Apple Bloom, Applejack, CMCs, Cutie Mark Crusaders, Fluttershy, IDW, IDW comic, My Little Pony, opinion, Pinkie Pie, Princess Luna, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, review, Spike, Sweetie Belle, The Ponies of Dark Water, Twilight Sparkle
On the way back from Abyssinia after saving Equestria yet again, the Mane Six and Spike hear a bubbling and a rumbling, and soon discover a recently-emerged hot spring. Deciding it looks like a good place to relax, they all slip in and ease up for a while before heading home. The next day, Spike wakes up and sees Twilight missing. On going into town, she finds that the city is routinely being disrupted by continuous Sonic Rainbooms, Applejack is acting like a ruthless, cutthroat businesswoman and yelling at Apple Bloom for being a bad “employee”, Twilight is using her magic to declare herself the new Empress of Ponyville by virtue of her intelligence, and Rarity’s vanity has grown so staggering that she can no longer tolerate the slightest imperfection and is wanting to challenge Twilight for rule as she is “the finest”. Spike gathers the CMCs and they retreat to their clubhouse, where they determine all of this happened as a result of the hot spring. Not knowing what to do, they send a letter to Princess Celestia, who, on realizing that the Mane Six are being dominated by their own darker natures, dispatches Princess Luna (who has experience) to help. Soon after, Spike and the CMCs are bucked out of the clubhouse by Applejack who demands rent. Luna arrives and puts a stop to her, discovering dark magic inside of her. Before she can draw it out, however, she discovers the hard way that the magic has also increased her power; allowing her to break free of Luna’s holding spell and flee. Unable to change her or the others back on her own, Luna dispatches the CMCs to go get Zecora and see if she knows a potion to undo the magic while she and Spike try to maintain order in town. However, on entering the Everfree Forest the CMCs almost immediately run into a hoard of savage animals being led by Fluttershy, and back in Sugarcube Corner Pinkie Pie gets ready to unleash her own twisted brand of “fun”.
The previous day, Twilight, obsessed with gaining all knowledge and gaining it immediately, invents a device to allow her to steal the brain power of other ponies and add it to her own; soon running around town and turning ponies into morons to add to her intelligence. In the present, the CMCs are surrounded by Fluttershy’s animals and Scootaloo accidentally steps on Angel Bunny’s foot. As a result, Fluttershy calls for their blood and sics the forest on them for intruding. Back in Ponyville, mysterious gifts have been left all over town, but on opening them they explode; driving panicking ponies into the local theater where Pinkie Pie holds them hostage for a deranged comedy show. At the same time, Rarity, infuriated at outdated fashions, blows up a clothing store, getting the attention of Luna. Back in the forest, the CMCs manage to meet up with Zecora just as Fluttershy catches up to them, but on using one of Zecora’s smoke bombs to escape she ends up growing so angry she has the forest declare war on Ponyville. Back with Luna and Rarity, they get into a battle and, in the ensuing struggle, bust into the theater; prompting Pinkie Pie to blow it up with her (live) party cannon to escape. In the aftermath, the CMCs, Luna, Spike, and Zecora reunite and realize that Spike was not affected by the water like the Mane Six were. Zecora theorizes that the cure may reside in Spike’s draconic nature, but before she can do anything Rarity and Pinkie Pie re-emerge, with the former running off to confront Twilight for rule of Ponyville while the latter begins bombarding the town with water balloons loaded with the same hot spring water. As all of Ponyville begins to turn evil, the group runs for cover only for Luna to get hit by one of the balloons, causing her to revert into Nightmare Moon.
Pinkie Pie gloats over her success only momentarily, before Nightmare Moon sets her sights on her as her first target. Fortunately, in the length of time it takes her to finally disable Pinkie Pie, Zecora and Spike are able to make a cure from his scales. Once Moon disables Pinkie and runs to the Castle of Friendship to deal with Rarity and Twilight, they give the cure to Pinkie and revert her to normal. The girls go to Applejack next, stopping her from cornering the Appleloosan market and reverting her as well. On hearing Pinkie say she only cared about being funny no matter what, and Applejack say she only cared about caring for the farm and her apples, the CMCs realize the water took their virtues and enlarged and distorted them into vices. Using that as an idea, they create a cure-water-trapped target and start loudly boasting that nopony can hit it, causing Rainbow Dash to come out of the sky and nail it to prove them wrong and, as a result, curing her as well. She takes pails of water loaded with cure and creates a thunderstorm over Ponyville next, curing both Fluttershy and the rest of the afflicted residents. Unfortunately, Rarity and Twilight were both indoors locked in a battle for supremacy. As the two battle on, Princess Luna is cured by the rainstorm, but continues the guise of Nightmare Moon and gets Rarity and Twilight to agree to a compromise to divide Equestria among them, sealing it with a toast spiked with cure. Although Rarity falls for it, Twilight does not; boasting that at this point she is so intelligent she has already imagined every possible contingency and future imaginable. Soon after, however, she sets off another one of Pinkie’s cure-water-traps, because the essence of comedy is unpredictability. All of the Mane Six are miserable that they caused so much trouble from doing things they thought were their assets, but Luna comforts them: telling them to be glad it was just cursed water and not their own arrogance and jealousy. The girls undo all of their damage that they can, and Zecora purifies the hot spring before Luna sets off to depart. She leaves saying she was glad that the corruption of the water also ruined their friendship–saying if they had been both evil and united no pony could have stopped them.
It had been a while since the IDW Comic did a multi-part story, and even longer since it had done a multi-part dramatic arc. To me, similar to the plotline itself, this arc suffered a bit of an identity crisis.
