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Synopsis:

Sunburst arrives in Canterlot looking to research the history of Equestria, and to aid him Princess Celestia offers Sunburst access to Starswirl the Bearded’s old study and his private records. On looking inside them, Sunburst discovers a section marked “Legends of Magic” that included Starswirl’s own records of myths and legends of ponies in folklore. He discovers one that he wrote about himself: “The Great Starswirl the Bearded, the Two Sisters, and the Magical Vortex”…

Shortly after the founding of Equestria and the completion of the Castle of the Two Sisters, the great mage Starswirl the Bearded found himself (unhappily) tasked with acting as the tutor of the juvenile alicorns Celestia and Luna. Both earned his criticism: Celestia for being arrogant and self-centered and Luna for being childish and unable to keep up. After failing at a magic lesson and being reprimanded by Starswirl, telling her that her “best” might not be good enough if she needs to defend Equestria in a life-or-death situation one day, Luna, eager to prove herself, stole one of Starswirl’s books to practice a bubble spell at night. However, she still failed at it, and when Celestia came out to start teasing her about her failure Luna tried a much more advanced spell to open a dimensional gateway. While she succeeded, evil, dark things were there and called out to Luna’s dark side (especially her jealousy and anger toward Celestia) in a voice only she could hear before sucking her through the portal. Celestia, now scared and panicking, ran to get Starswirl and, on telling him the situation, he reprimanded her for choosing to mock Luna’s shortcomings rather than encouraging her to overcome her weaknesses. Starswirl informed her that as Luna was unable to control the spell, a “darker power” from a dimension where evil has taken dominion opened it as a way of trying to get into their world to devour it as well. He reopened the portal and led himself and Celestia in after Luna, but Celestia, growing more fearful for Luna’s safety, broke off on her own. She found her in the grip of golem-like creatures that were trying to force her into a dark suit of armor. She freed Luna, who said the voice she heard thought she was someone else meant for greatness and also told her to destroy her own sister, but she also believed that something else was actually responsible for controlling the creatures and the world. She was unable to elaborate further when a colossal golem attacked, which Starswirl held off to allow them to escape. On returning home, the two reconciled, especially Celestia for the way she had been treating Luna, shortly before Starswirl rejoined them and closed the portal behind. He mentioned that he was confident nothing would drive the two sisters apart again and that, if the voice Luna heard was to be believed, they avoided a great tragedy.

Later, Sunburst gives the story to Celestia, which was Starswirl’s closing wish for the tale, and she and Luna share some snickers over it (either at their old behavior or the irony), while he moves on to the next story about an individual named “Rockhoof”…

Review:

It pains a die-hard fan like me to admit it, but the glory days of the MLP Fandom are over and it’s on its way out. I still remember it in its heydey in the aftermath of the Season Four finale and “Rainbow Rocks”. At that time, the show seemed to be running on all eight cylinders and what came for years to come afterward, including the feature film, mostly was a legacy of its success at that time. But what many fans might not realize is that this was also when IDW was cruising off of its success. It’s attempt to run an MLP:FIM comic ended up being a smash hit no one expected.

Even so, it seemed like a rather crazy idea to me for the two series to try and pool their collective success in creating a massive cross-over event between the main series and the IDW comic. The “Legends of Magic”, an arc of comics running cocurrently with new episodes of Season Seven focusing on the mythological “Pillars of Old Equestria”, was a crazy idea but nevertheless got me enthused as a chance to highlight a whole new cast of characters as well as to expand on the largely untapped and/or incoherent lore of the history of Equestria. I’ll admit I also admired the chance to do things in a more fantasy based setting with lots of sword and sorcery action as well. The way they handled it was clever too, synchronizing releases of new issues with the time the characters were being introduced in the main series via their “story” episodes.

Well…I already went over what we eventually got in the main series. Now it’s time to touch on the other half. As for my thoughts on the series as a whole, well…it’s complicated. I ended up liking the story on the whole, especially when capped with the annual, and yet not nearly as much as I thought I would. As much of my thoughts on it go issue-by-issue, I’ll save the bulk of my answer for the series proper.

