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Synopsis:

The Mane Six, Spike, and Starlight Glimmer are all heading out with the residents of Ponyville to enjoy the Cosmic Convergence Conjunction, only to find that they have a “party crasher”: Discord. It’s not long before his chaotic nature and need to be the center of attention earn him a scolding from the girls, who pouts and disappears. Not long after, the Cosmic Convergence Conjuction occurs but, as it does, Starlight notices something nearby. The girls look and see what appears to be a blend of a strange egg and Discord smoldering in the ground. They take it back to the Castle of Friendship only for it to hatch, revealing a creature that looks like Discord but dresses neatly, talks calmly, and acts mannerly. He indicates that he’s a creature that Discord transformed into as a result of the energy of the conjunction, and is not a spirit of chaos but one of order and harmony. Twilight Sparkle names him “Accord” and, on learning that he wants to help bring order and harmony to Equestria, decide to reintroduce him to town. He ends up being extremely mannerly and helpful, earning the admiration of all of the girls except Fluttershy, but Starlight gets uneasy when Accord, rather than fix a hotel under construction that is suffering from a clash of styles from disagreeing architects, momentarily mind controls both of them instead to make them agree on the same design. Twilight and the others rub it off as a mistake, however, and the next day Accord and the girls are invited to Canterlot for a royal luncheon with Celestia and Luna to formally introduce him. While at the luncheon, Starlight vocalizes her disapproval with how Accord acted the other day, but Accord soon surprises everypony by saying he wishes to bring complete harmony to everypony in Equestria via unity, and he plans to achieve unity by making every resident in Equestria think exactly alike and run it under his own direction. He starts by trying to mind-control everypony in the palace and, while Celestia manages to protect the girls, herself, and Luna, everypony else is turned into a like-minded zombie.

Unable to reason with Accord, who believes he is simply doing what Celestia and Luna were trying to do “more efficiently”, Twilight tells Celestia and the rest of the girls to start evacuating Canterlot while she and Luna enter Accord’s mind using her dream magic. While they successfully enter, they soon discovered he’s changed inside and out and all he has is a uniform sameness throughout his mind. Nevertheless, Twilight manages to find a snow globe in one of the monolithic offices inside his head that contains the original Discord. She breaks it open and frees him, but Discord informs her that he is merely the last part of what Accord is now that is still Discord. He confesses that he was truly hurt when the girls scolded him at the Cosmic Convergence Conjunction and felt he would never fit in with them, so he decided to change himself into a harmonious form instead. Unfortunately, he can’t change back unless Accord willingly changes himself back into Discord, and shortly after confessing this the Accords inside his mind trap the three of them… Back outside, Celestia and the girls break for it only to discover Accord is not only rapidly expanding his control to all of the other ponies in Canterlot but he is, in effect, copying his own consciousness onto them in order to make them partially clones of himself from a mental standpoint. They manage to escape the zone of his magic influence and round up whoever isn’t converted yet to the train station, only to get a rather bad surprise: Twilight and Luna, both now mind-controlled as well, suddenly arrive.

The group manages to escape on a train and head toward Ponyville, but while en route Celestia begins to wonder if Accord might actually have a point; seeing as he seems to have brought harmony and balance far easier and more quickly than Celestia has. Starlight protests that he’s gone about it through making ponies conform and be controlled, as she did once, rather than trying to get them to work together as friends. She begins to speculate based on similar incidents (such as with the cursed water, the Mirror Universe, and Inspiration Manifestation) that both Discord and Accord themselves actually had the same goals (making friends) but went about it in different ways. On arriving in Ponyville, Celestia leads the girls to go for the Elements of Harmony with the intent of using them against Accord and Celestia taking Twilight’s spot. Soon after, Accord teleports in and invites them to try, and not only do the Elements not work they actually enhance his power to allow him to instantly mind-control everypony in Equestria except Starlight (who was protecting herself at the point of the attack). However, before Accord can do the same to her, she points out that since she’s the only non-controlled one left and no threat to him that he should be able to convince her to join his philosophy without forcing her. Accord agrees to the challenge, claiming that he’s made everypony in Equestria his friends by making them think alike and that “friendship is order”. Starlight counters that friendship is about understanding and connecting with others because of differences, and that Accord hasn’t really made a single friend or brought any ponies to work together. All he’s made is copies of himself who can only think and act the way he wants them to “and not a single friend”. Realizing he was wrong all along, Accord tells Starlight goodbye and says he hopes this is the last she’ll ever see of him before turning back into Discord. The girls all welcome Discord back and learn to appreciate how differences and “chaos” helps build friendships, and the cast ends with a proclamation that “friendship is magic”.