The storyline itself isn’t necessarily new. As early as “The Return of Harmony” we had a storyline where the Mane Six were acting the opposite of their true selves. This one ramped it up to eleven, however, basically turning each of the girls into a different form of supervillain. I also give it props for being something that hasn’t really been done on the show or the comic yet: an installment where both the Mane Six and the CMCs highlight the same storyline. In fact, this goes a bit farther by having it be the CMCs and Spike vs. the Mane Six. In “The Return of Harmony”, the girls still seemed like themselves but just grossly (and humorously) exaggerated in the opposite direction. Here they all seem far more mature and dark-natured in all aspects. Hence, I think it’s different enough to not think of it as a ripoff. It also highlights both Princess Luna and Zecora, who are two of my more favorite recurring characters, so it has that going for it too.
However, as a I said before, this arc has an identity crisis. Similar to “Night of the Living Apples”, the storyline doesn’t seem to know whether it should be the theme of a normal episode or if it should aim for something darker. Whereas the silliness in “Night of the Living Apples” eventually won out, here…I don’t see a clear victor. While the evil versions of the Mane Six get to go overboard to a humorous degree a few times, the “fight” between Pinkie Pie and Nightmare Moon is pretty amusing, and some of the comments from the stupefied ponies are funny, there’s something missing in the tone in this one. A lot of the dialogue doesn’t even seem like it’s still MLP:FIM, and at times it looks like it’s relying on the artwork to keep the story grounded in the show’s motif. I know the girls aren’t exactly supposed to be acting like themselves, but at times it seems like that’s being used as an excuse to go beyond making them evil versions of themselves and go straight to making new characters.
I got a little hung up on the fact that the evil versions of the girls kept insisting they were “better”, while once they were cured they claimed they were obsessed with one thing. The two don’t seem to connect to me. I’m not a big fan of “corruption” in fiction, in which a character is turned by external means into an evil version of themselves. I always have the thought that if a character we normally think of as moral, upstanding, devoted, and determined can be so easily turned evil just by a cosmic light switch, then what does that say about the character?
This storyline does have what you would expect from a drama-based episode, namely a mixture of the show’s signature humor along with some points of genuine tension and drama. Especially at the conclusion of the second issue. The problem is a lot of the tension that’s built up at the end of the second issue goes nowhere. Even as Nightmare Moon, Luna ends up helping out by disabling Pinkie Pie and then reverting back to normal “off screen”. The plotline with the rest of the town beginning to turn evil doesn’t seem to go anywhere (other than a quick piracy joke by DJ-Pon-3). But most of all, it ends rather awkwardly. I’m not sure if Luna’s final statement is supposed to be in praise of the Mane Six (who, admittedly, have little to be proud of by the end of the arc) or ending on a bit of a dark note. Either way, it seemed an odd way to wrap it up.
In the end, I’m not really sure whether this should be taken as a more serious arc or something that, in spite of having the evil Mane Six, is all there just for an odd yet good laugh. I think it’s ultimately a pretty good story and entertaining, but it’s not quite as smooth or memorable as it could have been.
The title of this arc is a knockoff of “The Pirates of Dark Water”, an early 90s action/adventure animated series.
In the beginning of this issue, the girls are coming back from an adventure in “Abyssinia”. Aside from a brief mention in Season Four’s “Glass of Water” song by Discord, this region has never featured in the main TV series. However, one of the MLP Movie prequel comics placed Klugetown within its borders.
When Evil Applejack tries to buck the CMCs out of their clubhouse saying she’s taking it back, she says: “I eminently need your domain.” Eminent Domain is a principle of government to be able to seize private property for public use under certain conditions, provided it compensates for it.
Evil Pinkie Pie is a parody of the Joker. In her first appearance, she parodies not one but two scenes from the 1989 “Batman” film: breaking into hysterical laughter on seeing her appearance in a mirror and quoting: “Wait ’til they get a load of me!”
As another Batman parody, Evil Twilight Sparkle’s brain-power-stealing device resembles the Riddler’s first model of “The Box” from “Batman Forever”.
The two philosopher ponies mention an older philosopher named “Sowcrates”. In “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”, the title characters routinely mispronounce Greek philosopher Socrates’ name phonetically as “Sow-crates”.
Part of Evil Pinkie Pie’s act is to imitate Jerry Seinfeld, while at another part her puppet show quotes the novelty song: “Yakity Yak”.
Issue #44 was actually used in the Screwattack series “Death Battle” for the match between Pinkie Pie and Deadpool, when it was used to show the destructive potential that Pinkie Pie’s party cannon has when loaded with live ammunition. Oddly enough, if they had included Issue #45 as well, it would have shown she shares another power with Deadpool: namely in that she can’t be predicted.
Spike mentions that he had tickets to see “that Celestia Rap Musical”, likely an allusion to “Hamilton”.
In spite of the continuous “Sonic Rainbooms”, Evil Rainbow Dash doesn’t even appear until the final issue of the arc.
It’s never really explained if Evil Fluttershy was able to command the animals or if she somehow infected them with the corruption as well. At any rate, when she dismisses them some of them look annoyed that she canceled the war…
One of the philosopher ponies, once stupefied, says: “Mashed potatoes can be your friends”, a line from Weird Al Yankovic’s “Dare to Be Stupid”. The other philosopher pony says: “You see, both characters’ mothers have the same name”, an allusion to the infamous “Martha” scene from “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”.
When cleaning up Ponyville, Twilight enchants multiple brooms to sweep together, a possibly allusion to “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” from “Fantasia”.
3.5 Stars out of 5