgingly) accept it and give their last goodbye. But the fact that the whole plot was purposely set-up to give a bad ending… The fact that Sombra suddenly comes up with this idea that, when you think about it, doesn’t make much sense as to how it could work unless you accept it as something to give the story a bad ending… The fact that suddenly evil is some sort of conserved quality that somehow “resides” in individuals and that by waving a magic horn you can make someone good or evil by putting “magic evil” out or into them… And that just plain bad bitter note at the end with the evil Sombra, the evil Celestia spontaneously nice, and everything else that just seems so “pat”…and with Celestia not so much “learning-her-lesson” as now simply being forced to have a bitter conclusion… This ending goes beyond “sad” to me to “forced to be extra sad”, which just plain makes me frown.

I might have gone ahead and accepted it as a bitter pill…but no, I don’t because this is not the spirit of the show. “Oh, real life has lots of bitter disappointments, Essayist. You can’t expect everything to always turn up good.” True, but this isn’t real life. This is a show that was generated toward the Y-rated demographic. The fact that the authors were trying to be more realistic or have a sad plotline for once is irrelevant. Do you watch “The Walking Dead” expecting to see the characters start doing Looney Tunes gags? Or do you watch “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” expecting them to go into “Attack on Titan” levels of gore, violence, and action? Do you watch “Game of Thrones” expecting them to do a musical episode where everyone sings and dances? No, no, and no, because that’s not what those shows are and if they did something like that it would be awkward and out of the show’s spirit. That’s exactly what happened here. There are extremely sad and bitter endings in life, but trying to take a genre and show that never deals with extremely sad and bitter endings, kind of like you would find in an anime almost, means you’ve strayed from the show’s nature and now you’ve ended up with pure fanfiction. Not really good fanfiction in my opinion either, because even if the characters stay true you’re creating an implausible situation for them. Not a terribly big one, no, but one none the less. And the fact that the writers seemed to plot-device this ending into being extra bad makes it even worse.

So no…I don’t like this arc. Some may, but I feel, for all the points it gets for Celestia being more of a character, it wastes a lot of opportunity and, furthermore, takes the entire series and turns it into something else it was never meant to be.

In my opinion, the worst arc in the series so far.

Fun Facts:

The most infamous part of this arc is the dual-version cover that shows both Equestria and the Mirror Equestria. While the Mane Six aren’t terribly different, Derpy is an intellectual with normal eyes, Chrysalis is a kind-hearted creature, Cadance is a goth (with a broken Crystal Heart for a Cutie Mark), Shining Armor is meek and abused, and Doctor Whooves is the Fourth Doctor Whooves.

This arc is set sometime after “Equestria Girls” but prior to Season Four.

One gaff made early on is that Fluttershy says the “other” magic mirror (the one that leads to the “Equestria Girls” universe) only works once each moon cycle, but that’s incorrect. That implies a month. The mirror opens once every three years.

This arc may have been the first to present the idea in the show as a whole that Starswirl the Bearded was a contemporary of Celestia and Luna. That was almost a gaff in and of itself based on the history presented until that point. However, background of Equestria presented in “Journal of the Two Sisters”, a media-related book penned by a show writer, indicates this is correct. At any rate, this is the first storyline in the whole series to actually feature Starswirl as a character, although only in flashbacks.

The sign in the “Restricted Wing” of the castle has one entry pointing to “Jeffries Tubes”, an allusion to the original “Star Trek” series.

Among the items in Starswirl’s collection, there appears to be the Golden Gun from “The Man with the Golden Gun”, a James Bond film, a giant penny (an allusion to “Batman”‘s Batcave), and…a flag from Japan during World War II(?).

One of the things I don’t get in this series is why everyone keeps remarking how young Celestia looks in pictures and flashbacks. The ways she’s drawn, I think she looks identical.

In one panel, one of the signs says “Brain Depository – Closed at 5 PM”, an allusion to Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein”.

Luna and Spike first play Scrabble, and then Mouse Trap, and finally Monopoly. (Spike is apparently good at it, being a dragon.)

The secret passage to the castle in Starswirl’s lab is similar to the Bat-poles in the old Adam West “Batman” series.

