Twilight Sparkle has arranged a special event for the Filly Future Leaders of Equestria, which includes the Cutie Mark Crusaders: a sleepover at the Canterlot Royal Palace hosted by Princess Celestia, to act as a mentor role for young pony inspiration. While the CMCs expect a chance for palace adventures, Princess Celestia herself finds herself forced to excuse herself from the event when she needs to ensure a sudden Yak/Griffon war doesn’t drag Equestria into either side of the conflict. Instead, she suggests Princess Luna head it up; something she at first refuses on the grounds of being a bad example as a mentor figure due to her past, but ends up accepting when it turns out the arriving fillies idolize her. On noticing her social awkwardness leading to anxiety, the CMCs give Luna tips on how to properly handle a sleepover, and the night goes over well for the most part save for one filly named Thestra being bullied and mocked for her unusual Cutie Mark/special talent (which is not yet revealed to the audience). When Luna goes to get a book to read for the sleepover, the bullying leads Thestra to run off into the castle, and, on revealing that there are dangerous magical forces around the castle at night, Luna goes off to find her with the CMCs tagging along. While they do find her, she reveals she’s been made fun of for her unusual talent by everyone, leading her to feel as if she’s a misfit and an outcast. Yet soon after, a Mirrorca, a creature born of chaos magic that has a refractive surface that mimics and reflects any spell used on it finds them. Luna is unable to defeat it due to its reflective nature, but Thestra reveals her own special magic: the ability to make all skin and flesh transparent so that nothing is visible of a pony except their skeleton. On doing the same, the Mirrorca removes its reflective coating, allowing Luna to destroy it. The CMCs end up suggesting useful ways in which Thestra can use her special talent, and Luna personally congratulates her and praises her before her parents; making the filly ecstatic. Luna realizes that her own “misfit” background allows her to connect with ponies who feel they themselves are unwanted, and, after the sleepover is over, decides to go back to the “arts and crafts” portion and make a sculpture of Thestra.
One thing I don’t get about the IDW Comic writers is why they seem perpetually stuck in the “Luna Eclipsed” mindset. Every time Princess Luna is featured in an issue, she’s still doing her old mannerisms of the Royal Canterlot Voice, speaking of herself as “your princess”, and otherwise having no idea how to deal with anypony. While Luna is indeed the more socially awkward of the two sisters and, as “A Royal Problem” revealed, actually prefers being alone to having to deal with crowds of ponies, she’s demonstrated on multiple occasions that she can deal with individuals in one-on-one situations…many of which are actually mentioned in this comic.
That said, it’s interesting how this does end up feeling like a “new” Cutie Mark Crusader episode in most respects. It’s a bit surprising as the newer motif of them helping other ponies find their special talents or what to do with their special talents was still a relative novelty when this issue was planned. I’d say the parts with them are pretty well done, as are their reactions and ways of talking with one another.
Of course, the bulk of this feels like Luna is supposed to be the focus and the CMCs are the side characters. And since Luna is the focus, the fact that she’s a tad OOC stands out all the more so. Nevertheless, it’s only a tad OOC. I can still easily picture her being too socially awkward around a whole group of little fillies as opposed to having to deal with one or two at a time. I feel Thestra was an interesting character for a one-shot, and I was a bit stunned they actually had a pony’s skeleton for a Cutie Mark as well as her unusual x-ray ability. I’m not sure if they could quite get away with that on the show, but it ended up being a bizarre, yet appropriate, little twist in this story.
One final note is this is another one that uses Jay Fosgitt’s unusual art style. Again, seeing an alicorn drawn that way is a bizarre experience, and even more so in the segment of the story where Thestra shows off Luna’s skeleton. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; just…a novelty.
Aside from that, it’s a nice little story. Nothing too bad or poignant. I think the lesson could have worked just as well with Luna being fully in-character, though. But since her OOCness wasn’t anything too distracting or ruinous, I’ll overlook it this time.
This was the first IDW Comic in any of their MLP-related series to feature the CMCs with their Cutie Marks, although, based on the lag between episodes being released and comic arcs/stories being planned, they had them for several months before this was released.
“Harriet Pinto”, the pony version of Harry Potter, is shown in one panel. Odd, considering the IDW comic was already infamous for having the pony versions of various Harry Potter characters as the staff for Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns (one of which even made it into the show canon). At any rate, she has a star-shaped scar on her forehead instead of a lightning bolt.
Twilight Sparkle nearly becomes self-aware of her existence as a fictional character in one panel. 😛
Considering the previous “Friends Forever”, it seems as if the IDW writers also picked up on the vibe that the Yaks are violent brutes. Nevertheless, this means that a war between Yaks and Griffons took place “off screen” in the IDW universe.
Scootaloo nearly mentions the events of “Sleepless in Ponyville” to Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle, but cuts herself off.
Thestra’s name is similar to “thestral”, a horse-like magical creature infamous in the Harry Potter lore. She’s notable for having a skull and bones for a Cutie Mark. Ironically, several months later, the episode “The Fault in Our Cutie Marks” would feature Petunia, another filly with a skull and bones for a Cutie Mark.
In one panel, Luna yells: “Zounds!” Nowadays people think of that as an innocent expletive for kid’s material, but it’s origin is an oath on God’s wounds.
Another letter to Celestia at the end, this time from Princess Luna.
2.5 Stars out of 5