Review:

First things first. (Holds a gun to the head of the part of my Angry Inner Fanboy who’s mad that Starlight’s second appearance in the main IDW series was another “Starlight Saves Absolutely Every Other Protagonist in the Entire Series by Herself” story to keep him from complaining.) On we go.

A big theme that keeps getting revisited in the “My Little Pony” franchise is the idea of what would happen if characters would be the opposite of their true selves. Ironically, that idea first came around because of Discord way back in Season Two’s “Return of Harmony”. But with Discord reaching the point where he tried to fit in more with the regular cast, and him being such a stand-out character, it caused no end of fan speculation as to what Discord would be like if he was the opposite of his current self.

It was played up mostly for laughs but with a touch of “aw” and drama in “Discordant Harmony” in Season Seven. By comparison…this arc went much darker with it. It essentially showed that being an omnipotent creature is pretty much a dangerous thing for Equestria whether he wants chaos or order.

The art is really great and the pacing is pretty good, keeping things at a very tense progression after Accord reveals his intentions that keeps you engrossed in the story. I don’t think that the show could ever get away with an ending this philosophical, but…it was rather appropriate, fitting, and even clever. Most of the times in the main series when a character talks down a villain it basically amounts to “I’ll be your friend”. In this one, the dialogue was more mature and satisfying. Using the more mature rating for a more intelligent plot is good to me. And there were quite a number of callbacks both to the TV series and the comic, making this a very unifying arc. And the ending message is good as well…that chaos in and of itself isn’t necessarily evil just as order in and of itself isn’t necessarily good, and that it’s possible to appreciate and even befriend both.

However, for being an arc that focuses on Discord and the normal zaniness that surrounds him, even when he’s trying to be “orderly”, this arc goes in a dark direction pretty quick. Even the narrative hook is a bit unusual. The odd egg/chrysalis thing that Discord changes into is a bit unsettling looking right at the start, already foreshadowing that things are going to go from humorous to dark pretty quickly in this arc. And indeed they do. Similar to the “Reflections” arc, this plotline very quickly gets into dark territory. Many of the scenes of the Stepford Smiler ponies are very disturbing looking, especially when it starts showing the other ponies aren’t merely brainwashed but have been turned into copies of Accord, in a sense. The comic makes numerous attempts to try and alleviate this with comic relief, but…similar to the “Reflections” arc, it doesn’t work out that well to me. In fact, it works a little less. The plot just gets a little too heavy to be able to lift it out of it, even with someone like Andy Fleecs doing the normally wonderful art.

This does have the feel of a season-capping episode, but…it also suffers from most of the pitfalls of one. The biggest part is the rest of the girls are just there to be random gags and one liners. Celestia, Starlight, Luna, and Twilight get a good amount of focus, but Fluttershy gets largely ignored after the first part even though anything that would happen to Discord would impact her the most.

And…what the heck, I’ll let him get it out. (Lowers gun)

This comic was likely in production long before “To Where and Back Again” came out or was even known about, but I’m a little disappointed at the show staff for not warning the IDW Comic writers they planned to do an arc where Starlight would save the entire cast more or less by herself, because the fact they put out a second arc where she does the same thing in the comic made me frown a little. In several ways, it’s worse than it was for “To Where and Back Again”. In that one, Starlight found herself forced into a position of leadership she didn’t want to be in. She was hesitant and self-doubting at least, and part of the story had to be her being willing to direct others to work together. In this one, Starlight is portrayed as already being smarter, stronger, and even possibly more empathic than the others. And the issue with that is that it continuously renders not only the Mane Six superfluous compared to her but also casts doubt upon how they ever did anything to change her, as she already seems to be “better at friendship” than them without them saying or doing anything to change her…a fact that seems accurate considering the flimsy resolution of “The Cutie Re-Mark”. It’s not to say I don’t like Starlight Glimmer, but…seriously? Could they have not done an arc or two where she was working with the girls instead of bailing them and the princesses of Equestria out? …Again?

