Spike gets a (somewhat welcome) rude awakening from a dream remembering himself getting bullied by teenage dragons in “Dragon Quest” by Princess Luna, who wants his help in finding out what’s causing a series of fires in Fillydelphia. As the town has a resident population of dragons, the blame is being placed on one of them and Luna wants Spike to help find the culprit. Spike heads alone into the “Dragon Town” district of Fillydelphia, but the dragons present are aloof and treat him with the cold shoulder. Eventually he finds a comic shop and steps inside, where he meets another young dragon who’s a comic nerd named Mina. The two end up sharing their love of comics, but when Spike mentions that he’s looking for the dragon who burned down the buildings, Mina turns harsher; not liking how dragons are apparently blamed for all problems automatically in town, dismissing Spike’s story about his past bad experiences with dragons by saying that they didn’t represent the species as a whole, and suggesting there’s a different cause. Spike returns to Luna, but on hearing that all he came up with was the theory that it wasn’t a dragon at all, Luna gets angry that Spike didn’t find any hard evidence to back it up, making both of them look like fools, and says she’s disappointed in him. Spike is despondent for a bit until he runs into dragons who are having a curfew imposed on them by the local police, Mina among them, and gets encouraged to continue the investigation. Eventually, he finally tracks down the real culprit: a colony of Fire Snails living in the sewers who surface periodically, but not before one sets off an explosion that lights multiple buildings on fire. Spike gets the police to let the dragons go to help rescue ponies, and Luna herself returns to lend a hand as well. At the end, Luna apologizes for doubting Spike, and to make it up to him he goes to meet Mina face-to-face, who has a “fandom” for her. Unfortunately, Mina passes out on seeing her idol in front of her.
I like this arc better the second time through than the first. Better, that is…I still don’t like it too much for the biggest glaring error/liberty the IDW comic writers have made yet.
I’m sorry, but, based on how the show is framed, the idea of “Dragon Town” is implausible. In the series, it’s been established that dragons are essentially the same as ones you’d find in Tolkien’s works or D&D. They accumulate hoards, live solitary, are greedy, cruel, and prideful, and grow to monstrous size. Suddenly turning them into “lizard folk” who more or less live the same way ponies do is too much of a stretch from that. The dragons Spike ran into in “Dragon Quest” were supposed to be juvenile, which is why they were so small, but they were also supposed to represent the dragon mindset. Granted, the mere existence of Spike shows that there is a “nurture over nature” effect on dragons, and while it’s accepted that dragons are brutes, it was also declared in that same episode that pony species know nearly nothing about dragons. Nevertheless, the general impression they’ve given dragons in the series as a whole is big engines of destruction and wrath. Even if they could be nice, what you have in this episode is lots and lots of juveniles living as adults. I almost wonder if the authors for this comic missed the episodes “Dragonshy”, “Owl’s Well That Ends Well”, or even all of “Dragon Quest” in which adult dragons were featured. This is too glaring to ignore and I penalize the arc heavily for it.
Now, that said…
On the second view this story was above average. The references and allusions were numerous but also subtle rather than smacking you over the head. While the IDW comic writers still seem to have the “Luna Eclipsed” Luna on the brain, she’s acting more like her post-Season Two self through most of this issue, which was an upgrade that needed to happen.
This story also touched on a rather sensitive issue in the USA right now: inner-city racial tension. A lot of the comments dragons made were references to how African-Americans, Hispanics, or other minority groups in an urban area that is more concentrated to different demographics often are profiled or instinctively blamed whenever a crime breaks out in which nothing is known of the suspect. I myself live not far from Ferguson, MO, and while the curfews that were imposed were for the city as a whole and not on any particular race of the city, and they were designed not to simply “keep people indoors” but to prevent the rioting that was breaking out in some sects of protesters, the fact that Ferguson has a high proportion of African-Americans led many to believe the action was racially motivated. And this comic came out at the same time a lot of racial tensions regards police, in particular when an African-American suspect is killed by a Caucasian police officer, were exploding around the country and tensions remain high to this day, although they have cooled somewhat. In that sense, this comic actually went above and beyond the normal limits of the show and I sort of hope they do something similar as an “after-school special” episode.
Since that part was so well done, I have to mark this comic up a bit for it, even if that sort of ruins the whole idea of “Friends Forever” to begin with and makes this more of a Spike-centered comic rather than one focusing on the friendship between Princess Luna and Spike.
Unlike the previous issue, this one is set after the Season Four finale.
Twilight has a recurring dream of alphabetizing the Canterlot Library. What’s interesting is that Luna says that she’s seen her do that since she was a filly…but the first time Luna ever met Twilight was back in the series premiere when she was Nightmare Moon. This actually is keeping with the “Fiendship is Magic” arc because it revealed Nightmare Moon was able to go into the dreams of Equestrians as well, although then her sole interest was in tormenting them.
The first appearance of Fillydelphia in the franchise as a whole, although it was introduced in Season Two of the show. “Dragon Town”, however, is likely a takeoff of “Chinatown”. Although there are a number of “Chinatowns” in the USA, and worldwide for that matter, and the name can refer to any district in which people of predominantly Chinese background have settled, Philadelphia isn’t particularly renown for its own.
“Officer by the Book” is a bit unique in that he has a four-word name, but he appears to be a pony version of Commissioner Gordon from the Batman franchise.
Officer Hard Case says Spike helped save Equestria no less than eleven times. I’m…not going to bother trying to find out which of those eleven he’s referring to as he might be including the IDW book…but in terms of the show he’s really only done it twice, in “The Return of Harmony” and “The Crystal Empire”. The other times he was more of a bystander.
I’ll address the “dragons” in the review proper…
The comic shop reveals the Power Pony Zapp actually has a blue mane. Naturally, the comics on the shelf are parodies of infamous Marvel and DC comics, including Amazing Spider-Man #50, Invincible Iron Man #1, Amazing Fantasy #15, and Action Comics #1. Interestingly enough, there is no “Batpony”. Instead, the knockoff is “Dragonpony”. The argument by the dragons over the nature of dragon characters in comics is likely a nod to the numerous arguments about how Marvel and DC alike both lack “diversity” in their heroes.
I’m not as “up” on comics as I should be, so I’m not sure if “Flashfire” is a knockoff of any comic in particular. On the cover, she resembles the Marvel TV-Character-Turned-Comic-Character Firestar.
Typo in one panel: “Luna is best the princess!” Also, the fact that comic book nerds like Princess Luna as “the best” is a meta-joke at the fandom itself. Most of the questions she asks about Luna are ones bronies have asked as well, including the “symbiote” one. Although that’s more of an allusion to the Amazing Spider-Man, it kind of pokes fun at IDW’s own series, plus it’s a takeoff of an old fan-theory when people noticed Luna’s kinder personality returned once the armor she wore as Nightmare Moon was shattered off of her.
Another meta-joke occurs when Luna and Officer by the Book get in an argument about the merits of banishing villains for a thousand years. 😛
The Fire Snail sort of resembles a Pokemon…or it WOULD if there wasn’t a fire snail Pokemon, Magcargo, who looks absolutely nothing like it.
Luna just uses the “Royal Canterlot Voice” to wake everypony up; not go into their dreams and awaken them…although she could possibly do that too. 😛
3 Stars out of 5