At one point, Pinkie Pie seems to cheer whatever the writers were thinking/hoping when they made this arc… “A fight to save two worlds that will come down to the defeat of an alternate evil version of a beloved character? Who wouldn’t be all about this?” Kind of a big ego, eh? 😛

Discord is an Equestria-defending superhero in the Mirror Universe. He calls himself “Captain Goodguy”. Ironically, this is the first appearance Discord has made in the comic series.

In the Mirror World, the girls are literally known as “The Mane Six”. They’re also known as the Malcontent Mavericks and the Erroneous Equines. However, in spite of these names and some cover art, the alternate versions of the Mane Six never show up.

The jail cell graffiti reads “Brooks Was Here” and “So Was Red”, an allusion to “The Shawshank Redemption”. It also reads: “It wasn’t me! It was the one-armed pony!”, an allusion to “The Fugitive”. One reads “Attica!”, a reference to the infamous Attica Prison Riot in the 1970s. Another reads “Let my ponies go!”, a reference to Moses in the Bible. Finally, “Starswirl Was Here” indicates Starswirl left his own note behind. 😛 When the girls escape their cell, there’s a wanted poster in the back calling a character “The Baron”. Closer inspection reveals that’s the evil version of Big Macintosh. He even has a beard, reminiscent of the mirror universe in “Star Trek”.

One of the biggest highlights (and missed opportunities) of the Mirror Universe is the hall leading up to the Canterlot Throne Room. The girls, naturally, aren’t there, but instead former villains are the heroes of that world. Chrysalis is a slightly less-vile-looking innocent creature who embodies “Love”. Derpy is an intellectual who embodies “Wisdom”. The Flim-Flam Brothers are judges who embody “Fairness”. Finally, the Great and Powerful Trixie (who became an alicorn in this world instead of Twilight) embodies “Humility”.

For some reason, Evil Celestia’s clothes keep changing in every scene… But her “innate” getup appears to be a knockoff of Maleficent from Disney.

Evil Celestia and Evil Luna rule Ponyville, and seem to have turned it into a black-and-white “Frankenstein” movie. (Although with how they’re dressed, “Dracula” might be more appropriate.)

Evil Philomena looks like a vulture.

Evil Luna’s assistant appears to be a pony vampire.

Among the various posters on the walls in one panel, there’s a sign that says “If you’re reading this, you may be overthinking this comic book.” …Right. Moving on…

When Sombra begins his story saying it started a long time ago, probably before the girls were even alive, Pinkie Pie asks if that includes even Fluttershy, earning her a dirty look from Fluttershy…but also adding to the generally-accepted headcanon that Fluttershy is the oldest member of the Mane Six by a good margin.

One of the big gaffs this story makes is that King Sombra has been alive for over a thousand years in spite of being a unicorn. True, his “other self” was too, but he was shadow…or something…

When evil Luna is, um, “good”…she dresses in a style similar to Greek attire.

In another gaff, Starswirl mentions after their first visit to the Mirror Universe in the flashback that he fears there’s an evil version of King Sombra in their own world, indicating he hadn’t yet taken over the Crystal Empire and been defeated by Celestia and Luna. However…Celestia met the alternate King Sombra supposedly after Luna had begun to turn into Nightmare Moon. I suppose she still could have helped Celestia defeat their version, but…I’m thinking this was just another mistake.

The “Wishing Garden” is similar to Japanese tradition at certain shrines.

In one flashback, Starswirl goes off to take care of a parasprite problem in Fillydelphia…which is exactly what Celestia ended up doing in Season One’s “Swarm of the Century”. Apparently she forgot what parasprites were. Another gaff.

Celestia and Luna do a flank bump. 😀

Pinkie Pie demonstrates a “Comic Awareness” (similar to Deadpool) of her own when evil Celestia blasts evil Luna and she shouts that she can’t do that because this is a children’s comic.

The “good” version of evil Celestia (confusing…) dresses like an Egyptian Pharaoh. When she and evil Luna turn good, the line below reads: “Let the Sunshine In”, a line from “Aquarius” in the musical “Hair”.

Rating:

1.5 Stars out of 5

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