All in all, this is still a good arc in spite of its flaws. It’s not quite as funny or show-appropriate as it would like to be and I personally feel it could have gone in slightly different directions, but overall it’s still a tense, dramatic, and colorful arc. A good solid benchmark for their 50th issue. Here’s to seeing fifty more. 🙂

Fun Facts:

This arc is also known simply as: “Accord”.

Discord breaks the fourth wall earlier than usual, saying “in the four color flesh”. Comic coloration is done in only four colors: Yellow, Cyan, Magenta, and Black. A moment later he’s unhappy on seeing that the script for Issue #48 has him saying puns.

Accord is physically identical to Discord in spite of being “a creature of harmony” except in one detail: instead of a beard he has a mustache.

In possibly a nod to “Fairly Oddparents”, Accord’s word bubbles are more rectangular and rounded on the sides rather than ovals.

Both this arc as well as “Discordant Harmony” in the main series explored the idea of what would happen if Discord started acting “less chaotic”, but it’s interesting to note in both versions Fluttershy doesn’t like how he’s changed and wants him to be more chaotic.

Spike dreams of eating Kentucky Fried Crystals. Not sure how that will work out…

As with most Andy Price drawn stories, the IDW exclusive character Kibitz makes a return.

I’m sure most fans thought Twilight Sparkle eating her Toasty Oats breakfast was adorable. 😀

This comic might be the only indication we’ll ever get of numeric distances in Ponyville. The distance between Ponyville and Canterlot is 14 miles, the distance between Canterlot and Dodge Junction is 48 miles, and the distance from Canterlot to New Horseleans (never before mentioned in the TV series) is 260.

The looks on the faces of the mind-controlled ponies is a classic “Stepford Smiler”, which is similar to what was done in Season Five’s own “The Cutie Map” with Starlight’s commune members.

This story arc features a number of callbacks to earlier arcs. A major plot point is a callback to the “Friends Forever” issue with Luna and Discord–namely the fact Luna has entered Discord’s mind before. Another is a callback to the “Reflections” arc when Celestia mentions the evil version of herself. Lastly, there’s a callback to “The Ponies of Dark Waters”.

In a bit of comic relief, when Accord says he’s trying to achieve the same goal as Princess Celestia, Celestia screams: “WAT.”

Discord’s original persona is found in Accord’s mind in a snow globe, which may or may not be an allusion to “Coraline”. At any rate, the sled in the snow globe is named Rosebud, an allusion to “Citizen Kane”.

The mysterious fedora pony appears at the train station.

A pony version of Jimmy Olson calls out on seeing the mind-controlled Twilight and Luna.

As more comic relief, Starlight easily distracts the mind-controlled Twilight and Luna with a toy monkey.

When Princess Celestia tries to use the Magic Element of Harmony, it connects to her golden collar instead of as a tiara.

At the part where Starlight makes the point that you can’t be friends with “someone who’s exactly like you”, she’s looking at a random picture of Sunset Shimmer. As this arc came out in Season Six, it’s likely that this is a joke at the frequent fan complaint that Starlight Glimmer was nothing more than an attempt to clone Sunset Shimmer into a permanent role on the show.

A number of jokes are on the page where Discord returns. He brings Twilight and Luna in a fourth-wall breaking cardboard box that says “characters not seen for 16 pages”, he has a pizza from Panucci’s (the pizzaria in “Futurama”), and Doctor Whooves, no longer brainwashed, says he can finally blink…an allusion to Doctor Who’s fights against the Weeping Angels. Soon after, Discord complains about the entire story arc, saying he was only on nine of the sixty pages.

The final page is a tribute to IDW’s 50th issue of the My Little Pony series. It has numerous little nods, such as another appearance of the fedora pony, a Changeling, a foal with a horn like King Sombra’s, and an appearance from a buffalo and stag.

Issue #50 was a plus-sized issue that capped the “Chaos Theory” story arc with a ten page short called: “For the Pony Who Has Everything”, in which Discord gives Celestia a “birthday present” of turning her into a normal pegasus to take a day off as an average pony. Her Sun Cutie Mark is replaced with a Christmas tree light bulb. Eventually, Discord turns himself into a pegasus to tag along…with the Cutie Mark of an electric cord (obviously to plug in Celestia’s light bulb). When incognito Celestia says hi to Pinkie Pie, she reenacts her reaction to Twilight from the first episode, and one of the ponies in the impromptu pony parade is Jay Fosgitt, the short’s artist, in pony form.

Rating:

4 Stars out of 5