Suffice to say for now the “Legends of Magic” series can be thought of as split into two halves. The first half focuses on individual stories that simply reinforce the legends that were seen on the show. The second half, however, focuses on Stygian’s story and his relationship with all of them. Needless to say, I prefer one over the other.

Let’s jump right in…

I didn’t care for this one too much on the first reading, but on the second I appreciate it better and not just because it ties into the “crown jewel” of the series that was, in my opinion, the annual. It involved quite a bit of IDW Comic Lore retconning in order to finally harmonize Starswirl the Bearded with the main series, but they still managed to throw in some details about Starswirl knowing about the existence of multi-dimensions such that one of the more infamous arcs of the IDW Comic, the “Reflections” arc, wasn’t totally negated.

It’s a bit funny that this one is supposed to focus mostly on Starswirl the Bearded when the real stars of it are the juvenile Celestia and Luna. It was probably not an easy job to work them in, needing to harmonize not only IDW Comic Lore but also with the backstory of the main series lore. At first, I was a bit put off that Celestia was depicted, quite honestly, as repulsive. Prideful, arrogant, and quite honestly a bit of a bully, this is a very far cry from how Celestia normally appears on the show.

Yet on reading it again, I think it actually makes sense. While I tended to think of Celestia as normally being a goodie-two-shoes and possibly a teacher’s pet as a child, this depiction makes sense too. Maybe she wasn’t always as kind-hearted, gentle, and graceful as she is now. Maybe she did have to grow up quite a bit to be the figure she is now. And, whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, this version of Celestia makes it far more plausible for Luna’s eventual turn into Nightmare Moon. Even if Celestia really did change her ways after this storyline, personal hurt at bullying and feeling inferior doesn’t necessarily go away that easily. It’s likely Luna would still have this old treatment of her lingering in her memory, and every time ponies would flock to her days and ignore her nights she likely remembered it. So yeah, I have to give this issue some props for making Nightmare Moon more plausible.

And while Starswirl the Bearded might not be the highlight, it does show a bit more of his character and his weaknesses. While his criticisms/advice to Celestia and Luna may have been justified, it was still authoritative and, as a result, both of them still made bad choices. The conflict started because Luna was eager to prove herself to him after getting the bad report, and Celestia herself broke off from him to try and make up for her own mistake. Furthermore, Starswirl ended up being incorrect in thinking the matter was closed at the end of this. Yet in spite of all of that, some of his comments and actions show he really does care about Celestia and Luna, clearly enough to sacrifice himself for them–he just didn’t always show it that well.

So all in all, this gets my pick for one of the better ones of the first half of the series, even if it serves mostly as a teaser for the annual and takes us over ground we’ve mostly tread before.

Fun Facts:

Unlike most other comic arcs, the “Legends of Magic” arc was completely written and drawn by Jeremy Whitley and Brenda Hickey. Most other series in the IDW franchise usually alternate writers and artists.

This was one of the bigger retconnings that IDW has ever had to do. Within the “Reflections” and FIENDship is Magic comic about the Dazzlings, IDW had already presented their own concept of Starswirl the Bearded’s past. With the main series getting into it in Season Seven, most of those depictions were rendered totally obsolete. The comic canon as well as the show now more closely follows Amy Keating Rogers’ “The Journal of the Two Sisters”, a junior novel produced separate from the main series.

The show’s legacy has never quite outlived the animation in the pilot episode, which depicted Princess Celestia as having a pink mane (as she did in her original concept) only to have her end up being rainbow-maned by the end of the episode. The idea since then in the fan community has been that Celestia’s mane was originally pink but later became that way. This comic somewhat endorses that by showing that young Celestia’s mane was predominantly pink with only the edges being rainbow-like. Luna, naturally, is in her “young” form that she was in at the end of the pilot episode (a whole other fan community canon).

The comic makes a couple of side references to serve as a “bridge” between the Journal of the Two Sisters (main canon) and the “Reflections” arc (comic canon). When Luna accidentally burns up the bush she’s trying to bubble, she cries out that she hopes there weren’t any creatures in it. This is canon with the Journal as Luna was the more “animal-loving” of the two alicorns. The concept of multi-dimensions, on the other hand, was elaborated on in “Reflections” and plays a big part here.

This issue ends up as a set-up for the annual, which would close the series.

Rating:

3.5 Stars out of 5