Princess Cadance is out of town, so Twilight Sparkle finally has a chance to go up to the Crystal Empire and hang out with her “B.B.B.F.F.”. As the two used to play “Monster Trackers” when they were younger, she’s bringing along her old Monster-Pedia book that they used to spend time memorizing. However, on arriving at the palace, she’s dismayed to see Shining Armor is so busy with official business he doesn’t have any time to hang out, and Twilight ends up falling asleep waiting for him. During the night, a figure that seemed to match the Monster-Pedia description of a “crystal ghost” appears and steals Twilight’s Monster-Pedia. She gets up to try and catch it, and runs into Shining Armor, who finally finished his work long enough to drag out the old net they used to use to try and catch monsters and hang out with Twilight. The two decide to play “Monster Trackers” once again and hunt the creature down together, and end up navigating to an old passage that King Sombra put in during his reign. While they have to navigate a number of traps, the two end up having a lot of fun hanging out together, and finally track down the creature; which is not a crystal ghost at all but rather a “crystal bard”. The creature was captured by King Sombra years ago as his voice could calm even the most dark-natured creature, but he eventually escaped into the secret passage and hid. Though Sombra set those traps to catch him, he remained elusive for the past thousand years, fearing that Sombra was still trying to catch him. Shining Armor explains how Sombra is gone and brings him out to help the palace librarian, and he and Twilight say what a good time they had together before she departs back for Ponyville and promises to make time to do it again.
As I’ve said before, it’s nice to have these comics get a bit more into Shining Armor, as he’s effectively a cameo or plot device on the actual show now after having served his purpose in selling wedding merchandise back in Season Two. We already saw quite a bit more of him in the fourth main series arc, but it’s nice to have a bit where he pairs with Twilight Sparkle because, let’s be honest, considering how much Twilight talks about them being so close there’s been very little to back that up, so this was a nice little touch. And the various crystal ponies in the castle seemed to be so randomly inspired by other nerd culture characters that it was amusing as well.
That said…this arc was very ‘blah’.
It seems there’s a good reason that Twilight Sparkle and Shining Armor don’t interact too much together: they’re not terribly interesting. And that’s after IDW has made Shining Armor a more intriguing character than he is on the show. This was a nice little story, it got more into what it was supposed to (namely the friendship between the brother and sister), but it wasn’t quite as “heartwarming” as the CMCs and Discord or tried to be as poignant or revealing as Princess Celestia and Spike. The art and references really sell this one more than anything, with possibly a bit of Sombra’s back story (although the “Fiendship is Magic” arc probably does a lot better than that…). So, once again, it’s entertaining…but nothing too terribly amazing.
“Oubliettes and Ogres”, the MLP version of “Dungeons and Dragons”, makes yet another appearance.
This is yet another issue with tons of allusions in it that I can’t possibly get all of. I’m sure the guys running around in 19th century suits represent something, but I can’t make it out. However, what I did recognize was the Crystal Ponies who come to pick Twilight Sparkle up. Those are pony-fied versions of Pearl Forrester and T.V.’S Frank from “Mystery Science Theater 3000”. Later, at the palace, a pony version of Dr. Clayton Forrester is also present…along with pony versions of the Super Mario Bros.
While going down into the cave, Twilight Sparkle asks Shining Armor if she had told him about the “Cave Troll”, a reference to the first arc of the main series.
The first series to show King Sombre’s “minions” while he was in power.
2.5 Stars out of 5